Case Study – Ryan and Kiersten

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Ryan and his fiancé  Kiersten were vacationing in Cancun. Their relationship had been off-and-on for years, and they could never seem to commit to an actual wedding date or locale. Ryan, it seemed, had begun to take his appearance for granted. Kiersten was beginning to carp about little things that irked her, and petty disagreements would sometimes evolve into full-fledge fights. This vacation was to be a ‘make or break’ milestone in their relationship.        

After getting in late and sleeping in at the Playa de Sol on the Caribbean, the couple brunched on huevos rancheros at a resort cafe’.  And then while Ryan was relieving himself in a lobby restroom, Kiersten preened over her compact mirror. Suddenly, an American couple accosted her, exclaiming what a ‘coincidence’ it was to see another American in such a remote place.

Bob and Gerty were from Mississippi. They appeared to be well-meaning, perhaps a little bit too effusive in their gladness to see other yanks, since the place seemed to be crawling with them, but still harmless. Once Ryan came from the bathroom, he tried to brush them off, but not before they had convinced he and Kiersten what a great deal they had gotten on free tickets to a local water park, and how she should do the same. Coincidentally (there’s that word again), the tickets were available right there in the lobby. Bob and Gerty wisked our friends off to a lobby kiosk where the ‘concierge’ gave them the tickets. There was just one little caveat: They would have to sit through a brief presentation about the relative merits of some local real estate investment.

Ryan tried to beg out again, but Kiersten convinced him that they would ‘never’ fall for whatever it was they were selling, and the free tickets would be well worth the hour-long inconvenience. And so later that day they met a man named Carlos, who  took them and about a dozen other couples on a shuttle bus from the resort to a local construction site, and some  modular offices erected there. No cranes or heavy equipment yet, but ground was broken, and the work would begin in earnest ‘in the next week or two’, Carlos said.        

The couple surmised that this was to be the ‘real estate opportunity’ touted. They were a little inland of the Playa, and with no sea breeze the heat was stifling. Beads of sweat burnished Ryan’s brow. Not to worry, it was the middle of summer, and most of the year it was very ‘temperate’ Carlos assured.           

And once they got inside, at least the offices were air conditioned, if a little stark. Led by Carlos, all the tourists ambled their way through the hallway to find themselves in a presentation area, of sorts, complete with a black board and projection screen. Glossy literature lined the tables, each facing the front of the room. And there were Bob and Gerty, too, though Ryan had never noticed them on the shuttle over. Gerty seemed as giddy as a school girl in anticipation of the dog and pony show about to start. Bob, for his part, took on the air of the shrewd business man as he played with an unlit cigar. “It’s all about positioning yourself…cash flow is paramount…we’ll see what they come up with…”. Several attractive young Mexican women shuffled in and out, actually waiting the  tables, offering tapas, finger food, and yes, even cocktails. And best of all, it was totally ‘complimentary’! Kiersten acquiesced, and began to munch and sip away. After all, it was free. But Ryan, with iron clad resolve, declined everything. He wasn’t about to fall for any of this, and would simply sit for an hour and then walk out, washing his hands of it all. 

Their waitress was “Conchita”, a voluptuous young woman, and rather scantily clad. She began to dote over Ryan. “Aaaww… you no like our service…we make eet very nice for jooo…everthing free….” Kiersten was becoming a little irritated by now, and the couple began to squabble.

“Why can’t you take your eyes off of that woman?”

“Why do you start drinking so early?

Why can’t you just relax, we’re on vacation, after all…”  And on it went.

Even Gerty noticed, and was beginning to impose. “Now don’t tear up the pea patch, honey…, let’s just wait ’till they get down to the licklog,…” and other southern homilies. Ryan was becoming increasingly irritated, and the show hadn’t even started. He began to wonder how he was going to get through even an hour of this. Finally, he capitulated, and ordered a drink.  Conchita seemed ecstatic, hovering over him to make sure he savored every drop of the sweet and salty margarita, while Kiersten furrowed her brow, and threw down the rest of her cocktail.

Eventually, Carlos introduced “Frank”, a plump, clean shaven man, with slick black hair, dressed in an expensive looking dark suit. Finally, he began to speak  with a curious accent, a combination of Brooklynese and Mexican:

“What is the dream of every man…every woman… everyone who ever worked, worked, worked their lives away yearning for their own little piece of paradise, a place to relax, a place to unwind, a place to get away from it all, and most of all, a place that they actually can call their own, that no one can ever take away, their own little slice of heaven…and best of all, an investment in the future, that they can enjoy forever with their family…Sound too good to be true, well my friends, soon it will be if you don’t jump on it, …. as God is my witness, there are people waiting in the wings for this opportunity, we’re selling this real estate so fast that it’ll may well be gone tomorrow.. and all because it’s the hottest concept to come along in many years — vacation ownership! You don’t just rent it and just forget about it, you don’t just dream about it…, you own it, …you have title to it..are invested in it… it’s there for you any time you want…” 

On and on he went, with this onslaught of salesmanship, this tour de force presentation, buttressed by an impressive slide show of the resort’s opulent amenities, exotic features, and so on. Ryan decided to look around the darkened room. Kiersten was downing another cocktail. He looked back at Bob, who seemed to acknowledge him with a resolute nod, as if to say, “go for it”. Gerty was almost swooning, apparently overwhelmed by the sheer, brute force of Frank’s sales rhetoric.

And after a while, mercifully, it was over, for even Ryan was becoming soft. He had heard stories about this kind of thing before, and knew that they were playing him. The lights came on again.  He got up, and was about to walk out, tugging at Kiersten, when he noticed that there a peculiar looking fellow at their side, “Arturo”, a swarthy, sweaty little man with a brushy mustache, and a slow, drawling Mexican accent. 

Arturo, when introducing himself, shook Ryan’s hand so emphatically that it seemed he  literally would not let go. He insisted that they accompany him in to a side office, and discuss the details of it. Ryan, finally freeing himself from Arturo’s iron clad grasp, began to fight back. He wasn’t about to buy a ‘timeshare’. He would have no part of this. He had stayed on, fulfilled his part of the deal, and it was time to go.   

But wait, ‘Seńor’,  this wasn’t a ‘timeshare’ at all, no, no, no…far, far from it… this was vacation ownership … infinitely different, infinitely better…. he wouldn’t be ‘investing’ in this particular resort, he was buying points in a whole network of resorts, each one more exotic than the next, all over the world… “…can you only imagine (?), come on, I geeve you the details…”

 By now, Kiersten was really sauced, and was in no condition to resist. And suddenly, there was Conchita,  tugging at Ryan’s shirt sleeve, beckoning him along, with Arturo, to the quiet little office on the side. 

For what seemed like eternity, Arturo finessed Ryan, often stepping out to confer with his ‘manager’ to address the issues with some new proposal, some new enticement, some new sweetening of the pot. While he did, invariably Conchita would show, plying him with more alcohol, while she hovered over, cleavage clinging – pure feminine guile. (Kiersten was all but passed out off to the side). And so it went on, hour after hour, they tag teamed him, trying to wear him down.

But Ryan was no wilting lily. In a last ditch act of defiance, he announced that he was ready to leave, got up, and stumbled across the room where he tried to rouse Kiersten. She came to herself a little, and also stood up, tenuously, but then staggered backward, and bashed her head on the wall.

Now she was really out like a light. “Call an ambulance, for crying out loud, we have to get her to a hospital!”                    

But Arturo’s beady eye’s seemed to narrow to little slits: “Seńor, you don’t understand, the ambulances don’t come out here….now we can get jooor wife back to town, no problema, but first you have to sign on the dotted line…”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Suffice it to say that Ryan became the not-so-proud owner of a Mexican timeshare. He would pay on it for many years, religiously, for fear of ruining his credit, though he never actually went there. Kiersten never became obligated on it, of course, because she was almost brain dead. All in all, the vacation didn’t exactly ‘make’ their relationship. Kiersten would eventually leave Ryan for a Hungarian stock boy. But not before they sat there in the Cancun International Airport, waiting for their flight, a seat between them, sulking. And then Ryan thought he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. It was Bob and Gerty, in the airport lounge, drinking some kind of toast with a  beady-eyed, peculiar looking fellow.

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