Years ago (in LBH, Life Before Hubby) I purchased a Timeshare week.
It was a brand new development, tempting potential buyers with free gifts in the hope of making them part with their cash.
On the face of it, it was a good deal, so I signed up for the last week in October (half term school holidays and Halloween) but if I wished, I could swap it for 2 weeks in the USA with someone who had a share in a property there.
I was an idiot, but I’ll get to that later.
It was quite lovely, with two bedrooms, and full bathroom as well as a shower room downstairs, with an open plan lounge/kitchen/diner upstairs plus a small balcony.
The bedrooms slept 5, one being a double and the other kitted with bunk beds and a single, whilst one of the two sofas in the lounge converted to a double bed, so in theory it could sleep 7.
The kitchen was fitted with a fan oven, separate hob and dishwasher (I never used that though), but no microwave or washing machine.
On site was a good pub-cum-restaurant plus a convenience store which was reasonably priced, with plans for a swimming pool and leisure complex.
We were the first to use the unit, but because Partner couldn’t get time off, I took my Mum, his two boys and the foster kid of the time.
I knackered the front wheel of my car in Redruth when I hit a massive pothole so hard, the damn thing actually looked like a banana. Luckily there was a garage round the corner and the guy was able to get me a second-hand rim so that I could still have a spare wheel. It took the majority of my spending money.
I’d like to say we had a good time, but the foster girl played up and sulked when she didn’t get her own way which spoilt it for everyone. We did manage to have a couple of good days in Newquay and the surrounding area though.
The second year, we went as a family (no foster kids at this time) and my Mum came up to dog sit. That was one of the things I’d missed in the small print. No dogs, and we had two, though the agent had said we could take the dog before I committed myself to purchase.
Like I said, Idiot.
It was a horrible week.
The boys misbehaved and their dad didn’t reprimand them so the atmosphere was strained, especially if I said something. (When we got back home, I made good on my promise that they only had to show me up once and I’d never take them anywhere again).
Partner wanted to spend all his time down the pub. The one on site was only open in the evenings and no longer had a restaurant. The shop had also closed and no further building work had been started.
He spent all his money on himself, and all of mine went on supplies, fuel and entrance fees to theme parks.
The furniture was now ring marked and water stained, and there were cigarette burns in the carpet.
The cost of electricity had doubled (you were charged for usage on a meter) and the grounds overgrown and untidy.
The following year, the annual maintenance fee went up by 25% instead of the capped 10% as stated in the contract, and we didn’t use it.
The year after that, I left the relationship.
I had been a fool by taking out a personal loan over ten years for the purchase price of £2,800, so I had the responsibility of the debt with no comeback on Partner.
I tried to sell it, but had no takers, not a single enquiry.
The Timeshare company went into liquidation, but because I owed the bank and not the company, I still had to pay.
The maintenance fee rose for £96 to £210 under ‘New Management’ and I just couldn’t afford it. I saw a solicitor about the contract I had, and was told that it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on as that company ceased to exist and the new one could charge what they wanted.
In desperation, I wrote to the new company and asked if they would purchase my week for whatever they cared to pay me.
I got a trite letter back saying they already had 500 timeshare weeks returned to them, and could not help me.
I wrote back saying they now had 501, and as I didn’t owe them and had signed no contract with them, as far as I was concerned, that was the end of it. I never heard anything back.
I eventually got myself sorted out and paid off the bank loan early. I chalked it up to experience and vowed never to trust salesmen or sign anything without reading the small print.
Ironically a few years later I received notification that I had won a Timeshare in Spain in a competition (which I’d never entered, in a magazine I never bought).
All I had to do to claim my prize was send a bankers cheque for £1,710 for the other 50%.