Everything you always wanted to know about timeshare

Posted on June 20, 2008 by Priya Tuli

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Around the middle of June last year, my mother came to visit. She barely had time to take three deep breaths, and we were off to Bali the very next afternoon. My brother had generously given me a week at his Bali timeshare as my half-century birthday gift, and we had to use it before the end of the month or it would expire. No rescheduling, no refunds, no nothing, take it or leave it. We were already into our first brush with timeshare and the vagaries involved…

So I booked us on Air Asia, a budget carrier, one of the several hundred that have suddenly appeared over the last few years. I think they all use the same small print, you know the stuff nobody reads, that goes: "When you pay peanuts to fly, we reserve the right to mess up your head, screw up your schedule and delay all flights as many times as we want, so there!"

And that’s just what they did.

We left for the airport at 2.30 pm to catch the 5.30 flight, which of course got delayed to 9.30pm. To make amends for the delay, they offer us dinner vouchers or lounge access. We opt for the latter, and shuffle off to the lounge. Good decision; they have reflexology on the menu. So that's what Mum has.

Several long, slow hours later, we take off. After being on the move from 2.30 pm, we finally get to Bali, and then to the hotel around 1 am, that's nearly 12 hours for a 1 hour 40 min. flight. We take nearly as long to locate the hotel, as our taxi driver doesn't know the place and keeps saying "it's dark", by way of explanation, and proceeds to give us a midnight tour of the area instead. The hotel is not answering my frantic calls because they're evidently all asleep.

When we do find the hotel, there’s nobody at the reception counter. I inform the sleepy guard we have a reservation, could he find someone who could check us in? He blinks at us and quickly disappears into the bowels of the hotel and is never seen again. 10 minutes later, someone else emerges, saying, "Sorry ma'am, I’m from room service, the reception closes at 11pm".

Right. I explain about the delayed flight, and ask if he could give us a room, we’d complete the check-in formalities next morning. By this time, I’m close to growling and Mum is slowly collapsing in a heap on the floor. He realizes things are getting rather fragile and decides to rouse the reception staff because we certainly aren’t planning to disappear. We manage to get a room and promptly crash, and don't wake up till 10am next morning. 

While puttering about with tea and coffee to really wake us up, we notice there's a lovely pool. The hotel is charming, as every place in Bali manages to be, without much effort at all. We also notice there's no milk or creamer. I call the desk to inquire. They ask me to call the restaurant. I do. They say they don't have creamer. Okay, I say, milk is fine. "Sorry ma'am, but you have to pay for it. " No problem, I say, please send it, I have an increasingly irate old lady on my hands here. They send me a 5-litre tetrapack. I send it back, saying, "All I need is half a cup. Please keep the rest, I don't drink milk, use it, I'll pay for it, just don't send me 5 litres of the stuff. That's too much milk to deal with this early in the day."

Tea done, we both take a leisurely shower and set off to spend some time driving around to some of our favourite spots, including the rice terraces and the quaint little coffee shop we have been frequenting for years. We get the same cabbie from the previous night, but he can't say "it's dark" any more because it isn’t.

We get back after our leisurely drive in time for a quick swim. Up in the room, we realize they don't seem to have replaced the teabags and sugar, so to avoid another fiasco tomorrow morning, when I’m really not at my sparkling and effervescent best, I call the desk to ask for teabags. "Sorry ma'am, the Gift Shop is closed." Eh? I need a teabag, not a gift. "You need to buy the tea-bags, ma'am."

Oh okay, sure, so where can I buy them? Hotel is in the boondocks, nothing for miles around in any direction. And the Gift Shop is closed, right? "Yes, Ma'am." Okay, so could you send them from the restaurant, and charge me for them? Evidently not, but we arrange for the Gift Shop to deliver the teabags next morny at 8 am

By now, I have understood this is going to be the pattern; I am rapidly learning the difference between a hotel and a timeshare. Just to see if I'm right, I say, "Oh and by the way, we have no water in the fridge." Sure enough, "Sorry Ma'am, you need to buy it from the Gift Shop which is closed and we can't send it up from the restaurant unless you order it from Room Service." Ahhhh yessssss, I understand. Please send me 10 gallons of water from Room Service, thank you.

We go through the same spiel with the bath towels: "Sorry ma'am, we have a policy to change the towels on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and this is Monday." Too bad both our towels were sopping wet, because I'd put mine down in the bathtub so Mum wouldn't slip and break her head. With the ice: "Sorry ma'am, you must buy a bowl of ice, ma'am". With the cushions we had borrowed from the room to use in the cab for Mum's back: "Sorry ma'am, the General Manager says that you cannot remove the cushions from the room", to which I reply, "Please tell the GM I will bring them back, we do not kidnap cushions and we don't eat them." Foam filler causes terrible gas, and the bile-green covers are rather unappetizing anyway.

The GM, we later find out, is an Aussie Great White, closely related to the JAWS star. She is HUMUNGOUS, about 200 kilos, conservative estimate. She stalks about in a short icky-pink Indian kurta, which leaves nothing to the imagination. Her derriere doggedly follows her around everywhere, dangerously wobbling 3 paces behind, along with her poodle. We call her alternately the Great White, and the Pink GaBlob. A BIG arrogant Aussie with attitude is not a pretty sight. We later learn that her Guest Relations executive, the new PR guy and around 3 assorted front desk and housekeeping staff had gone AWOL in that one short week. One day they were there, and the next they were gone. POOF! We figured she probably eats them for breakfast. SCARY woman.

As you can imagine, I took up the cushion issue with the GM one fine morning, but I won’t go there now. And of course on the trip back, the flight was delayed yet again, making us wish we’d just stopped by the great little cafe that serves the best bangers and mash for, literally, peanuts. It's run by a humungous Swiss guy, and in retrospect I think we should have thrown him and the Great White together, just to see what might happen. I can see the headlines now: Great White makes short shrift of Swiss Wiener."