Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we continue with Chapter Three of David Franks DRI Misadventures, but first more news from Europe.
We started the week with the article about members at Anfi complaining about the lack of availability, trying to book 12 months in advance and still fully booked. It is not just Anfi that we see this problem, it happens at every resort that runs the floating week or points systems, hence the Spanish law making these systems illegal.
Why is there no availability?
The answer is actually very simple, when resorts sold fixed weeks with an apartment number allocated to it, they could only sell 51 weeks in each apartment. Once these had been sold there was nothing left for the sales staff to peddle, the resorts no longer had another source of income other than the maintenance fees. So they came up with points and floating weeks, whereby you became members of a “vacation Club” rather than an owner.
In this way they could continue selling, in essence quadrupling their membership base, this also had the effect of increasing the amount of maintenance they receive. The down side is obviously for the members, more members than accommodation or weeks available, do the maths. NO AVAILABILITY!
In our midweek post, Irene Parker explained CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates and how it could work for timeshare. Irene has personal experience of this as she herself was a special advocate. It certainly is something worth looking at.
Once again, we highlighted another “fake law firm”, Amador Ganeca Abogados, another in the list that make up the Litigious Abogados family. As we stated the website was only registered on 16 June, so it is only a month old, yet according to them they have over 15 years presence on the internet!
The “lawyer’s” shown on the website have been used before, names have been changed and even slight differences in spelling, none of them are registered with the bar association and the photo’s can be easily downloaded from sites such as Google images. Just search for lawyers and you will probably find the same pictures!
According to our sources, the courts in Maspalomas have also had a very busy week, the first to be announced was against Puerto Calma Marketing SL & Vista Amadores SL. This was quickly followed by six judgements against Anfi Sales SL. As yet we have not received any copies of the sentences, or the amounts awarded, but all contracts have been declared null & void.
Now on with our Friday’s Letter from America.
Our DRI Misadventures – Chapter Three
Stand Back. These People are Professionals.
By David Franks
Friday, July 14, 2017
You might wish to read the first two chapters:
Chapter 1: Vegas, Baby! — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-5/
Chapter 2: Missouri Loves Company — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-10/
(You might not. They’re pretty harrowing.)
Once we returned from our idyllic ordeal in Branson, and having—I thought—a better idea of our opportunities and obligations as new members starting in 2016, I set about booking the “Dream Vacation” we had selected: four nights in Miami and a seven-night western Caribbean cruise.
It took me relatively few phone calls—but more than I should have needed to make—to discover the following things:
- The prompts in the DRI phone routing system are not particularly helpful.
- Even people who work in DRI customer service find the phone system and internal organization confusing.
- DRI is not consistent about demanding adherence to “what the paper says”. That is, they will use what the text of contracts, disclosures and descriptions say to limit the traveler, but they allow themselves a fair bit of latitude in holding up their end. The best way to find out how weaselly their language is is to hear their interpretation of “what the paper says”.
After talking to a relatively small multitude of vacation professionals, I eventually got the “Dream Vacation” booked. We would stay at the on April 5,6,7,8 and cruise the week of April 9-16. As the “Dream Vacation” leaflet features a photo of the front of the Penguin Hotel, which faces the ocean, I asked about upgrading the room from “standard” to “ocean-view”; I was told that I would have to arrange that with the hotel directly. (I understand that this is standard practice, but I started to wonder what all of those concierges we had accumulated in Branson were supposed to do for me.)
By November 16, I had found it necessary to escalate the room upgrade issue, as the Penguin Hotel had not received notice of our booking and I could not yet upgrade our reservation to an ocean-view room, which has limited availability. I also found in my conversations with the hotel’s reservations desk that the supposed retail value of the “standard room” included in the package is not nearly what the leaflet claimed, even at peak season; indeed, an ocean-view room at peak season cost less than the claimed retail value of a standard room, which has no view at all. Neither the people I talked to at DRI, nor the hotel staff (including two managers), could help me with this issue for some two weeks longer. While there were some communications problems within the hotel’s reservation department, it appears that the problem was largely due to DRI’s delay in informing the hotel of our reservation, their unwillingness to deal directly with the hotel regarding the issue, and their convoluted organizational structure.
During my ongoing e-mail correspondence with DRI, one of the people I had corresponded with moved to a new position, and another person had continued the exchange without her own signature. This caused a jarring change in tone. At one point, I called M.W., my self-professed concierge in Branson, and he hung up on me. After some two months—on January 13,2016—I was finally able to get the room upgraded, and I had both DRI and the hotel confirm that I had booked an ocean-view room. Their trademarked slogan to the contrary, DRI apparently does not love to say “yes”, and despite my (and the hotel’s) problems with their service and procedures, DRI declined the opportunity to pay for the room upgrade.
Scheduling our flight and dealing with cruise details were relatively straightforward, probably because I was working directly with the airline and with Carnival. The issues I had raised with DRI over the course of almost two months (!) of calls and e-mails were never fully acknowledged or addressed; my various contacts at DRI simply stopped returning my calls and e-mails, offering website links in lieu of transfers or introductions to the proper people.
Important points so far:
- The retail value of the hotel accommodation was touted as “up to $2,000”. One of the reservations people (both available hotels used the same reservation desk) assured me that under no possible circumstances did either a “standard” room in either hotel or an ocean-view room at the Penguin ever go for $500 per night.
- Dream Vacations” cannot be booked five days before or after Presidents’ Day, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. More often than not, the block around Presidents’ Day blocks Valentine’s Day. According to the reservations department, these blocked holidays are the periods when the retail values of the hotel accommodations are highest—though even then, they didn’t go for $500 per night.
- The salesman who gave me his personal cell phone number and told me to think of him as my concierge hung up on me the first and only time I called him.
- The “Diamond Bonus Points” trifold brochure (which is replete with legalese that I was apparently expected to memorize) features a quote, ostensibly from a delighted DRI member: “One of the reasons that we bought with Diamond was mostly for the flexibility … The flexibility is really limitless.” Word to the wise: it isn’t.
- DRI has trademarked the slogan, “We Love to say Yes™”. They haven’t said “Yes” to me since we signed the contract. This is a tragic waste of a trademark.
Inside Timeshare would like to thank David Franks for his article and all those who contributed to previous articles. We also thank those who have supplied information about new companies springing up and the insights into how members feel.
Have a good weekend and beware of any company that promises you anything, check them first, remember doing your homework is vital to save you from being scammed.