When is a scam a scam? Our most unusual day trip to Patong… (the conclusion)

For the first part of the I-swear-it’s-true story, click here. We were at the point of finally being left alone and trying to work out how we are going to get out of a NZD$16,000 timeshare hardsell.

The *major* prize!

I should point out that Sean left us alone at many times over the course of the show, and I did wonder at one point whether we were being bugged (once he left his phone on the table); a way of scoping out whether we were serious or wasting their time.

At some point during this dance, I can’t remember quite when, Sean also realises he ‘forgot’ to tell us about the annual USD$400 membership fee. Whoops. He’ll talk to boozeman boss Andy. He returns. Because it was his mistake and he forgot to tell us – how silly of him – they’ll wipe the fee for the first year. How generous. I wonder if he forgets this every time he does this performance?

We continue talking/laughing about how we find ourselves in these ridiculous situations. Another card is put on the table: they’ll throw in a week at Patong Bay Resort for free, so we can come back at Christmas, and try the product before we might have even paid it off. How great is that? So that means we’ll get 11 complimentary weeks!

Another minute to talk.

Finally, the ruse is up. We tell Sean that, ‘regrettably’ – time for my words to appear in parentheses – we’ve been unable to get over the line. He races off to Andy; he doesn’t want us to leave without giving him one more try. We’re back inside. They’ll drop the price and allow us to take a five year taster package for, urgh, I can’t remember now. Whatever.

We’re clearly not swayed. We try the line that there is nothing wrong with the numbers, the package sounds great – did I mention that it was a family and friends affair, so anyone we counted as those could use the membership benefits too, and we didn’t even need to be there on holiday – but we just can’t commit to those figures without time to think about it.

But you have to sign up today.

We know, soz.

I try the tack that I can’t say yes to the four questions, the one about deserving it, because I can’t say that we deserve to spend that kind of money on ourselves, in case something comes up that we need money for. I thought that was bloody clever. Nope, there was even an answer for that.

It took all the acting talent we had, as I tried to play a character under the direction of ‘I really want something but I can’t commit so I’m going to display lots of anxiety and nerves’. Eventually, though, they gave it up, no deal, and we made it out. Alive. And ruing the moment we ever came across damn Scotty, and definitely the first and last time we’ll do anything like that for a fellow Kiwi!

Oh, the prizes you ask? We did indeed get the promised T shirt, which is now a useful pajama tee providing all the LOLs. And my major prize? Which one of the four do you think I received? I won a week’s holiday at some nameless resort, with a huge number of conditions and hoops to jump through, including that you have to sit through another presentation so you can ‘learn about the true benefits of holiday ownership’. I’m not kidding. I wonder if anyone, and I’m sure every major prize winner ends up with this lemon, bothers to redeem it?

After the taxi dropped us back to the beach, it was after 4pm, our beach day almost at an end. After a quick dip, we jumped the bus back to Phuket town, kinda laughing, kinda in disbelief about how weirdly our day trip to Patong turned out to be. The better half, in his wise wisdom, made the point that, in fact, it was kinda perfect: Patong’s scummy, scammy-ness encapsulated in the most bizarre four-and-a-half we hope we ever have to experience. Good point.

Some of the fine print; check out #1: another presentation? Not today, Satan, not today…

So, was it a scam? What did I find out?

In short, I don’t think it was a scam, and the internet hive mind is certainly full of warnings about real timeshare scams in Phuket. It was, though, likely a dog dressed up in glamorous threads.

We were being sold a package through a company called Club Unique, a part of an organisation called ILG. A big part of the pitch was that Marriott Vacations Worldwide bought ILG in 2018, for four billion dollars (US).

Marriott Vacations Worldwide (MVW), which was the timeshare part of the Marriott Corporation until it became its own publicly traded company in 2011, did indeed buy ILG in 2018. ILG was/is also a timeshare company. ILG, trading as Interval International, now appears on Marriott Vacations Worldwide website as an ‘exchange and third party management’ part of the company. This is how they are able to proclaim that we would be able to access the range of brands that are a part of MVW: Sheraton, Westin, St Regis, Hyatt, etc.

However, rather than just booking any room, you would be booking into these brands’ own vacation clubs, so a particular number of suites I presume they have dedicated to these kinds of arrangements. For example, in the MVW buyers guide I downloaded, the Patong Resort appears under the resorts that have only made 6-10 suites available for holiday clubs (covering who knows how many thousands of members). Many or most resorts fall into the between 51-100 category, to be fair.

So, the ILG website and booking facilities we were shown are completely legit, and indeed do provide some kind of membership access to the broader MVW club networks. What I was not able to find online, and quite frankly can’t be assed wasting any more time researching, is where the role of Club Unique, the club we were supposedly being signed up to, sits within this web. I couldn’t find concrete links between them.

Where the MVW and ILG websites have ‘about us’ sections detailing ownership and history and legal sections, Club Unique’s website is vague to say the least:

From a single, bold concept back in 2015, today, Club Unique is the result of the shared vision of local developers and real estate and hotel specialist alike

Aha.

It does have a section about Interval International under its club benefits section, which states that they chose Interval to be their worldwide exchange and benefits partner. The resort is also in MVW’s buyer’s guide as an affiliate resort. But it still leaves me quite confused about who and what CU exactly are? The few media stories about them/the Patong resort I managed to find in the Thai press, read like PR press releases they’ve somehow gotten these outlets to publish verbatim.

Further, some of the figures in MVW’s buyer’s guide, about fees and so on, seemed to be less than the amounts provided by CU, so are they simply selling these memberships but adding their own cream on the top? Seems an awfully exhausting process to go through for a bit of cream, so I don’t know, and refer previous point about wasting any more time. So, I guess, unless someone reading this can shed some further light, it will remain an incompletely answered question. For now anyway.

A palatte cleanser…

4 thoughts on “When is a scam a scam? Our most unusual day trip to Patong… (the conclusion)

  1. Hmm yep we did this process and I agree that it feels exhausting and seems dodgy….but…..I dont think it is dodgy. We had one in Fiji for 23 years. It was an incredibly beautiful and well run resort, and the International exchanges were really awesome.Timeshare units/resorts are usually under local management and may be owned by a conglomerate, like Marriot group, and are able to be exchanged worldwide. The resort and local company is given a name, like Club Unique, which can sound really super untrustworthy. However, the relationship between the resort, the real estate and the business can be at a local level. When weeks for one of these timeshare resorts are floated for sale, the company chooses an affiliation with one of the available two international exchange companies, either Interval International or RCI (resort condiminiums international) They do all the work of arranging resort swaps for the owner to take their holidays at the destination of their choice. It cost us $16,000 to purchase our timeshare at Malololailai Island. Maintenance fees were around 300 per annum. We stayed in awesome timeshares all over Canada, Vegas, and Australia and New Zealand. It was brilliant because you can get “bonus” weeks (terrible name) for a peppercorn rental in any resorts at short notice 😊

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    1. Oh wow, thanks for the background information. Agree that I don’t think it was a dodgy scam, but it was definitely the greasy hard sell kinda ickyness. Seems like, if you can make these things work for you, then they are well worth it. Maybe the bad rep comes from the idea that many or most people never do make the most of it? Great to hear a positive account of it though 🙂 Malolo island is beautiful! x

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  2. My Wife and I just met Sean too haha. What a show, they couldn’t even give me my hat I had won at the end, had to settle for a face towel. Incredible how well rehearsed this whole experience was, felt like we were on set when looking back at it all. Thanks for sharing what you guys went through, we also decided to pass on the deal of a lifetime.

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    1. Oh that’s hilarious, thanks for sharing. Nice to hear that Sean is still in the game. It really does feel like some kind of stage show or movie, a once in a lifetime experience of the surreal kind! Hahahaha

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