It seemed as though the timeshare company had kindly given me a few days to settle in and get over the jetlag, when in reality I had just missed the start of one training course and was having to wait six days before the beginning of the next one. Nevertheless, I was keen to start the training and meet some of the other new recruits. From having observed the other guests at my hotel and overheard a few loud conversations, I was aware that I had already seen some of the other recruits, but they were part of the previous influx of newcomers who had landed a couple of weeks before me and already finished their initiation and started work. They all seemed very self-confident for young people who had just arrived in a strange Asian country to begin a challenging new job. I say ‘challenging’ because this was a commission-only job, if we didn’t sell we wouldn’t earn, yet apparently there was “excellent money” to be made by those who were good at it.
Day One of my training course dawned and I got a taxi to the training centre. I’d been told it was opposite a big hotel, which was easy to find, but I’d been so worried about getting lost and arriving late that I got there about thirty minutes’ early. As I whiled away the time and tried to calm my nerves by sipping a banana juice in the hotel lounge, I brooded on how vital it was to make a success of this job. I had sold my house and burned my bridges back in England; I had to find a way to survive.
The training centre was just a room in a rather shabby building, but at least it was cool and air-conditioned. My four classmates were all middle-aged Englishmen, all older than me. They were staying in a hotel in the town centre and were a complete contrast to the cool, cocky, twenty-something Australian dudes I’d scrutinised around the pool bar at my hotel. These old guys looked like burned-out used-car salesmen, which is actually almost-exactly what three of them were. I could see that – like me – they were also suffering from the heat, their shirts were dripping in sweat, and on first sight none of them looked to be a very appealing representation of the company that they were about to start work for. Would anyone really consider buying a timeshare apartment off one of these slobs?
Steve was stocky and heavily built with thinning hair and a London accent, and had indeed been a car salesman although he could have equally been a bouncer in a nightclub, he told us he was here to make a quick buck and had no plans to stay long-term; he seemed to be right out of his comfort zone. Ted was fifty-two, tall, lanky and bald, with a North Country accent and a cheerful, gentle demeanour. I warmed to him immediately. Also a former car salesman, he told me that his wife was going to be joining him in a couple of weeks, and their plan was “To stay for a bit if the job proves to be a money-spinner, or alternatively just enjoy a long holiday together.” I envied Ted’s happy-go-lucky attitude and wished that I didn’t feel quite so dependent on the need to make a success of timeshare. Then there was Andy, he was the youngest of the four, and very full of himself. He told us he’d been a very successful double glazing salesman in London and was quite confident that he could “make a financial killing in timeshare,” while also enjoying the sunshine and what he perceived would be a party lifestyle. I could see that he would be well capable of selling, while not particularly tall or good-looking, he had that outgoing, charming, attractive personality and the cockney gift of the gab; it was hard to imagine him taking life too seriously. Tony was the opposite. Completely lacking in self-confidence, he told us that he had failed the final exam of his training course a few days earlier, so he was back for a second attempt.
An involuntary shiver ran down the back of my spine, this was the first I had heard of an exam. What would happen if I failed? I might not even get a chance to start selling and making money, I had to be successful. I immediately resolved to spend every evening that week studying whatever it was we were about to learn. Tony told us how difficult he’d found the course, he confessed he’d never worked in sales before and didn’t think he possessed the right qualities for it. I liked his openness and honesty but Jason, our young, handsome tutor – the guy who had interviewed me for the job in London – warned Tony, “Shut up before you neg them all out.” I pondered over the meaning of this and concluded that in order to flourish as sales reps, we needed to feel fired-up, inspired and positive. There was no room for in this business for negative energy or pessimism. Tony humbly apologised, and said, “Oh dear, I’ve messed up again.” Lacking in looks, poise and self-assurance, he didn’t appear to have much going for him, but he seemed like a nice bloke and I felt a bit sorry him. Andy whispered to me, “He’s never gonna make it in sales.” It was my first hint of the ruthlessness of timeshare.