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The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles.

Irene Parker, has once again sent in an article with references to what in the US are important talking points. In this piece Irene gives her own experiences of a timeshare presentation, she also highlights  the plight of an 81 year old doing battle with Westgate, this was even highlighted in the UK press by the Daily Mail. (see link daily mail)

We have once before mentioned the owner and wife of Westgate and the house they are building, which defies all imagination. This has also been featured on television and was called “The Queen of Versailles”. (Link below)

European link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipYpHC1rxoY

US Link (copy and paste into browser)

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4668383262001/?#sp=show-clips

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3691048/Florida-widow-81-topples-timeshare-resort-planned-Queen-Versailles-husband-bringing-24m-project-halt-begin-building-condo-refused-payout.html

The Peasant of Venice is what Irene calls herself in relation to Jackie Siegel, she is a tireless campaigner for the rights of owners and a prolific writer come researcher, contributing many articles,comments and information to Inside Timeshare. Hope you enjoy the first of her Peasant of Venice articles.

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles

By Irene Parker

November 6, 2016

I have been longing for a reason to write an article with this title. I wanted to explain how I went from being a 25 plus year timeshare owner without a complaint, question or post; to being the other half of an international timeshare investigative journalism team.

This link pictures the home of an 81 year old protestor refusing to sell her home to Westgate timeshare. As mentioned in the story, the home was featured in the Disney promotion for the movie Up. Please pay no attention to the transfer agent advertisement. The lack of a secondary market breeds predators.  

http://www.mysuncoast.com/news/state/orlando-woman-refuses-to-sell-home-to-timeshare-giant/article_2d420330-a27d-11e6-8b4e-8b161951edfc.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

This next link features the flip side of the story – Westgate owners, Jackie and David Siegel’s 90,000 square foot home featuring 30 bathrooms and a 20 car garage.  

http://www.realtor.com/news/trends/queen-of-versailles-q-and-a/

Westgate timeshare is a fixed week timeshare predominantly in Florida. Like most timeshares, Westgate timeshares have little or no resale value.  

I asked licensed timeshare resale broker Judi Kozlowski how Westgate’s secondary market stacks up. “Westgate has destroyed the resale market for Westgate owners. When a resale broker sells a Westgate unit, the Broker is entitled to 100% of their commission.  In the fine print of Westgate’s documents it states that Florida Ranchlands Real Estate gets 50% of the Brokers commission.  No other Developer does that. Few licensed real estate brokers will list Westgate properties.” LIKE MOST TIMESHARES, Westgate has little or no secondary market.

Westgate also changes the rules,” Judi added, “If you buy a Westgate property on the resale market, and you purchased after a certain date and your reservation window was one year, they condensed it to 60 days. If you buy a Westgate on the resale market and you wanted to exchange your unit within your home resort, you would normally pay a $139 exchange fee but if you bought resale you would pay the $139.00 plus $500.00.”

But back to the peasant and the Queen:

peasantqueen

It all started one hot summer day in Orlando at Grand Beach Diamond resort.

We entered the hospitality area where we were invited to attend a 55 minute information only presentation for existing owners. “Will we be paired with a commissioned sales agent,” I asked three times. “No”, Julie replied, “Only if you have questions in the last ten minutes. I attended and I learned a lot!”

The next day we entered the reception area to be greeted by an attractive young lady. “Hello,” she greeted us and introduced herself. “Are you a commissioned agent?” I asked.  Puzzled, she took us by the arm and escorted us to the 55 minute presentation, retrieved us immediately after, and led us to her den.

“My husband is 77 years old. We do not want to invest in vacation plans because we need to investigate long term care plans,” I explained. “Why, we have many in their 90’s who come and enjoy our resorts!” she cried.

“But we are in the middle of building a house and have no permanent resident at this time,” I countered. Kneeling and looking up, she gazed into my eyes and confessed she was a single mother and had to resort to her Diamond points when she and her daughter were homeless. “I know you didn’t put all your money in that house though,” she added.

Three hours and three sales agents later, we returned to our room. I checked my email and learned the 4,500 points we had been promised for our Port Elsewhere Ozark timeshare deposit was credited only 3,000 points. Sure enough, I learned later the 4,500 points promised could be changed at any time for any reason. It’s all in the fine print.

I then decided to take my mind off this disturbing revelation by watching television. I turned on the FOX news Property Man show hosted by Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, and there she was – The Queen. The King and Queen of Westgate timeshare were building a 90,000 square foot home that defied the imagination!

Thinking about the pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation we were deceived into attending, the oral representation clause promising things not delivered, I wrote to Mr. Massi at Property man never dreaming I would earn a response. In all fairness, copying the letter to Diamond customer service, they hastily credited the correct amount.

Later that year, in September, I was asked to appear on Mr. Massi’s nationally televised show to be interviewed by him. “I’m sorry, but I just accepted a position as interim music director for a large church and cannot attend, but will research some things to help you with your segment,” I offered.

I started digging, and digging and digging some more. The deeper I dug, the more alarmed I became. I submitted my research and returned to the choir. Then, six months later in March, after arranging a flight to Phoenix to stay at Diamond’s Los Abrigados resort in Sedona, I received a call from the FOX producer, asking if we would agree to be interviewed by Mr. Massi the day after we arrived in Phoenix as they had interviews scheduled that weekend. Some things are meant to happen. We live in Venice.

The FOX producer told me David Cortese of Magical Realty had also been interviewed by Mr. Massi about timeshare resales. Like Judi Kozlowski, David is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. After viewing David’s segment, I contacted him to see if he would sell our Diamond points. “Alas, but Diamond points are worthless if you need to sell them. Not one of our 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association members will buy or sell Diamond points. We feel Diamond has placed too many restrictions on the use of secondary points, unlike most of their competitors, to be of any value to a buyer,” he sadly explained.      

To be continued

Irene and her husband Don were interviewed by Mr. Massi in April 2016 about their concerns:

  • the elderly being targeted,
  • the aggressive nature of timeshare sales presentations,
  • the oral representation clause protecting the agent and the timeshare developer,
  • the perpetual (multi-generational) contract,
  • limited availability, rising maintenance fees and especially,
  • little or no resale value.

Property Man has unfortunately been preempted due to election coverage. Television is unpredictable, but we’re hoping Property Man and Don and Irene’s segment will still air once the American people have recovered from the torture of this year’s election coverage.

In the meantime, here’s Bob Massi and his advice on timeshare resales and here is Sharket’s Timeshare Resale Market Research website that can tell you what your timeshare is worth. If your European timeshare is not listed, someone please volunteer to start a European chapter so that people can see what their timeshare is worth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6bZDA6pL0o

https://sharket.com/

Thank you Irene for sharing your thoughts and insights into timeshare in the US, Inside Timeshare looks forward to working with you on further articles. It gives us in Europe another perspective into the timeshare industry, that the problems owners face in Europe are also affecting owners across the Great lake. That they are not alone and somehow working together they may just make a difference and change the way the industry sees the consumer.

  


4 Comments

  • Irene Parker

    November 7, 2016

    While I protest against the lack of a timeshare secondary market, and feel the enormous wealth Westgate generates is due to all the reasons people complain about timeshare, my heart goes out to the family in their grief caused by the loss of their daughter, Victoria Siegel. I am a former CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Supervisor. I wrote and edited court reports on behalf of foster children and attended all hearings and trials. In Kentucky, we had a high rate of methamphetamine addiction and the tragedy this caused families was destructive and unbearable. I sincerely applaud the work this family has done channeling their grief over Victoria’s addiction into a fight against addiction.

    Reply
  • Jack Rabito

    November 8, 2016

    We need to put mental health on the front burner in our country as statistics show that one out of four Americans either has someone in their family or knows someone with addiction or other mental health issues . These life affecting illnesses are not to be shamed or ignored because they touch each one of us every day in many different ways. A society is judged by the care it gives its citizens. We are failing to measure up to those standards set in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is time to get it right.

    Reply
  • Irene Parker

    November 8, 2016

    Parker Palmer suffered from depression. He is the creator of “Standing in the Tragic Gap”. I think it is the purest vision of any worthy cause be it the struggle to overcome addition or predatory timeshare sales. In the foster care world, the greatest tragic gap for me were the teens aging out of foster care. Given this is election day – the most toxic presidential election in living memory, we, especially in America, should listen to this: http://www.couragerenewal.org/723/

    Reply
  • G Lienhop

    November 12, 2016

    Great insight Irene into the world of timeshares. As a former Orlando homeowner, I always felt that the King and Queen of Versailles were really ostentatious. I remember when they got married at one of the timeshare resorts! I am not a time share owner, nor would I be after reading and educating myself with these articles.
    Thank you Irene.

    Reply

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