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Timeshares: The South’s Revenge?

Along a two-lane Highway 462 in Jasper County, S.C., a main road to Hilton Head Island, a huge homemade billboard states in foot-high letters: “GENERAL SHERMAN & HIS YANKEE ARMY TERRORISTS ARSONISTS THIEVES.”

That commentary on Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea was the only festering remnant of Confederate resentment I saw during our brief January timeshare vacation. On the contrary, I would say that the South has gotten completely over the War Between the States, judging by the never-ending influx of Yankee tourists with their Yankee dollars showing up to enjoy actually only slightly warmer temperatures than people in mid-January were feeling in the Tri-State Area.

One week I was walking on the beautiful Hilton Head beach in 60 degree weather, and the next at home I was working outside in almost 60 degree weather. But that is the luck of the draw with vacation weather, isn’t it? Last September, we went to Myrtle Beach and got chased home by Hurricane Dorian. At least we don’t get hurricanes at home.

This is off-season at Hilton Head, when your timeshare points go further. The island’s uncountable luxury resorts were probably filled one-third or less. The few people we saw at our resort were like us: gray-headed couples seeking a week in the warmth.

“I WISH I HAD BEEN born in the South,” Honey said wistfully. “I get so cold.”

“But if you had been born in the South your life would have been completely different. You wouldn’t have married me, for instance,” I said, a little miffed.

Honey said our daughter-in-law had chastised her, too, for saying such things. “She said she would never have gotten to marry Seed because he wouldn’t have existed, and none of our grandsons would have existed, either. But then, if I had been born in the South, I wouldn’t have known, would I? And, I’d be warm.”

Honey has a hard time getting me to go on vacation. Really, the only reason I gave in to the sales pitch and we bought a timeshare a couple of years ago was so it would force me to go on vacation now and then.

What is a timeshare?

A timeshare is a high-pressure sales pitch you know is coming and swear you will not give in to, and then do. A timeshare is learning the meaning of “buyer’s remorse.” A timeshare is spending thousands of dollars to buy a nebulous deed to a tiny fraction of a house, condo or apartment at a resort (in our case, about a third of a broom closet), earning you the right to pay hefty annual maintenance fees in perpetuity to keep your property in tip-top shape, whether you ever see it again or not. A timeshare is earning X number of points each year (or every other year, in our case) to reserve a suite for a week on a desirable date at a desirable resort with the points you have in hand, but the site will be unavailable or the points insufficient.

It was only because I knew Honey’s inner accountant nature would never allow to expire whatever meager timeshare points we did earn that I said “yes” to the sales pitch. I knew my wife would ferret out enough secrets of timeshare vacationing so we would go someplace, and that it would be warmer.

PERHAPS YOU HAVE heard radio commercials advertising law firms in the “timeshare cancellation industry.” For a fee they will help you get out from under an unwanted timeshare and its annual fees. One man who previously sold timeshares said he started a timeshare cancellation company so he wouldn’t go to Hell.

General Doc, my brother-in-law, read an article in Consumer Reports about timeshares. “It said the best way to get out of your timeshare is to just quit paying the annual fee,” Doc said. “It might ding your credit a little, but so what?”

While we were in Hilton Head, Honey picked up a free copy of The Island News, a full-size weekly newspaper serving all of Beaufort County. A third of the paper, six of its 18 pages, were legal ads giving notice of pending foreclosures on timeshares in default. The notices described the properties as “one fifty-first (1/51) interest” or “one and ninety-nine hundredths (1.99%) percent interest” of a certain condo or apartment.

Maybe saying that timeshares are The South’s revenge is a bit of a stretch, but most timeshares are in the South. And the business of selling timeshares for thousands and getting them back for nothing seems like better revenge than an angry billboard.

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