I'm kind of a moron, so I called back, fully expecting to speak with (and court) Melanie. When I called, some chipper female whose name was not Melanie answered the phone. In no uncertain terms, I demanded to speak with Melanie. I was told that Melanie was on a break, or out of the office, or dissolving in a bathtub in Hell's Kitchen, or whatever other excuse they have for preventing good-natured folk from speaking with Melanie.
But fear not, this other female -- who we'll call Non-Melanie -- would be able to help me. I explained the circumstances of my introduction to Melanie, and Non-Melanie asked for my phone number, which I willfully provided. Egad! Non-Melanie informed me that I was the lucky winner of a 4-day, 3-night Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean, as a result of signing up for the aforementioned Ultimate Sports Giveaway in August at a Cubs game. I prodded her a little bit more, as I assumed someone had signed me up as part of a goof. It turns out that I did in fact sign something while waiting in line outside Wrigley to get bleacher seats with Tron, Jamie, Ashcraft, Terrence, and Tradd on August 23. I was borderline dead at the time, due to the amount of alcohol I had consumed the night before, combined with the three hours of sleep I managed to get. Some dude was walking up and down the line asking people to fill out cards for some contest, which I understood to be sports-related and tied to the Cubs somehow. Obviously I was misinformed. I think where I went wrong was giving the guy my phone number.
Anyway, Non-Melanie informed me that all I would need to do to get this free cruise was come to a Sundance office and listen to an hour-long presentation, and, of course, I would have to bring Jessie. She said, for some reason, that they had an office right in downtown Cincinnati. Sensing victory, I said, "I don't live in Cincinnati. Melanie knows that." No worries! They also have an office in Downers Grove (a western suburb of Chicago). Sweet! And -- get this -- if I could come in this Tuesday or Wednesday, they would throw in free airfare on American Airlines to Florida so that Jessie and I wouldn't have to pay for our flight to our free cruise.
I made up an excuse about Tuesday evening, and claimed that I didn't know about Wednesday, but would "have to check with the wife." Non-Melanie seemed to think this would be fine, although I could not hang up and call back. Rather, I would have to call Jessie immediately on another line because "there are only two cruise-airfare packages left, and they'll most likely get snatched up by someone else if we wait to long." Yow-zaaaaaahhhh! I couldn't argue with that logic, so I called Jessie and explained the situation: I was on the phone with someone who isn't named Melanie, and I needed an excuse immediately. Together (yet separately) we Googled Sundance Vacations (more about that in a minute) and quickly discerned that driving to Downers Grove after work on Wednesday would not be in anyone's best interest. I then returned to Non-Melanie after keeping her on hold for over three minutes (hoping that she would just hang up). I explained that this week wouldn't work. She seemed genuinely upset. "Oh, that's too bad, because these packages are worth over $3,000, and they are going to be gone by the end of the day. Are you sure there's no way you can make it?" I assured here that it was physically and temporally impossible for me to make it. She did, of course, give me the option of calling back once I figured out when I could come into the office for a presentation. Since I was surprised she gave me an out that easily, I took it and ran, soon after hanging up with a smile.
Now back to that aforementioned internet research. As I'm sure you've surmised, their "deal" is that you "win" a cruise (or free hotel stay, etc.), but only on the condition that you subject yourself to a high-pressure sales pitch for timeshares. It seems that Rip-off Report, Yahoo Answers, Yelp, and the Gadget-Geek Dad blog all have less-than-glowing things to say about the whole thing.
According to the Gadget-Geek Dad, it was a timeshare-type scam, where you had to pay $15,000, which apparently gets you 8 vacation days a year at many possible locations, not including airfare and certain booking fees. The best part is that they let you put down as little as $2,400 and finance the rest for several years at 16.75% interest. And, of course, you're not allowed to take any of their literature home with you, nor are you allowed to mull it over at home. You must make your decision at the presentation. Then, after the presentation (no matter what you decide), the vacation voucher you were promised for attending the presentation is redeemable for only one day (meaning you have to make your vacation plans within 24 hours or else there is no free vacation).
Not that I would have signed up (or that I have an extra $2,400 lying around for emergency timeshare opportunities), but this reeked from the beginning. Here are some suggestions on how to deal with these people when they call:
- They have several offices around the Midwest, so to be safe, tell them you "live in Hawaii already, bitch. Now let me talk to Melanie!"
- Agree to attend a presentation, but only on the condition that you can present your own competing timeshare opportunities to the audience and presenters.
- Speak in Pikey. "Why da fohk I wanna caravan tha's got no fohkin' weels?"
- Say that you make less than $25,000 a year (which is apparently one of their criteria, since I know so many people making $25,001 a year who can fork over nearly 10% of their gross annual salary for a timeshare down payment).
- Explain that you only entered the contest to see if you could win, and now that you've proven that to yourself, that's enough for you.
- Say that you own properties in every one of their vacation destinations. When they question that, start yelling, "Are you calling me a liar?! Are you calling me a fucking liar?! Where's Melanie?! I want to talk to Melanie!"
- When they call and say that you've won, say "You have got to be kidding me. I was just about to call you to let you know that you have won a 4-day, 3-night cruise on Royal Caribbean! Talk about your all-time coin-kee-dinks. Boy is my face red. I'll tell you what. I'm never gonna live this one down. The boys over here would laugh me right out of the office. How 'bout we just call it even and hang up right now?"
- Sing all of your responses to their questions. It won't necessarily get them to back off at first, but after a few minutes no one can put up with that. Oh, and when they ask you if you are singing, make sure to sing, "Noooooo."
- State, unequivocally, that you are "bicep deep in a Samoan right now."
- In a gruff voice, ask, "Tell me Non-Melanie, are you drinking coffee right now?" Before he/she says yes, you yell, "Put. That. Coffee. Down!" When there is stunned silence or uncomfortable laughter on the other end, you forcefully say, "Coffee's for closers only." When Non-Melanie undoubtedly starts to babble in complete confusion, you continue, "You think I'm fucking with you? I am not fucking with you." Then you hang up after making vague references to Mitch and Murray.
- When they ask for you, explain that "[He/She] died yesterday while trying to have sex with a Shetland Pony, which is especially sad because I know how much [he/she] wanted to spend $15,000 on timeshares. And, you're not gonna believe this. Do you know what [his/her] last words were? 'Et tu, Melanie?' Not even kidding."
UPDATE [2/26/09]: Check out this blog, Sundance Vacations vs. Do Not Call, which has a great discussion of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's lawsuits against entities that violate the Do Not Call list. It also has contact information for Do Not Call lists for Illinos, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.