Timeshares Alternative – Accor Plus Membership

Have you been asked to attend a timeshares presentation? Probably yes if you are married and have been travelling. Of course the company will entice you with gifts to attend just a 90 minutes presentation and they will also assure you that there would be no obligation to purchase anything at the end of the presentation.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The 90 minutes presentation would drag on for hours. I had attended quite a few presentations years ago where we got stuck with them for up to four hours.

One time we were shopping at Orchard Road one weekend many years ago and a teenager approached us and requested we participate in a scratch and win promotion at the then Specialist Centre. She was jumping for joy when we won a free hotel stay holiday after I scratched off marks from the card. There was a catch though. We had to go up to the office and attend a 90 minutes presentation and then collect our prize.

We knew it was timeshares as we had already attended some before so we declined. She kept begging us because if we would attend the presentation she would get paid $50. It was school holiday and some students were out trying to earn some pocket money so we being kind, reluctantly went to the office with our little children with us supposed to be out on a shopping trip.

Once we reached the office, the staff were so happy to welcome us and on a table near the entrance was a nice hamper. Next to the hamper was a four digit code. The staff told us if we had a credit card ending with this last four digits we would win the hamper. So I searched all the credit cards with me and coincidentally, I had a Visa card ending with this four digits. The staff again jumped for joy and made an announcement to everyone present that we had won the hamper and everyone started clapping to congratulate us. It was a bit embarrassing though to get so much attention as we came into the office.

Well, so we were assigned a guy to talk with us while our children went to the playroom to enjoy themselves. The talk went on and on and it was getting no where. Meanwhile from time to time a bell would ring and an announcement made that someone had purchased a timeshares membership and there was clapping again. Besides the talk, there was loud and unbearable music being played so we had to talk louder in order to be heard during the conversation. This loud music is designed to wear you out and confuse you and the beats of the music will also raise your heart beat as well. If you are weak, you would be pressured to give in to their high pressure selling techniques.

Timeshares memberships are not cheap. They come with a five figure sum. On top of that you will have to pay hundreds of dollars every year for maintenance fees whether you use up the seven nights accommodation you are entitled to every year. It had been around four hours since we arrived and the children were getting tired so we made our move to leave. We brought home our hamper and the staff obviously weren’t pleased and of course no rounds of applause and congratulations when we left the office.

Another time we were enticed into attending another presentation in the late nineties at Scots Road. It was of course the same setup with loud music and staff trying to be very friendly to size us up during the friendly chat and tried to convince us the savings we could achieve if we would buy their membership. We loved to travel and we used to spend three to four weeks driving up and down the country in Australia and New Zealand when our children were little. So I told the agent we won’t stay at any particular location for more than three nights and so timeshares were not suitable for us because the membership would require us to stay seven nights at one accommodation each time and this would bore us to death.

When the sales staff was getting no where with us the manager stepped in and promised we could actually break the seven nights accommodation to a three and a four nights accommodation if we would sign up. We didn’t believe him and were about to leave. Besides, the prices of the membership quoted to us had been reducing each time we wanted to leave. Finally the manager threw in one last attempt to get us to sign up. He said we could be a trial member for just three years and if we enjoyed timeshares membership privileges, we could take it up after the trial to become a full member.

The cost for trial membership for three years was $2400 for a total of twenty-one nights of accommodations, seven nights each year. We would also be getting a two bedrooms accommodation for our family. Since we had been travelling and knew the cost of accommodations and this trial membership did not come with maintenance fees every year, we signed up for a trial having been assured we could break the seven nights stay each into a block of three and four nights stay.

So the following year we tried to book our accommodation for a three and four nights stay each and were denied. Well, this was our first bad experience with the company. Then we tried to book the accommodations we wanted months ahead the following year, but they were not available. After that came 9-11 and no one was keen to travel during that year. Finally, in 2002 our trial membership would be running out and we still had twenty-one nights of accommodations unused. Thankfully, we managed to use up the three weeks where we booked many months ahead and spent three weeks in Australia, not the way we liked it seven nights at each location but still better than losing our $2400 paid upfront three years before.

As such, purchasing a time share membership is not so easy to realize the cost savings. You will probably run into obstacles when you wish to book the accommodations for the dates you desire to travel. Besides, you will also have to pay maintenance fees every year because you are an owner of that piece of property for seven nights a year.

Of course it sounds nice when the sales agent tries to make you feel good that you are actually a property owner of a highly sought after resort and you may also bequeath the property to your children if you choose to do so in the future. In addition, they will try to convince you on the appreciation of the property value where you can also sell off your membership whenever you wish. This is wishful thinking. If it is so easy to sell timeshares membership, why do they have to go to such extent to convince you and entice you with gifts to attend such long presentation.

I have known people who have purchased timeshares membership and have never used them for more than a decade and still have been paying maintenance fees every year. So because of all the bad reputation with timeshares companies, and with many existing members wishing to sell off their timeshares membership, there are now companies claiming to be able to help them if they would attend their presentation. Of course their help is not free. You will have to fork up money to get them to help and there is no guarantee you will get back your money. I had been approached by a desperate soul who wished borrow a huge sum of money from me to get her off the hook because this company promised to settle the timeshares membership for her. I don’t buy such promise. It is like throwing good money away after bad money.

Even after using up my three years trial membership, I still receive phone calls from time to time from companies claiming to be able to help me get my money back and help me sell off my membership. One time the phone call was transferred to a staff in a so called legal department of the company when the lady on the phone couldn’t get anywhere with me when I demanded to know the name and address of the company. That guy was rather aggressive and threateningly used legal terms to demand I show up at their office and when I threatened to call the police, he hung up on me. It was funny they dared not tell me the address of the company and still demanded that I attend their sales talk on how to get my money back.

If you do your home work and search the internet, you will find tons of complaints against timeshares companies. Yet, these companies are still around and victims are continuing to share their sad stories on how they have been conned. You might also get conned into timeshares scams while holidaying overseas in Bali or Phuket. There are people who will approach you on the beach or outside a mall with a scratch and win contest. Don’t waste your time talking with them otherwise you would probably have to waste half a day of your time listening to sales talk instead of enjoying your vacation. Complaints against timeshares companies have been so bad that even the Singapore Police Co-operative Society has issued an advisory on Timeshares.

Notwithstanding, so far the only reputable timeshares company that I know of is JW Marriott. During travel fairs, you might find their trial offer to spend US$250 for three nights stay in a two bedrooms accommodation in Bali or Phuket which also includes some cash rebates for dining or transfers from the airport on the condition you attend their presentation during your stay at their property. So far from my only experience having stayed at the JW Marriott property in Phuket, the sales presentation wasn’t aggressive sales talk and they will let you go if you are not interested. I’m not sure about presentation at other places, but JW Marriott does have a reputation to keep that they are different from the other timeshares companies out there pulling a fast one on unsuspecting holiday goers.

The best alternative we have experienced so far is the Accor Plus membership. This membership comes with complimentary nights stay and dining discount of 50% for two, 33% discount for three and so on in participating hotels in the Asia Pacific region. According to their website, membership comes with only one complimentary night stay every year. However, when we signed up with our agent here in Singapore, we get two complimentary nights stay per year.

Annual membership used to cost S$200 plus when we signed up a decade ago and it has now gone up to S$300 plus per year. Besides complimentary nights stays and dining discounts, membership package also comes with group dining and beverage discount vouchers, birthday cake voucher and members for a day voucher where this privilege may be given to someone else to enjoy member’s privileges for hotel booking and dining discount for a day without signing up as members for a year.

As Accor members, we enjoy an additional 10% discount on hotel bookings and during their super sales, hotel rates are really very attractive. We were also given free room upgrade to the next category during off peak season whenever the hotel  could accommodate us. Plus the member’s welcome drinks while staying at their hotels, it is a special treatment that we truly enjoy.

We always choose five stars hotel such as Sofitel, MGallery and Pullman whenever we use our complimentary nights stay which more than recoup our membership cost every year on top of savings on dining at Accor group of hotels. The Accor Plus membership fees are even lower than those maintenance fees of timeshares membership where members have to pay whether they use their seven nights accommodation they are entitled to every year.

So if you travel often, Accor Plus membership is an option to consider instead of forking out a five figure sum membership on top of the yearly maintenance fees on timeshares membership. There is no obligation to continue the Accor membership every year. For us, Accor Plus membership has been so useful that we have been a member for more than ten years. I had also used points earned during stays at Accor group hotels to book Accor group hotels in Europe at reduced cost.

Hence with no yearly maintenance fees, no huge five figure sums to sign up as members, and no annual fees to pay for timeshares exchange network in order to stay at other properties, Accor Plus membership is unbeatable hands down.  For under S$400 a year membership fees, staying two nights at five stars hotels in the Asia Pacific region would more than recover the cost for the yearly membership fees. Of course you need to book early if you wish to stay at highly sought after five stars hotels. In addition, dining discounts at Accor group hotels offer significant savings during holidays. So give it a thought before putting your signature down for an expensive timeshares membership you might live to regret later on.

By the way, I don’t sell Accor Plus membership. If you are interested, and if you reside in Singapore, shoot me an email and I will direct you to this lady agent who has been handling my membership for years. Check out the Accor Plus website for details but if you sign up from the website, you might not get two complimentary nights stay.

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