When that subject was introduced, the entire auditorium started yelling, "Yeah, why can't we ever get bonus time?" At that point one gentleman stood up and said, "I don't know what you're talking about. I've been there on bonus time fourteen times in the last six months." I became concerned that we might have a riot and all the other unhappy Owners would injure him. Now, how come the experiences were so different?
First, you must remember what Bonus Time really is (that is besides a sales feature). Originally, not all the time was sold in specific resorts. Anywhere from 48 weeks to 51 weeks of the 52 available were sold. The rest were designated "Maintenance Weeks". They were the time when the resort would be refurbished. It was later found that most of this kind of maintenance could be accomplished "on the fly" and 52 weeks were actually sold. Theoretically, if everyone showed up for their reservations and the maintenance weeks were actually fully used, there would be no bonus timeÖnone! Unfortunately, some original salespeople said, "You can have bonus time whenever you want in addition to your reserved week." Again, theoretically possible, but not really practical.
So Bonus Time is actually the unused maintenance time plus the time that certain Owners either don't make a reservation, don't show up at all, are unable to use their time because of failure to pay their maintenance dues, or leave early. That's it and it is spotty. It does, however, exist. Most resorts will end up with a vacancy factor of between 5% and 15% of their usable time. So where does it go? Those who know how to use it do. Here's how you go about it.
When are people most likely to not show up? In the offseason and even more so midweek in the offseason. Thus the most likely time you will be able to get Bonus Time in Southern California will be November through February at the beach and July through September in Palm Springs. This doesn't necessarily mean that these are not good times. Some November days at the beach are among the best you will find, with warm days and beautiful sunsets. Early mornings and late evenings in Palm Springs are uncrowded and delightful. If you aim for midweek off-season you will probably be pleasantly surprised at how many times you actually get Bonus Time.
Next, is when should you ask for Bonus Time? About 3:00 PM on the check-in day is when the husband will turn around, look in the back seat of the car and ask, "What are those funny-looking spots on the kid's faces?" The call canceling the reservation will be made by about 4:00 PM. If your call comes in at 4:15 PM, you have a good chance at snaring that spot that was suddenly left vacant. And that is the secret that the gentleman used at the beginning of this article. He would simply call at the last minute and if there were space he would come. If not, he wouldn't. Another good time is the afternoon of the day after check-in day. That is when the front desk will tally up the no-shows, call them and verify that they in fact are not coming. Suddenly, their reservation becomes a bonus time potential.
Every resort will have its own idiosyncrasies. To be successful with Bonus Time, it is up to you to figure them out. Another tip is that it always is a good idea to be on good terms with the front desk personnel. If they like you they may sometimes be able to help you. You will most certainly get the nod over the grouch who is always demeaning and criticizing them.
So the tricks to achieve Bonus Time are:
- Use your head to figure out when your odds are best
- Be on good terms with the people who can help you, and
- Call at the right time. I tell people that it is hardly worth the price of the phone call to try to get Bonus Time at the height of the high season on a weekend but those who exhibit flexibility and will roll with the system end up with more than their share. Every project is different but you can figure them out. With this knowledge, you should have good luck with your Bonus Time. But, as I have always said, "I would rather be lucky than smart."