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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Skiers congregate, in file photo, near Payday lift and Marriott's MountainSide timeshare resort after a day of skiing at Park City Mountain Resort.

Edward Aldaz says salesmen assured him that buying his ski resort condo timeshare at the Cliff Club at Snowbird would be a great investment.

"Yeah, right. It was an investment for them, not me," he says now. "I can't sell it for a quarter of the purchase price. If I rent it, I get nothing and lose the week.... Everything they said was a lie."

Actually, many timeshare owners might consider themselves lucky to sell for even a quarter of what they paid developers. Some auction off what they initially bought for $20,000 or $30,000 for as little as $1 on eBay to escape high annual maintenance fees and taxes. Others donate them to charities. Some actually pay companies to take them.

That is not the picture painted by timeshare developers who promote exciting travel, luxury and savings to people lured to their sales pitches by offers of free trips, resort stays and dinners.

But an investigation by the Deseret Morning News shows the industry often lays traps in contract fine print that may sap money from the unwary in surprising ways at every level of buying, owning and selling a timeshare.

The Morning News over three days will look at traps at each level of buying, owning and selling timeshares. Today it focuses on shady promises and actions often made as customers buy them. Some of the major findings in that area include:

• Developers sell timeshares for far more than what they are worth on the open resale market. Value of units easily drops 40 percent or more when the purchaser walks out the door after a sale. Some salesmen use pitches considered unethical by the industry and which are outlawed in some states (but not Utah).

• High-pressure sales are still a staple of the industry, and salesmen work hard to close sales immediately on the first visit — before a customer might take extra time to research the value of units on the resale market.

• The freebies used to draw customers to sales presentations often have catches or they are not exactly what was promised.

• Developers often charge high to astronomical interest rates to finance timeshare loans and sometimes make deceptive claims — or offer more freebies — to lure customers into them.

E-mail: lee@desnews.com