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I'm un-American

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By SpeleoFool
April 3, 2001

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Hey Fools,

I have another fun story to share. Over the weekend my wife and I drove up to our timeshare resort to get the lowdown on the recent change in ownership (Starwood, mother company of Sheraton, bought Vistana). The pitch started out as an interesting and informative overview of Sheraton's new program: (1) Our ownership is now equivalent to some number of "options" that can be used toward nights at other participating resorts; (2) Options can be exchanged for "points" that can be used toward a variety of travel-related expenses, including airfare, dining and hotel expenses; (3) We're no longer obligated to take a week at a time -- we can book any number of nights at any time, just like booking a hotel room. In summary, the new plan is complicated, yet seems more flexible than our previous arrangement.

Then, of course, things turned commercial. See, for the type of travel "we want to do" (as defined by Mr. Man) we apparently "don't have enough options, so we should consider upgrading to an A+ Membership." Says our sales guy, "I get paid either way, so whatever you decide is fine, but let me just show you what you can do with an A+ membership." [Pitch, Pitch, Pitch. Finally, the prices.] He then quickly excuses himself so that we may discuss getting the upgrade.

He's gone for about 10 minutes. The whole time my wife and I are laughing at the $12,500 upgrade price and 17.9% interest rate. When he comes back, I tell him it looks like a good program, but we're happy with what we have. He pushes. I tell him 17.9% is ridiculous, and I wouldn't finance anything at that rate even if I were interested. He asks if I have a cheaper source of money. Now I'm getting perturbed. I tell him (yes, actual quote): "We have been working on getting out of debt for the last three years. We will be out of debt in 5 months. I don't care how good this deal is, there's nothing on Earth that will convince me to prolong staying in debt." Can one say "no" more emphatically? He calls Mrs. Finance Woman over to talk to us.

I don't want to bore everyone, so I'll just cut to the highlights. She went into full Hard Sell mode, telling us that we would be missing a big opportunity, that the package would be twice as expensive in two years (great -- then we can sell what we have at a big profit!), that the interest isn't that bad because there's no prepayment penalty and it's tax deductible.

We reiterate that we're not interested in taking on new debt. So she actually tries to TALK US INTO CARRYING DEBT. My favorite exchanges:

� Mrs. Finance Woman: "That's not the American way, you know."
- SpeleoFool: "Well, it's my way."

� MFW: "When you're out of debt, you're never going to borrow money again?"
- SF: "Not unless..." (*)
- My wife: "No! Never again."

� MFW: "So, what if you need a new car? Are you just going to save up $30,000 and pay cash?"
- SF: "Absolutely!"

I finally got rid of MFW by telling her I am hoping to retire before I'm 40. She looked to be in her young 50s; and there she was, working on a Saturday. I guess I must have struck a nerve because after that she and Mr. Man seemed a bit upset and were very hurried to get us out the door. All told, they kept us there for 2 hours. I bet they felt like we wasted their time, too. Not my fault they wouldn't listen when I said "No."

Happy (belated) Fool's Day, everyone.
SpeleoFool.

* My fault--I was thinking of what a great deal carrying $25k of 0% debt on AMEX was; I might do that again, but I'm glad my wife didn't give them an inch. :)