A SUCKER BORN
EVERY MINUTE

     The invitation came in the mail, and it was hard to resist---four days and three nights at The Four Seasons Aviara, which is near San Diego. The cost to us would be about $34.95, or something like that.
     "Those fools," I remember saying to my wife as I read the invitation. "They think they can sell us a timeshare. I feel almost guilty taking them up on their offer."
     This was nine years ago, when timeshares were all the rage. We had absolutely no interest in owning a timeshare, but we had a lot of interest in staying at The Four Seasons for about the same rate as a Motel 6. All we had to do was sit through a one-hour sales presentation.
     "Those suckers donít know who theyíre dealing with," Iím sure I said at the time. "But if the huge Four Seasons corporation wants to waste their time and money on me, Iím all for it."
     So off we went to San Diego, where our oldest daughter was attending school at the time. We could visit her and rip off the Four Seasons, all in one weekend.
     After lying around for a day or two, we got the call that it was time for the sales presentation, and weíd better be there. We walked in and promptly told the nice gentleman that we appreciated the lovely weekend, but we would never, ever buy a stupid timeshare.
     "Donít think of it as a timeshare," he replied. "Think of it as vacation insurance."
     What?
     "Vacation insurance," he repeated. "Weíll be building these Four Seasons Residence Clubs all around the world. Youíll be able to trade the one-week you own here at Aviara for a week at Scottsdale, or Puerto Vallarta, or Jackson Hole, or wherever we build a new Residence Club."
    I sat up a little straighter. "Vacation insurance? Iíve never heard that before. But it kind of makes sense."
    He sat up even straighter than me, knowing he had a whopper on the line. "Thatís right. And youíll have this one week vacation every year at The Four Seasons Residence Clubs forever. Youíll never have to worry about being priced out of the market. Youíll be insured against that."
    Marketing is a beautiful thing. Suddenly the idea of "vacation insurance" seemed like the smartest concept Iíd ever heard. "How much," I asked, realizing that if I didnít snatch this opportunity I would be forever regretting the one chance I had to vacation in luxury forever.
    "$28,000 ," he replied, slowly sliding the papers toward me. "Not much when you consider you can have one week a year at The Four Seasons Residence Clubs in perpetuity."
    A small price to pay for vacation insurance, I thought. The stock market had been booming, and we had some extra cash. Why not do the responsible thing and buy some vacation insurance?
    So we did. When we got home, the first thing we did was try and trade our one week in San Diego for one week at The Four Seasons Residence Club in Scottsdale, which was the only other one that had been built at the time.
    "Letís see," said the nice lady on the phone. "I can put you on the waiting list for something that might open up in mid-August."
    "Iím sure you could," I replied. "But itís also 120 degrees in Scottsdale in August. Do you have anything in the winter months?"
    Iím pretty sure she laughed. "Oh, no sir. Those months are never available for trade."
    That was the first inclination I had that we had been snookered. The second was when our association fees rose from $1000 per year to $2100 per year. The third was when The Four Seasons decided not to build any more Residence Clubs. The fourth was when I realized that didnít matter, because you couldnít trade for them, anyway.
    And the fifth reason, and probably best, was when we put our "vacation insurance" up for sale this year and were told weíd be very fortunate if we got $6000 for it.
    I wonder if anyone sells "sucker insurance."
 

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