July 28th, 2013

kid - jabba the hutt impression.

Las Vegas Timeshares: Don't do it!

We rolled into Las Vegas at about 11:00 this morning, and cruised up the strip to our hotel, the Luxor. Staying at this hotel has been a dream of mine since I went through my first Egyptomania phase back in sixth grade. I knew that it wouldn't be the classiest digs, but I would be sleeping in a freakin' pyramid, and that was enough awesomeness for me.

As we walked in the door, a woman in a blazer asked us if we planned to see any shows. I thought she was part of the hotel staff, an official greeter or something like that. I told her that yes, we were planning to see a show or two, and she said that the Luxor could help us get discounted tickets at a counter a few feet away. Dutifully, Seanie and I dragged our stuff over to a counter labeled “Guest Services”. An enthusiastic man told us that we could get $150 off tickets to Cirque du Soleil's Beatles-themed Love show if we just went and listened to a presentation that would not last longer than two or three hours. We didn't have to buy anything – just look around, listen to a presentation while eating lunch provided by the company, and tell our friends about what we saw. Because the man never used the words “time share”, and we thought he was a Luxor employee, we initially thought they were opening a new hotel and wanted people to social media the hell out of it to bring in guests. To sweeten the deal, he also offered us greatly discounted tickets to the Titanic exhibition currently housed at the Luxor. The more we talked to him, the clearer it became that he wanted us to go to a timeshare presentation. But hey, if he could save us that much money on show tickets, it was worth a couple of hours, right?

Right. We dropped our luggage off in our hotel room – remember, we had literally just walked into the hotel's door and hadn't even checked in - and then came back to sign up for the 1:00 presentation. In order to get our tickets, we had to pay for them in cash before the presentation. It was a bit shady, but again, these guys were all over the Luxor so we thought they were employees and therefore reliable. Hopefully? Seanie went to the ATM and paid the required amount of cash. The minute we had handed over the money, the salesman, who had been regaling us with stories about celebrities he'd met and knew personally, went completely silent. He led us through a series of corridors without another word. He passed us off to another employee, who had us sign several forms. We were then herded onto a bus to be taken to the Grandview Resort.

The first thing we noticed was that the Grandview Resort is too far from the Strip to walk. You can drive there fairly quickly – 10-15 minutes, I'd guess? - but when one goes to Vegas, the consumption of certain inebriating beverages makes driving inadvisable. It's next to a run-down, old-fashioned casino and not much else. The buildings themselves were equally unimpressive – bland and unexciting, the various hotel towers looked more like nondescript office parks than a vacation getaway.

After waiting in a lobby for about twenty minutes, Seanie and I were assigned to a saleswoman – I'll call her Yvonne - who took us up to a big room full of tables. At each table sat a couple with a salesperson. We picked up some sandwiches (we were promised food, after all!) and sat down. Yvonne began showing us pictures of other resorts that were owned by this same company. She explained enthusiastically that we could trade our time at our Las Vegas timeshare for other rooms all around the world. This set off a warning bell in my mind. If I'm buying a timeshare in Las Vegas, shouldn't you begin by telling me how great it is here in Las Vegas? If this place is so great, why am I constantly trading it away instead of using my time here? It just didn't seem right. I would ask her about specific locations, like “Do you have any properties near Yosemite?” or “Can you tell me more about the properties near Disney World?” and she would quickly shift back to, “Oh, but you would be buying here in Las Vegas, and trading for X, Y or Z.”

I can't remember the specific numbers, but the proposal was essentially buy a timeshare for a certain amount and pay an annual fee and maintenance fees. This gives you time increments – usually one or two weeks - that you can then use at your timeshare in Las Vegas, or at other properties. Over time, you save so much money on vacations that the timeshare practically makes you money. If you don't want to use your timeshare in a given year, you can either roll that week over into the next year or sell it. Confused? Me, too.

Yvonne was very convincing. She made the timeshare sound like a wonderful investment. Stay anywhere in the world in a five star hotel for less than $200! If you change your mind later, sell the timeshare, or leave it for children to inherit! It's a brilliant investment. But so many little things didn't make sense. What exactly were we buying? It's not land or rent; as near as I can tell, there's nothing solid. Should the Grandview go bankrupt, what happens to our investment? Does it just disappear into thin air?

We were breaking into our third hour when Yvonne announced it was time for us to see sample rooms for the hotel. She took us to a suite, which had a kitchen, a couple of bedrooms, and a bathroom. It looked fairly clean with a very IKEA-esque style of furniture. Decent enough. But of course, this is just the showroom – what does an actual room that has been used over and over again look like? In addition to the room, each hotel tower has a swimming pool and a gym – but the gym was tiny and the pool looked rather unimpressive. I just kept thinking that if I were seriously considering a timeshare, Las Vegas just didn't seem like the best location to own one. I'd rather have one next to Disneyland, a location that would also have high demand but would also be somewhere I'd want to visit regularly.

Yvonne took us back to the main room and started laying on the hard sell. Seanie and I just weren't convinced. Everyone knows that timeshares are shady and a poor investment – we just wanted our freakin' tickets to Love! But it was tempting. Yvonne made the timeshare sound like a great idea, a way to guarantee that we would travel every year since we'd already have a place to stay at any destination we chose! But the price that she offered us was simply one we couldn't afford, so we said no. Then her manager, Mike, came over and began to really lay it on thick. He slashed the price and offered us bonuses like extra vacation time each year. He told Seanie that he was an idiot for not making such a great investment. He even pulled the wife card - “You know your wife loves to travel, how can you deny her this opportunity?” We told him over and over that we couldn't afford it at this time, but he brushed that aside, “You should be asking yourselves how you can afford NOT to do this!” The longer we sat there, the ruder Mike got, until he crossed the line into asshole: “You will make the biggest mistake of your life! You are an IDIOT not to do this!” He would then backtrack and say, “Oh, but I wouldn't want to pressure you into something you aren't comfortable with.” Then he'd change the deal and the price tag again.

Finally, he decided that his ranting was not going to get us to sign anything, so he let us go. Yvonne was pissed that we hadn't bought a timeshare and that we had wasted her time, and as she led us to a backroom to get our ticket vouchers, there was nothing but icy silence. She didn't even say goodbye, just told us to go talk to a woman sitting at a table. The new woman gave us feedback cards, so we dutifully wrote that Yvonne was nice and the presentation interesting. Instead of finally coughing up the show tickets, the woman offered us yet another deal on a timeshare, one that was dirt cheap – less than half the first price Yvonne gave us. (So if you ever decide to try out a timeshare, DON'T take the first offer.) She went into the same hard sell that her predecessors used, and the only way we finally escaped was by taking her business card and promising to call if we changed our minds. I found this highly amusing, because over and over Yvonne and Mike had stressed that we could only have this timeshare deal if we signed the paperwork TODAY, RIGHT NOW, NO EXCEPTIONS WHATSOEVER.

This woman led us to a room of cubicles, and we sat at a desk where a woman FINALLY printed our vouchers out. It took a good twenty minutes for her to print them, but at that point I was just glad to have them in our hands. We were led into a “room of shame” where all the people who didn't sign up for a timeshare waited for the bus to take them back to the Strip. (By contrast, the men and women who bought a timeshare were supposedly taken back to the Strip in a limo.) Thankfully, the wait wasn't too long, but by the time we got back to the Strip it was past 5:00 pm. We had been at the Grandview Resorts for nearly five hours, once transportation time was included.

If I had a choice to go to another timeshare presentation, would I? I don't know. Seanie says we would never do it again, because it's such a huge time suck, but it did save us quite a bit of money on show tickets. I just wished we'd asked for another set of tickets, maybe to something like Blue Man Group, so that we'd get a little more back for our suffering. I would never buy a timeshare; ten minutes on Google convinced us that no matter what the salespeople claimed, we'd make the right decision by walking away.

But I was glad that we didn't have to pay full price for show tickets.
piranha - No!

Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles Love

So as you know, the Beatles are pretty much my favorite band in the history of music. I have also never seen a Cirque du Soleil show before. What better introduction to the contemporary circus than through the music of the legendary lads of Liverpool? Seanie and I have been wanting to see this show for years, ever since we first learned it was coming to Las Vegas.

Now, I was under the impression that Cirque du Soleil performs to live music. I was expecting singers and a rock band and all that good stuff. Instead, Cirque du Soleil worked with George and Giles Martin – George Martin produced nearly all of the original Beatles albums, and Giles is his son – to remix previously unknown or alternate versions of Beatles songs with classic tracks to create an exclusive sound for the show. Pretty cool, right? I thought it was amazing! All my favorite songs were there, from “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yellow Submarine” to “Lady Madonna” and “Blackbird”.

There is no linear plot to the show. It's very loosely based on the time periods of the Beatles' lives, so it starts in WWII's London. After a symbolic Blitz and a quick dash through the 1950s, the stage explodes into a psychedelic mess of trapeze artists, clowns, acrobats, and other performers. There are a million things happening at once, making it impossible to see everything.

I suppose there are characters, of a sort. During the song “Eleanor Rigby”, for example, a tottering old woman and a mad-looking priest appear during the appropriate lyrics. The Queen of England, a grotesque parody of Elizabeth I and II rolled together into a single being, appears sporadically to remind her citizens of duty to the motherland. A “nowhere man” seeks love throughout the entire show, offering flowers to women only to be ignored or turned down when a better offer comes along. I guess he's the closest thing to a hero or main character, but I think I'm trying too hard to force a narrative onto this show.

It's very frenetic and all over the place, but there are some great moments. I think my favorite scene was a mad roller derby thing where guys in striped suits were shooting up and down ramps, doing flips in the air like they were competing in an extreme sport to the tune of “Help!” while overhead there's a devil on a swinging platform. Really cool. The acrobats hanging from a single rope are always quite lovely; in Love “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” hangs overhead while a man in a fat suit – I assume it's a fat suit, it looked like he was wearing tires! - tries to reach her by bouncing on and around a ladder with wheels on one end.

Obviously, I couldn't take pictures during the show, but here are a couple of random images from around the 'Net: