Why Not to Buy Time Shares

Ryan Ong



I’m amazed that Singaporeans still buy time shares. I mean, most of us are so overworked we associate the term “break” with 10 minutes in a restroom. But apparently, there’s people out there who vacation regularly. So regularly, in fact, they can be persuaded to buy a whole pseudo-investment package for it. In this article, we look at what time shares do (or rather don’t do) for you:

What are Time Shares?

The idea behind most current time shares works like this:

You make a payment to join the time share, which is almost like a club. In return, you get discounted rates on accommodation, tour packages, etc. when you go to the time share resort / hotel. There’s usually a list of locations held by each time share company.

This is minor variation from traditional time shares, which allowed you to use a time share resort / hotel for a certain period. The change (along with a change in name; some are now called holiday clubs) was created to sidestep government regulation.

Traditional time shares are required to give you a five day “cooling off” period. The new “holiday club” system doesn’t fall under the same restrictions…for now.


How Are They Sold?


shadow on the wall
Shut the door please. Our time share salesmen burst into fire under sunlight.


The most common method is to promise some kind of prize, like a laptop, free flight tickets, etc. for attending a time share seminar. Once they’ve wasted two hours of your life, you’ll realize you don’t actually get the prize; not without buying said time shares.

They might also disguise the sales pitch as something else:

Back in ’07, I went for a job interview for a marketing position. Said interview ended up being a sales attempt, where the “hiring manager” wanted me to buy time shares in a Pacific resort (Because, you know, unemployed people are in a position to buy this crap).

Later, I found out it was a standard tactic: The “interviewer” tells you they’d like to make you a “team leader”. But before that, you need to buy the product (time shares) yourself. After which, your “job” will consist of collecting referral fees from other sheep you lead to the office.

Other methods include spam e-mail, phone calls, and sometimes booths at travel fairs.

Joining a time share can cost anywhere from $10,000 to well over $30,000, depending on how many brain cells malfunctioned that day. Beyond that, there’s often an annual fee of a few hundred dollars.

So, what are the main problems with this arrangement?


1. The Time Share Industry is Poorly Regulated


Ulu Pandan police post
Time share scam? I dunno sir, try NEA’s pest control.


One difference between the time share industry and say, Colombian drug cartels, is that cartels have more internal regulation.

CASE dealt with over 350 time share cases in 2011. And from 2004 to 2010, time share companies topped the list of complaints with CASE. Yeah, this industry produced the highest number of consumer complaints, in the country, for six years running. They make insurance companies look like the Mother Theresa of the business world.

Now I’m not claiming all time share companies are intentional scammers. Just many. There isn’t any accrediting body, nor is there a set of professional guidelines in play.

There’s no transparency in fees, no visible company history, and usually no reimbursement if they close down tomorrow. You’re buying at extreme risk.


2. Their Cheap Holidays Come With Restrictions


Wow, a 100% discount on the boat ticket AND the recreation?


If you want to get the biggest discounts out of a time share, you need to use their list of vacation spots.

So if all their vacation spots are in, say, Macau, then I hope you have a raging obsession with Macau. Because short of going there every other trip, you won’t be taking full advantage of your time share. And if you paid $20k or more, I don’t know how you’ll get your money’s worth, short of a four year vacation plan or something.

Time share salesmen will try to persuade you otherwise. Their arguments are:

  • You can go to a partner resort or hotel (and pay extra fees, so the discount isn’t that great anymore)
  • You can swap, buy and sell time shares between companies, for the locations you want (and pay jaw dropping transfer fees)
  • There are plenty of vacation spots on their list (which may be subject to change without review, prior notice, or refund)

Anyway, do you really want to feel obliged to go somewhere, just because you’ve already spent the money?

Follow us on Facebook, and we’ll show you better ways to get a cheap vacation.


3. You May Pay Again. And Again. And Again.


cow being milked
Pictured: Time share participant and salesman


A lot of time share victims pay significantly more (to the tune of $6,000 to over $10,000) than the initial sum. It’s not uncommon for annual fees to end up padded, with vague additions like “upgrading and maintenance costs”. Check out this typical complaint on Hardware Zone.

There’s no transparency in how a time share charges. Expect bills for administration, for booking on certain periods, for cancellation clauses, for wearing red on Thursdays, etc. Some will even threaten to sue you for “contract violation”, if you opt not to make these extra payments.

And God help you if you want to terminate the time shares abruptly. This usually involves a finding a company to “buy over” your time shares, so long as you make a top up with even more money. Even trying to transfer time shares to a friend involves a transfer fee.


Image Credits:
eGuide Travel, WhatiMom, Sir Nocholas de Mimsy-Porpington, scjody, KNOW MALTA

Have you or anyone you know bought time shares? Comment and tell us how it went!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.