This article is a part of series of articles about my 2017 trip to Hawaii. Please see the table of contents that contains links to other chapters.
When we were taking a stroll a few blocks away from our hotel, we came across a park paved with artificial grass sporting a large metal statue of some famous Hawaiian figure, next to which was a plaque that had a quote about the beauty of nature in both English and Hawaiian language. On the winding sidewalk that ran adjacent to the park was a small booth with the word 案内,which in this context means travel information. The booth was empty but there was a bunch of Japanese travel magazines layed out in piles, so we grabbed a few.
A few minutes later when we were sitting by a nearby bench perusing through the magazines, a Japanese woman in a dark blue uniform stopped by and spoke to us in Japanese, saying hello and asking if we needed any help. She was very kind and answered a few of our questions, and then a few minutes later she mentioned that there was information session available where she worked, Wyndham hotel, where we could learn about their timeshare program, and in exchange receive both a free meal at an in-hotel restaurant as well as a $120 gift card to spend on whatever we wanted. The program–essentially an interactive infomercial–would last 90-120 minutes and if we quit partway through, she cautioned, we would not get either perk.
After thinking it over for awhile, we decided to attend the session. Although I am not too big into timeshares, besides the two aforementioned benefits I also would get some practice speaking and listening in Japanese. The session was also available in English, but the woman said with my Japanese level I would be fine, and she even mentioned to someone on the phone when scheduling it that I had native-level Japanese. While I have to recognize this as a form of oseji (flattery), I’d like to believe there was at least some truth to what she said.
I’m very sensitive to transparent, blatant advertisements, but I think this woman did a great job building trust and confidence (and helping us at the same time) before eventually slipping in the bit about the timeshare session. She also gave us her contact information and told us to call later if we had any more questions about the area.
Around 30 minutes later we were at a saleswoman’s desk in the Wyndham Hotel where the session begun (a different lady from the woman who had spoken to us earlier). One of the first things we did was fill out a survey which contained information about how much we like travelling, how often we do it, and our yearly salary. We moved into a discussion about timeshares, which involved some rough calculations how much we might spend on hotel costs in the next 20 years, given some assumptions on how often we would travel.
We did a tour of one of the rooms on-site, and then went back to her desk to look through a catalog of places where would have an opportunity to stay at if we became timeshare members. The way it works is that you pick a timeshare property that is there locally, and, by paying a one-time fee, plus monthly upkeep fees, you become a part owner of that property. By doing that, you get a certain number of points which you can use towards staying at one of the many hundred participating hotels around the globe, which in theory is much better than the traditional timeshare where you have to visit the same place each time.
Sounds great so far, right? Well, it gets complex because each site has a different point cost, and those points fluctuate depending on the month you visit. So if we bought a certain timeshare, we could stay at certain hotels for only 3 days a year, but others for a full week. There was also the option to save up points and use them up later.
We asked about Japan and she flat out said there wasn’t many participating Japanese hotels, though at the end she showed us a list of (mostly high-end) places in Japan. For some reason the ones in Japan weren’t in the normal catalog with those in Europe and other countries.
Due to the lack of Japanese hotels in the program and the complexity of calculating if we would actually save money in the long run (especially given it assumes things like frequent travelling for the next 20 years), we decided to make no commitments that day and “think about it.” While the monthly upkeep fee isn’t ideal, the tradeoff is that the prices for the hotels are locked in forever, and the timeshare can be passed on to a heir. We didn’t get to the point where we actually read all the fine print, though, and there was likely caveats involved.
The woman’s Japanese was pretty easy for me to understand, although it wasn’t quite as polite as I would have expected. She occasionally used phrases like “お教えしましょう” but much of it was just plain desu/masu form stuff. I’m not sure if that was because she detected a higher level of politeness wasn’t needed, or if she was the same regardless of who she spoke to. As I said above, I’m pretty sensitive to sales-talk, and to be honest I don’t think she was a star saleswoman. She sometimes said things like “最近、みんなやってますよ”(these days, everyone is doing it) as an appeal that we should jump on the bandwagon, but I would like to think of myself more a trend-setter rather than trend-follower. She also had a tendency to answer our questions with “Oh, we’ll talk about that later” because it didn’t fit her sales talk flow.
In any case, I think timeshares can save you money if you can guarantee a certain frequency of traveling while at the same time accepting certain restrictions, and I may come back to this to research in more detail later. But I did appreciate that she accepted our decision without being overly pushy. Perhaps my answer to her question about how many homes we owned (one) was not the “right” answer. Had I boasted about my gorgeous vacation home in Dubai, maybe she would have brought out the big guns (an upper level sales person) to try and reel us in further.
This was a fun read. My wife and I have been similar approached many times, but never followed through since we’re not really in their target market (eg. poor). I wonder how long the not-so-formal saleswoman had lived in Hawaii. I do think living in America rubs off on Japanese after a while and a certain looseness creeps into their conversation (you can see this with some of the members of the Netflix show Terrace House which is set in Hawaii). She might also have felt that with a “gaijin” present she didn’t have to be so formal.
Probably some of both. But it would be interesting to see how she spoke with a family coming straight from Japan.