“You know what two things we all have in common? We are all exceptionally greedy and lazy.”
This was one of the tidbits of daily wisdom I received from one of the veterans of the game, having been at different timeshares sales jobs for 20 years. On the surface, this seems extremely disparaging and a grand generalization. But what he was referring to was the nature of timeshares sales: fast money, hard cash in hand, and a 25-hour workweek.
Things do in fact look pretty rosy from a bird’s eye view at timeshare sales jobs. A typically day starts off with arriving at the resort by 8 am., where you usually b-line straight to the pastry assortment and coffee area. Then the chain smokers (everyone) go outside for a few drags before the game begins. At 8:15, the sales staff is in the customer staging area where they erupt into applause and loud cheering (“YAHH”, “WhooA”, etc.) as the manager takes the center stage to evangelicalize the troops with a “pep talk”. I liken it to the rally speech a football coach gives his players before the big game, except with a lot more insidious advice on duplicity (and yellow teeth).
After the pep rally, everyone settles down and waits for the customers to come in. One of the benefits of timeshare sales jobs, is that you don’t need to hustle to find clients, the Off Property Contacts have already bribed them with gifts at the airport or town center to come to you, so you just have to sit back and enjoy the endless amounts of coffee, cigarettes, and despicable stories your colleagues tell.
However, all is not always merry in Eden. The success of a salesman not only lies in his salesmanship ability, but also in the amount of opportunity and quality of opportunity he has to sell. Most timeshares nowadays use a “love line” system, where management makes the call on who gets a tour based on previous sales. So if management also has a liberal arts education, a laidback-friendly demeanor, and a progressive outlook toward style (a manicured man-beard), you are a made-man. My managers are overweight conservative Texans with gold teeth who served in both Gulf wars. I am Golden.
However, despite the “love line” system, the official party line is that the person who gets the first client (tour) was the one who had the last sale. So if three people sold a timeshare the previous day, then they would be the first ones to get a tour that day. While this may seem like a pretty sound system, it is brutal if you are a new, inexperienced salesperson, or someone that management just doesn’t like. They can basically starve you out as you come in day after day with no happy tourists to screw and thus make no money.
If you are fortunate enough to get a tour that day, the primary objective of a “liner” (opening salesperson) is to basically just get the people to like you. Make them your friend. Make them have fun. Then make them give you their credit card. You take them to a “nice” buffet lunch and then tour the property with them. (Sidenote- apparently my resort is an exemplar of employee relations, as many other timeshare do not let their sales people eat at the breakfast/lunch. They are forced to sit there and watch the clients eat). After the tour, you sit them down, call over a manager and say, “Well, Mr. and Mrs. Buttersworth just love everything about our property, they just love it, the only question we have is about the money. Can you help us? Can you help us find the money?”
Then the manager comes in and does a back and forth dance with your client acting a miracle worker as you pray to the gods of fortune that you have landed a person who can’t do math. If you get lucky, the person buckles, and the “room boy” (a Mexican 15 year old kid) brings over a bottle of cheap champagne and balloons. Everyone then claps, cheers, and congratulates our newest members. The managers like you. You are a hero keeping their pockets full. They may even give you an advance and throw you a few thousand pesos before you leave that day. If not, you wait until Friday to get paid out the rest of your commission in cash. And thus, the cycle of being only as worthy as your last sale is created. Hero or zero.
Alternatively, if you did not get a tour, you sit and sulk in the corner as you watch other salespeople laugh, drink, and make money. You go to the employee cafeteria for lunch where you eat garbage and think about how terrible your life is as you watch other unpopular salespeople stare at their “food” in equal gloom and despair.
However, there is one major bright spot in this feast or famine career: the managers’ close the sales room by 2pm or earlier. So here is where the magic happens. In theory, you could work basically a half a day, five days a week, in a beautiful mirage paradise and if you can sell, you can live like a king. If you can’t sell, you are fucked and end up on the street corner with the rest of the unwanteds. It is quintessentially the American economic system – with the dream in this case being able to successfully con at least one vacationer a week. Enough to keep you living pretty in the new frontier. Amen.