Last Saturday Kristin and Julia and I found myself at my parent's house for a barbeque. And then everyone else left. And it was only 6 o'clock. Well, 6:30. So we asked my parents if they wouldn't mind watching Julia for a few hours while we went to a movie. (sidenote: we saw The Black Dahlia because I am obscenely fascinated by that murder (yes, I know, sick sick sick) but it was terrible. Horrible. Just BAD. Not even the vision of Jenny from The L W*rd being horribly murdered was enough to save it. Trust me, if you MUST watch it, rent it. It'll be on video SOON, anyway)
It was at the theater that they got me. The Tr*ndwest vacation time-share people. See there was a sign. Not that kind of sign, but the kind of sign that reads "Ask me how you can see get into this movie with popcorn and drinks for FREE!!!" Well, we're poor, so how could we resist? And THEN they said that in addition to getting a $25 gift card to the theater that we could use right then, we would also get a FREE trip (package includes airfare and 2 nights stay; must be booked 6 weeks in advance; weekends, holidays, and any day that you might actually be able to go on a vacation not eligible) to one of 5 FANTASTIC VACATION GETAWAYS just for attending their little presentation. Now, I cannot tell you how many times I have successfully avoided going to a time-share sales pitch. I know I would be miserable, I know I would make the sales people miserable, and the free trip (or TV, or camera, or whatever) would just not be worth it. Plus there was always the possibility that I would end up actually CAVING to the pressure and BUYING a time-share that I would then never use. But this time they were waving a movie (technically, a movie and a half since Kristin and I didn't use the extra money on the gift card to get popcorn and a drink) right in my face. And they promised that it wouldn't be a hard sales pitch, and they said there would be cookies there.
So I agreed to go.
Now. I'm a softie. I usually say no (now, now I say no, now that Kristin has taught me to be tougher, I cannot tell you how much crap I bought off people when I had no spine) but I feel so bad doing it that it just totally ruins my day. So I was not looking forward to this sales presentation. Not at all. But I said I would go. So I went. Before we I left Kristin said I should practice my refusal. Her suggestion was to say "wow, this looks great, but it just doesn't fit my lifestyle. I prefer to go to foreign countries and stay in small hotels that the locals run. That way you get to experience more of the culture, and it's much cheaper than this." But I could think of ways that someone could argue and pressure around that, and plus I prefer to be a good guy, seem sympathetic and stuff, give a reason that no one can argue around and end discussion quickly. So this is how my sales pitch went:
Saleswoman (SW): So, now that you've seen how our plan works, let's talk about your lifestyle and how we can tailor this to fit you.
Me: Look, I'm really sorry. I signed up for this on Saturday and I was really interested in going. But yesterday I was told that my contract for my job is not going to be renewed and I'm out of work as of the end of October (NOTE: this is NOT TRUE! Don't email me thinking I'm out of work. I may be out work at the end of October, but most likely not and I don't know anything yet, so don't worry) and I just can't justify purchasing something like this right now. Do you have a brochure or something I can take with me so that when I get a stable job I'll still have the information?
SW: Oh that's too bad! What was your job?
Me: I was a secretary. Well, am a secretary. I actually have a Master's Degree in writing, but that's not very practical, so that's why I'm working as a secretary. Well, at least for another 6 weeks I'm working.
SW: Is it hard to find a job in your field?
Me: Well yes, actually, I'm a bit worried about it. It's not hard finding secretary jobs, but finding one that will pay the mortgage and put food on the table and support my family is very difficult. It took me 6 months to find this job and then it was only a year contract. They'd said they would most likely renew, but it's a government job and then the budget was cut and you know the story. I'm so sorry. If I had known that this was really going to happen I wouldn't have come tonight. I feel so bad for wasting your time. But they said that they would charge the $25 for the theater gift card to my debit account, and now I'm really going to need that money for groceries.
SW: Oh, so you used it already?
Me: Well, yeah, that night.
SW: So what movie did you see?
Me: The Black Dahlia. It wasn't very good. I wouldn't see it if I were you.
SW: Oh, it was bad? That's too bad.
Me: Yeah. So, anyway, again, I'm so sorry to waste your time like this. I should probably get heading out, the babysitter will be upset if I'm late.
note: the presentation was only supposed to be 90 minutes. At this point it had been nearly that
SW: Oh, you have kids?
ok, this is the part of the sales pitch where they keep you talking trying to find a way in through your objections -- find a weak spot. I knew that she was going to play the "vacations are great for bonding with kids salvo," I needed to show a strong defense. Unfortunately, this is where my "strong defense" got a little, um, creative...
Me: Yeah, actually, I do.
SW: How many?
Me: Two. I have two kids. A boy and a girl.
SW: Oh, wow! What are their names.
Me: Well, Caleb's three and a real handful. Julia just turned one and is getting ready to walk. I'm sure any day now she'll take off and I'll be chasing two hyperactive kids around.
SW: And you're a single parent...
note: if we were married we were required to bring our spouse to the presentation. I'm sure that's to forestall any "I can't agree to purchase this expensive timeshare without talking to my spouse first" arguments. Since Kristin and I AREN'T married and she didn't want to come (actually, she couldn't come because she had just done one of these a month ago and the rules are you can only attend and get a gift once a year. Things like this it works out to our advantage not to be allowed to be married) I had put "single" on my registration form, so that's why she assumed I am a single parent. Since it worked to complete my picture of pathetic, abject poverty, I went with it
Me: Yeah, yeah I guess I am...
SW: Oh, is this pretty recent?
Me: Well, you know, you just think you can work things out. You think you can just try harder and make it work. And then sometimes it just doesn't. He just finished moving out a few weeks ago, leaving me the house to try to keep up the mortgage on. And now this news about my job, I just don't know what I'm going to do...
now, something you should know about me: I have very sensitive eyes. I'm not certain what I'm allergic to, but often my eyes will just start burning and watering in a reaction to something in the air. During the whole presentation my eyes had been burning, so they looked pretty blood-shot, perfect for a single mother on the edge just found out she's got no stable future. But at this moment, this perfect, perfect moment, just as I said "I just don't know what I'm going to do" my eyes throbbed and began watering and as I finished that sentence A TEAR CAME STREAKING DOWN MY FACE! I dug in my purse for a tissue as she looked appalled and stammered an apology
SW: Oh I'm so sorry to bring up something so painful!
ME: It's ok. It's really ok. I'll be fine.
SW: (changing the subject) Well, let me show you our smallest and most affordable package (begins writing on a piece of paper)
oh my god! She was actually going to keep trying to sell me this vacation package! How evil is that? Here I am, a just-unemployed, recently separated, mother of two small children and she's going to continue to try to sell me a vacation time-share!!!!! Apparently I needed to up the ante
SW: So with our smallest package you get 6000 points instead of 16000, for a one-time investment of $1062 and $152 a month for the next 10 years and you can upgrade when your situation changes and you have more money in your budget. Now we can finance that $1062, but you'll have to pay the $152 a month (and, I'm sure, the payments and interest on the $1062).
I looked down at the paper. I looked hard. I started whispering bills (Mortgage, electricity, phone - no, I could turn off the phone, gas...) while tapping my fingers on the table as if counting up my monthly budget. Finally:
Me: I'm sorry, I just can't do that. My budget is so tight as it is, and I just can't justify dipping into savings to buy this right now. I can't even count on him for childsupport at this point, and this monthly payment is almost as much as my monthly grocery allowance. Besides, I'm thinking I'm going to have to go on public assistance at least until my job situation gets settled, and I'm not about to be accepting welfare while paying for a vacation time-share. No matter how much I want it. Can I at least keep this brochure with all the locations and amenities on it so if my situation changes I have the information?
SW: No, I'm sorry. We only let owners take the book home. It wouldn't do you any good anyway. (She very firmly pulls the brochure out of my firm grip, it leaves my hands with an audible snap)
Me: I understand. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry to have wasted your time, but I really need to get to the babysitter's now. Are we through here?
SW: (blowing her air out in a very frustrated/irritated fashion) Fine. Why don't you just follow me over to Paul and he'll set you up with your free trip.
Me: Thank you. Do you mind if I take a couple of the cookies home for Caleb and Julia?
SW: (rolling her eyes) Go ahead.
And she walked quickly away. After a few minutes Paul arrived. He was holding my folder.
Written across the top in spiky (angry?) letters was "UNEMPLOYED".
P: Why don't you follow me and we'll get the information for your free trip to Anaheim.
Me: Do you think you could add "recently and unexpectedly" to the unemployed on my folder, that just sounds so pathetic and final.
P: Sure we can, that's not a problem. So, I hear you have kids...
I kept up my charade, adding details about my life as a newly single parent to two young children -- one of which was a boy who may or may not have ADHD -- till I had my hands on my tickets to Anaheim. And then I walked out of the building and drove home.
Once home I told Kristin the story of what had happened. And we laughed until we cried. And then Kristin told me that I'm going to hell.
Have you ever seen Mad About You? I loved that show. There's an episode where Jamie and Paul go on vacation using someone else's identities (those people gave them permission, they couldn't go and didn't want the vacation wasted) and over the course of the trip they tell everyone they meet different outrageous stories about their lives -- weaving more and more fantastical tales, and having a blast, until people put the pieces together and Paul and Jamie have to make an abrupt escape. I never understood why someone would do something like that.
PS - Even if I hadn't lied I would have gotten the free vacation. So it's not like I lied to get the trip. The only think I got out of lying was a good story, a good laugh, my bank account intact, and two cookies to take home.