Sundance Vacations / Free Cruise and Sales Pitch
In December, 2008, during the neverending annual Christmas shopping at Southridge mall, my fiance, Jody, and I came accross a "sweepstakes" to win a mercedes automobile. We happily entered while "ooing and ahhing" over the vehicle. We left the mall and thought nothing further of putting our names and phone numbers into this sweepstakes. This would mark the beginning of an unforgettably painful experience the both of us would endure.
At the beginning of January, 2009, a month after entering in this sweepstakes, I received a call on my cell phone from a woman by the name of Brenda. Brenda seemed very friendly on my voice mail, stating that I won a cruise to the Bahamas from entering in a sweepstakes at Southridge mall. Being the naive 21 year old that I am, I was ecstatic about my luck and happily commited to taking whatever steps necessary to claim my "prize." I emphatically called the number left on my voice mail and asked to speak with Brenda. Brenda was gone for the day (it was five minutes after this supposed BRENDA had contacted me) but Lisa would be happy to help me. Lisa asked for my phone number and sure enough verified that I was the lucky recipient of a 3 night cruise to the Bahamas. I simply had to sit through a one hour seminar in Brookfield, WI at a Sundance vacation office. It started at 7pm on a Friday night. Lisa assured me that this would be "quick" and I would be on my way home with my voucher for the free cruise "within an hour." I thought "how easy is this? I am the luckiest guy ever!" I agreed to attend the seminar and was instructed to bring my significant other.
Friday rolled around and my fiance and I headed to the Sundance Vacations office ten minutes prior to our seminar. We filled out the necessary information sheets, had a seat with the 30 other people in the waiting area, and awaited the seminar. A very healthy looking man named Rick called us into the "Presentation Room" for our seminar. My first impression of Rick was that he was a very personable, honest and charismatic person...a likeable guy. He ratteled off one of the most enjoyable pieces of speech I had seen in a long time in person. I remember thinking "I like this guy, I want to work with him and Sundance." Little did I know, everyone in that seminar was being buttered up to be fed to the sharks in the adjacent room. When the seminar concluded, after a good 45 minutes, we were instructed to follow the person who called our name. I remember thinking "Rick is going to have his hands full calling each of us up individually" but before I could finish that thought, the door we used to enter the Presentation Room flew open followed by an army of SUNDANCE soldiers each armed with a file for each couple in the room. This is where I thought "uh oh, my Rick loving days are over."
Rita, an italian immigrant with a marvelous accent, was assigned to Jody and I, who both still had a belly of false optimism and excitement for our cruise. Rita sat us down at a table in a cafeteria style room with blairing music. I thought nothing of the music, I just recognized that it was really loud, and I wondered how I would here the instructions for our free cruise.
Once Jody and I sat down with Rita, Rita began pitching an offer of 30 vacations for $12, 000. We let her ramble for a while, then like an idiot, I engaged. I told Rita, "we really only take one or two vacations per year so we would have no use for a package like this, do you have anything smaller?" She said "you know what? I think we might, let me bring my director over." A man, who I swear was the twin brother of Steven A Smith from ESPNs 'Quite Frankly, ' shook my hand and sat at our table. He confirmed his understanding that we would not use 30 vacations in one year and said he was prepared to give us a great deal of 10 vacations for $4500. We simply needed to pay a $900 down payment and $339 for taxes and surcharges by March 15th. My fiance was very quick to accept the offer, I requested that both sales people leave our table so that my fiance and I could talk. Jody really believed this was a great deal (we are both impulsive buyers) and she had me convinced, when the sales people came back, we said we were in! Steven A Smith requested a check for $900 from us, I made him aware that I was uncomfortable handing over this amount of money right after the holidays, I then proceeded to say "You know what, I really dont think this is a good idea right now, just not a good time." He and Rita looked at me like I was insane! Steven A Smith told me that he would be able to hang on to the $900 check for a few weeks, if I needed that time. After much hesitance, Jody mentioned that this would be a good idea and we shouldnt pass it up. Because of my resistance to the whole thing, the salesman noticed that Jody and I had listed that Hawaii was our dream vacation destination. He offered to throw in one "extra trip" to hawaii for free with buy one get one free airfair if we would sign up, this would give us 11 vacations for that price. Jody gave me the look that we should accept. I did.
Rita and the director proceeded to have the contract written and the application for credit filled out. Once the application for credit (which would be for the $4500) was filled out, the director came over and filled out his section. I noticed him writing a 12.9% APR. When I questioned it, he simply said "you dont have to worry about that, your payments will only be $80 and most people double pay each month, it will be paid down in no time." I began feeling pressured at this point and in turn became pompous. They left for a moment and came back with a binding contract this time, I felt even more backed into a corner than before. I told Rita that I was going to read through the entire contract. Jody had already written the check for $900 and had given the information to have the $80 automatically deducted from her checking account. I came to a point in the contract that stated "there is no right of recission and no right to cancel at any time." Once I read this, I told Rita, "Rita, I'm sorry but the answer is no!" She was angry and made clear that they did a lot of work to get this done for us and that this is important as young people as we would have these vacations for life. I said that I understood and it seems like a good deal, however, I was not comfortable committing to putting ourselves $4500 in obligated debt without having time to think about it, I asked for a week to go home, then make her aware of my decision. She said that no one gets invited to these seminars and opportunities and I would never see a deal like this again. I said so be it. She ripped up our application, got Jody's check back to her and then walked us to a small waiting area.
A man by the name of bill, a fat ugly car salesman type with a yellow beard and the ugliest face I have ever seen, stepped out of the hall and introduced himself. Outside of his office, he was very nice. That was about to change. Bill offered us a seat in his 6 by 6 box of an office. He said, "I'm the guy who gives you your free cruise." I thought the hard part was over, so I joked "that makes you our new best friend." He laughed. He explained how to make the reservation for our cruise and register online or by mail. After concluding the walkthrough, Bill said, " Now I dont know what happened in there, but (writing) I want to offer you this number that can only be offered by me." The number was $779 which would take the place of the $900 down payment. I said, "No thanks." He countered by saying, "Actually, I was going to cut that in half, $400 today? How does that sound?" I said that I did not want to, that "no" is final. He asked "why?" I explained that it is not the right time, but I really liked Sundance and wanted to work with them in the future at some point. He said "well you wont get this in the future, can I ask why its not the right time? Do you realize how much a trip to Hawaii is? It doesnt make any sense to pass this up." I said that I did not want to do this, there is no right to cancel and I do not want to make a decision like this right at the spur of the moment. He said, " well you are already making your decision by saying no, you wont get this again. Wow, Ive never encountered a person who wants to spend more for less down the road, theres no logic to it." I then, a little frustrated with this fat pile of trash, said "with do respect, what is ilogical is to pin any couple or individual down in an effort to get them to make a decision that would increase their debt without allowing them time to evaluate their situation. That is a bit ilogical if you ask me. The ansewr is no and thats it." He then conceded defeat, offered us our voucher and sarcastically said "enjoy your free trip then..."
We will see how the trip goes, if there is one, but I would not recommend that you go into something like this unprepared. I am glad I did only because I really learned from this and developed a backbone. If you are passive and can be easily persuaded, this is not for you. These people do not care about how this obligation to them will effect your day to day lifestyle, so you really have to be outspoken and take control immediately. I let it get way too far! luckily we are not out any money and we have the voucher that we came in for!
I hope this article helps those of you looking into this, e-mail me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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