Do you ever get a personalized invitation in the mail inviting you to a get-rich-quick seminar at an area hotel? Do you ever go?
I do. My colleague Marina Trahan Martinez and I go so you don't have to. We've been to hotel seminars led by vending machine salespeople, tax lien specialists, travel clubs, real estate flippers, stock option traders and investment advisers. I sit in the back and take detailed notes but never buy.
They're almost always the same. Last week, we went to one billed as "A Women's Only Conference! Ladies, this is a special night just for us!"
Did they let me in? Of course. For anyone breathing and holding a credit card, the entry path is cleared.
Here, for you, is the All-Purpose Hotel Sales Seminar. Read this and you'll never have to go.
How do they get you there? Promise a free mystery gift. Hook it to a quasi-celebrity. Promise a free meal. (Investment dudes like to put you in a steakhouse. Go upscale, baby.)
The thing is, the celebrity never shows. Daymond John of TV's Shark Tank was a no-show at his session last year in Grapevine. Christina and Tarek from HGTV's Flip or Flop were missing in action, too. Although, to be fair, they sent me an apology video afterward. (It's good to see these two ex-love birds together, even if only for a brief YouTube video to The Watchdog.)
Last week's no-show celeb was a woman I'd never heard of. Google her name and learn she piggybacks atop women's conferences for her fame and glory. Well, she missed my women's conference here.
So you arrive at the hotel, all decorated with banners showing the celebrity who will not show. Then you meet the substitute. The sub tells you he or she is in the no-show celeb's inner circle. The sub says the celeb is busy on this particular night but sends his or her regards.
But there's no time to waste. The sub is off and running.
The sub is charming, funny and fast-talking. The sub, especially in Texas, will probably make references to finding God and turning his or her life around. "My daddy was a preacher," the sub said last week.
The sub will drop family references that may or may not be true. The sub is appealing, at this point, to your heart, not your brain. The sub strives to be likable.
As the sub builds toward the big pitch, one thing that can be counted on is that the sub will always talk about how they have made enough money to drive a nice car and go on very expensive vacations. The good life.
The sub also says it's not about the money. It's about helping people. It's about making dreams come true. They actually say that. "Dreams come true." It's like Disney, only they're taking you on a different kind of ride.
No photos. No video. No audio recording. These rules are heavily enforced. I know because I was kicked out of the vending machine seminar for taking a photo with my BlackBerry. (This was a while ago.)
I was escorted out of the hotel and threatened with a lawsuit. But guess what? I wrote about them anyway. They were so disorganized that, even with our history, they invited me to come to another pitch. Fortunately, they went out of business.
The big pitch
After about a half-hour warm-up, you learn what they're selling. It's always something you never saw yourself doing. But now they've warmed you up. For a moment, you want to buy their package. Whoa, boy. Rein it in.
See those tables in the back, covered with white tablecloths and credit machines? Guess what those are for.
The idea is to get you to pay more for an advanced session, again in a hotel, a few days or weeks away. Oh, and there's always a discount. Two people can go for the price of one. Buy this and get that. How can you refuse?
You'll notice the price usually ends in 7. That's why $997 is a popular price. Seven supposedly doesn't sound so high. But it's a tip-off. Supreme sales psychology is in play here.
The bonus session
These seminars are actually a two-act play. They never sell one program or system or whatever they call it. They sell two. Last week, they sold real estate investment strategies, then called an intermission. (Go visit the tables in the back.) A different sub returned for a second program, this one on stock trading. (Cost $747.)
This is the easy part. If you need money to start, they're happy to lend to you. Fair terms may not apply.
Money-back promises are usually offered, but if you want it, dig your heels in for a fight.
Last week, I got a woman's watch with a white band. Flip or Floppers gave me an MP3 player with enough gig space for a hundred songs.
Only go to these if, like me, you like to study human nature.
Don't let yourself buy. You'll probably be sorry later.
Don't take a photo, as I did, unless you want to get kicked out.
Don't let emotions rule you. Buy with your head, not your heart.
Remember that the sellers don't do the work for you. They only show you how to do it. You still gotta do it all to get rich quick.
Saved you a trip here, didn't I?
Staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.
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