It's important to remember that you don't have to go through a sales experience; you also can purchase from the resale market. (Your points will lack some of the flexibility of points purchased from DVC, although they're up to 40% cheaper.) You can, in many cases, also buy from DVC over the phone, if you know what you want and know how the system works and don't need a "presentation."
But what's the on-site experience actually like?
First, relax. This is Disney.
Ever notice that, when you walk by one of the ubiquitous in-park DVC booths, the most the cast member there will do is smile and offer you a Mickey sticker? They're not hounding you. They're not even asking if you've heard of DVC. They're not allowed - because the last thing Disney wants its name on is a high-stress, high-pressure experience. Outside of Tower of Tower, Disney wants you relaxed and happy, because relaxed and happy is its product.
So if you're interested in learning more about DVC, you're gonna have to ask. Step right up. The person at the kiosk isn't even a salesperson, and in most cases won't quote you pricing. They'll happily explain how the system works, though, and - in my experiments - very truthfully answer any questions you might have. They're not afraid of responding with an, "I don't know," if they don't.
What they'll do is book you on a one-hour sales presentation. They'll arrange a time, and a van will meet you at the park entrance to whisk you off, and it'll bring you back when the presentation is done (the hour is in addition to travel time, so allow 90-120 minutes total). They do ask that all the family's decision-makers - Mom and Dad, at least, and the kids are welcome to attend - come together.
This usually happens at one of the model locations, where you can get a feel for what the latest DVC rooms look like. There's a big preview center at Boardwalk, for example, although the room decor doesn't currently reflect what's at Boardwalk; it's updated to reflect the most recently opened resort, in most cases.
You'll get a little tour, and then you'll get some questions about how your family likes to vacation: How often? How long do you stay? What kind of room do you like? They'll put together a simple comparison showing you how much your hotel costs would be over time, assuming a certain percentage of annual inflation, and compare that with what DVC would cost. I wrote a similar comparison in my article on DVC financials.
The big caveat here is that apples-to-apples comparisons are tough, and it's hard to make one that's really comprehensive. DVC relies a bit on some people buying more than they need - would you really have vacationed every year... and spent the extra money on food, T-shirts, and tickets - if you didn't own the DVC? Understand that a big reason DVC exists is to increase repeat business from Disney's most loyal customers, and it does work, which makes those comparisons hard to do in a realistic fashion.
The decision to purchase really will come down to basics: Do you emotionally want it, and can you financially afford it? Neither of those really affects the on-site sales experience, though.
If you decide to buy, they'll walk you through financing options and the paperwork, all right there. If you decide not to, the most you'll get is some gentle probing to see if there's a reason why you don't want to. Just shrug and say, "we can't afford it right now, and we refuse to finance purchases because we don't like debt." If you're firm, they'll leave it there - again, Disney doesn't want you to feel stressed or pressured. Yes, there may be a little wheedling - "well, you say you come every other year, and you're already spending more on hotels than this would cost" - and to a point, they might not be wrong. But you're also free to go home and consider what you've learned, and they'll happily complete a purchase later, if you decide to proceed.
Now look, it's totally possible that you'll get a new, overzealous salesperson who does put too much pressure on you. It can happen. If you start to feel that way, immediately hold up your hands and say, "Stop. You're applying to much pressure, and this isn't making me happy. We're done, and I'd like to speak to your lead." And then simply walk out. Nobody's going to detain you; most high-pressure salespeople simply rely on the fact that most people won't "rudely" walk away. So if you're feeling pressured, just leave. In fact, if you start to feel pressured, say so, and walk away before your blood boils. It's easy.
But know that it's super, super, super rare to run into that kind of blood-boiling experience with DVC, even if it's very common elsewhere in the timeshare industry. Disney does not want it happening, and they're pretty serious about that. You'll likely have a very enjoyable time. Presumably, you took the tour because buying DVC was a real possibility for you, so what's presented on the tour should be informational and useful for you.
Some Things to Know
Disney really focuses on selling the "current" (e.g., newer) resorts in their portfolio. If you're looking for points at the older Old Key West, they're harder to come by. It's worth mentioning your desire very early in your conversation, and if it's a simple, "we don't have those points," they may well not have any. Disney only gets "old" points when exercising their Right of First Refusal on private resales, and so they don't have a huge inventory. Much of their "old point" inventory is sold as small add-ons to existing owners at those properties, and Disney typically prefers to sell larger blocks at their newer locations.
Also understand that some states have very strict rules on timeshare sales, and that Disney may only be able to sell to you in-person, in Florida. That's not Disney's decision.
Before you go, know about your family's Disney vacation patterns. How often? How long? Where do you stay? Also know your budget. What can you afford in up-front cash, and what could you afford to finance? Know your limits, and stick with them. Do a bit of up-front research on current DVC pricing (an Internet search for "current dvc pricing" will turn up several results, including an official calculator). Get a feel for how many points you'd need, and what that'd cost. Right there, that'll tell you if you need to be on the tour or not - and if not, you can simply have another Dole Whip and keep on enjoying the magic. ;)
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