Today’s article begins with a recent press release from the Arizona Attorney General, it then goes on with an article on OPC´s or Off Premises Canvassers. We begin with how they are regulated in most of Europe, then Irene´s article, where she has interviewed an Ex- Diamond OPC.
For Immediate Release: December 23, 2016
Attorney General Brnovich Announces $800,000 Settlement with Diamond Resorts
Settlement Agreement Resolves Allegations of Consumer Fraud Act Violations
Follow the link for the press release.
The following response is from Maya Pogoda, DRI Public Relations Spokesperson
By Irene Parker
“Diamond Resorts seeks to put its members first and provide the best customer experience possible and already has – and had – policies, procedures, training and a quality assurance program in place to provide a positive sales experience. Nevertheless, anytime a member believes we fall short of that goal, we take that concern seriously and try to remedy the situation and do better going forward.
As part of our continual effort to improve, we have been working on a new national program that we will be rolling out later this month. This program, called Diamond Clarity, goes beyond the requirements of the AOD and includes policies and procedures that will create greater transparency for the consumer and accountability for sales agents and quality assurance officers nationwide. Diamond Clarity will enhance our policies and procedures and improve the overall customer experience when purchasing vacation ownership.”
According to the Assurance of Discontinuance agreement,
“The provisions of this Assurance shall be limited to Diamond’s Business with Consumers at Sales Centers in Arizona and with Arizona-domiciled Consumers who attend Sales Presentations with Diamond outside of Arizona.”
However, certain provisions regarding sales presentation should be applied throughout the organization and the industry like:
- Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
- Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.
The latter has been described by timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group as “a license to lie”. Even this one change would radically improve the seedy side of timeshare. Read the document for complete terms.
The Guys on the Street.
In Europe the OPC´s or Off Premises Canvasser are in most cases subject to certain controls, the extent of this depends on the country.
On the Canary Islands the OPC must be badged and licenced, working from booths set up with the resort name for which they are working. According to the authorities they are not allowed to wander more than a few meters away from that booth and any attempt to coerce people who have made it obvious they are not interested, can be viewed as harassment. There can be some severe penalties from fines and the removal of the badge and licence.
On mainland Spain many do not adhere to the regulations and on many occasions you can see them dodging the Local Police. The Costa del Sol is particularly bad for the heavy handed approach and over the years there have been many complaints.
Malta has recently instituted some very strict regulations regarding OPC´s, this has resulted from the huge number of complaints made to the Malta Tourist Authority. Many of the comments made by people on holiday regarding the continual harassment from the street touts, have included that they love the island but would never return because of them.
The MTA has seen the damage that this is doing to the tourist industry and decided to act, this is not surprising as tourism accounts for a very large part of their economy.
They have instituted licences and are planning to outsource security patrols to police the timeshare touts. In a very clever move the MTA is requiring the timeshare companies to pay a 3000€ bond for each one they employ, allowing them to work in a regulated way. In the event of any breach of the regulations, rather than have the trouble of going through the courts, the companies will be fined direct from the bond. They will then have to make this up immediately. In another move, for very serious breaches, large fines will be given with licences removed and the culprits deported.
Back to Spain, many of the OPC´s are not directly employed by the resorts sales and marketing team, but work for a marketing company contracted by the resort. In this way the resort can deny any responsibility for the actions and pitch of the OPC. Diamond is one company who does not directly employ OPC´s and have done so for many years.
The tactics used to get you into the resort for a presentation are the same wherever you go, the lure of prizes and the promise that it will only last a short while. It has also been known for the OPC to pay the “UP” 50€ to attend the presentation as the pay per couple can be very good, in most cases around 150€ with a bonus if they actually purchase.
As you will see from the following, there is little difference between Europe and the U.S. in respect to the “scratch card touts”.
By Irene Parker, January 5, 2017
Timeshare is a puzzle built by relationships between consumers, timeshare developers, timeshare sales agent and solicitors known as “scratch card” agents or OPCs. One OPC recently contacted Inside Timeshare concerned he might be leading people into – a Timeshare Trap.
The timeshare sale begins as a circle that starts with the prospects strolling down the street and a person greeting them with a bright smile and good news! We don’t often think about the important role the OPC plays at the beginning of the cycle that will end with happy vacations or a desperate attempt to get out of something the consumer did not understand due to high pressure, deception, lack of due diligence and vacation brain.
Who and what is an OPC?
OPC stands for “Off Premises Contact” and here’s what they do and how they do it. It’s not an easy job, but it can be fun and exciting.
According to Simple Sales and Marketing Solution:
I spent 30 years selling one thing or another. A realtor who sincerely wants to find you the right house has their heart in the right place. Whether the profession is law, medicine, real estate, cars, or any sales profession for that matter, there are those who care only about their commission. As a former stock broker, I know my field had its share of those whose primary motive was the almighty commission check.
While some of the tips Simple Sales and Marketing provides may sound predatory, honest sales people often employ the same tactics:
- Should be young and good looking (This was also true for pharmaceutical sales reps who often had teeth like Robert Redford).
- A chirpy, happy go lucky attitude (True for all sales to help with rejection).
- Ability to accept rejection without it getting you down (I used to tell myself once I made 10,000 stock solicitation calls, I will have made it).
- Make friends easily (Edward Jones used to tell us “Friends do business with friends” and I was advised to always remember the dog’s name).
Next, the prospect and what information to glean:
- Married, but our former Diamond OPC told us single women were alright too.
- Own or rents a home?
Finally, after the OPC has earned a new best friend:
- Income bracket
None of the above was any different than what I had been trained to do in sales. My company spent $50,000 on each rep teaching them how to knock on doors like the Avon lady and get the same information and all their investable assets.
So what’s wrong?
Sometimes nothing, Sometimes a lot
Our Diamond OPC eventually became concerned about the people returning angry about the length of time promised and the aggressive nature of the presentation. The OPC I spoke with had no idea the extent of the harm some suffer after signing a perpetual contract with little or no secondary market, accompanied by maintenance fees that rise year after year. Although, I spoke with a Diamond OPC, Diamond should not be singled out.
I can honestly say some of my best friends are OPCs. I still exchange emails with Gail Jamison, our Maui Hill sales agent from 1984. I viewed Gail as an anti-sales agent. I worried about our stay at Maui Hill at Maui Lea warning my family that I was concerned about the lack of daily maid service. Checking into a drop dead gorgeous resort, I noticed a sign outside our window that said,
Own This Week for the Rest of Your Life
Curious, I approached the sales team and inquired. Gail showed us around the property and talked about the beauty of Hawaii and how much she liked living there. There was no trial close (Sales speak for first attempt to close). I waited. Still, there no trial close. Finally, I asked, “Can we buy a week?”
Gail worked as an OPC at times during her career. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Gail as a sales agent or as an OPC. OPCs play a vital and necessary role in the timeshare sale, but the problem arises when deception and aggression escalate to the point consumers are harmed. Such deception and aggression has been widely reported and lawsuits have arisen too numerous to mention.
Let’s hope in 2017, publications like Inside Timeshare and others continue their campaigns to reform an industry largely unregulated. The following publications and organizations are there to help timeshare owners. The problem is prospective buyers usually don’t read timeshare publications. Greater effort needs to be directed toward alerting the general public to be aware BEFORE they enter the sales agent’s domain. Same day sales leave little room for due diligence.
Here are some other resources for those who own a timeshare or are looking to get out from underneath one:
Timeshare Users Group
And, last but not least, my Diamond Owners Facebook page consisting of 7000 DRI owners sharing their joys and sorrows of timeshare ownership and patiently teaching me how to use Facebook,
One of the comments to this article pre publishing from one of our dedicated Diamond Facebook administrators:
“I ain’t scratching a card so go away and scratch your back side”
Of course this article does not apply to DRI Europe as they do not employ OPC’s at all
We hope that this article has explained the role of the OPC, with some of the regulations in force to protect those trying to enjoy a well deserved holiday.
If you require any information regarding this or any other article published on Inside Timeshare, contact us and we will do our utmost to help with an answer. If you have been contacted by any company, be it resale or claims and you are not sure make contact with us with all the details you have and we will look into them for you, also giving you advice on how to check them for yourself.
Remember it pays to do your homework as the articles on Litigious Abogados goes to show.