Hilton Grand Vacation (Timeshare) Club
Feb 21, 2001
Review by paulwade
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Supposed Long-term Vacation Savings
Cons:Complex rules, restrictions, and fees.
The Bottom Line: Rooms nice -- but rules confusing, savings questionable, vacation flexibility limited. May appeal to some seniors, though.
A few months ago, I was called by a rep from "Hilton Grand Vacations" -- a timeshare program administered by the Hilton hotel chain -- with a special offer. (They had gotten my name/phone through Bally's somehow.) They had a special offer for me . . .
Recommend this product?
The offer I received was:
* Two nights in a suite at their "Hilton Grand Vacations Resort" property in Las Vegas (off the strip, behind the Las Vegas Hilton);
* $40 in chips; and
* a $25 buffet voucher . . .
all for only $60 per night ($120 total). The stipulation was that I must attend a 1.5-hour sales presentation about their "Hilton Grand Vacations Club" plan.
Thinking that this seemed to be a good deal, I put the $120 on a credit card, found cheap airfare from San Diego (on Yahoo travel), and made my reservation -- all without a hitch.
The taxi dropped us off at a property, a hotel-like tower, behind the Las Vegas Hilton that had it's own taxi drive-thru, but there were no bell staff members at the curb assisting guests nor any other staff. The front-desk staff was not particularly pleasant or engaging or prompt, but dutiful and check-in went smoothly.
(I overheard the clerk tell the couple in front of us "You're lucky. You got a great 14th-floor room with a fantastic view. That's great for someone who didn't have reservations." When I had made my reservations, I had specifically asked for a room "high-up with a view," -- but upon check in I discovered that we were relegated to a sixth-floor room with a view of the neighboring Sahara's parking lot -- an inattention to detail that seemed strange since they were trying to sell me on the quality of the rooms there.)
The 1-bedroom suite itself room was large and included a dining area; full kitchen with refrig, stove, lots of cabinets, microwave, sink with disposal, and dishwasher; a living room with large TV; a bedroom with King bed and separate smaller TV; a very small closet; a very large jacuzzi tub; and a nice bathroom with separate shower stall and two sinks.
The following morning we attended the sales presentation. We were greeted by a very friendly fellow ("Bill Paradise") who escorted us in past a counter well-appointed with complimentary pastry/bevs -- past many other couples speaking with other sales agents -- to our own table.
As the presentation progressed, we learned more specifics of the "Hilton Grand Vacations Club":
* You buy into the plan like a regular timeshare -- with an up-front purchase cost and annual property maintenance fees.
* 27 PROPERTIES: As of 2/19/01, there are 27 Hilton Grand Vacation properties currently being built in locations as far strewn as Las Vegas, Mexico (Cabo San Lucas and Cancun), Hawaii, Colorado (Brekenridge), and even some in Scotland. (From what I could tell from the photos that I saw during the presentation, these vacation properties are smaller hotel-type buildings behind larger Hilton properties.)
* When you buy into the "Club," you pay a purchase price. Your purchase price entitles you to a certain amount of "Points" on the plan each year. For example, you can purchase into the plan at 3500 Points per year, 7000 Points per year, and 10,000 points per year.
* Points are redeemed at the various properties for vacation reservations/stays.
* A schedule is provided at each property showing each week of the year and each week is given a "Platnum," "Gold," "Silver," or "Bronze" rating -- where "Platnum" time blocks are the most desirable time times to stay at that particular property -- and Bronze time blocks are the least desirable times to stay.
For example, staying at a resort in Hawaii for 1 week during a platnum week would costs 3800 points.
Looking over the various resort schedules showing these time blocks, I noted mostly platnum and gold times, a few silver times, and very few bronze times. (In fact, the bronze times were at some of the most remote island resorts during what I would assume to be storm season.)
* COULD POINTS BE INFLATED: I asked the sales agent if they could increase the number of points required to stay at a particular property -- and he said adamantly that they would NOT change the points.
* Maintenance fees for a 1-bedroom suite ran about $500 or so dollars each year, which I understand is standard for most timeshares. The sale agent showed me a schedule of the maintenance fees since 1995 -- and the fees had gone up only about 1% a year -- and in one case went down a bit one year. (This doesn't prove that they wouldn't raise the maintenance fees more sharply later, though.)
* Here's where the plan starts getting a bit complicated. There is another Timesharing Administration corporation called "RCI" -- and the sales agent showed me a catalog of those properties that was quite extensive. He gave us details of how the Hilton Grand Vacation points could be used for RCI properties which are located worldwide, but the rules were weird and involved some conversion fees -- although he insisted that the same 1-800 number is used to make reservations for these resorts as well.
* Even more complicated: The Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV) points can also be converted into another point system called "Hilton Honors Points" (HH) that entitles you to stay ANY Hilton Hotel properties (Paris, London, Australia, etc. -- anywhere Hilton is located) -- but alas, again the rules for converting were confusing and involved special fees. Also, once you had converted your HGV points to HH points, you could supposedly use these points for airfare and cruise vacations, but the rules/fees for this were not explained in detail by the sales agent.
* Even more complicated -- and not realistic: Once HGV points are converted to HH points, they can only be used for Hilton Hotel reservations within 30-days out of the desired vacation date, which is hardly appropriate for someone that needs to ask for time off at work and wants to make vacation plans further out than 1 month. (Imagine planning a one week vacation to Paris just 30 days out. You'd have to make air and car reservations first and then call the Hilton in Paris exactly 30 days out and hope you can get room reservations. For someone like me that plans trips 3 to 9 months out, that would be a nightmare.)
* Did I mention that points expire if you don't use them by the end of the year? So in order to avoid this, the sales agent told me of a special trick where I pay a $69 conversion fee to move all my 2001 points to 2002 and then borrow the points backwards. This, again, was complicated and confusing -- but the sales agent said that the individuals on the 1-800 number are happy to help you figure all these details out when making vacation plans.
* We were then taken up to see a two-bedroom suite (which was spacious and well-appointed). On the way back down the elevator, which was suddenly crowded with people, our sales agent asked if there were any other "club members/owners" amongst us. An older couple said that they were members and loved it. That they have been members 3 months and have used it 3 times already. I walked back to check and see if they got off the elevator or were "plants" but I couldn't tell. (It seemed like they were plants to me because we had asked three or four other folks in the elevator at other times if they were members of the club, but we couldn't find anyone who was. In fact, many of the people we ran into were standard hotel guests using the Hilton Grand Vacation Resort's facilities.)
* I was then given the prices. For me the 7,000-point plan would cost about $19,500 purchase price -- and I would be deeded for a "1-bedroom suite Gold Plan". I then asked him about other levels of membership and he said that there is a 3,500-point plan for just over $11,000. He said that if we wanted to purchase the 3,500-point plan, we could later upgrade to a plan with more points and be "redeeded."
* FOR TODAY ONLY! Of course, at the end of the presentation, we were given a "Today Only" incentive to purchase into the plan. I was going to be given 4,400 Hilton Honors points if I signed up right then. I balked, saying that I wanted to go take lunch and consider the offer, and then the "sales boss" sat down with us and said that they would give us 200,000 Hilton Honors points(not to be confused with Hilton Grand Vacation points) if we signed up right then, but that would be the best that they could do.
* Took a break: I told the sales agent that I wanted to take a break, have lunch, and consider the offer. They were pleasant about this -- but the big sales boss asked me how long it would take because during my absence the sales agent was not allowed to give any more presentations. This seemed a bit strange.
* My wife and I were seriously considering the offer -- did not just show up to grab the prizes and leave -- but we decided that it was not for us (since we mostly stay in smaller B&Bs in non-resort type locations and enjoy more adventure travel-type vacations).
* STRANGE BUT TRUE: Bill would not let me have any brochures or any other printed materials to take home and read through. He didn't have any extras, he told me. This seemed very strange to me, since it would seem that he would want me to continue to read through the materials and continue to consider their plan/offer and possibly contact him later. He suggested instead that I look at the website at http://www.hgvc.com/, although he admitted that he had never been to the website and didn't know specifically if it contained the information that I needed.
THIS TIMESHARE PLAN WILL NOT APPEAL TO YOU IF:
* You travel on a shoestring budget
* You enjoy staying at smaller B&Bs in out-of-the-way, suburban and country locations -- or enjoy adventure travel.
* You want the flexibility of making vacation plans without feeling dictated to by some plan with complex rules.
WHO THIS TIMESHARE PLAN MAY APPEAL TO:
* You vacation often at large hotel-type resorts and want to save money over the long run.
* Don't mind paying maintenance fees -- and risking that they may go up sharply at some later date.
* Want to finance this plan as a mortgage for a tax write-off (eg., 2nd mortage on main home).
* Don't mind navigating the complex rules, regulations, fees, point conversions and possible point forfeitures for annual non-use.
* Don't mind making vacation travel plans 30 days out (if you intend to use the Hilton Honors points conversion method of this plan).
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