How does a salesperson turn in moments time from acting like an ANGEL to behaving like a DEMON? Allow me to share with you our unforgettable experience.
On our recent trip to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, my husband noticed a booth as we were shopping that had a sign, ASK ME ABOUT FREE SHOW TICKETS! Upon asking he discovered we could get tickets for our family to see one of the popular shows in Gatlinburg if we would just attend a 90 minute presentation by a vacation company named Bluegreen. We were assured it was a simple, low pressure 90 minute presentation and at the conclusion of the 90 minutes, we'd receive our tickets with absolutely no obligation to purchase anything.
I am not a big fan of time share presentations, to say the least, but my husband brought up the fact that getting these free tickets would save us quite a bit, so in his words, what's 90 minutes? We were told all we have to do is attend the presentation. Since the show tickets would have cost us $27.95 each for seven people, we thought the 90 minute attendance requirement was relatively harmless. Also, the people doing these presentations realize that most of the people coming in their doors do not come in intending to make a purchase. They have been promised fantastic gifts, at no obligation. We made arrangements to be at the presentation the next morning.
Upon arrival at the building in Sevierville/Pigeon Forge, we entered into a beautifully decorated building where we were greeted very warmly and invited to take advantage of a refreshment station located in the lobby. We were given a form to fill out which included standard items like our names, address, phone, also our occupation, (my husband and I are both pastors) and a few other items.
After presenting our driver's license and credit card (they copied these for some reason), our sales rep, Jennifer, came out to greet us. Flashing a mega watt smile, the attractive young lady introduced herself and offered to take our daughter (who was with us) to the child care center down the hall. Upon going to the center, we discovered a well designed child care center complete with video monitors to the meeting rooms. Jennifer introduced us to the camp director as she called her, who would be overseeing the children. All was well as we headed into the presentation room.
Before the presentation began, Jennifer chatted with us non-stop, smiling most of the time. She spoke of the fact that she had a membership with Bluegreen herself and that she and her husband Paul both worked in sales for the company. Never once did we verbally talk about the fact that my husband and I are pastors, but Jennifer sprinkled various terms into our conversation that led us to believe, perhaps she was also a Christian or had some kind of religious background.
She talked about being called to adopt a child from another country, among other typical phrases that might be used in a religious type conversation. When Jennifer headed to the restroom for a moment, my husband whispered to me, I wonder if they put her with us after reading our application, realizing we are pastors and thinking she will click with us and perhaps give an edge for a possible sale?
A stout middle aged man named Mike was the presenter. He was a southern gentlemen with a quick sense of humor who pulled on heartstrings a bit by talking about his days as a struggling single parent, and the joy of raising his children, vacationing with them, and passing down this wonderful real estate investment to them one day. Jennifer sat next to us during the entire presentation as the other sales reps did with their potential clients.
There were about seven families in the room hearing Mike give this spiel. He was very good at it, I'll admit. His ready wit made for laughter quite a few times in the room. He quickly answered any question that arose from those present about Bluegreen, discussing everything from the fact that this would be an absolutely NO PRESSURE presentation (he said at the conclusion, if we weren't interested, simply say, this isn't for us' and that would be perfectly fine, there would be no hassle at all), to assuring everyone that Bluegreen NEVER oversold, always had plenty of open reservations if you called far enough in advance (a few weeks was what he mentioned), to the fact that if you were not happy with your Bluegreen investment, it would be relatively easy to sell it, and in fact there is a company that even sells them for you if you are interested. He reiterated that we were told it was a 90 minute presentation and assured everyone, I'm going to take a lot less time than that, so ya'll just relax right now!
He also stated several times he realized most people there had undoubtedly come in not expecting to purchase anything and had their minds pre-set before coming, but asked everyone to have an open mind anyway. (Hearing him say this just reiterates the fact that those in the time share business realize that people do come for the free gifts because they have been promised them for sitting through a presentation, again, with NO OBLIGATION TO PURCHASE they are simply agreeing to view the presentation, not committing to anything.)
Mike's promise that it would be even shorter than 90 minutes should have been our first clue that something didn't add up. We arrived at Bluegreen at 12:30 and it was 2:00 before we were even dismissed from the first part of the presentation (Mike's presentation) to the second room where we would meet with Jennifer where a whole other presentation was given complete with a book tour, wall tour, and tour of one of their actual buildings.
Upon dismissal from Mike's diatribe, we were ushered into the next room where we were again invited to help ourselves to something from the refreshment station. Sitting down with Jennifer moments later, she was still possessing her ear to ear smile, and acting like my husband and I were the nicest people she had met in her life. She gushed about everything from our children to the fact that she used to live in Tampa where we live.
After a moment or two of small talk, Jennifer asked what specific questions we might have after seeing the presentation. My husband very politely said to her, We just have to be honest with you up front that we really are not interested in purchasing, but thanks very much. Jennifer's face showed a slight disappointment at first (going from huge smile to just a sort of flat look) but she took a deep breath and said, Okay, well you know what, that's okaythat's alright. But then went on to say, I still have to do my job, and show you the product.
My husband and I could understand that. And it wasn't her fault that we were not interested in the product at that point she was still acting rather angelic. But it was just a fact we weren't interested no matter how nice she seemed.
Although it was now 2:15 (they had already broken their agreement with us that we would be there for 90-minutes and we had kids back at the condo waiting for us to come home and take them to an activity we had promised to take them to) we went ahead and allowed Jennifer to finalize the presentation. This entailed looking at every page of a picture book of their resorts, doing what she called the wall tour looking at photos of the resorts, and then going outside to tour a model condo.
Although we were quite honestly pressed for time (we had only allotted the 90 minutes for the presentation) we still toured the model home going into every room of both the one and the two bedroom condos, touring the rooms, bathrooms and even commenting on various details of such. Upon coming back in she told us we needed to stop at a kiosk.
When stopping at the kiosk, we had to answer questions about our projected expenses on vacations for the coming years, and she tried to show us how we were really financially missing out by not purchasing a Bluegreen membership. Still we were not interested, but we were very polite. My husband even gently explained why we felt it was not necessary to purchase, several times.
On the way back to the room while walking down the hallway, Mike the presenter stopped Jennifer in the hallway and held out a piece of paper which looked like the contract to present to us with financial figures on it and he started into talking to her about a bunch of stuff that was definitely really directed for our ears to hear.
I do have to admit this was a horrible acting job. Listen Jennifer, he said as he held out the form, this is the special deal they are offering and then he went into some talk about specific numbers and said a few things about this being an incredible opportunity, and to be honest I didn't hear half of what he said because I knew that this was an acting job meant for my ears and not hers and I didn't want him to think it was working, so while he said all this to her I looked away and acted like I was intrigued with a painting on the wall, hoping my husband was doing the same.
Finally we headed back to the former room and sat at the table with her while she showed us a paper that entailed what our payments would be if we chose to purchase a 20-point membership with Bluegreen. I was pretty shocked. It was more than our car payment each month and the interest rate was over 15% on the contract.
We gently assured her this was just not for us, and that, as it was now almost 3:00 pm, we really needed to be going. She then told us that we could not leave until her supervisor came over and talked with us. It appeared there were three couples ahead of us in line. I felt my heart sink. The kids were back at the condo waiting and by this time our daughter had been in child care for 2 and hours.
We made small talk with Jennifer while waiting, although it was a little tense now that she knew we really didn't have an interest in Bluegreen. She raised a hand to let the supervisor know she needed him asap. I'm sure she could tell, although we were polite about it, our time was up.
The supervisor came over and asked if we liked what we saw, Yes, it was very nice, I said, your condos are really nice and such but we simply do not feel it's for our family we do not desire to purchase. Really??! he said, with a completely shocked look on his face, I'm so surprised! We just don't hear that from people. Everybody we present this to seems to see how great an opportunity it is. (Somehow I really have to doubt that, as one other couple was trying to leave at the exact same time we were and looked very uncomfortable.)
Are you SURE we can't work something out with you? What about something for about $100 a month? No, my husband politely assured, we are sure. He went on for a minute talking about how he was just SHOCKED that we were not going to purchase, like we were completely crazy. But we stayed firm. Okay then, the supervisor said, and Jennifer asked him for some kind of form and he gave it to her and walked away.
Jennifer seemed quietly disappointed but finally produced a form and said, okay, I just need you all to fill this out, to let my bosses know I haven't pressured you or anything I said, oh, okay and thought I was reaching out to sign some kind of release form to that effect. Imagine my shock to realize she had just pushed a paper in front of me that was just a referral form for names, addresses and phone numbers of friends of ours they could contact to present the program.
I said, is this a form for referrals of my friends and family? Yes, Jennifer said. I nicely said that I wasn't really comfortable giving out the information about my friends. But asked if there was some other type form she needed me to sign. No, she snapped and quickly changed into a whole different person than we had encountered for the last 2 and , almost three hours. The change was DRAMATIC.
I am not exaggerating one bit when I say it was like Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde! The formerly sweet, smiling individual we had met at the door turned into something resembling Cruella Deville. She quickly snapped the portfolio shut and gathering her things, started talking to us in a very angry tone, eyes wide and blazing, cheeks hot and red with anger.
Let me tell you something, she saidsince I've been doing this job, I've presented this program to two other pastors, and it's ironic to me that they were THE RUDEST PEOPLE I'VE EVER MET!!! My husband and I just stared at her, totally shocked at this complete metamorphosis from her former self when we arrived at Bluegreen.
YES, IT'S IRONIC, ISN'T IT? she repeated'IT'S IRONIC TO ME THAT PASTORS (she emphasized the word pastors) CAN BE SO INCREDIBLY RUDE!!! (I was thinkingso I guess in her interpretation, rudeness is when a person doesn't want to buy her product? Rudeness is refusing to plunk down $400 a month for the next 10 years? The last time I checked, that definition was not in my dictionary under the word rude.)
Going up to the checkout desk with us, she slapped our paperwork down on the counter and said to the two ladies behind the desk, These are the Smith's!!!' They are DONE! And they obviously CAN'T WAIT TO GET OUT OF HERE!!!
All of that was quite honestly said in not only what was probably THE most rude tone I have ever heard out of a salesperson, but by this point I was convinced Jennifer was unstable mentally. Anybody who acted like she did when we arrived at Bluegreen and completely gushed over us for 2 and hours and then turned on a dime like that when we simply said we weren't interested in her product has to be at least a little nutso! Even the two ladies behind the desk seemed to look at her a bit strangely when she said all that, wondering what in the world was going on.
What's ironic to us is that as soon as we politely said we were not interested in purchasing the contract with Bluegreen, Jennifer pulled out what we call the pastor card. Basically her mode of operation was to try to shame us somehow into thinking that because we were pastors, we should have had compassion on her need to sell this product and purchased it no matter whether it was best for our family or not.
Her behavior was very inappropriate and bullying. I understand the fact that undoubtedly she works on commission and was very upset that the past three hours had not netted her a sale. But still, her behavior was clearly not only inappropriate but completely erratic and quite honestly, I must say it againmentally unstable.
It is not rude to be a pastor and decline an offer to spend $400 or $100 a month on something you do not want. Being a pastor is irrelevant to the entire situation, but it seems to be a straw Jennifer grasped at to release her anger and disappointment when she realized she was not going to make a sale with us.
When I came back to our condo, I looked up Bluegreen online. I was not surprised to see countless number of complaints registered on line and even lawsuits against their company. I was not alone in my experience with them, however one thing I was grateful for is that unlike many of the people who registered complaints, we had not actually purchased anything from Bluegreen, we had just been exposed to three plus hours with one of their salespeople.
To hear the woeful tales from people on line who are stuck with these contracts, are financially hurting, and not receiving the product they were promised in the same way they were promised it, simply broke my heart. Countless people talked of trying to book vacations and being told the rooms were already booked.
So many people talking about calling or writing the company and never hearing back from them, always getting the runaround. Many people reported being bullied by salespeople. Not only was it a high pressure sales pitch, but it borderlined on abusive!
For those who purchase a membership,it is not a simple matter of getting over several hours with a neurotic saleswoman, but a lifetime of getting over what is evidently (according to many complaints registered on line) a very bad investment made.
As a positive postscript to all this, a few days later before our vacation in Gatlinburg was over, my husband and I were eating at a pancake house when we saw two women signing people up for something. We assumed it might be a Bluegreen presentation. We went over and my husband asked one of the workers if they were from Bluegreen.
She said yes. He said, do you mind if I share our experience with them? She said, please do. We shared everything with her that I have just written here, and she said, this is incredibly interestingI have been doing this job for a week now but I just felt something was not right about this company but couldn't put my finger on it.
The other woman with her was training her and admitted that she knew some of what we were saying was true but she was a single Mom who really needed the money that Bluegreen afforded her with getting recruiting these people to go to the presentations. The woman being trained said that she was a Christian and had prayed for a definitive answer as to whether she was off base in thinking something was not right and just a day later we walked up to her.
She told the trainer she simply could not stay anymore and recuit people, knowing the information she had just been given and feeling in her heart it was true. Right then and there, she thanked my husband and I for telling her all this and then she walked off the job right there and left the trainer standing there speechless!
We later learned from this woman and her husband that evidently they heard that some recruiters were signing people up and giving them tickets to shows in Gatlinburg that were closed for the season...in other words, they sat through that whole presentation for NOTHING, because their tickets were worthless (they could not be used during their vacation time.)
We thought the trainer, who also identified herself as a Christian, would be very angry with what had just happened and apologized if we had caused her any inconvenience by sharing with these women what we did, however we felt they should know what they were signing people up for and what these people should expect when they got to the presentation.
Again the woman told us that she knew there were problems. She said she knew there was dishonesty going on with Bluegreen, but that they did offer their employees some good benefits and good money and as a single Mom she simply couldn't pass it up. She said she was recently very ill and they had given her sick leave that other companies just wouldn't have given her.
She also shared that she used to be in sales at Bluegreen but got out of it and started doing recruiting because of some of the very things we had mentioned. She felt that doing the recruiting was more honest than working in sales where these things were going on. We asked her if reporting Jennifer to Bluegreen would do any good. She said, "if she's making sales, no, it won't do any good. They let things slide as long as the people are making sales."
I wonder how many other people there are who are just like these two women who were recruiting? There have to be a lot more people who know something is just not right about it, and I can only hope these people will research Bluegreen's reputation on the internet, and see that there might be some things they are not aware of. It is not worth selling out their integrity to gain the money they get from recruiting these people.
It is my hope that people will realize that first of all, if these investments seem "too good to be true", they probably are! Second, I've learned even some free show tickets are not worth an afternoon of bullying by a salesperson.
I will continue to let my friends, family and congregants know to BEWARE of Bluegreen and companies like them. Unless people speak up and make the public aware, things like this will continue to happen to good, unsuspecting people.