A FEW years ago my better half and I found ourselves for some reason on holiday in Mogan, a Toytown-type resort in Gran Canaria, when we got chatting to a tourist information officer. A German by the name of Cisco, she was a mine of useful advice, including how to obtain a free whale and dolphin-watching trip worth £60.
All we had to do was agree to a short tour of a vacation complex a few miles away – a taxi would take us there. Cisco admitted that if she fixed up the visit she would receive a payout of £40 from the hotel so to help her finances we agreed.
The following day our taxi took us through some sort of checkpoint and we were greeted by a blonde woman dressed as a milkmaid, a person in a cow costume (we never discovered the point of this) and a smartly-attired Scottish totty aged about 40.
She explained that the place was a member of a worldwide holiday-broking scheme. ‘Oh,’ we chorused, ‘you mean timeshare. We know all about that and we are not remotely interested.’
‘No, no, no, no, no!’ she protested. ‘This is nothing like timeshare. Welcome to vacation ownership. All the problems you might have heard about are a thing of the past.’
She was, of course, telling porkies. As she took us around the property, modern but already tatty around the edges, it became obvious that serious attempts would be made to part us from our hard-earned dosh in the long term. We were offered coffees, alcohol, lunch, a go in the gym (ho ho!) and other freebies. All were declined. We made it abundantly clear from the outset that we had no interest in investing but this lassie was made of stern stuff. She introduced us to every facility in the place, where we were hailed like old friends by the smiling staff.
We were shown an apartment which could be ours for a week or two every year at a ‘surprisingly reasonable price’. Two beds, one bath, a sitting room and a balcony two-thirds of which was in the shade. ‘Oh, you can move the furniture around to follow the sun.’ ‘How much does it cost?’ ‘We’ll talk about that later.’
There were outdoor play areas populated by glum children following barked orders from instructors. The ambience, we agreed when her back was turned, was pure prison camp.
In a small lecture hall we were addressed by Miss Dundee and a male colleague extolling the virtues of Stalag Gran Can and its various franchised fast-food outlets. We pointed out fairly brutally that we didn’t like it. ‘Oh, but you can exchange your weeks here for anywhere else in the world.’ ‘Yes, but we can go anywhere else in the world without having to pay you.’
Eventually the two of us were shut in a small office while the pair ‘attended to some administrative matters’. We were sure it was wired for sound, so we loudly complained to each other that we wanted to go home. Within seconds the bloke burst in, ingratiating air disappeared, and got down to brass tacks.
‘Look,’ he said, ‘I can let you have two weeks here for a hundred quid while you make your mind up.’ ‘No thanks.’ ‘OK, I can do you a special price – a week here for the rest of your lives for £21,000.’ ‘Is that it, or is there a service charge?’ ‘Yes, there is – a very reasonable £850 a week.’
By the time we escaped, we had been lovebombed and browbeaten Moonie-style for six hours. We felt slightly guilty about refusing to buy after so much time and energy had been expended on our behalf but it was a relief to be back in the real world. We later told Cisco about our ordeal and she said her £40 referral fee was double the normal rate because we were British and seen as more likely to feel obligated.
The boat trip was great and we saw pilot whales and dolphins but agreed we would rather have paid the money and missed the timeshare sharks.
When we got home, we found several weeks at the Gran Canaria resort available on eBay. The cheapest was £400. A bit of a discount on 21 grand.
Old jokes’ home
This is my stepladder. I never knew my real ladder.
Sheriff moseys into a saloon and says: ‘Anyone here know where I can find Brown Paper Pete?’ ‘No’, says the bartender. ‘What’s his description?’ ‘Well, he wears a brown paper hat, brown paper shirt, brown paper coat and brown paper trousers.’ ‘And what’s he wanted for?’ ‘Rustling.’
Son: ‘Dad, there’s a man at the door with a bald head.’ Father: ‘Tell him I’ve already got one.’
A PS from PG
An apple a day, if well aimed, keeps the doctor away.
PG Wodehouse: Carry on, Jeeves.