The Price Of A Free Lunch
By Peter Gibbons
The day was the kind of day every tourist dreams of. The sky was blue, the ocean picture card turquoise and the white sugar sand beach just firm enough to walk on comfortably. Henry Hackensaw and his wife Elizabeth reflected on how wise their choice had been in selecting this spot on the map.
Standing together with warm water swirling around their ankles and the sound of the gentle surf breaking on the beach combined to lull them into peaceful relaxation and complete contentment.
A soft pat on Mr. Hackensaw’s left shoulder broke the reverie they had been lost in. Turning away from the ocean, he gasped in surprise at the deeply tanned smiling blonde looking right into his eyes and asking a question he failed to comprehend. His preoccupation converged on three little red triangles of fabric and thongs.
“I asked if you and your wife would like two free dinners and five free nights accommodation?” she repeated huskily.
“No we would not young lady.” Replied Elizabeth with unconcealed hostility and more than a smidgen of jealousy.
“Whoa a little minute there Elizabeth, let’s at least hear what the lady has to say,” Henry said without turning, fearful that this unexpected feast his eyes were devouring would suddenly disappear before the meal was over.
“All you have to do is listen to a presentation over there,” she pointed, “and they’ll give you the lunch and accommodation freebies.” Henry felt his elbow being gently and fleetingly touched.
Behind the mirror glass windows of the condo, every visual move had been noted by the sales team awaiting fresh meat supplied by the beach body snatcher.
“Just my luck,” Snarled the salesman on ‘point. “They look old enough to fart dust. If it wasn’t for the way he leched after Sandy, I’d just as soon broom ‘em right up front and cut my losses. His old lady’s already mad as a walrus from hell ‘cause the way he came on to Sandy, so I’ll pitch to her and go straight for the jugular. Give me a chance to earn a spiff.”
“Hi folks. How are you today?” He smiled and extended his hand.
“I’m Burt Miffler. What’s your first names? I like to keep it real friendly.”
“Right, Henry and Elizabeth, let’s sit over there. Can I get you a coffee or a soda or something a little more exotic?” He gave Henry a little nudge and the suggestion of a wink.
“Folks, let me ask you a question. Do you vacation at least one week a year and pay for your accommodation? Good. And do you intend to continue doing so? You do? Right, then I can save you mucho dollars.”
Attempting to relax and disarm them, Burt entered into idle chatter with no apparent relevance to sales. He was trying to determine whether they would bitch, bolt or buy. From experience he knew that some bitched and looked for the first chance to bolt for the door and freedom, forsaking their gifts. He carefully pitched towards Elizabeth, even flirting a little as she began to slowly thaw.
“Now, would you like the long tour or the short tour Elizabeth?”
He thought he’d try a practice close before getting into the heavy grab-’em-by-the-throat stuff.
For the first time she noticed how close together his eyes were and how many and big were his teeth. She shuddered slightly and knew how little Red Riding Hood must have felt when the big bad wolf revealed himself.
“Er, what’s the difference?” She caught herself in time before adding “Mister Wolf.”
Burt Miffler cleared his throat and replied. “Well the long tour includes two videos, an overview of vacation ownership with all the benefits, tax advantages, exchanges, financing and inspection of our models.”
Grudgingly returning his smile, she asked. “And the short one?”
“Give me a major credit card and sign here.”
The false laughter was equally shared as the Hackensaws noticibly fidgeted in their chairs with discomfort. Burt pressed on. “Just my little joke, folks. This is a fun business, nothing heavy but you do want to know how I can save you money, that’s why you came in here, right?”
He gave Henry a surreptitious little wink. Pulling a yellow legal pad towards him and with a black felt marker pen started writing upside down as he spoke. Rather like an AAA clerk preparing a Trip Tik route for a member.
They watched him scrawl numbers rapidly while talking, lots of them. Draw arrows spiraling off the page to show inflation. Jab the yellow paper for emphasis, breaking two pens. Ask rhetorical questions. Draw little smiley faces and then later cross them out to make his point. Meanwhile, the totally confused Hackensaws squirmed in their seats, but picked up that like the house they owned and lived in, a timeshare could be used, rented, loaned, deeded or sold. However, unlike their house, a timeshare could be exchanged anywhere in the world.
Burt paused, took a sip of his coke and looked directly at Elizabeth who averted her eyes. Her husband was looking out of the window to see if Sandy was out there almost wearing her red bikini.
“Henry,” she said, making no attempt to hide her annoyance. “Did you hear anything that Burt said just now?”
“Yeah, sure. It’s going to cost us a thousand or more sometime down the road for a hotel room. Big deal. How can it cost us what we ain’t got eh?”
For Henry’s benefit, Burt went through the plan again very slowly and deliberately, maintaining almost constant eye contact.
“So, Henry,” he concluded. “Let’s get down where the rubber hits the road and go have a look-see at a couple of models.”
At the mention of models, Henry quite involuntarily looked out of the window. His wife pulled him away and they followed Burt.
Standing on the condo’s private balcony overlooking the ocean below, the Hackensaws had to admit to each other the setting was paradise-like. The furnishings lent themselves to permanent living, and Burt was not dilatory in saying.
“You can see yourselves here relaxing and enjoying the beauty can’t you?” Without thinking, they both agreed. “Which would suit your needs better, the one-bedroom or the two-bedroom with two baths?”
“Oh the two-bedroom is a lot more spacious but we couldn’t afford it. How much is it anyway?”
“Let me ask you a question. Other than cost, is there any reason why you wouldn’t own with us today?”
“Well, it depends on how much.”
“I said, other than cost. Let’s assume the cost was affordable, would you come to a conclusion today?”
“We’ d have to think it over. We never make hasty decisions.”
“But you have already made a decision.”
“Yes, when you decided to follow Sandy into our office an hour or so ago. You haven’t forgotten that?” He looked at Hackensaw. “And if there’s anything you don’t fully understand, let’s put it to bed right now. If cost is a problem, we can bury that too. So let’s go back downstairs and get some ink on the paper. “
By the time they sat back down at his table, he had worked out his strategy. Looking over his shoulder at his other colleagues pitching away at buffaloes dragged in off the prairie, he whispered from behind the back of his hand, inviting them to come closer.
“I shouldn’t be saying this, but just before you came in I overheard the sweetest deal of the year. I’d have bought it myself but company rules forbid it. Man, are you guys in the right place at the right time let me tell ya.”
“What is it?” Henry whispered.
“Well. One of our owners has upgraded from a one bedroom unit to a two bedroom one. His equity was used as part trade, you can do that you know, and his one bedroom unit’s back in inventory at a real knockdown price.” He rapidly scribbled black numbers on a fresh page of his legal pad and showed them the bottom line. They still offered resistance and started to get up.
“Okay, okay. You are two smart business people, you really are. I’ll tell you what I can do, even if it costs me my job. Let’s just put this loose goose to roost. What if I threw in a four-night cruise to sweeten the pot? So that’s as far as I can go, let’s have your credit card and we’ll get at the legal stuff while you’ re sipping ice cold champagne.”
“No, we’re not going to do anything right now. We’re going to think it over and come back tomorrow. We’d like our free dinner coupons and accommodation we were promised.”
Burt’s attitude changed. “We don’t get be-backs in this business, it’s now or never. Do you think I do this job for dumps and giggles? There’s your damned coupons and get the hell outa here.”
The Hackensaws scuttled away from Burt Miffler’s clutches and said they were glad that they had chosen the seafood dinner.
The tall ivory-skinned raven haired beauty wearing fishnet stockings under her short shorts and a low-cut halter leaned over Henry. He could smell her delicate perfume.
“Hi folks,” she breathed, “Welcome to Slimy Sam’s Seafood. I’m Dixie. Tell me, do you eat out often, at least once a week and pay for your meal?”