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Archive for Sunday, January 12, 2003

Free trip? You be the judge of that

January 12, 2003

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Husband Ray and I recently attended a DMGPA convention. You're wondering what that acronym stands for, right? The answer is: Dumbest, Most Gullible People in America. Let me add that we had plenty of company.

We were all frugal folks who bit on a phone call that promised a "three-day, two-night free vacation to Branson with only the obligation to listen to a 90-minute presentation" (and pay $89). Let me further add that I turned down dozens of earlier calls offering the vacation -- along with free dinners and show tickets -- until they finally made me an offer I couldn't refuse: tickets to Silver Dollar City decorated with four million Christmas lights and the chance to watch its "world-renowned" holiday parade. I was a sucker for the double-whammy of Silver Dollar City and Christmas combined.









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When I called to make a lodging reservation for Sunday and Monday nights, the person I spoke with told me Silver Dollar City was closed on Monday, so I switched to Monday and Tuesday nights. But when we arrived at the check-in center, we were informed the attraction was also closed on Tuesday. No problem, we just booked an extra night at our expense and planned to go to Silver Dollar City on Wednesday.

Our free vacation now totaled $151 -- plus travel expenses -- but we were given a $30 coupon toward dinner at Outback. Trust me on this: no two people ever endured more to earn a free dinner (which cost us an additional $11.97).

Our presentation was scheduled for 8:30 Tuesday morning. We were greeted by our own personal sales representative (dubbed Slick by Ray). Slick, blessed with great hair and teeth and wearing business-casual attire, explained that he had a pension, so it really didn't matter to him whether we bought a time-share; it was strictly up to us, he said, to decide if time-sharing was a "good fit" for us.

Ninety minutes and counting: Slick had hauled out a photo album the size of a small SUV and shown us photos of himself and his wife enjoying vacations in exotic locales from Alaska to Figi, all due, he claimed, to the time-share he owned in California. By then, we knew enough about him to write his biography, yet we still weren't saying yes to his time-share plan, which could be ours for a mere $5,000 down payment and an additional $12,000 plus (financing guaranteed). Slick was beginning to show the strain, but was still polite.

Two hours and counting: Slick was sweating. "So," he said at last, "what do you want to do?"

The obvious answer -- "Leave!" -- was not what he wanted to hear. He raised his arm and snapped his fingers and a short, stocky man (whom Ray named Guido the Enforcer) hastened to our table to save the sale.

Slick explained to Guido that "Ray is interested, but Marsha has reservations."

Say WHAT? When Ray refused the offer for the third time, Guido took out a pen, wrote $6,999 on a slip of paper and shoved it toward Ray.

Both of us looked at it, then stared at Slick and Guido without speaking.

At that, Guido threw in the towel. "They came down here with a mind-set," he told Slick.

"You weren't listening," Slick informed us accusingly.

At that point, I was tempted to reply, "You weren't saying anything interesting." I realize, however, that a knot in the tongue is worth two on the head, so I didn't say it, but merely smiled at Slick and never heard another word he or Guido uttered. Ray did, though, and he said Guido made a reference to us "taking advantage" of their hospitality. Well, YEAH! Isn't that the idea? Guido wasn't as dumb as he looked.

Long story, short. On Tuesday, Branson had such a severe snow and ice storm that Silver Dollar City management decided on Wednesday morning that it wouldn't open. We said to heck with it, checked out and headed home, relying on a weatherman's report that the snow and ice were south of I-44 in Springfield. (Have you noticed how storms follow interstates?) But the weatherman was a bald-faced prevaricator; the highways were packed with snow and ice almost to Kansas City.

Was there anything good about the trip? You bet.

Coconut shrimp at Outback and the opportunity to see "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" while the storm raged Tuesday afternoon.

My purpose for relating our foolish adventure? Well, if I can save one couple from making the same mistake, it will all be worthwhile. And if you believe that, Slick will sell you a time-share!

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