Last Friday, Inside Timeshare was given the following news, Diamond Resorts Europe have given notice that all their sales decks are to be closed forthwith. Sales staff in Malaga and Tenerife have been instructed to see a solicitor within the next 15 days, as there will be major redundancies.
So what is happening?
According to a letter passed to Inside Timeshare from a member, they are being informed that the European Sales and Marketing business has for sometime been facing a rather difficult time, in other words sales targets are not being met.
Diamond state they have implemented a number of initiatives attempting to improve the performance of the European sales teams, but have admitted that it has not worked.
Therefore, Diamond have been forced to drastically reduce their sales and marketing operations in Europe, this is also subject to consultation with their team members. This is obviously a great blow to many of the sales staff around Europe, as Diamond are one of the major players, with sales decks all over Europe.
Diamond have gone on to add and reassure members this will not have any affect on their holidays, stating that “Diamond Resorts International continues to be a strong leader in the global hospitality and vacation ownership industries”. They also go on to say that any members wishing to purchase and increase their points ownership, will be able to as there will continue to be a dedicated team at their disposal.
It appears that there will be a few sales decks still operating , one has been named as Pine Lakes, in the UK, another is reportedly one of Diamond’s flagship resorts in Malaga, Sahara Sunset, with a apparently two remaining in Tenerife. These will obviously be run on skeleton staff.
At present it does look like it is mainly Diamond run sales decks, as yet we have not heard if it will affect any of the franchise decks, which did undergo a similar cut back earlier in the year.
This news is not that surprising, sales in timeshare resorts has been declining over recent years, the product has changed from the very first timeshares, where you bought a fixed week in a fixed apartment. Since then we have seen a move to vacation club membership rather than resort ownership, these clubs use the floating weeks and points systems, which offer only a right to use, subject to availability.
It must also be remembered that the way people book holidays is very different today, with many timeshare resorts available on various websites. Which is one of the main complaints from members, why did we purchase for so many thousands and yet non members can book at a fraction of our maintenance fees?
In the early days of timeshare it was also the quality of the resorts available that helped to sell “the dream”, after all, most package holidays were in not very desirable hotels. But again the hotel industry has improved, quality is very much on the agenda, with many hotels in recent years undergoing drastic renovations.
Another aspect for the decline in timeshare sales is obviously the all inclusive packages, again a week’s holiday for a family of 4 can be purchased for less than the average yearly maintenance fees.
So what of the future for Diamond sales in Europe?
To be perfectly honest, not good, many operators are scaling back their sales teams, timeshare is in decline, many owners / members are elderly, with children that do not want to take it over. What we call the internet generation, who have grown up with the unlimited availability on the web, without the initial huge outlay for membership.
Another question that has been posed, is what about Apollo in all this, could it be a move to also separate the US arm of Diamond from the European arm, a possible sell off?
As usual only time will tell, but for now, it would look like there are going to be a lot of ex sales staff looking for work in an ever diminishing industry.
Inside Timeshare will keep you posted on any latest news. If you have any comments on this subject or any other published, we welcome it as it helps to keep others informed.
Following on from last week’s piece on the RDO’s use of an article in The Spectator, Irene Parker gives us the American take on it and how they are viewing timeshare in Europe.
One thing is for certain, they are looking to us for change in the way timeshare is sold in the USA, we have had many contact Inside Timeshare giving their stories, some are definitely “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”. This title has been used in three articles in the past, with stories that have hit home for many readers.
It is interesting to note an admission of guilt in this article as to the nature of the unscrupulous timeshare sales agent.
The Chairman of RDO is Susan Crooks, Director of Legal Services and European General Counsel, Diamond Resorts Europe, so the article is even more meaningful, considering her role. I have interviewed two EU Diamond sales agents. The agents said they refused to submit to the aggressive tactics imposed on American Diamond sales agents. One was the sales agent assigned to us when we stayed at Cala Blanca on Gran Canaria.
Here are excerpts from what RDO has to say about timeshare, followed by a report from one of the 13 Diamond Platinum members.
When you think of the word timeshare, what springs to mind? While for some it might be stylish and carefree getaways in your favourite holiday destination, for others it could just as easily be pushy salespeople trying to bamboozle you into signing an unwanted, lengthy contract. Unfortunately, for a number of years the word timeshare has had negative connotations in the minds of many people, due to the often unethical and unjust way it was sold in the past. This is all changing though as the holiday market goes through a massive shakeup. Timeshare is evolving into something that everyone can enjoy!
In the past a proportion of timeshare was mis-sold to people through unscrupulous sales tactics from pushy sales people only interested in making a quick sale. People were persuaded to sign up for timeshare after lengthy and intense sales presentations which could last for hours. This included parting with large deposits on the same day. Now though, following strict restrictions imposed on developers by the European Timeshare Directive which must be followed by all shared holiday ownership companies operating within the EU, there is a ban on taking deposits on the day of the sales presentation from clients. In addition there is a mandatory 14-day cooling off period between a presentation and signing up for timeshare in which the individual is able to change their mind. The contract offered must also be in the client’s own language.
In the EU and the US, the following groups have formed to protest and support other Diamond members.
DRIP website England, over 1,000 British members
Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy 350 members
We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.
All of the above websites and Facebook pages include concerned Diamond members who don’t know where to turn. Most of those contacting Inside Timeshare are existing Diamond members, but complaints from several timeshare companies abound, alleging deceptive sales practices:
Sell Diamond Points,
Cover Maintenance Fees,
Transfer from US to HI points because only Hawaii can rent points or transfer to US because there will be HI assessments (one Diamond member said they were shown pictures in Virginia of decaying Hawaii air conditioners),
Prevent heirs from being stuck with Diamond points (this benefit is already available).
In an interview with Timeshare Insider Lisa Ann Schreier and Diamond Platinum members Alan and Debbie Callner that took place at Diamond’sMystic Dunes Resort June 19, we discussed timeshares flawed business model and the consumer’s deplorable lack of timeshare knowledge. Since the timeshare buyer in many cases cannot rely on the honesty and integrity of the timeshare sales agent, we agreed an organized media campaign is the only answer. “The sales agent is always right. The customer is always wrong” seems to be the developer’s motto.
End of Story
No it is not
Lisa Ann Schreier, author of Timeshare for Dummies, has worked in the timeshare industry for approximately 20 years.
It was a quiet morning after “Event of a Lifetime” – a Diamond promotion celebration with country music artist Cole Swindell performing to a packed house. The restaurant was open but in transition from Integrity Golf to Diamond management, so the golf course was closed and the restaurant temporarily without a liquor license.
I asked Lisa if she has seen an upswing in predatory timeshare lending over the years. One of the roles of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was the enforcement of the Dodd Frank Act which has recently been rolled back by the Trump administration. I asked Lisa if she thought the rollback would lead to even more free-wheeling timeshare lending practices, especially in terms of non-verified income and generous lending limits.
“Timeshare lending has always been freewheeling,” Lisa explained. She provided a true story example told in parable fashion:
This happened many years ago when I was a timeshare sales agent. I was getting to know a gentleman who agreed to a presentation. One of the first things he said to me was, “I need to know if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior.” Somewhat taken aback, I informed the man that it might be best if I found him another sales agent as I am Jewish. Intrigued however, I asked the man what led to his conversion. He responded he had been converted in jail and had been released just a month earlier have fulfilled a lengthy jail sentence.
Thinking this was the end of my tour, I sought my manager to inform him that my potential customer was a NQ (not qualified). My manager advised me to proceed. “Proceed? Should I conduct a vacation survey? Will his income history be relevant?” Lisa questioned.
Alan and Debbie Callner and my husband and I sat mesmerized as Lisa shared other incredible and interesting timeshare stories with us as several sales agents filed past us with their potential customers following their Event of a Lifetime.
Alan and Debbie are one of thirteen Diamond Platinum members concerned with Diamond’s sales practices. Seven of the thirteen allege almost identical complaints all having taken place at Diamond’sPolo Towers or Cancun Las Vegas Resorts.
Inside Timeshare encourages our readers to report positive as well as negative timeshare experiences. Alan shared his check-in experience.
Alan was somewhat concerned about the check-in at Mystic Dunes after reading a post from a DRI Facebook Member who said she had been held captive for three hours at Mystic Dunes in a hard sell presentation to buy points after check-in.
In the Callner’s case, Alan and Debbie were whisked through VIP check-in. They were invited but not pressured to attend an update. In place of an update, Marcos came to their room with a gift bag chatting amicably about Orlando and local sites to visit other than the theme parks.
A non-invasive program for Diamond members who really have no desire or need to buy additional vacation points would be a real plus. We hope Alan and Debbie’s comfortable check-in experience did not happen only because their account had been flagged as a member who filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General.
Alan and Debbie filed an AZ AG complaint alleging they had been sold 20,000 additional points by Rick Casper at Cancun Resorts in Las Vegas July 2016, convinced to buy an eighth timeshare contract because of a resale program that months later they found out was non-existent.
Allegedly, “Rick Casper told us we should contact him when we needed to sell points because he had people that would buy them. This was the only reason we upgraded from 30,000 points to 50,000 points. When we contacted Rick earlier this year, we learned from Dan Percy (Rick Casper’s immediate boss) that we could not have been told that and we might be able to sell them through a resale third party. We never heard a response from Rick Casper.”
“In addition, we asked Rick about combining our seven previous contracts into one contract covering all 50,000 points. Rick Casper (allegedly) advised us not to do so as it would be easier to sell smaller quantities of points and inferred he could do so easier having contracts in increments, as when someone wants to upgrade from Gold to Platinum requiring only 20,000 additional points.”
“The thought of being able to sell was a relief.”
Inside Timeshare has received 82 reader complaints. Some expressed only the desire to relinquish, but 53 Diamond members have alleged deceit and bait and switch. Of the 13 Platinum members, six filed almost identical complaints against Rick Casper. A report compiling complaints from all loyalty levels is being prepared. If the timeshare industry continues to deny problems on the front end of the sale, efforts will be directed towards regulators, politicians, law enforcement and the media. At some point the testimonies will be overwhelmingly compelling.
The two timeshare owning families at our Mystic Dunes table owned timeshares for a collective 70 plus years. We all agreed, verified by Lisa, timeshare predatory sales and lending has escalated to a level never seen before, perpetrated by more than a few timeshare companies.
“No heat, no eat” is a mantra shared by the eight timeshare agents I interviewed who, at some point, decided their conscious would not allow them to stoop to the level necessary to exist in a timeshare world that has led to thousands of internet complaints and lawsuits.
We hope the new timeshare world order as described by RDO will migrate to America as the timeshare members Inside Timeshare has heard from, clearly feel America is nowhere near the hospitable and transparent timeshare world RDO describes.
In a way, we in Europe seem to be the lucky ones in the timeshare world, we have a system of regulation which is being enforced. It all started with the European Union bring out the first Timeshare Directives to protect consumers, although the industry did lobby for their own versions, the EU has continually strengthened them. Some countries have gone even further and added even stronger regulations, Spain in particular is leading the way.
Some of the regulations brought in and enforced by Spain include: Contracts no longer than 50 years; Floating Weeks and Points Clubs being outlawed; enforcing the 14 day cooling off period and the taking of any deposits even by a third party, within this period.
Another aspect Spain has included and is being used by the courts is the doubling of any payment made within 90 days, where the consumer did not receive all information required by law.
Timeshare could be a good product, but regulation is the key, for too long we have seen in Europe, resorts and developers running roughshod over consumers. Unfortunately we still do have some who only think of themselves, we have highlighted many of them within our articles in the past. The story of Mrs B and MacDonald Resorts, the recent story of the Ona Group at Los Claveles are just two. There must be change and the time for change is now.
Welcome to our Monday article, we start with some news from Europe, Canarian Legal Alliance has been at it again. More news from the courts in Tenerife finding for CLA clients against Silverpoint.
On 2 May, the judge presiding over The Court of First Instance No 5, ruled the contract these clients had contained several infringements and declared the contract null & void. The judge also ruled they should be awarded over £25,957.79 plus the return of their legal fees and legal interest. In this case the main infringement was the floating weeks. The Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98 was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court, a timeshare contract must include a specific date, location and period.
The following day, the same court declared yet another contract from Silverpoint illegal under law 42/98, this infringed the length of the contract. The Supreme Court on numerous occasions have stated that under the law no contract can be over 50 years. The judge in this case again declared the contract null & void, ordering Silverpoint to return over £8,856.71 plus legal fees and legal interest to the client.
Canarian Legal Alliance also received a visit from the Kavli Family, who had their Anfi contract declared null & void awarded back over 39,413€ plus legal interest. Their visit while enjoying a relaxing holiday was to thank the entire team at CLA for all the work they put in to resolve their situation.
On another note, this weekend saw the awards presentation of the Canary NewsBusiness Awards. Canarian Legal Alliance won the the award in the Service Category, with the Head of Operations, Csilla Nazali being awarded Business Person of the year, this was accepted on behalf of the entire CLA Team. So congratulations to them.
So on we go with the NTOA article, this follows the news that TATOC, the association that is supposed to represent owners committees, is going into administration. As you will see from the article, there is a difference between the two organisations. The NTOA is independent of the industry, whereas TATOC was funded and run by the industry for the benefit of the industry and not you the owner’s / members. After all we know that Harry Taylor took up his position with TATOC while still a senior figure with Diamond Resorts Europe. We also know he supported MacDonald Resorts to the hilt against owners, when MacDonald’s decided to remove all fixed week owners and replace them with a points system, legal action on this is still ongoing. Somehow we think that is a conflict of interest and not conducive to being “independent”.
Just before publishing today’s article, ARDA once again unleashed its powerful propaganda arm in retaliation against Don and Irene’sFOX Property Man interview with Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi. This was Don and Irene’s attempt to warn the public about Diamond Resorts points not being able to be listed with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. A timeshare member can list any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts with any of the 64 members of the LTRBA. The members feel the restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points are more onerous than any of the major timeshares they do list.
You decide the merit and purpose of this interview. The industry continues to ignore the secondary market preferring to promote surrender programs. While the elderly are often mentioned, many young families who feel they were defrauded on the front end of the timeshare purchase have reached out to Inside Timeshare to let their voices be heard.
One of the many Diamond Advocates has reached out to the ABC reporter to offer a 101 in Truth. Why Diamond will not loosen its restrictions so that a member can actually sell their timeshare is a mystery.
Our National Timeshare Owners Association 20th Anniversary
NTOA – A Timeshare Member’s Only Voice
By Charles Thomas and Irene Parker
May 8, 2017
European timeshare member lobby efforts are in a state of upheaval due to the bankruptcy of TATOC. It is not always easy to determine if an organization is on the side of the timeshare member or on the side of the developer. One thing is clear. The timeshare developer is not on the side of the member when the interest of the member is at odds with the developer.
The National Timeshare Owners Association in the US is one timeshare member/owner organization unquestionably on the side of the owner or member. As the industry moves towards points, timeshare buyers don’t “buy” or “own” anything. I will use “member” from now on when referring to timeshare purchases.
Timeshares today are mostly a “right-to-use” program. Buyers “join” the program. Unlike a country club that charges a nominal initiation fee upon joining, a timeshare purchased directly from a developer usually involves an initial outlay of $25,000 to over $100,000. Unlike a country club, you can’t cancel at whim.
Signing a perpetual contract without a secondary market, or a limited secondary market at best, has given rise to a robust transfer agent scam industry and has been a boon for timeshare lawyers assisting those sold by “deceit, concealment or bait and switch”, defined by the FBI as White Collar Crime. There have been numerous lawsuits.
Timeshare developers have been unwilling to address the need for a secondary market, preferring to focus on voluntary surrender programs, which are not guaranteed. Often members must grovel before the developer seeking release from a timeshare they no longer need or want.
This unwillingness to allow a legitimate secondary market could lead to the industry’s demise. As one member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association told me, “Many of the calls to our office begin with – my parents got roped into this timeshare.”
Timeshare has had its share of ups and downs over the years. My husband and I bought our first timeshare in 1984, so we have ridden the waves. Never have I seen such an upswing in predatory lending and aggressive strong arm selling tactics. Never before has there been such a need for an organization that truly and purely is on the side of the timeshare member.
I asked Greg Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association to describe the organization in a nutshell.
“NTOA is a source of real and unbiased information and education. Over the organization’s 20 year history in the timeshare community, we have seen many ownership programs develop and later change. For example, developers have been converting to points programs from deeded intervals for several years. There are other major changes happening in vacation ownership and often owners are not keeping up with those changes. Our role is to help educate those owners (our NTOA members), assisting them to better understand their current ownership benefits”.
“Advocacy is another area we focus a lot of attention on in the United States, Canada and now Mexico. We work with law enforcement, regulators, legislators and attorneys, assisting in consumer protection and again educating all stakeholders on various threats to consumers that exist in the marketplace”.
“Finally we do everything we can to encourage owners to get the most beneficial interest out of their Vacation Ownership. As timeshare owners ourselves, we feel these are the three areas that owners typically seek knowledge and support from us.”
Inside Timeshare previously published an article about NTOA’s efforts chasing fraudulent timeshare transfer agents caused by the limited secondary market. This is one area the NTOA and the timeshare developer lobby organization ARDA share a common interest. As NTOA works so much behind the scenes, many timeshare members are not even aware of the organization’s existence.
We hope that will change as we launch a membership drive.
Here is one example of how NTOA worked with Eagle Crest in Oregon to stop this particular timeshare transfer fraud.
As to the demise of TATOC in Europe, Greg expressed some dismay over the demise of this organization.
“The NTOA has worked with TATOC in identifying a number of rogue resale and secondary market companies over the past several years. To that end, our staff has shared intelligence and best practices for consumers and for foreign purchasers of timeshare intervals. We have always considered TATOC a partner in the war on resale fraud.”
I posed the following questions to Greg:
What can a timeshare member do to promote legislative changes to reduce the volume of complaints about aggressive selling and predatory lending?
Greg: The various state legislative processes are often fast moving and difficult to keep up with. Having success in this area requires a grassroots effort in states where owners reside. The optics that many legislators have is that our owners/members are not voters in the states where industry lobbying is prominent. We have to change that perspective so that elected officials are more receptive to the voices of owners.
What is NTOA’s three to five year plan?
Greg: NTOA is in the final leg of its expansion plan in North America. We have been working in Canada for the last three years and began working in Mexico in 2016. This year, we are participating in two industry conferences in Mexico and intend to have a consistent presence there going forward.
To accomplish this part of our mission, we rely on close relationships with other associations in those countries. This includes the CVOA, CARE, ASUDESTICO and ACLUVAQ. In working with partners, we can not only better assist our members/owners but also promote regional tourism as well.
Is there anything NTOA can do to promote a legitimate secondary market?
Greg: The secondary market is a very complicated problem and no one-size fits all solution will work. The NTOA is working with the C.A.R.E. resale task force to develop a better understanding of the barriers, challenges and opportunities for owners and HOA’s.
When you support the NTOA, you are supporting the only recognized independent association in North America supporting timeshare owners.
Timeshare Advocacy needs more member voices. We look forward to hearing from you. For more information about how to join NTOA, here is their website.
NTOA has assisted many of our Inside Timeshare readers through member supported advocacy groups. We have several upcoming articles contributed by timeshare members reaching out to the general public and to current members by sharing their story hoping to promote increased awareness.
We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.
Inside Timeshare would like to thank Greg Crist, CEO of the NTOA for his contribution to this article, as usual Irene has done a superb job of conducting the interview.
We would also welcome any views or comments on any article published, it is your voice, use it.