In Spring 2007 I published an essay called “The Low Season” in The Cimarron Review. It’s the story of how my wife and I paid for a month in Puerto Vallarta with money we made by attending timeshare presentations. Because I now live in Myrtle Beach, a place that exists largely thanks to the vacation industry, the time seems right to revisit the piece. So I’m going to serialize it here. One part every week for ten weeks. To start reading from the beginning, scroll down.
The Low Season
Part Five: The Bonafides
Should you decide to go into the business of working the timeshare system for cash, you need to meet a few qualifications. It’s not like The Mayan Palace just hands out money to any old knucklehead that drifts in off the beach. First, you’ve got to be married, with passports to prove you have the same last name. And husband and wife have to show up for the tour together. The sales staff isn’t about to go through the whole spiel getting you to sign on the line, only to have your wife nix the deal when you stand in the doorway, arms spread wide, and say, Hey, honey. Guess what we just bought?
Second, you need to be packing that almighty credit card. If so, then The Mayan Palace figures you’ve already been vetted and you’ve established a credit record they can dig up later. Asking you to flash your Mastercard is a quick and dirty way to gauge your purchasing power, and it seems more tasteful and less intrusive than running your full credit report. Nothing would kill the yes vibe like subjecting you to a credit screening over Denver Omelets.
Third, there is no third. Married with credit cards. That’s pretty much it. Eyder’s got the green light to make the invite.
Oh sure, the invitation form does mention a few fine print items. There’s something in there about being ineligible if you’ve taken another timeshare tour in the last week. And don’t bother showing up if you’ll be staying in Mexico for more than two weeks. And if you’re a student? Take your broke ass back to the hostel, amigo. The Mayan Palace ain’t interested. The MP’s ideal prospects are white-collar pros who grind for fifty weeks and vacation for two. All the six-point font caveats are meant to weed out couples like Kate and me, folks who, although pretty much broke, would quit their jobs, put their crap in storage, and spend most of their savings on a trek through Mexico. These disclaimers are a safeguard against travelers blemishing the finely-manicured grounds.
But remember: Eyder has bills to pay, so he needs you to show up. He’s not in the disqualification business. When you answer that yes, you are in fact a student, he’ll write “Teacher” on the form, next to the word Occupation. When you tell him that you’ve been in Mexico for a week, and you plan on staying for at least another month, and maybe two, he’ll enter “One” on the line next to Weeks in Mexico. And he’ll just ignore you when you try to tell him the story of your previous timeshare presentation at The Sea of Cortez Premiere Vacation Club.
Next, Eyder will coach you. He’ll explain exactly how to answer should these questions come up in the presentation itself. Then he’ll tell you not to worry, they probably won’t ask anyway. They’ll be too busy selling.
When Eyder finally rips off the invitation form and hands it to you, he says, OK, amigos. I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning. Ten o’clock. Sharp. He knows you might forget. Or oversleep. Or change your mind. But Eyder leaves nothing to chance. He’s invested too much in you. He won’t let you forget or oversleep or change your mind.
Before you walk away, Eyder will give you a thumbs up and an almost imperceptible wink. Your old concert t-shirt and ripped jeans are a clear sign that you can’t afford a luxury timeshare. But he doesn’t care. His job is to get you there.