Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today we publish Part 2 of our Secret Shopper Questions, by Pete Gibbes, our Secret Shopper Coordinator.
First we have some rather sad news to share, Bob Massi, a Las vegas Attorney and host of the Fox TV show Property Man has sadly passed away at the age of 67, after a battle with cancer.
He was a great advocate for the underdog, even suing Diamond Resorts for Elder Abuse. He was also one of the law firms listed on the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy group on Facebook, which is reserved only for the most trusted of firms.
Inside Timeshare would like to extend our sincerest condolences to his family.
Many timeshare complaints begin with, “The sales agent said….” and are dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.”Due to this overused knee-jerk dismissal, timeshare buyers should record their sales presentation. You can legally do so without the other person aware in a one party state. This link allows you to select your state to determine if you can legally record.
If you are attending a presentation in a two party state, note taking may be the next best alternative. If the sales agent says you are not allowed to take notes, red flag. Walk out. No gift is worth being lied to. If you do stay and the sales agent scribbles a “Pencil Pitch” on a piece of paper, buyers should remember that paper, ask to see it during the signing process, and ask the agent or closer to show you in the contract where his or her promises appear in the contract. Ask to have the item added to your contract as an addendum. This is an actual response to a “The sales agent said” complaint:
“We must advise that it is specified clearly in the contract documentation that if you relied upon any verbal information given during the presentation you must ask for this to be put in writing. Likewise, if anything was said that was of particular importance to you, but which is not contained in the terms and conditions of the membership, this should have been requested to be implemented in the body of contract before documentation was signed.”
It’s a good idea to get to know the agent’s qualifications.
How long have you worked at this resort?
Have you worked at other resorts?
What did you do before you sold timeshare?
What’s your ID number?
Consumer Protection Questions
May I call my lawyer/accountant/son/daughter/mother/father to discuss your proposal? May I take the contract to my room so that I can have an adequate amount of time to review such a major purchase?
If the answer is no, ask why not? The reason they say no will be suspect. Contrary to what you will be told, trust me, you can still buy a timeshare tomorrow. The reason for this, “You have to buy today” strategy is because anyone who thinks over buying a timeshare in all likelihood will not buy if given a chance to think it over. You need to be in the driver’s seat, not the sales agent.
According to Highlands Resort sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in a Colorado Attorney General’sinvestigation, “In the eighteen months he worked for Highlands Resorts, not a single consumer returned after their sales presentation to make a purchase. In his fifteen years in the timeshare industry, Abrahamson never saw a consumer purchase a timeshare after leaving a sales presentation.”
Are you a member? May we log onto your account so I can check actual availability and value? I am spending a significant amount of money on something I have not even attempted to use.
There are many complaints about promised availability and limitations on trial timeshare products the buyer was not aware of.
Ask about Resale or Exit Programs
What happens if I can no longer use or afford the timeshare?
Who do I call? Can you give me a reference? Most timeshare companies will not allow their agents to assist in resale in any way, shape or form.
BEFORE you go on your sales presentation, contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge no money upfront to list a timeshare. The best part is they work with all timeshares, so you are not relying on the word of a sales agent that their program is the best program. Check the pros and cons of buying directly from the timeshare company compared to buying on the secondary market.http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/
Is there anything I can do to offset maintenance fees?
This is what we get the most complaints about – bogus programs that claim to offer maintenance fee relief. Watch out for scare tactics. For instance, beach erosion is one reason provided as a reason for special assessments, but an ocean engineer, one of our Supporters, said beach erosion is the responsibility of the state or federal government.http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-17/
What is the cap on maintenance fee increases? Do you have a five year history of maintenance fee increases? If not, don’t buy.
If I can use my points for maintenance fees, how much per point are they credited?
Where in the paperwork can I verify this information?
If I can offset maintenance fees with credit card purchases, how much of a $1 purchase (typically $.01 or $.02) will be credited toward maintenance fees? How much would I have to charge to pay off my entire annual maintenance fee? (It would cost $200,000 in annual purchases to pay a $2,000 maintenance fee at $.01 per dollar spent!)
Travel awards are often grossly misrepresented
If I can use my points for hotels, what is the actual value per point? Provide an example. If I can use my points for airline tickets, what is the value per point?
If I can use my points for a cruise, what is the value per point?
Can I rent my timeshare to pay maintenance fees? If the answer is yes, review the requirements in the contract. Some companies do not allow the member to use the internet to rent points.
Where in the paperwork does it state my loan interest rate?
How much will I pay for the timeshare if I carry the loan for the maximum term?
Is there anything I can do to reduce my interest rate? This is a set-up question because banks do not finance timeshares. Never transfer to a third party lender because then you are asking the timeshare for a refund instead of a loan cancellation.
If consumers must take out a loan to buy a timeshare, consider carefully the actual cost of financing a vacation at 12 to 18%. America is a buy now pay later society. I don’t think many financial planners would recommend financing a luxury item at 12 to 18%.
We hope Secret Shoppers create smart shoppers asking the right questions before plunging into a purchase so many of our readers have come to regret.
Our first Secret Shopper, Laurie Sabbagh, offered the first Secret Shopper report:
Contact Inside Timeshare if you have interest in becoming a Secret Shopper or would like to share a positive or negative timeshare shopping experience.
There are several member supported Facebooks and websites where members can reach out to other members to share experiences.
We seek to provide times 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.
Thank you Pete for your contribution, also a big thank you once again to Irene Parker for your editing efforts, we know that you have been very very busy of late, so we appreciate you taking the time to carry on.
Well that is it for this week, remember if you are unsure about any company that has contacted you, or that you have found yourself on the internet or from an advert, then contact Inside Timeshare.
If you purchased your timeshare in Spain and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then Inside Timeshare can point you in the right direction.
It is with great sadness that Inside Timeshare announces the passing of Leo Gomez last Friday. Leo was a Vietnam Veteran with two Purple Hearts and was suffering from pancreatic cancer, he was 100% disabled from exposure to Agent Orange, he was also battling against Diamond and Barclays. His story was published here in our Friday’s Letter from America on 21 September, you can read his story at the links below.
Yesterday we broke the news published in La Provincia, that the Cazorla brothers Santiago Santana Cazorla and Manuel Cazorla, are battling each other in court, it revolves around a dispute for the payment of an indemnification of 718,000€ to Arturo Ramirez, a partner of Manuel Cazorla, for the position of general director at Anfi. It appears that this title has never existed and he has never worked in such a position. It also appears that this position was invented to justify payment from Anfi funds.
We wonder how the Anfi members now feel about this along with all the other scandals that have been taking place. One thing is for sure there is never a dull moment when it comes to Anfi. (See link to previous articles)
This is not a brand new company, their website was originally registered on 1 April 2015 and is due to expire on 1 April 2019, the registrant is hidden once again by privacy protect. They originally came to light several years ago with the usual resale scam of the guaranteed buyer.
The address is just a stones throw from the Port of Malaga and is in a residential area, although there is a shop which supplies mailbox services.
Our reader had a call from Canongate Marketing regarding his Diamond ownership, they explained that he had a claim which they would make on his behalf through the Spanish Courts. The amount of the claim is between £13,000 and £18,000. He explained that he no longer had any of the relevant paperwork, but that did not matter they could proceed without them, but he would have to fly to Spain to meet with them. They also act on a “no win no fee” basis and will take 60% of the returned amount.
Now we all know that lawyers fees will need to be paid before a case could go to court, also if there are no documents how could a case be prepared and taken to court?
So this leaves us with the million dollar question, what is the “bait and switch” for the client to have to travel, what are they going to “sell” to make their money?
We have no doubt there is going to be an elaborate scam involved, it is only a matter of time before we find the answer.
Well that’s it for today, if you have been contacted by any company or have found one on the internet and want to know if they are genuine, then use our contact page, we will be pleased to help.
Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.
Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.
Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.
This was a great blow to the RDO, as Mark Cushway was not only a director, but Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?
Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.
Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.
February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s“Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.
Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the Anfi “Tauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.
This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.
Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.
Another story we have been following is that of Los Clavelesin Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.
There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.
In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.
This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.
After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!
There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.
But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.
On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.
There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.
These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.
Now for the year from a US perspective.
What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what
I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016
Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.
Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.
Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.
We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.
April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.
This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.
I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.
Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates
Timeshare Lawsuits 2017
By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016
Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:
The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:
Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.
Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?
WestgateUpdate 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegelwas seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.
“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.
The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneidermanmanaged to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.
Back in 2016
Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.
“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point. The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed. But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016
Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.
“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.”Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.
Diamond Resorts Update:A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.
A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:
Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
I don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,
People are listening!
Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:
⦁ A legitimate secondary market
⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling
⦁ Less predatory lending
Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.
So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.
Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.
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.
Irene Parker is once again ending our week with the following article, she asks the question that many owners have wondered, How are points valued?
We all know that most timeshares are well overpriced, many reps will tell you about the “stack and drop” method of selling, which was mentioned in the last article. In this article Irene, points out the use of leased aircraft by company executives, again another question is posed, who pays for them?
Would the inflated price per point pay or does it come from rising maintenance fees?
Mind you I’m sure most of us would love to have the use of private company jets, at least we wouldn’t be lumbered with the screaming kid or the semi drunken holiday maker.
In the second part of the article, we get the views of five of the advocates from the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy facebook group. This is a new forum for owners to air their views, ask questions, seek help and guidance on many issues and share in the latest news. These advocates will also intervene on your behalf in negotiations with the resorts.
In the short time this has been running there have been some very good results, as we say at Inside Timeshare, debate is better than confrontation.
How is a Timeshare Point Valued?
By Irene Parker – February 24, 2017
There were many responses to this week’s article, “Is This Timeshare Proposal merely Monopoly Money?” We have summarized the comments in today’s follow-up article.
Old fashioned fixed weeks were real estate. Units were sold with a deed, meaning you could see, feel and touch what you bought. Points later developed claiming greater flexibility, but rising maintenance fees, problems with availability and the sinking feeling you get when checking in, knowing you must brace for the sales staff, has caused more than a few timeshare owners some discomfort.
Most of the original fixed week resorts did not maintain a fleet of aircraft. There is not enough information to know if a fleet of aircraft ends up in maintenance fees or in a point price. Here is one Timesharing Agreement concerning leased aircraft.
Relationship with the Company’s Executive Officers and Chairman of the Board
Time Sharing Agreements
Diamond Resorts Corporation (“DRC”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company, is a party to time sharing agreements with each of David F. Palmer, President, Chief Executive Officer and a director of the Company, and Howard S. Lanznar, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of the Company, in each case with respect to use of an aircraft leased by DRC. In each case, the time sharing agreement provides for the use by the individual of such DRC aircraft, together with use of DRC’s flight crew, and permits the relevant individual to reimburse the Company for specified costs related to such use. Stephen J. Cloobeck, the Company’s chairman of the board of directors, may also enter into one or more time sharing agreements with DRC with respect to his use of aircraft leased by the Company or DRC.
The Company and DRC have also agreed that the Company will not charge Mr. Cloobeck for use of Company-leased aircraft for non-business purposes for an aggregate number of flight hours with a value, based upon the relative costs of operating the Company-leased aircraft, equal to 50 flight hours on the most expensive to operate of the aircraft leased by the Company.
While leasing executive planes is not unusual for a corporation, it is disconcerting to many families struggling with rising maintenance fees and loans financed at 12% to 18%.
I would not be surprised if a company the size of Apollo has a lease fleet.
Back to Points
Critics accuse us of being dummies who don’t know how to use Diamond points.
Here are replies from a few of our Advocates.
Several members of our “think tank” and Diamond Owner’s Advocate Facebook expressed alarm over the $8.52 retail price. Today I learned the retail price is expected to increase 25% under Apollo’s guidance to $10.60 and then $12.25.
One of our Facebook members described this as “Anchoring” which is a way to make people think they are getting a bargain at $4 when the retail price is $8.52.
According to Wikipedia, and cognitive and behavioral economics, such a price creates a benchmark for perceived value.
Most people understand the MSRP sticker on the window of a car on a dealer’s lot is not the price the buyer will pay. The buyer understands the car will depreciate the moment the car is driven off the lot and they will in all likelihood sell the car for less due to depreciation. Consumers do have a reference point found in “The Blue Book” of automobile resale value.
We know there are people who will pay well above $3.00 a point for a Diamond point listed at $8.52. However, unlike a car, the selling side of the market doesn’t know what any specific buyer is willing to pay. Thus, they start with a high “opening offer” and then lower it until they discover the buyer’s willingness to pay. Economists call this price discrimination – selling the same product at different prices to different buyers. It is particularly effective when different buyers (or groups of buyers) have differing sensitivities to prices, often caused by differences in income and wealth.
A final observation is that when Diamond was publicly traded, they held quarterly earnings calls with Wall Street analysts. I listened to about 10 of these and was surprised that the price per point was never discussed. The CEO and CFO didn’t mention it in the prepared presentation and the analysts never asked about it. The focus was always the average price per transaction, which is the number of points times the price — something like $22,000. Even when an analyst asked: “what was driving the increase in the transaction price?” the answer was never price-per-point.
Our same advocate #1 offered a comparison of Diamond fees with other timeshare systems. The conversion factors are obtained from Diamond’s own Club Combinations valuations. Fees for the non-Diamond systems are trust fund fees (not deeds) for the respective systems.
A second Advocate
The company determines the price per point.
I would imagine that the value is based upon the “cache” of the brand, the location, demand and the competition, much like any company would value their product.
Say a developer has a resort with 100 units that they sell 50 times/weeks = 5,000 units. I would image that determines the profit they want to make, divide it by the number of units, and then turn that into points and pricing. How do they convert the value to other travel awards? How much does the award cost the resort and what does it take to recoup the points they traded in?
I know the conversion from timeshare points (a day or a week) to hotel points is not equal. It cost more points to stay in hotels than resorts.
I am concerned with the downturn in earnings announced coincidentally just after the Apollo acquisition announcement:
Diamond Resorts‘ second-quarter earnings release was delayed after the company’s independent registered public accounting firm BDO USA said that the company may not have correctly applied the relative sales value inventory valuation model when preparing its consolidated financial statements for 2014 and subsequent periods. Thus, even Diamond accountants did not answer the question accurately.
After the correction, the change resulted in a decrease in net income of $5.6 million for 2015 and a $1.3 million decrease for the first quarter, in each case from amounts originally reported, according to the second-quarter release.
Significantly, second-quarter net income decreased $10.1 million or 28.5% to $25.5 million year over year, compared with a first quarter increase of $8.4% or 32.6% to $34.4 million, prior to the restatement.
Following are descriptions of these inventory sources:
Self-developed inventory: Under the traditional timeshare industry development model, we finance and develop inventory specifically for our timeshare sales. The process often begins with the purchase of raw land which we then develop. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, this process can take several years. Such inventory can include mixed-use inventory developed in conjunction with one of our hotel brands, where a portion of the property is devoted to the timeshare product.
WAAM: In 2010, we introduced the first of our WAAM models, WAAM Fee-for Service (formerly known as WAAM 1.0). This timeshare sourcing model was designed to capitalize upon the large quantities of newly developed, nearly completed or recently finished condominium or hotel inventory in the real estate market without assuming the significant risk that accompanies property acquisition or new construction. This business model offers turn-key solutions for developers or banks in possession of newly developed inventory, which we sell for a fee through our extensive sales and marketing channels. WAAM Fee-for-Service enables us to expand our resort portfolio with little or no capital deployment, while providing additional channels for new owner acquisition and growth for our fee-for-service property management business.
In addition to the WAAM Fee-for-Service business model, we utilize our WAAM Just-in-Time (formerly known as WAAM 2.0) inventory acquisition model. This model enables us to acquire and own completed units close to the timing of their sale or to acquire completed inventory from a third party partner based upon a predetermined purchase schedule. This model significantly reduces the period between the deployment of capital to acquire inventory and the subsequent return on investment which occurs at the time of its sale to a timeshare purchaser. For the most part, inventory is recorded on our balance sheet at the time we are committed to purchase such inventory, which generally coincides with the time of registration.
Consumer loan defaults: As discussed in the “Purchaser Financing” section, we offer financing to purchasers of VOIs. In the event of a default, we are able to recover the inventory and resell it at full current value. We are responsible for the payment of maintenance fees to the property owners’ associations until the product is sold. As of December 31, 2016, inventory on the Consolidated Balance Sheet included estimated recoveries of loan defaults in the amount of $256 million.
Inventory reclaimed from owners’ associations or owners: We have entered into agreements with a majority of the property associations representing our developments where we may acquire from the association’s, properties related to owners who have defaulted on their maintenance fees, provided there is no outstanding debt on such properties. In addition, we frequently work with owners to acquire their properties, provided they have no outstanding debt on such properties, prior to those owners defaulting on their maintenance fees. This provides the owner with a graceful exit from a property that is no longer utilized due to lifestyle changes.
Inventories include unsold, completed timeshare intervals, timeshare intervals under construction and land and infrastructure held for future timeshare interval development at our timeshare properties (collectively, timeshare inventory), as well as hotel inventories consisting of operating supplies that have a period of consumption of one year or less, guest room items and food and beverage items.
Timeshare inventory is carried at the lower of cost or estimated fair value less costs to sell, based on the relative sales value. Capital expenditures associated with our timeshare intervals are reflected as inventory until the timeshare intervals are sold. Consistent with industry practice, timeshare inventory is classified as a current asset despite an operating cycle that exceeds 12 months. The majority of sales and marketing costs incurred to sell timeshare intervals are expensed when incurred. Certain direct and incremental selling and marketing costs are deferred on a contract until revenue from the interval sale has been recognized.
In accordance with the accounting standards for costs and the initial rental operations of real estate projects, we use the relative sales value method of costing our timeshare sales and relieving inventory. In addition, we continually assess our timeshare inventory and, if necessary, impose pricing adjustments to modify sales pace. It is possible that any future changes in our development and sales strategies could have a material effect on the carrying value of our timeshare inventory and purchase commitments for timeshare inventory. We monitor our projects and inventory on an ongoing basis and complete an evaluation each reporting period to ensure that the inventory and purchase commitments for inventory are at the lower of cost or market.
Hotel inventories are generally valued at the lower of cost (using “first-in, first-out”, or FIFO) or net realizable value.
It has been my experience that price per point representations were discretionary based on observations made in real time regarding the client’s perceived ability to pay. There appears to be a much more organized push to create acceptance of inflated price per point values by consumers. The timeline is consistent with Apollo’s takeover.
My recollection is that the most lucrative segment of DRI sales is up sell to existing owners. Given high incidence of owner re-tours it is no surprise that as they ramp up owner marketing to pursue this cash cow, consistency between properties regarding inflated costs creates a more effective sales tool.
When fictional upgrade options/letters are tied to an artificially high sales price per point a disciplined sales force will use this to their advantage.
The higher price is designed purely to strengthen and legitimize the subsequent price that will be offered. It was more random in the past. Since Apollo, it sounds like there is now some standardization regarding price point being offered. I would guess that final purchase price has become more uniform so as not to risk owners comparing prices while on property, and the fact that someone is paying attention, at least for now.
All in all, more questions than answers.
Once again a very informative article from across the “Great Lake”, if you have any questions, views or news, Inside Timeshare would be pleased to hear from you. Having a problem with your timeshare, contact us and if we don’t know the answer, we can find someone who does.