This week’s Letter from America is not the one originally planned by Gay Hart-Brewer, as usual Irene Parker sends draft copies in advance to the company involved in the article. In this case the company contacted the person concerned with the dispute and we may just have a result. So first a little extra from Europe.
Inside Timeshare has had a number of enquires about Resort Management Direct, this has nothing to do with the running of your resorts, they are in essence what is known as a flybuy company. See the article from March 2016 which explains a flybuy in detail.
Basically a flybuy is a cheap discounted holiday offer which provides clients to resorts for the purpose of attending a sales presentation for either a timeshare or holiday club. These presentations are for a minimum of 90 minutes (if you can believe that), but will usually last several hours and involve the usual high pressure sales tactics.
Failure to attend the presentation will result in either removal from the resort or being billed full price for the accomodation, which may be a couple of thousand pounds. So the moral of the story is beware the cheap deals.
The new “fake” law firm Martin Zabala Abogados, based out of Madrid, is still contacting Palm Oasis owners and stating they have been “APPROVED” by the court in Las Palmas to act for owners of Palm Oasis. They are now using a Spanish mobile number: 0034693671006
Remember, COURTS DO NOT APPOINT OR APPROVE ANY COMPANY TO CONTACT TIMESHARE OWNERS.
In the first case, the client has been awarded over £26,000 plus legal interest, with their contract being declared null and void. The same court on the following day declared another contract null and void with the client being awarded 15,738€ for the purchase price plus a further 15,951€ as double the deposit paid within the cooling off period.
Two very happy ex-timeshare owners and a costly two days for Anfi.
Inside Timeshare has also been handed a verdict from the Audienca Provincial of Palma de Mallorca, this case goes back to 2016 and involves no less than eight clients of Marriott Resorts.
The court found against MVCI Management SLU and MVCI Holidays SL, for breaches of the timeshare law 42/98. The total amount awarded by the court is 357,481€. when we get the court papers translated fully we shall publish it here.
Now for this weeks Letter from America which has been revised in light of the news that the company had contacted the author.
Seniors (and others) Driven into Timeshare Foreclosure
By Gay Hart-Brewer for Consumer Protection Week
State of Residence: CA
I made a YouTube that was posted above to warn the elderly and the young to be aware of predatory timeshare sales tactics, appearing to be widespread in the timeshare industry, with the exception of Disney Vacation Club.
I understand I am supposed to say “alleged” and “in my opinion” but my husband Ed and I know what we were told when we invested in a timeshare. Supported by lawsuits, Attorneys General investigation, Better Business Bureau and internet complaints too numerous to mention, I will offer our devastating timeshare experience as a lesson for all Tuesday if our differences are not resolved.
“You signed a contract,” in essence endorses and encourages the actions of these agents employing tactics that are predatory and criminal. They don’t even deny the lies. When a timeshare agent tells an outrageous lie, instructing the member to call him or her to accomplish something the agent knows full well can’t be accomplished, the member is told, “It doesn’t matter what I said. All that matters is what is in the contract.” It’s a sordid partnership between the sales agent and corporate.
This type of white-collar crime is known as fraud for profit, as defined by the FBI.
Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.
The actual article scheduled for today has been pulled because someone from the timeshare company reached out to me yesterday, after months of insufferable agony over this dreadful experience.
Part II of What is Elder Abuse will air February 27, Tuesday, with or without my YouTube, depending on if the timeshare company will do what is right, just and honest. We pray it will be a positive article about a positive outcome.
Timeshare bait and switch must stop. Social Media is here to stay.
We may be elderly, but we will no longer be victims.
Thank you Gay, we all hope that the outcome for you is a good one.
Inside Timeshare once again thanks all contributors and readers who contact us with information, it really does help others to avoid many problems. As usual, we repeat our warning, before engaging with any company that has contacted you or that you may have found on the internet, check them out and do your homework. This due diligence will save you more than just money.
If you need help in looking for the information you need, contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you find it.
In today’s Letter from America, Scotty Black another service veteran tells his own story of his “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”. These stories are becoming all too common at Inside Timeshare, with readers contacting us on a daily basis. But first we have a look at what is happening in Europe.
As we have reported on many occasions, Anfi deny that they are losing cases and that no one is getting paid out, well we would like to share with you a press release from Canarian Legal Alliance.
One of their clients won their case at the High Court in las Palmas, Anfi appealed to the Supreme Court, the judges in Spain’s Highest Court confirmed the sentence and ordered Anfi to pay back double the amount of the deposit paid during the cooling off period, which is prohibited by law.
This particular client has now received into their own bank account the sum of 37,979€, this leaves us in no doubt that regardless of what Anfi claim, they are losing and clients are being paid.
CLA also issued the following figures on cases for this past week.
In the Courts of First Instance in Gran Canaria and Tenerife there have been 5 rulings in favour of their clients against Anfi and Silverpoint.
In Tenerife, the High Court ruled once again against Silverpoint.
There were also 3 Rulings in favour of their clients at the Supreme Court in Madrid, these were again against Silverpoint.
In total, CLA clients have been awarded a massive 402,552.19€ Not bad for just one week.
Staying with Anfi, several of our readers have enquired about another letter sent by the Anfi CEO, in this he stated that any contract signed between January 1999 and January 2001 had a 2 year window for adaptation. The law referred to is 42/98, this was passed in 1998, it became effective on 5 January 1999, so the question is why would resorts and developers be given a 2 year period to change?
Surly the period between the law being passed and coming into force is the window to change?
What would be the point of setting a date for the enforcement and then allowing things to continue as before?
These are questions that need to be answered, Inside Timeshare has asked for clarification on this and is waiting for an answer. We will publish in full when it is received.
More readers have informed Inside Timeshare that they have received a letter from the Police regarding the following Mark Rowe companies:
Monster Travel (known as Monster Group/Monster Rewards)
Complete Internet Solutions
These are being investigated as we reported previously by the South West Police, it looks like a major criminal investigation, if you have had any dealings with any of these companies you can contact the Police at the address below.
South West Police ROCU. DC 4624 Katie Andrews. PO Box 37, Valley Rd, Portishead,Bristol. BS20 8QJ
Our Mission to Stop Timeshare Crime – Front and Back
February 9, 2018
By Scotty Black, M.S. Criminal Justice, former Navy
Promissory Note $65,741.14 @ 14.4309%
How I got here
Purchased 5000 timeshare points October 2014 Scottsdale AZ CA Collection
Purchase price $13,000
October 13, 2016 in Hawaii we bought 15,000 additional points
Name of sales agent Brian Holmes
Purchase price is $75,710
$4500 on a resort issued Barclaycard used for the down payment
Monthly payment $1,037.84
Maintenance fees $4,006.22
I am one of 22 active duty, retired military, law enforcement agents, feeling victimized by timeshare. For my family, I would describe timeshare as a parasite killing its host. Like Amanda and George Jones, I’m worried about losing my security clearance. Like, Lela Renea, I work in law enforcement. Like Kevin Hopkins, I am military trained in Electronic Warfare. I never imagined we would need that training to fight in a Timeshares War. Kevin is retired Air Force. I served in the Navy. My primary job was Electronic Warfare, but partly due to my attitude, I was sent often to security, so I ended up assigned to the Special Security Force, Battleship Missouri. The fact that this is the second complaint in a matter of weeks from an electronic warfare veteran and that there are 22 of us working, or having served to protect our country, filing timeshare complaints, is telling.
Kevin was featured in this article on January 30 unidentified, but as Kevin has since received his automatic knee-jerk, “Sorry, you signed a contract” denial, Kevin has been identified and has joined the ranks of Inside Timeshare Contributors.
Kevin’s sales agent managed to work in every oral misrepresentation possible into one presentation. He’s working on an upcoming article about his experience.
Timeshare companies have negatively affected national security with their fraudulent sales practices. Active duty Navy Technicians George and Amanda Jones could be forced into foreclosure. They say they were assured by two sales agents in two separate states they could lower their 18% loan interest rate by contacting finance companies offering a lower rate or a military rate. “Just Google it,” their sales agent said. Banks do not finance timeshares. Consumer credit issues can cause a revocation of security clearance. Jeff is in the process of writing to the Commandant of the Marines.
We have summarized our reports from our 22 unit members and have reached out to Whistleblowers of America, an organization that seeks justice for military and government employees. If you are not drowning in timeshare loan payments, credit card payments and maintenance fees, consider a donation.
In Hawaii, October 2016, we asked our timeshare sales agent Brian Holmes what would happen in the event we could no longer make payments. As we were told in Arizona, we were told again points could be rented and that we would be able to sell the points, likely at a profit, especially since we purchased them at such a low price – a price so low because “a sales staff member forgot to file the declination of purchasing more shares in a previous presentation…!”
We were told Hawaii points are a good investment. This sticks in my mind because my wife had to write a statement to that effect, so the purchase at such a low rate could go through. As for the potential of profit, we were told there is a land-usage moratorium on how many places and percent of the land can be built on in Hawaii so this would also make the points appreciate, even with a speculation of over $10 per point. We were told we would need to sell points through the secondary market but that would be easy.
We have since learned our vacation points have no secondary market and that renting points through a third part website is not allowed. I contacted members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Not one I spoke with would even accept a listing for our Diamond points feeling the restrictions placed on the use of secondary points renders the points worthless. Since LTRB members, unlike some scam timeshare exit companies, do not accept an upfront fee, it’s a waste of their time to accept a listing.
In Scottsdale, at an “owners update” early September 2017, long after the issuance of the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance, we experienced yet another highly aggressive sales presentation. The length of the presentation was a violation of the AOD. We complained repeatedly that we wanted to leave. We were told it was not a sales presentation and they would not try to sell us points, but after the 55 minute presentation we were paired with a sales agent for at least two hours. My wife had broken her foot on resort property the prior day and was in pain. She had to keep her boot elevated. They still did everything they could to keep us from leaving. I still was experiencing symptoms from a car wreck that had required a hospitalization. We were both on painkillers.
Irene explained about Diamond’s new Quality Assurance program, CLARITY, launched after the AOD was issued. CLARITY is reported to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer, but as Irene predicted, our Hospitality agent referred us to the oral representation clause. I ask what purpose CLARITY serves, other than a piece of paper to hand out to provide a false sense of security, making it seem like the company cares about false promises made by sales agents.
Researching timeshare in general, I have come to believe many timeshare sales agents employ tactics that meet the FBI’s definition of white-collar crime, Financial Institution Fraud, defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Timeshare buyers who feel they were victimized should file complaints with the following agencies:
The Better Business Bureau
The Attorneys General (The AGs where you signed, where the firm is headquartered, and where you live)
State Real Estate Divisions against the individual agent
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The FBI (if as serious as mine at IC3.gov and orally through a field office public access line #4 prompt, then #3 white-collar crime prompt)
The FTC if you have any energy left
Other agencies that investigate multinational and cross-border financial institutions
We know criminal actions on the part of timeshare sales agents extend beyond any one resort, except for Disney Vacation Club. Somehow they manage to show a profit without resorting to deceit.
Hopefully, timeshare executives and lobbyists will read this. We know one lawmaker has.
Thank you Scotty for sharing your “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, we find it appalling that veterans are being treated like this, facing foreclosure and ultimately losing the valued and hard earned security clearance after years of loyal service. All we can say is shame on the the sales agents and even more so on the developers for allowing their sales agents to behave in this despicable manor.
News has just come in from Madrid, the Supreme Court has issued another sentence this morning against Silverpoint, this is now 89 rulings made against various timeshare companies by Spain’s Highest Court.
The latest ruling has awarded British clients of CLA a massive £36,000 including £8,000 which is double the deposit paid within the mandatory 14 day cooling off period, plus legal interest. The contract has also been declared null and void, so congratulations the these happy ex-timeshare owners and great well done to the staff and legal team at CLA.
Today we have received another email from yet another victim of Ramirez and Ramirez, it seems he is upto his old tricks again. The last we heard from him was in April 2016, (see link below).
The pitch is the same, the consumer is contacted and told that their claim has gone through, there is a substantial amount, in this case over £31,000 waiting for them at the court. All they had to do was pay £1,498 to Ramirez to get the payment underway, then they were told they had to pay £2,560 Tax to the Agencia Tributaria (Spanish Tax Office) and the money will be released.
Please be aware this is one experienced conman, there is no money waiting for you at court, there is no tax to pay to release this ficticious money. Unless you have instructed a lawyer to act on your behalf through the courts then there is no claim.
That’s it for this week, a very big thank you to all who sent in valuable information which will always help others and to those who have contributed to the articles from our Cousins across “The Great Lake”.
Remember, if you have any questions about any article published or just need advice on whether to do business with any company, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
Welcome to the first Friday’s Letter from America of 2018, we may be only 5 days into the New Year, but the Supreme Court has just made another ruling against Silverpoint.
Another client of Canarian Legal Alliance has had their contract with Silverpoint declared null and void, with the return of over £11,000 plus legal fees and interest. This now makes the number of rulings from the Supreme Court made by CLA to an astonishing 83!
Once again it is that time when maintenance bills start to drop onto the door mat, for many this is a difficult time, especially for the elderly who can no longer afford to pay the ever increasing bills.
For one elderly lady which Inside Timeshare has been highlighting for some time it has happened again. This is the case of Mrs B, as you will remember, MacDonald Resorts refuse to acknowledge that she no longer owns her timeshare at Dona Lola in Spain.
Mrs B and her sister, who are now in their late 80’s, employed the services of a company to be rid of their timeshares around 3 years ago. This company “sold” the timeshares and transferred them to another person, this was duly notarised by a notary in Spain. The Lanzarote timeshare has caused no problem, but MacDonald’s refuse to accept the transfer.
Mrs B has now received another demand for over £3000 for maintenance, obviously this will end up being sent to a debt collection agency which will incur even more fees.
It must also be remembered that they had not used the timeshare for over 10 years, yet still paid the maintenance until the transfer. Both are virtually housebound and cannot afford to pay these extortionate amounts.
Tony Hetherington has published several articles about MacDonald Resorts and their chasing of maintenance fees, even after the death of the owners or severe illness.
MacDonald Resorts is one of the worst offenders in the timeshare industry for this type of behaviour, it is companies like this that have given timeshare the reputation it has. Greed it seems is the order of the day.
The Nightmare on Timeshare Street article scheduled for today has been cancelled because the resort listened and responded to the member. We don’t yet know the outcome, but at least the member has not been dismissed or ignored. The customer is not the enemy. The enemy is the timeshare sales agent that “pitches heat” making outrageous claims to sell points, knowing they are protected by the oral representation clause and that there is no federal enforcement.
If you have a complaint about your timeshare, first and foremost, contact your resort. It’s surprising how many who contact us have not tried to resolve their issue with the timeshare company before contacting an attorney or an exit company. It is the opinion of Inside Timeshare, in most cases, a member can accomplish what an attorney or an exit company can accomplish by following our complaint form. We are here to answer any questions for free.
In the U.S. it’s best to begin with the Better Business Bureau, although the BBB is not a regulatory agency. It is a nongovernmental nonprofit that serves to promote a community of business that consumers can trust. The BBB does not solve consumer disputes. Success is not based on the outcome, but whether the business responded or not.
A BBB complaint is the easiest to file and can serve as your blueprint as you work your way down the list of appropriate agencies. File a complaint only if you feel you were a victim of deceit and bait and switch. “I can’t afford this” or “there is never any availability” or “you can always book cheaper online” are not specific enough complaints.
We compare the Better Business Bureau ratings among five major vacation point sellers. First, an explanation of the rating process from the BBB website:
The BBB rating rates only how cooperative and responsive a business will be to consumer issues. BBB ratings are based on information in BBB files with respect to the following factors:
⦁Business’s complaint history with BBB.
The BBB rating takes into account the following information with respect to closed complaints that relate to a business’s marketplace activities:
Number of complaints filed with BBB against the business.
The size of the business.
If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB‘s opinion the business appropriately responded to them.
If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB’s opinion the business resolved the complaints in a timely manner to the customer’s satisfaction.
If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB‘s opinion the business made a good faith effort to resolve complaints, even if the customer was not satisfied with the resolution.
If complaints have been filed, whether in BBB‘s opinion the business failed to resolve the underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints.
The age of resolved complaints. Older resolved complaints have less of an impact on the rating than newer complaints.
⦁ Type of business.
⦁ Time in business.
⦁ Transparent Business Practices
⦁ Failure to honor commitments to BBB.
⦁ Licensing and government actions known to BBB.
⦁ Advertising issues known to BBB.
From Best to Worst based on Stars
BBB Accreditation: If a business has been accredited by the BBB, it means BBB has determined that the business meets accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB accredited businesses pay a fee for accreditation review and monitoring for continued compliance.
U.S. Self-Help member sponsored groups we believe not to be industry influenced:
We seek to provide timeshare 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.
Welcome to the first article of the New Year, as the holidays are just coming to a close there is not a lot of news to bring. This will no doubt change over the next few weeks, when we begin to receive emails and questions on the myriad of companies that will be starting their New Year campaigns.
As usual we warn all our readers to be careful before engaging with any company that contacts you, especially with news that your timeshare resort is being taken to court (with the director pleading guilty) and you can also be part of this for a small fee.
Some basic points on the subject of claims, unless you purchased your timeshare in Spain after January 1999, you will not have a claim in the Spanish courts. If you have been offered a no win no fee claim, beware that it does not entail a large fee to relinquish your timeshare or even the purchase of another product, such as “Lifestyle Credits”. These no win no fee claims are usually the enticer, the promise of large sums to be returned, then it turns out it is a frivolous claim under Section 75 of the Credit consumer Act 1974.
Over the next few weeks we should be receiving the news from the Crown Court in Birmingham on the sentences for Dominic O’Reillyand Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group. If you remember they pleaded guilty to charges of Aggressive Sales Practices and Coercion, contrary to The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Another group of companies are also subject to investigation from Trading Standards and could also be facing criminal charges, these are the companies of Mark Rowe, which include ABC Lawyers. At the beginning of December it was announced that several enterprises had been raided, with employees being questioned and documents seized for further investigation.
We will be keeping an eye out for any news on these and will bring you the news as it comes in.
Boost our active duty and retired military outreach group
Inside Timeshare published many Nightmares on Timeshare Street articles in 2017. All were written or submitted by highly educated professional people. In 2018, will timeshare developers continue to hide behind the oral representation clause, or will they instead consider their customers might be telling the truth?
Timeshare Advocacy Group™ ended 2017 with a total of 260 timeshare complaints of which 245 alleged they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. The other 15 could not afford the timeshare. Members contacted us through Inside Timeshare or one of the U.S. self-help, member supported Facebooks posted at the end of this article. Many complain they had responded to unsolicited marketing calls asking if they wanted out of their timeshare only to learn the money they paid was lost.
Timeshare developers are beginning to listen. Wyndham now offers a surrender program called Ovation and Diamond Resorts announced just last week a surrender program called Transitions. Inside Timeshare has already received several questions from readers about Diamond’s Transitions program. We will be reporting on our readers’ transitions experience in 2018.
Legacy resorts are those that are sold out, free standing, deeded weeks. Liberté Management Group of the Pinellas Islands, Inc. announced TARS, a “limited deed, limited fun” exit plan will be operated as a subsidiary of Liberté and will be jointly headquartered in Treasure Island, Florida. We will continue to follow TARS in 2018.
TIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC EXPANDS SERVICES FOR LEGACY RESORTS AND OWNERS
Unfortunately, the majority of our readers are saddled with high interest rate loans, thus not eligible for a voluntary surrender program. It’s important to remember transferring to a lower interest rate loan through a third party lender is not advised, according to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. When transferring to a third party lender, the money in questions is no longer between you and the timeshare company. According to Mike,
Another tremendous and informative article! I think the one major, major admonition I have for anyone, client or not, who has purchased a timeshare with developer financing and may want to reconsider the merits of the purchase (and, of course, assuming the rescission period has passed), do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances, attempt to re-finance the purchase via a home equity line or a transfer to a lower interest credit card, or, for that matter any other methodology that has as its objective, re-paying the developer with other third party money.
Also, anyone buying a timeshare should look to see if their contract contains an arbitration clause. We advise timeshare members exercise their right to opt out of arbitration within the allotted time available to opt out.
To start 2018 off on a positive note, this is an article Inside Timeshare published back in July about a company we firmly endorse, ruled by a bunch of little critters.
What does Disney Vacation Club do other developers don’t that almost eliminates complaints? The reasons are detailed in the article, but in my opinion, it is mainly because Mickey allows and supports a secondary market.
Think about it. What if the primary residential housing market decided you could not sell your personal residence. Inside Timeshare has received complaints involving amounts up to, and on occasion exceeding, $500,000. This is easily the cost of a home. Timeshare companies tell us to think of our vacation points as a second home and they always greet us when we arrive, “Welcome Home!” Not being allowed to sell your home would devastate the housing market, and in our opinion, is destroying timeshare today. Out of 260 reader responses, not one knew when they purchased their timeshare, the limited or sometimes lack of a secondary market.
We have forged remarkable relationships with many of our readers, some who have moved on, having signed a non-disclosure agreement agreeing not to say anything negative about their resort, or were subjected to an arbitration ruling that was private and binding. In this way Inside Timeshare provides a voice for the voiceless when victims of white collar crime, financial institution fraud, are effectively silenced and isolated.
It’s easy to get discouraged, but Inside Timeshare and advocacy groups have made remarkable progress. So we soldier on into the New Year.
Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these U.S. member supported self-help groups if you have a timeshare concern. We’re here to listen and act, going a step beyond helpful posts.
If you have any questions or comments on any article published, contact Inside Timeshare, if we don’t know the answer we will find out for you. If you require any information about any company that you may be thinking of doing business with, but need to find out about them first, get in touch and we will point you in the right direction.
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.
While we are on the subject of Silverpoint, It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare. Hence the product Keys Concierge, which does not appear to fall into the realms of timeshare laws.
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.
A Fraudulent Timeshare Sale can pose a National Security Threat
One Marine sacrifices, not only his money and his security clearance, but also his air unit command, as a result of believing a timeshare sales agent.
Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, former Marine Corp pilot and investment banking and capital market underwriter, was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm.
Inside Timeshare received an alarming response in response to last week’s article about Samuel Melendez. Mr. Melendez spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, working with soldiers and colleges to teach them chemical, biological and nuclear defense. A DiamondPlatinum member, he alleges he and his wife Delores were up-sold by deceit and bait and switch by Diamond Resortstop selling sales agent Rick Casper at DRI’s Polo Towers resort.
Inside Timeshare has been informed one Marine lost more than his money and security clearance. He lost his air unit command, as a consequence of believing a timeshare sales agent. He was forced into foreclosure which jeopardized his security clearance. We will not name the Marine who lost his air unit command, or the timeshare company, because Inside Timeshare has received reports directed against four timeshare companies offering members of our armed forces deals like the ability to rent for a profit, the ability to easily sell vacation points, or buy vacation points at a special military discount price that does not exist. Fifteen active duty and retired military and law enforcement personnel allege they were sold by deceit.
Former Marine Jeff Diehldescribes how his Vacation Villagesales agent over promised the income that could be generated from renting his week.
Jeff expressed outrage after hearing a fellow Marine lost his command post due to predatory timeshare sales. He sees such tactics as a threat to our national security. “It would be easy for anyone, seeking to do our country harm, to get hired to sell vacation points in an effort to remove an armed service member from their command post,”said Jeff. Jeff is encouraging service members to write to the Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer and Commandant of the MarinesRobert B. Neller, as well as other directors of our armed forces.
I fear Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer, a former top venture capitalist, may have conflicting feelings about how Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo Global Management, achieve their sales target. Apollo is the third largest private equity company. Secretary of the Navy Spencer is a former Marine Corp pilot and a former investment banking and capital market underwriter. He was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm. Mr. Spencer was sworn in August, 2017. Apollo manages Diamond as a fund of funds.
Our fifteen Timeshare Advocacy Group™ military and law enforcement members have mobilized as a unit of armed forces to put an end to timeshare’s predatory sales and marketing targeting the military. Jeff, a retired Marine and disabled, is the unit commander. All fifteen allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. Four are worried about losing their security clearance. Four are disabled.
Given dismal regulatory enforcement, we fear the only court open to any timeshare buyer alleging deceit is the court of public opinion, so in addition to 15 members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines, alleging they were victimized by Vacation Village, Bluegreen, Wyndham and Diamond timeshare sales agents, four members of our media outreach committee will assist our military in an effort to reach mainstream media.
Diamond Resorts is offering free passes to the military and to first responders for their upcoming invitational golf tournament to be held in Orlando January 12 – 14. Model and golf pro Blair O’Neal is featured.
Navy computer technicians Amanda and George Jones are also worried about their Navy security clearances. Amanda and George say they were told by two Diamond sales agents, at two different locations, there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. Banks will not finance timeshares. They too could be forced into foreclosure and lose their security clearance, unable to afford the 18% timeshare loan interest rate.
Amanda and George Jones were featured in last week’s article. Mary Bowling, former #2 top selling Diamond Resorts sales agent, describes in a lawsuit, how the deceptive “price freeze” works.
Case 1:17-cv-00562-DKW-RLP filed in Hawaii District Court Page 10 of complaint
#43 Owners Update is deceptive because it is to sell points.
#44 Customer is told the current “list price” but the agent has to see someone else.
#48 the sales agent has customer sign a form indicating they were updated and the agent has to have the manager sign off.
#49 the sales manager has reviewed all prior customer contracts and the manager falsely states the customer was given a “price freeze” but none exists.
#50 (In bold) because of the “price freeze” only today can the customer buy for the discounted price.
#51 (In bold) the price given is the real price planned from the outset.
#52 the “price freeze” never existed because (a) The special deal available to this customer only is available to anyone and (b) Urgent to buy only for today
#54 this is lucky news for the customer – brand new information!
#55 the sales agent waits for the customer to “step in”
George and Amanda Jones “step in”
We went to an orientation in Orlando presented by DRI sales agent Jonathan Pineda at DRI’s Resort Mystic Dunes March 2017. (This is the second complaint Inside Timeshare has received from our readers directed against Mr. Pineda) We ended up purchasing an additional 4000 points for $15,732. Our loan balance $13,271.16 is financed at 18.6794%. Jonathan (like our first Virginia DRI sale agent), said both loans could be refinanced and combined by companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. He said we would have to wait until we made our first payment (long after the contract rescission period). When we asked for a company name, Jonathan said we could google it.
We were told we were buying our second purchase in Orlando at a price point that was almost unheard of and was not being offered to any new Diamond customers right now. “I can’t believe your first sales agent didn’t tell you about this price from the first purchase!”Jonathan said. If we did not buy that day we would lose out and would go from $2.85 per point to $10 from that day on. He said not to go to any future promotional events because it would change our price point. Jonathan said parents had died and the children did not want the points so DRI was reselling at this low price.
Jonathan also said that we needed to get to Gold so that we could pay our maintenance fees with points. We have since learned only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point. He said it would be worth it to spend all our savings so that we would not have to pay maintenance fees. We were not comfortable so we only bought 4000 points.
Mr. Melendez is the eighth Rick CasperPlatinum DRI member to reach out to Inside Timeshare, and the only complainant not to have been resolved. The Melendez complaint was dismissed. Mr. Melendez said he received an email from their DRI Consumer Advocate hospitality agent, with the family’s initials on their contract, confirming the oral representation clause.
Platinum members are Diamond’s most loyal customers. They are unsuspecting because they have dealt with the company for years without major complaints until their encounter with Rick Casper or others with questionable business practices.
We’re not sure if Rick Casper is still with DRI. Like Elvis, some members report Rick Casper and Wadji Kassas(another name frequently mentioned) are no longer with the company, while others tell us Casper and Kassas are still working at DRI. I can imagine them holed up in a special Platinum bunker.
Inside Timeshare also published the story of army veteran Terry Carter, diagnosed with blood cancer. Terry lived next to a burn pit in Iraqi. Bluegreen offered this family a loan cancellation but no refund. Terry says he will not give up without a fight. Sold in a group presentation, promised the ability to sell their timeshare at a profit should they need to sell, the family is demanding a 50% refund. Bluegreen’s defense is the family used the timeshare for 19 days since making their first purchase in 2013. They stopped making loan payments in July.
One of the worst upsell stories was reported to Inside Timeshare by Karen Vartan, another disabled vet. She was contacted by DRI marketing in San Diego. As a Platinum member for more than five years, Karen was hosted by the Diamond Resorts East Coast Mystic Dune Sales Team in Arlington, Virginia. Karen says she was told if she purchased 25,000 additional DRI points, added to her exiting 57,000 points she would have 82,000. But if purchased today only, double points – 165,000 – allowing Karen to be able to pay her maintenance fees with points left over to travel. The program does not exist. Diamond’s response was again to provide Karen with her initials on her contract acknowledging that Karen “did not rely on any oral representation to make her purchase.”
Canada is also represented in our military victim report
Inside Timeshare directed Roxanne and Terry Hurley to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department over a year ago after the family reported they lost their entire life savings to DRI. Chalk it up to a bad decision, but having served in the Canadian army their entire career, they have nothing left. DRI did provide some help. We are not lawyers, so are not privy to the terms, but the family thought it would be alright, not violating the non-disclosure agreement, to admit they are still DRI members. Roxanne’s mom’s condition has worsened since she reached out to us. With no secondary market, their savings wiped out, their dream vacation future turned into a financial tragedy.
Law Enforcement is also at risk
Lela Renea is a Florida detective trying to work with Bluegreen to resolve her complaint. Inside Timeshare, back in July, published Detective Renea’s article describing how she feels she was a victim of a Bluegreen bait and switch. We will not use the word “alleged” because if anyone knows they were baited and switched, it’s a detective.
Scotty Black, MS Criminal Justice, also works in law enforcement. Inside Timeshare will publish Scotty’s battle with Diamond Resorts in an upcoming article. Detective Renea and Scotty could also lose their security clearances if forced into foreclosure.
There are others who have moved on. We will not republish their articles or mention their names, as they have signed a mutual release agreement, agreeing not to say anything bad about Diamond Resorts.
When will this industry wake up? Never, I fear if there is not some federal enforcement. Members cannot even file a complaint effectively with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if the timeshare company finances the loan because, as not the actual lender, there is no drop down CFPBmenu choice to select a timeshare company. Only banks are listed.
According to FBI agents I spoke with, and several attorneys, hiding behind the oral representation clause is not legal but continues as a hamster wheel because there is no federal timeshare enforcement. In our opinion, state enforcement is, in some states, influenced by powerful lobby dollars. With so little enforcement, unscrupulous sales agents have little to fear. Lie to make the sale, force the member into foreclosure, take back the points, resell for full value to the next consumer.
We do not dispute there are many timeshare members, having not yet experienced a life crisis, who use and enjoy their vacation points. We know there are honest timeshare companies, like Disney Vacation Club, and honest timeshare sales agents, but it would take another lengthy article to list the lawsuits that have evolved, like the Wyndham whistleblower Trish Williams $20 million jury award describing TAFT days – tell them any blank think on slow sales days.
At least timeshare members, those who find Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below, are not silenced and isolated.
We seek to provide timeshare 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.
In this case, the court ruled that the contract be declared null & void with the return of over 13,279€ plus legal interest. In this case the infraction was the length of the contract was greater than the 50 years allowed by Spanish timeshare law 42/98, which came into effect in January 1999.
Again this flies in the face of Anfi’s assertion that their contracts are legal and that they have not lost any cases, see the article “Truth, What is Truth?” Published on 10 August.
It is not just Anfi who deny these facts, Silverpoint have been doing so for years, they have even left the RDO and claim they no longer sell “timeshare”. So what are they now selling?
Well, we do know one product is Keys Concierge, a so-called “Lifestyle Credits” product, which promises a great deal but does it actually deliver? Another ploy by Silverpoint is the move to transfer the blocks of timeshare weeks they sold to clients (with the promise to sell in 2 years for a profit), into what is euphemistically called a “Company Participation Scheme”. Not much is known at present, a lot more research is yet to be done, but it appears that clients sign a document at the notary which makes them shareholders of the company Club Paradiso. If this is the case, then all liabilities of the company will fall squarely on those clients shoulders. More on this when the research is complete.
Customer Service is a Spectator Sport, according to Hug Your Haters author Jay Baer. Although Hug Your Haters was written primarily for the providers of customer service, users of Customer Service can benefit from the book as well. Social Media has dramatically changed Customer Service in a way many timeshare companies have yet to acknowledge. The Marriott hotel chain seems to have gotten the message and has adapted to the new world order.
Mr. Baer discusses in his book the difference between onstage and offstage Haters. Many of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received are from offstage Haters, unfamiliar with Social Media. Sometimes offstage Haters need an onstage Hater to plead their case.
Disney Vacation Club seems to have bucked the timeshare trend, refusing to fall back on the oral representation clause that states, “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase” which translates to the customer is always wrong. Disney has few timeshare complaints so it’s not surprising to find former Walt Disney theme park executive Lee Cockerell, author of The Customer Rules, mentioned in Hug Your Haters. Mr. Cockerell explains in his book how he would encounter employees blaming the customer:
“From time to time over the years, a customer would complain to me that a frontline employee had been belligerent. When I asked the employee what happened, I’d usually be told the customer was wrong about the facts, or had been abusive, or trying to cheat the company. Most of the time, the employee believed it was better to lose a bad customer than appease one.” p. 115
Another Hug Your Hater example is Pella Windows and Doors, VP of marketing Elaine Sagers. “Monthly, our executives call a random selection of unhappy customers to talk about their experiences with us…..We’ve also played recordings from the call center so you can hear the emotion in our customers’ voices around what’s been happening with jobs and their homes.” p. 120
Having listened to 133 timeshare complaints, mainly about maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist, or the ability to sell points when no secondary market exists, it’s hard to understand how companies can so often ignore or dismiss allegations, especially when a volume of complaints (119 out of 133) meet the definition of white collar crime – “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch” – painting a compelling and compounding picture of trouble within a company or within the timeshare industry as a whole. I challenge any timeshare executive to listen to the tone of the voices of families devastated financially by their vacation plan. “Well you signed a contract,” is not the appropriate answer. I’m sure Mr. Baer would agree.
Mr. Baer makes another important point I have often stated when it comes to offering a customer wronged an apology. “In some corners of the business universe, anyone interacting with customers is prohibited from saying (or typing) an apology, because it is believed – by particularly Draconian attorneys – that it could weaken the company’s position in a legal proceeding.” “In the world of Charles Dickens, ‘If that’s the law, then the law is an ass,’”Mr. Baer quotes Michael Lasky, an attorney and litigator with the Davis & Gilbert law firm in New York City. Mr. Laskey emphasized that of course companies should be careful about what they say, but the answer is not to ever say “I’m sorry.” p 125
Page 138 of Hug Your Haters discusses the importance of rapid complaint response time. My husband and I have been Platinum Marriott Rewards members for several years. About a decade ago I complained about something I can’t remember at a Marriott Hotel front desk. I was just complaining, not asking for compensation, yet the company responded with an automatic adjustment in reward points. Every 20 or so stays, something might happen that I would complain about had it not been for the times the company responded rapidly and appropriately.
Right out of the Hug Your Haters playbook, I posted a comment on the Marriott Facebook about how a trainee and a manager patiently and pleasantly changed our room three times to address our concern about highway noise. I posted this experience on Marriott’s Facebook and they almost immediately responded, “Irene, we would like to share this on our comment site if that’s alright with you.” As Mr. Baer explains, onstage Haters (or Lovers) don’t expect to be answered. When they are, they are taken aback, astonished that a company as large as Marriott would care.
I can’t speak for Marriott Vacation Club, the timeshare company, because I am not a member, but one of our Advocates, a senior manager with a Fortune 500 company, also a Marriott Vacation Club member, made this comment about Marriott in Part I of our Inside Timeshare article Hug Your Haters, “I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost. Also, while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience.”
Onstage Haters compared to Offstage Haters – Chapter 7
Some companies respond to negative comments by expanding their advertising budget. “Advertising is a tax paid for being unremarkable,” is a quote Mr. Baer said is usually attributed to Robert Stephens, founder of The Geek Squad, but he rephrases the comment appropriately, “Advertising is a tax paid when you’re poor at retaining your current customers.” p. 18
“Listening is the ability to pay attention to what the sounds means and understanding it. We hear noise, but we listen to music. That is because noise falls on our ears without any effort at our end,” said an anonymous writer explaining the difference between hearing and listening. Too often customer complaints are dismissed as noise in the form or automatic denials to a complaint filed against a timeshare sales agent (s).
These are but a few timeshare Advocacy Facebooks and websites of members helping members because company complaints so often fall on deaf ears. They are closed groups, but all would welcome corporate representatives bold enough to listen and learn. We hope timeshare industry executives, ARDA and lawmakers will take the time to not just hear, but listen.
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.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently sent a message in the form of a $6.5 million settlement against The Manhattan Club timeshare accused of restricting availability for members who paid thousands of dollars for a timeshare while allowing access to those booking online. The settlement response was a reaction to a chorus of timeshare members mobilized and action orientated. All timeshare owners are grateful because a victory for one is a victory for all. Lack of availability is a universal complaint.
Thank you Irene, once again you have given us a look into the world of “Customer Service” or in some cases lack of. It is one of the main complaints that Inside Timeshare does receive, in many cases the sales staff are only intent on getting more money from you, rather than helping to get the best from your membership.
It’s Friday! Time for another Letter from America, this week one of our advocates writes an open letter to an industry advocate, Irene Parker provides the introduction, but first some news from Europe.
Those nefarious fake lawyers from Tenerife are at it again with another new twist to secure your money. This time it is from Armando Gareca Abogados, one of the new names in the Litigious Abogados family, thank goodness this reader decided to search the web before paying any money and found our articles.
This particular reader was contacted by Armando Gareca and informed that a case had been lodged with the court against their timeshare resort, not bad considering the courts are closed in August. They were informed they could become part of this case and once they paid the Procurator fees of 1,012€ the case would proceed. It all sounded very good, they were told how much they would be getting back and when they would receive it. Obviously this law firm has a crystal ball and can tell the future!
As we said the courts are closed in August, but also they have expanded their jurisdiction, the Spanish courts and these so-called Spanish lawyers now have the power to take a Greek resort to court in Spain. Not only that Spanish law is applying to a purchase made in Greece!
So just to recap, if you purchased your timeshare in Spain or any of its territories, then Spanish law will apply, if you purchased in the UK, Malta, Portugal, Greece or anywhere else in the world, then Spanish law will not apply. Also it takes at least 12 to 18 months to get a case to court, there are some lengthy procedures to go through before it gets to trial, so the promises of this particular group that the case is being heard within weeks are false.
We have also had some enquiries regarding finance for timeshare purchases arranged by the sales staff, many of these are with Barclays Partner Finance or Hitachi. Some of our readers who have been contacted by various claims companies are told that once they sign up for legal action, they will have the loan stopped and the interest repaid.
This is a false claim, the timeshare resort acted as a broker for the finance, your agreement and contract is a personal one with the finance company and nothing to do with who sold you the timeshare. If you are taking legal action against your timeshare company, the loan is a separate issue, which can only be dealt with after a successful outcome against your resort. By stopping any payments to the finance company you are then leaving yourself open to legal action by debt collectors and subsequently receiving a CCJ, or County Court Judgement. This will have a devastating effect on your ability to get any credit, even being able to get a mortgage.
So beware of many claims, these people will play on your emotions, make promises that are not there, it pays to to check and double check. Do your homework!
Now we move on to this week’s Letter from America.
An Advocate’s Open Letter to an Industry Advocate
By an Advocate
Introduction by Irene Parker
August 25, 2017
The following is a letter submitted to Inside Timeshare written to a timeshare industry proponent by one of our Timeshare Advocates. The letter is in response to an article the author wrote posing the question as to whether the timeshare industry needs to look in a new direction.
The letter writer asked that he not be identified and that the title of the article not be mentioned as this was a personal letter written to the author. One thing sorely lacking is dialogue between critics and proponents of the right to use timeshare product which can be financially devastating for a family when the resort denies their release and when no secondary market exists.
Following the article I have offered comments agreeing and disagreeing with both the author of the article and the letter writer. We encourage others to weigh in.
Thank you to our Advocate reaching out to the industry. We hope he receives an answer.
In your article you state, “Timeshare is definitely not a real estate investment and apart from the occasional overzealous sales associate, timeshare companies long ago stopped pitching it as such an investment.” While I agree with your assessment that it is not an investment, I must ask, are you saying timeshares are not real estate or are not an investment? I also read other timeshare articles you wrote. You are knowledgeable, but I believe you missed some of the key issues a potential buyer of the product needs to understand. You are not the only financial timeshare writer glossing over two important issues:
Timeshares have no viable secondary market,
The timeshare product has evolved to no interest in real property.
Consider the potential impact on the industry, or better stated, why the issues have not yet impacted the industry.
You rightly state in your article, timeshares are overpriced and there is no appreciated value in the real estate. I wish you had made it clear, that once purchased, a timeshare has no value. You must be aware of the fact that there is no viable secondary market. With little data available (the industry controls it), I find the “sale” of most timeshares on the secondary market require the seller to bring money to the transaction. That equates to a negative value.
Recently, in an effort to avoid increasingly ugly publicity, many of the largest players are offering a “give back” or “surrender” option to older owners, not actively using or able to use their timeshare, provided the associated home facility is viable and the product is fully paid. These guys are such good sales people they have actually been successful in improving their image, offering certain members in select properties the opportunity to give back their timeshare to the developer with nothing in return other than to escape their burden. The timeshare interest they bought for $20K to often well over $100K is given up for nothing so the developer can resell as new.
The non-viable secondary market environment is no accident. It certainly is not caused, as ARDA would have you believe, by an oversupply of inventory, or the result of advocacy groups and “sell your timeshare” type organizations that illegally prey on owners. ARDA has long acknowledged the lack of a viable secondary market and has for years committed to fix it. While out of the public eyes, ARDA does nothing, even works not so secretly against efforts to raise a secondary market.
I am sure you have read industry 10Ks. In most every 10K I have read for the past 15 years, the existence of a secondary resale market would have a significant negative impact on developer earnings. It’s no surprise the industry is active in suppressing the market to eliminate their perceived risk. I just wish our consumer protection guys, wherever they may be, would mandate the same level of discourse for the individual timeshare buyer.
I also wish you had not implied a timeshare interest is necessarily tied to a real property interest (and again the industry should be required to disclose this to potential buyers). The classic deeded timeshare is today by far the minority of sales. Timeshare consumers buy either an interest in a “user rights” trust, not the underlying real estate, or simply buy into a timeshare “club” arguably not a timeshare at all. Many in the industry call them vacation clubs.
Please understand my criticism of your piece is meant to be constructive and more importantly, intended to spur some additional interest on your part by examining the member’s perspective. Few consumers really understand the product and/or business model. The consumer protections guys are asleep at the wheel or have no mandate/political incentive to get involved, and the industry will not speak up for fear of risking a very profitable business model born on the backs of timeshare buyers fallen victim to the oral representation clause, locked into a perpetual contract. It’s tough for the consumer or the industry to get the real picture.
Have you had a chance in the past several minutes, as you struggle through my letter, to consider my question about the implications of the issues presented?
No secondary market,
Cash flow should the issue of a non-equity product make the light of day,
Inadequate disclosure as to the lack of a secondary market.
I am right? No?
Well, I will end now and hope you do consider the implications of what I touched on. If I have sparked any additional interest on your part I’d like to talk more. Please call or write.
I would like to add a few comments to some of the issues raised or not raised by the letter writer and the article’s author.
First, I disagree with the article’s author in his statement that only a few overzealous timeshare sales agents sell a timeshare product as an investment, as the US side of Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints almost daily from our readers reaching out to us for assistance after they allege being sold by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, meeting the definition of White Collar Crime, Financial Institution Fraud. Timeshare sold as an investment, told it would be easy to resell, is still one of the top five complaints.
We always want to acknowledge sales agents and developers trying to exist in a timeshare world so ingrained in deception on the front end of the sale. The 7,000 plus timeshare members belonging to five Bluegreen and Diamond Resorts Facebooks are filled with posts concerning allegations of deceit.
Second, surrender programs are no help to the majority of timeshare members that have reached out to Inside Timeshare because these members allege they were duped into signing up for high interest rate loans and credit cards. High 25% interest rate credit cards now can pop out on site like toast out of a toaster. Multiple credit cards are often opened.
As to a secondary market, we have heralded Disney Vacation Club as a company that allows an acceptable secondary market.
This is where the letter writer and I disagree. Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Judi Kozlowski of RE/MAX would argue Hilton also has a solid secondary market in that they don’t punish the secondary point buyer to the extent other developers do. Judi has been working the Hilton Grand Vacation timeshare resale market since the beginning of their current resale program.
“In my opinion, Hilton has the best resale market out there – the developer does not punish the resale deeded points buyer. Buyers of points on the secondary market are rewarded with the ability to join the Elite Club. They are still allowed to use the open season rates, trade internally and use RCI through Hilton.”
Third, I disagree with the letter writer in that he states ARDA has stated they want to fix the secondary market problem. I think that is old news from a 2014 RedWeek article. In recent statements, ARDA CEOHoward Nusbaum has stated timeshare is a right to use produce so members should not expect any value back. My rebuttal is that if timeshare is now defined as a country club of sorts, why is the contract perpetual? What country club is out there you can’t quit? What country club, except for the likes of Mar-a-Lago, requires an initial payment of often $50,000 or more? What about the consumer that has turned over $50K to sometimes over $100K only to learn two weeks later they allege they were lied to as showcased in several of our Nightmare on Timeshare Street articles.
The letter writer mentioned Advocacy groups. I would like to make a distinction between real advocates and scam artists that call themselves advocates, including some law groups. We have 93 timeshare members helping other members I consider real Advocates. We also have 55 Advocates, including several attorneys and professionals, who donate their time pro bono to offer an assessment or opinion after the resort has denied the member relief.
Thank you to our letter writer and to all our Contributors. Your voice is important because one or two voices alone do not a concert make. Contact us or one of the Bluegreen or Diamond Facebook pages if you need assistance, would like to share your timeshare experience, or express your opinion.
There we have it, the end of another week and the start to what we hope will be a great weekend. Inside Timeshare thanks all those who contact us with information and enquiries, it is with your help we can bring those issues to a wider audience. Keep them coming.
Over the past few weeks many of the articles have shown some of the worst of timeshare, today however we show what can be good about timeshare.
In the UK there is a certain saying which is normally associated with substandard, shoddy or a bit of a joke, that saying is “Mickey Mouse!”
But in the context of this article it means brilliant!
Irene Parker explores one timeshare product that excels, in the world of timeshare this is rare indeed, Inside Timeshare has also done a lot of investigating and concurs with Irene, we can find no complaints against this “Mickey Mouse” outfit.
Before we published this article we reached out to Bluegreen, they told us they would have a response within 24 hours, that was on Monday, we still have not heard from them. The point is, by reaching out to other companies, we are giving them the opportunity to change, by working with us and our readers they have the chance to put right what is wrong with timeshare.
In Europe and Spain in particular, it is legislation that is forcing timeshare developers to change what and how they sell. The proliferation of court actions has changed timeshare for the better, we are seeing products and sales techniques change. Disney have shown that by having respect for their clients and putting their needs first, they have a product that is worthy of the name “timeshare”.
Try as I might, I cannot find complaints about Disney’s timeshare arm, Disney Vacation Club. Searching in vain, it brought up memories of the old Maytag repairman ads describing the Maytag repairman as “The Loneliest Guy in Town”. The point of this long running series of commercials was that the product was so trustworthy and dependable that Maytag repairmen spent their days waiting for the phone to ring.
Why does the Disney Vacation Club have so few complaints? Any company has its grumblers, but the best I could find were a few owners complaining about availability. I asked Fernando at the Disney sales call center. Fernando was not allowed to provide his last name but was happy to talk about what makes Disney different and why Disney customers are so loyal.
Fernando attributed such a low volume of complaints to customer expectations met. As far as the complaints about availability, “Some timeshare members plan better than others”, said Fernando. “But it’s all about meeting customer expectations.” Just like hotel bookings, timeshare bookings are subject to supply and demand that fluctuates with peak and off seasons.
I also asked Fernando if he felt a viable secondary market was a benefit for the company as the timeshare owner obviously benefits from access to a secondary market. “Disney does not attempt to control the market. We believe timeshare should be a free market,”he explained.
The Timeshare Store markets basically only Disney timeshares.
“We don’t charge any upfront fees. A seller pays a commission at the time of closing and $170 in fees to Disney Vacation Club,”explained Jason Erpelding, Licensed Real Estate Broker Associate. Above all, consumers buying or selling a timeshare on the secondary market should work through a licensed broker as timeshare resale and listing scams are common. The Timeshare Store has a Better Business Bureau rating of A.
Contrast Disney timeshare resale prices with timeshare resale prices in general. Many timeshare are offered for $1 to $99, originally purchased for thousands of dollars. As demonstrated by The Timeshare Store listings, Disney resales are offered for $10,000 to $30,000 or more. Contact The Timeshare Store or a LTRBA member to find out the benefits or lack of benefits buying resale vs buying directly from the timeshare developer.
Disney’s website states: You purchase a real estate interest in a Disney Vacation Club Resort. The keywords are real estate. You own something and thus have a beneficial interest. Some timeshare company non-deeded points have been compared to buying air. Lack of availability is a frequent complaint.
Fernando and I talked about Disney’s corporate culture. Ray Kroc of McDonald’s restaurant fame and Walt Disney both drove an ambulance for the Red Cross in World War I. “While we were out chasing girls, Walt was drawing cartoons. All those girls are dead but Walt’s cartoons thrive to this day”, said Kroc.
Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Corporation were originally motivated by art. Money was the by-product of a pure motivation. Think of a real estate agent who is motivated by finding you the best house as opposed to the real estate agent that has nothing but the vision of a commission check dancing in front of his or her eyes. The purity of Walt Disney’s original motive has had an effect that has carried through the decades. “People buy a Disney timeshare because they know Disney and believe in Disney”, said Fernando. In other words, the strength of the Disney brand, supported by met expectations, has led Disney to become the model for timeshare developers industry wide. “I love what I do here,”Fernando added.
Lisa Ann Schreier, former timeshare sales agent and author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies, echoed Fernando’s enthusiasm. Lisa worked at Celebration World Resort, right in Disney’s Orlando neighborhood. “Most if not all Disney Vacation Club purchasers/owners are given sufficient information on the product before and after purchase. There’s no feeling of being rushed into a purchase and Disney’s famous Guest Service is no less evident with DVC than at The Magic Kingdom”.
There doesn’t appear to be any angry owner Facebooks or websites either. Let’s contrast Disney with Bluegreen timeshare. The following are member supported Bluegreen Facebook pages. In parenthesis I have changed the words to be generic as the advice provided is appropriate for any would-be timeshare buyer.
This Bluegreen Facebook page of 1,670 members, Sales Team Reviews & Update/Sales Presentation Experience, is for the benefit of the members, corporate Bluegreen personnel and sales agents working towards a more honest and transparent sales process.
(Any timeshare company) IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR DOING ANYTHING OTHER THAN WHAT IS STATED IN THE CONTRACT. IF YOUR SALES REP CANNOT SHOW IT TO YOU IN WRITING IN THE CONTRACT DO NOT EXPECT TO SEE IT HAPPEN.
YOU HAVE A CANCELLATION PERIOD WHICH VARIES BY STATE AND THAT INFORMATION IS ALSO IN THE CONTRACT.
(Many) BENEFITS ARE NOT GUARANTEED. THEY CAN BE CHANGED OR CANCELLED AT ANYTIME.
This is a public group accessible to everyone, including Sales and Corporate. You are responsible for your own comments, opinions, etc. I am merely providing this page as a single location for both positive and negative experiences in regards to the sales team. Allowing both them and corporate to better improve how owners and possible new owners are treated, likely increasing sales.”
A Member Sponsored Bluegreen Facebook page: 770 members
This Facebook page seems to be a sort of self-help Facebook for members trying to be released from their contract. A book on how to write a letter to an Attorney General is available.
The following internet consumer complaint sites list Bluegreen reviews:
Consumer Affairs rates Bluegreen 1 ½ stars out of 5 stars based on 100 ratings. There were a total of 411 reviews. In all fairness, Disney ranked only 2 stars out of 5. Typically happy customers don’t bother searching for complaint sites to post positive reviews. Consumer Affairs posts a balanced collection of consumer reviews helpful for consumers researching online.
Pissed Consumer rates Bluegreen 1.9 out of 5 stars based on 155 reviews. There were a total of 761 reviews. There were no Disney reviews on this site.
Complaints List – There was only one Bluegreen complaint but the comment was intriguing.
“One federal authority told me they are in violation of the constitution by enslaving people with unending contracts because this is a form of indentured slavery and slavery is unconstitutional…”
Here is the company response one of our Diamond Resort readers just emailed me in response to their allegations that they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. I have highlighted the oral representation section in red.
“We must advise that legally the contract is binding and as we have previously advised the relevant information could be found in the body of the agreement and was in fact acknowledged by yourself. 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 would certainly save the timeshare company and the timeshare buyer a lot of times and trouble if the paragraph above would be provided to the person about to enter a timeshare presentation. Most, if not all of the complaints Inside Timeshare receives begin with, “The sales agent said…..”
The Finn Law Group maintains approximately 500 timeshare cases. Timeshare attorney Mike Finn told me he has never had a Disney client which led me on this quest to find Disney complaints. Mike Finn has often said the timeshare contract’s oral representation clause is “a license to lie”, used and abused by some timeshare sales agents. Just think. If Disney were the only timeshare company out there, Mike Finn would be Disney’s version of the Maytag repairman.
So there we have it, not exactly rocket science is it?
Put the customer first, give a good service and bingo, happy all round. A business model that keeps going, a business that people are proud to work for, a business that customers are happy to be members of.
On another note, Canarian Legal Alliance, announced that it had just received another Supreme Court ruling, that now brings the total to a massive 57. You could say that they have just had their “Heinz” moment.
In Spanish legal history this is unprecedented, no other law firm has achieved anything like this, from what our sources tell us this figure is set to rise, as they have many more cases waiting to be heard in Spain’s highest court!
As the news comes in we will keep you informed.
In this week’s Friday’s Letter from America we will be publishing another article on Advocacy, written by one of The Timeshare Advocacy Group. In this analysis of the industry the writer puts forward some very interesting points, so stay with us for the next article, see you then.