Friday’s Letter from America

In this weeks Letter from America we welcome another new contributor, Robin Law, with a “Buyer Beware Warning” about Bluegreen. This is a story that is not unfamiliar with us at Inside Timeshare, the only difference is the name of the developer.

But first we issue a warning about another company that is cold calling owners in Europe, we have been informed by a UK resident and Diamond member who received a call from this company, Claim Your Claim.

In the call our reader was informed that since Apollo had taken over Diamond, there were only four resorts that they could go to in the whole of Europe!

Now that is very strange, according to the Diamond website they have many more than that, I can personally name at least a dozen.

Our reader was also informed about how they were mis-sold their timeshare and had a valid claim, which this company could help and retrieve their money back! Sounds great, until you start to look at this company.

Their website https://claimyourclaim.com shows no company registration or any other details apart from the address and telephone number on the contact page:

Calle San Francisco Javier, 22d, 38001 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain (which is an aprtment block).

Tel: 0845 621 3233

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Calle+San+Francisco+Javier,+22,+38001+Santa+Cruz+de+Tenerife/@28.4709569,-16.2494615,3a,60y,45.65h,109.17t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s9YYai_iGjgQcg65WwTBsNg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m5!3m4!1s0xc41cb7e58580589:0x9e73f0cfdf824dfe!8m2!3d28.4709875!4d-16.2493926

The Home page gives very little information apart from they are “Specialists” in “Claiming your Claim”, “Peace of Mind” and “Customer Care”.

In the Services section they have four categories, Financial Management, which tells about claiming, Holidays, showing three hotels at rather high prices, Deals, which are low cost resorts and Other Services such as airline tickets, car hire and places to visit.

The About Us section is rather interesting, they state Claim Your Claim work alongside a company formed in 2003 as a subsidiary of an Anglo/Polish Travel Agency based in Krakow Poland. They “boast” 7 offices in the Canary Islands, with their main operation based in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Under the heading Our Clients they give the following statement:

Claim your Claim and its associated companies are proud to announce as of 31.12.2017 their customer base exceeded the 70,000 mark, 86% of all their bookings made between 01.01.2013 – 31.12.2017 were for holidays to the Canary Islands, 89% of these were to Tenerife.

Well nothing there about “Claims”, just a load of figures for “Holidays”.

They also give the “Locations” of their offices:

Krakow, Poland, Santa Cruz De Tenerife, Mogan, Gran Canaria, Arrecife, Lanzarote, Tazacorte, La Palma.

They also show several “Client Reviews”, this is just one of them, copied and pasted direct from their website:

John Burton

South Sheilds

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017

Thank You

Excellent job Claim Your Claim just received the £20,642 This happened within 60 days as promised from meeting consultant to money paid into our account.

Very well done and many thanks

Not bad is it, from seeing the consultant to getting back over £20,000 all in “60 DAYS”, miracle workers or what!

The only other problem is the website was only registered on 18 January 2018, yet all the client reviews are dated well before that date. So can you actually believe these reviews?

The owner of the website is also hidden by privacy protection, so this along with no company registration numbers, either Spanish, UK or Polish, leaves us in no doubt that this outfit are not what they say they are. A typical “SCAM!”

Now for this weeks Letter from America

A Bluegreen Timeshare Buyer Beware Warning

By Robin Law

May 4, 2018

I believe the timeshare industry has been riddled with deceit, commonplace since before Social Media, but Social Media now allows those who feel they have been defrauded to share experiences. We believe what happened to us, purchasing Bluegreen vacation points, meets the FBI definition of white collar crime, “deceit concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” We check all of the above.

We live and bought in Florida where regulators seem to be in partnership with the timeshare industry, dismissing timeshare buyers who feel they have been preyed upon with, “You should not have relied on verbal representations.” The NY, TN, MO, AZ, and CO Attorneys General have launched timeshare investigations that resulted in settlements.  

We will file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s office, but according to Social Media reports, the Florida AG will respond in support of the timeshare developer. Below is the response from the Florida Timeshare Division to one timeshare owner.

Timeshare developers are required to provide full and meaningful disclosures to purchasers in the documents they are required to deliver to them including the public offering statement, sales contract, and all supplemental documents at the point of sale.  A document called “Acknowledgment of Representations” or “Purchaser’s Understanding” or a similar document provides the disclosures which each purchaser initials and signs at the time of purchase and it contains all the relevant information about the timeshare product.  A developer heavily relies on these documents to refute any claims by a purchaser regarding the alleged misrepresentations.  Therefore, in light of these written documents, it is very difficult to prove the allegations raised in the complaint.  

We have reached out to Inside Timeshare and will reach out to other Florida media outlets because the public needs to be warned, to not to believe anything a timeshare sales agent says. Florida probably sells more timeshare products than any other state, yet seems to offer the least enforcement. The last Florida investigation I could find was a Bluegreen investigation in 2012

http://www.myfloridalegal.com/EC_Edoc.nsf/0/1702C8F78E74E8B285257B0B005747D2/$file/Bluegreen+Corp.pdf

Before I share our Bluegreen experience, I found the following results for Bluegreen as reported by Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau. Clearly, we are not alone in our grievance. Bluegreen seems to never admit a problem with sales agent deception, yet there are a flood of complaints to be found on the internet. In comparison, there are few Disney Vacation Club complaints.

Bluegreen Consumer Affairs Score 1 ½ stars out of 5

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/bluegreen.html

Better Business Bureau Rating C+

129 customer review

12 Positive

4 Neutral

113 Negative

807 Complaints

2.48 out of 5 Stars based on reviews

https://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/vacation-clubs/bluegreen-vacations-unlimited-in-boca-raton-fl-8195/reviews-and-complaints

4/18/18 a recent Better Business Bureau complaint

This company offers falsehoods and half-truths. We have sunk thousands of dollars into this company, and are repeatedly told that nothing is available at the places or times that we want to utilize our points at one of their resorts. However, if you use Travelocity.com, or other vacation booking websites, the places they claim are not available, are available. We have been told we could sell back our deed at any time. When we contacted the company to do just that, because we are tired for paying for something that is never available, we were told that is not an option. We have been told we can use our points to pay for maintenance fees. When we tried to do that, we were told there is a minimum point requirement to do that, and we did not have enough. We have had nothing but problems and lies from this company. They continue to try and solicit you to purchase more points, yet fail to meet simple requests. In over two years, and thousands of dollars invested, we have been able to use our points one time, and it wasn’t even where we wanted to. We had to settle for what was “available.” The room we had was in a horrible spot (at the back of the resort, with a view of other buildings and parking lots, and noise and filth from construction), and when I asked to move to a different room, was told no other rooms were available, even though I walked by rooms that stood vacant during our entire stay. Guess they had to keep those available to sell on Travelocity. Why make it available to an “owner?” I would never recommend this company to anyone. They care about nothing but lining their pockets. They have zero concern for the happiness of their customer, and are unwilling to make even the smallest accommodations.

Comments

Comment from the Business:

Dear Ms. *** Thank you for taking the time to share your experience! We sincerely apologize to hear of all the difficulties you have experienced in getting on vacation using your ownership, as well as for any misunderstanding surrounding the resale process or use of other benefits. We would be more than happy to help address any of these concerns! So that we can assist you, please send an email to ***@bluegreenvacations.com referencing your BBB review, and making sure to include the names, phone number, and email address associated with your Bluegreen account. We look forward to assisting you further! ~Bluegreen Customer Care

by Business on Apr. 19, 2018

Bluegreen has a long history of consumer complaints

On April 5, 2013, Bluegreen Corporation responded to BBB’s concerns. Bluegreen Corporation does not believe they fail to grant cancellations and refunds where they are factually and legally appropriate. Bluegreen states their company does provide timely cancellations and refunds to those consumers who properly rescind their timeshare purchases within the rescission period. Occasionally, a consumer does not follow the properly prescribed cancellation method contained in the timeshare sales documents. Nevertheless, once the appropriate business area within Bluegreen becomes aware of the request, even when not properly given by the consumer, diligent efforts are made to process the cancellation and refund as promptly as possible. With respect to the purchase of a vacation package, such purchases are accompanied by details of participation which advise a purchaser how to cancel their vacation package and the amount of time they have to do so. Also, in some instances, the consumer may have purchased the vacation package from a third party provider or vendor, and not directly from Bluegreen Corporation.

BBB reviewed this company’s complaints again on July 12, 2013, again on December 11, 2015, and again on August 18, 2016 and found that the pattern of complaints identified by BBB continues.

BBB reviewed this company’s complaints again on September 5, 2017 and found that the issues regarding the cancellation policy have decreased. However, the issues regarding high pressure sales practices, availability, and refund issues still exist.

BBB will continue to monitor the complaint activity of the company and update the Business Review as needed.

Our Bluegreen complaint

My husband and I work long hours in very high demanding jobs. We cannot discuss personal matters during work hours, which made it virtually impossible to talk to anyone at Bluegreen about our dispute. I work as a project assistant at a large engineering firm, and my husband works as a project manager for a general contracting firm in Florida. I cannot take personal calls during the day.   

Bluegreen customer care agent Kimberly arranged to speak with us after hours. The first telephone appointment was arranged, but Kimberly did not call or otherwise notify us that she was unable to make the scheduled call. We felt Bluegreen did not care and that we were not important, but we feel considerable attention is placed on selling points and collecting money not paid. Kimberly eventually contacted me again by email, but just advised that the actions of the Bluegreen agents we experienced are not the way Bluegreen sells. She refused to consider a refund or cancellation. I requested to speak to a manager and was put in touch with Autumn Fechner. All Ms. Fechner offered was a one-time day use pass for Tradewinds, which was in essence, no response.  

The deception we experienced:

We bought 10,000 every other year points at Tradewinds July 7, 2012 in St. Petersburg

Our purchase price:  $13,150

Loan 1: Amount Financed: $11,456 @ 16.99%

We were told Bluegreen would be purchasing the land next door by the end of 2013. They told us that if we purchased Bluegreen points we would have day use privileges because Bluegreen was buying Tradewinds. Since we live not far from Tradewinds, this sounded like the perfect vacation plan. We were told we could use bonus points to rent rooms for $69 or $79, not needing to use our Bluegreen points.  When I tried to book around August 2012 there was no availability. I was told I must have been mistaken about the day use privilege and bonus time privilege when I contacted customer services. There was no mistake. My husband was with me. We know what we were told.

We can’t even read the signature of the sales agent on our contract. The sales agent said they were not allowed to give out personal business cards, which is odd. A sales agent is not allowed to give out business cards?

Tradewinds gave me the name of Barret Shank, Director of Field Administration, Bluegreen Tradewinds Preview Center I. I contacted Mr. Shank via email.  Mr. Shank emailed in response saying Tradewinds is not available for bonus points, only for $99 for promotional purposes. He also said day use is only listed on the back of our charter for very specific places, but not Tradewinds.

We were baited and switched.  Nothing the sales agent advised was correct or ethical.  Timeshare sales deceit and bait and switch is supported by the response of Mr. Shank, and all others involved in the sale and customer care follow up, in response to our complaint. In my opinion, timeshare point sales are a minefield of deceit waiting to happen.

We bought a second time at Tradewinds November 29, 2013. It took a year to find availability for this stay. We were told we had to do an update because the program we purchased one year earlier in 2012 was worthless. We did not want additional points, but attended and purchased fearing what we had purchased was worthless.

We purchased 10,000 additional every other year points November 29, 2013

Purchase price: $10,950

Loan 2: Amount financed $9326.17

I kept saying through the entire sales pitch, we did not want two loans. The sales agent said to complete this sale and then we could combine both loans through Bluegreen.  She said we would just need to call the mortgage department after the sale was completed. When I called the Bluegreen mortgage division as advised, I was told I must have misunderstood because they could not combine the two sales.

I was advised to go to my bank or credit union because they would know how to refinance and that Bluegreen has dealt with multiple customers who refinance because Bluegreen is property. Bluegreen is a right to use product that has nothing to do with real estate. The company should not assume all Bluegreen buyers will be able to refinance. My bank said timeshare is not considered real estate and could not be refinanced. We were stuck with two loans at a high interest rate and what we were told was a real estate investment is not considered property. Bluegreen also told us we owned deeded property. Bluegreen points sold today are not deeded and a lawyer told us our Bluegreen deeds are worthless and not really deeds in the traditional sense.

Florida Timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group settled a class action with Bluegreen and credit reporting agencies, forcing Bluegreen to not report the failure to pay a Bluegreen loan as a foreclosure. Foreclosures are now reported as settled for less.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20151222006023/en/Finn-Law-Group-Settles-Consumer-Class-Action

The third time we purchased Bluegreen points was at The Fountains in Orlando August 24, 2014. We were again told it was mandatory to attend an update. It lasted 10 AM to 7 PM. We were told that because we were such loyal Bluegreen customers, they were giving us a special price on all additional Bluegreen investments. We were told Bluegreen points are an investment. They said we would own a coveted property in Dennisport, Massachusetts. After hours of repeated “no”, and multiple sales agents offering additional perks, we purchased once again. All the documents said Bluegreen, but when we received our first bill, it was with a completely different company and had a higher interest rate.   

We purchased 10,000 annual points upgrading to Silver

Purchase price $15,000

Amount financed $13,425

At every sales meeting, we were told it would be easy to refinance a Bluegreen loan and we were also told that we could sell points back to Bluegreen. Every sales person that we dealt with at Tradewinds and The Fountains in Orlando had an almost identical sales script. All sales presentations lasted five hours or longer, with increasingly aggressive sales agents and managers.

Bluegreen’s decision not to grant a refund or cancel our contracts was based on our using the timeshare that we paid for and because we have owned it for so long. We have paid $30,000 for Bluegreen points. Supervisor Autumn Felcher stated she could provide evidence of our deeds. On April 12, 2018 she produced three documents she stated were property deeds. After a review by a lawyer, I was advised that these were NOT real property deeds. I quote, “Resort Title clearly identifies the interest as beneficial interest in the trust. The Cibola deed transfers the interest via a deed but not to you, but to the trust. The Sounding deed does the same. I stand by my earlier opinion that you folks are not deed holders.” Thus, Bluegreen again made untrue statements. In my opinion Bluegreen’s intentions are not to support the customer, whether it is in a response to the BBB, an Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, or the FBI.

The following are self-help groups for timeshare members. This is our attempt to warn the public: Don’t believe anything a timeshare sales agent says!

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Robin and once again thanks to Irene Parker for her editing, again this is a story that Inside Timeshare is very used to hearing, it goes well with today’s lead about Claim Your Claim.

The timeshare industry is full of rogues, from the timeshare developers right down to the scam companies the industry is responsible for developing. The only way to stay safe and keep your money is to check and check and check again, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

So Friday is here, the weekend beckons, time to relax and enjoy the company of friends, have a good one and we will see you next week with more stories of “A Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.


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