Browse Tag

Karen Garello

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker gives us a report on the 3rd Quarter of Timeshare Advocacy Group.

We are also pleased to announce the publication of The book Everything About Timeshare, Before, During and After the Sale is just around the corner, plenty of time for the holiday shopping season. Our own Irene Parker wrote the Forward for Wayne C. Robinson‘s book. To stay updated on the release, subscribe to this link:

13 SHOCKING SECRETS http://eepurl.com/dxsZEb

We have also received the following from one of our very concerned Anfi members and readers, this was posted on the Anfi Contracts facebook page. It would appear that there is some grave concern as to where large amounts of money have gone and members are calling for an explanation.

Ahead of Monte’s general assembly in November, an important issue needs to be clarified. In the accounts published last year, Monte’s two main debtors were, at the end of 2016: Anfi Resorts (the operational company) with an accumulated debt of €1.897.858, and Anfi Sales (the sales company) with an accumulated debt of €1.854.918.

In the accounts presented this year, Resorts are listed with €0 in debt, whereas Sales’ debt has increased by €20.000 to €1.874.755. Meanwhile, a new post has appeared: post 12, called “present investments” (translated from Norwegian), with a total of €1.456.093 at the end of 2017.

These investments represent €441.765 less than Resorts’ accumulated debt at the end of 2016. At the general assembly, the club members should be entitled to an explanation as to the whereabouts of this money, and be informed about where the “present investments” have been invested.

Well all we can say is we will be watching this story as it unfolds with the November General Assembly.

Now for this week’s article.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ 3rd Quarter Report 2018

T Shirts are in! (T Shirts are blue)

  

By Irene Parker

October 12, 2018  

Timeshare Advocacy Group™  has heard from exactly 600 timeshare families as of September 30, 2018, since we began tracking complaints in 2017. We received a total of 267 reports from families for all of 2017, so 333 families for the first three quarters of 2018 is a dramatic increase.

2018 broken down by quarters:

1st quarter 126

2nd quarter 111

3rd quarter 96

We anticipate an upswing fourth quarter when maintenance fee invoices go out. We have already received 21 new complaints from October 1 to October 10.

Most families contacting us are angry, overwhelmed, and confused, all but a handful describing unfair and deceptive sales practices. They say they bought a timeshare for reasons that did not exist, based on false promises made by timeshare sales agents. The Brett Kavanaugh hearings have taught us about the importance of the burden of proof. While four FBI agents and several attorneys have told me it is not legal to use and abuse the oral representation clause, the ingrained mantra timeshare company response to the majority of complaints is “You signed a contract.”

Not one member who contacted us was aware of the inadequate secondary market until hit with a medical or financial crisis, like Ashley Muise our newest Inside Timeshare contributor. Ashley’s baby was born needing two open heart surgeries. Adding a timeshare loan foreclosure on top of that kind of stress has driven many families to despair. Most of our senior readers maintained an 800 plus credit score for 30 plus years, now forced to endure the demeaning timeshare foreclosure process. I would not make a good timeshare customer service representative because I am moved by their distress.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Section 5:

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

Our standard disclaimer is that we know there are millions who bought and use their timeshares with no complaints. Timeshare buyers blessed with an honest sales agent should not demean or judge those who say they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices.

“Don’t call a timeshare exit company!”

“We have your best interest at heart!”  

This the message one timeshare company sent to their members.

No they don’t have your best interest at heart. If the timeshare company had your best interest at heart, why do they almost always respond, “You signed a contract” when members complain about being lied to. They have their bottom line’s best interest at heart. The timeshare developer doesn’t want anyone to stand in the way of their “recaptured inventory” process. Timeshare company annual reports list a secondary market as a risk to shareholders.

The timeshare developer

The timeshare lobby

Lawmakers and some regulators

We are as much against timeshare exit companies as the developer, but given the “Hear no evil, see no evil” response from the industry as to the obvious deceit perpetrated by timeshare sales agents, it’s hard to feel sympathy for the timeshare developer plagued with “cease and desist” letters. They say their members are being “targeted” when in fact members are desperate and turn to internet key words for help.

The Florida Department of Business Practices and Regulation (DBPR) advises members to call a lawyer – referring them to what amounts to be a lawyer phone book of sorts. More than a few times the member ended up with a lawyer who doesn’t know what they are doing because they don’t have timeshare experience. The lawyers get paid, and then we end up helping the member for free.   

Members have reported back to us that The Nevada Real Estate Division has responded to all but a few complaints with “You have no proof.” It is legal to record a meeting without the other party aware in Nevada. In Nevada members need to record the sales presentation.

The Florida DBPR, responds, “Verbal representations are hard to prove,” but Florida is a two person state, meaning both parties need to be aware of the recording of an in-person meeting. Members are not allowed to take handwritten notes from the sales agent, so I don’t know what proof anyone could produce. Tell them you will record. If they say no, forget the gift and leave. If you will be charged something if you leave, painstakingly write down every word the sales agent utters.  

Only two out of 600 complaints have members recorded. The first to record had their contract cancelled in a heartbeat. The second, even with the recording, has had to fight tooth and nail. She has received a full refund from the credit card company, their entire purchase, but the timeshare company is still not releasing her from the contract!  

Timeshare members seek straight answers, which our advocates provide free of charge from England to Malaysia.

Our 44 advocates are professionals who bring their skills and life experiences to the table, volunteering their time to help answer members’ questions.

Pete Gibbs has volunteered to be our Secret Shopper coordinator, replacing Karen Garello. Thank you to Karen for her past service.

Karen’s Secret Shopper questions:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-16/

Advocate Sheilah Brust has her three page pencil pitch from Florida that shows:

$8631

-8631    

0   (Meaning buying additional points would result in no maintenance fees)

First, Sheilah was told the company didn’t know if she obtained the pencil pitch without the sales agent knowing. When she pointed out how preposterous this defense is – while the pencil pitch is incriminating, it is inadmissible if she took it on her own! The next defense, the Florida AG timeshare reviewer told her that she didn’t understand the pencil pitch either until she talked to the company’s attorney. So how, Sheilah asked, would anyone understand this convoluted, sleight-of-hand explanation of the ability to pay maintenance fees with points? No such program exists?

Frustrated, Sheilah designed a T Shirt that we hope to sell to raise money for a legal defense fund, as has been suggested. We have several 100% disabled veterans and members with grave medical decisions driven to financial disaster, some driven to the verge of bankruptcy.  We have a five member committee to account for receipt and disbursement of funds. As of now, we are in the preliminary proposal writing stage. We are working out the mechanics of a Go Fund Me account. We will suggest buyers contribute $5 from every T Shirt to the legal defense fund.

Many of those we have helped were on their way to the upfront “guaranteed to get you out of your timeshare” firms, some that prey on those already victimized. Not all exit companies are bad, but scams abound. From this perspective, the developer, the timeshare lobby ARDA, and TAG advocates are on the same side. This 15 page Department of Justice report listing timeshare fraud, jail terms and fines, says it all:  

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+fraud&op=Search&affiliate=justice

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.

Thank you to all our Inside Timeshare contributors and upcoming new contributors. Contact Inside Timeshare if you, or someone you know, needs assistance or would like to share their timeshare story for the benefit of others.

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” Jimi Hendrix

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

That is all for this week, if you have any comments or would like to contribute an article use our contact page and we will get back to you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene, Plus some news about Butlins.

In this Tuesday’s article by Irene Parker, she explains how timeshare members fight back, this is a rather timely piece as we have recently received some disturbing news. It would appear that not is all well at Butlins.

In previous articles we praised Butlins Blueskies timeshare as one that was sold correctly and seemed to have very few complaints from members. That had now changed, Butlins is ending Blueskies.

blueskies

According to some of the posts on the Blueskies, Butlins, members facebook page, members are not happy about losing their timeshares. They were told that if they did not accept the offer to terminate the club, then their maintenance fees would rise significantly.

According to some of the posts on the facebook page, Butlins have also been hiring out apartments to non members, which goes against what they were sold. One member posted the following:

“Blueskies was sold to most of us as an exclusive club, it was not to be hired out. Therefore Butlins Blueskies broke the contract with us as members when they started hiring apartments out without asking/informing us the members.”

It also looks like there are many complaints about the standards of the apartments and the service, that everything seems to have gone down hill. Repairs not being carried out, with comments on damaged floor tiles and windows.

But the vast majority of the comments surrounded the vote, which gone in Butlins favour and the club is to be wound up. It also appears that the vote was done on points, rather than just votes, the more points, the more votes. Which makes the vote in Butlins favour not surprising, as they will own the points not sold. We have seen this before at other timeshare resorts, where the vote has gone in favour of the developer or management company.

Many members are calling to band together and take legal action, as they feel they have been cheated. It is a sad day when a company like Butlins, which did have a relatively good reputation in the timeshare industry suddenly falls from grace. We wish the members all the best in their fight to right a wrong.

Follow the link to the Blueskies Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Blueskies%2C%20Butlins%2C%20members

Now on with Irene’s article.

Lions and Cats

How Timeshare Members Fight Back

Lion

By Irene Parker

October 17, 2017

A timeshare insider recently asked me, “Why is Timeshare Advocacy Group™ so successful?”  “How do you do it?”

Most timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare and timeshare advocacy Facebook pages are confused, angry, and overwhelmed. Members face a battle pleading with a timeshare company, demanding a refund or loan be cancelled, knowing they may be forced into foreclosure if they are denied. If the member feels they were sold or up-sold by deceit, the conflict is magnified. The automatic denial from the resort leads to more anger and frustration as rebuttals ensue. We take pride in the number of members we have steered away from fraudulent transfer companies charging hefty amounts for so called guaranteed exits.

The predator turned prey

Something clicks inside a person when they have had enough, be it a victim of domestic abuse, child abuse, or predatory timeshare sales. Our goal is to turn the sound of the caller’s scared and desperate voice into a confident voice by providing the member with the resources needed to take action and advocate.

Three of Timeshare Advocacy Group’s leaders

3 trees

Irene “Irina” Allen is our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ administrator

http://insidetimeshare.com/monday-start-another-week/

We seek to provide 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.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

Eron Grant is an educator who has volunteered to be our “go to” person analyzing ARDA’s Code of Ethics. After a member submits a report to us, Eron identifies how a timeshare developer has violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics. The report is forwarded to ARDA’s General Counsel and Lobbyist. So far there has been no response. We feel if an organization says they have a Code of Ethics, the Code should be enforced. Here is how Eron describes how ARDA’s Code of Ethics was violated in the case of her family. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association. The code can be found in Eron’s article.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Advocacy groups have been encouraging timeshare members not to make a voluntary donation to ARDA ROC, feeling the $4 to $5 million a year raised is used to lobby against timeshare owners when an issue is at odds with developer interest. It’s doubtful most owners know what the letters ARDA ROC stand for.

“Owners donated $5.5 million this year, through voluntary contributions on their maintenance fees, to support ARDA-ROC, the independent Resort Owners’ Coalition that teams up with ARDA on consumer and legal issues that impact owners. The top two givers were owners at Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen Vacations, each of whom contributed $1 million for ARDA’s representation.” RedWeek April, 2017

According to Dr. Amy Gregory, University of Central Florida, who presented at an ARDA World Conference,

“A whopping 85 percent of all buyers regret their (timeshare) purchase (for money, fear, confusion, intimidation, distrust and other reasons). Forty-one percent of buyers never thought they would regret their purchase, but they did; another 30 percent were neutral prior to buying, but then regretted it.”

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-world-timeshare-owners

ARDA worked to pass legislation in Florida making it more difficult for timeshare members to be released from contracts due to non material errors. A high percentage of buyer’s remorse, coupled with a perpetual contract, little or no exit, and rising maintenance fees have left frustrated timeshare members no place to turn in an industry that is virtually unregulated. Lawmakers, influenced by lobby dollars, turn a deaf ear. Advocacy groups were outraged by the Florida bill.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-roc-donation-in-maintenance-bill

Karen Garello

Karen Garello is our Secret Shopper coordinator. Karen is one of several members who allege they did not know, until they returned home, a credit card had been used to purchase a timeshare product. Marsha Young also was unaware she had been charged for the same timeshare product, but Marsha received her money back, told the person who sold it to her had been fired. The resort said he had been the top selling agent of this particular product.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Inside Timeshare and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ developed a step-by-step plan a member can follow if a resort offers no assistance. Through regulatory filings and media outreach members are helping other members while also contributing to timeshare reform. Other advocates, working behind the scenes, focus on legislative actions. Time, patience and diligence are necessary.

Many of the members reaching out to us have health issues. Out of 166 complaints received, diagnoses include cancer, dementia, concussion, kidney disease, Bell’s palsy, financial loss caused by loss of employment or divorce, and grief over the loss of a spouse or loved one. Developer attorneys say hardship is not a legal defense.

Many life events cannot be foreseen, so consumers thinking about buying a timeshare need to think about whether it is prudent to buy anything for $25,000 to over $500,000 that does not have a secondary market, is perpetual, and is accompanied by rising maintenance fees. Some timeshares have a limited secondary market. Members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association can give you an idea of what your timeshare may be worth on the secondary market.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints (157 out of 166) by timeshare members alleging they were deceived on the front end of the timeshare sale. We are learning there are many ways to dodge the rescission period.

Timeshare member Tammy Arkley only realized this happened to her because she was able to access the booking site because her friend was already a member at a higher loyalty level. Tammy said she was told she would need fewer points to book stays if she upgraded to the next loyalty level, but when she went back to her room and logged onto her friend’s account, already at that loyalty level, she saw the reservation took the same exact number of points. She received her money back, but what did this experience do to change the image she had of this company?

In other words, there are some promises and claims that cannot be discovered until the buyer has access to the booking site, long after the cancellation period.

Similarly, others have been told they would need to wait six months before selling points after upgrading to the next loyalty level. By placing a six month wait on the false claim, the complaint is old when reported. Too many of our readers are highly educated professionals and were not alone when they attended the presentation. There are so many almost identical complaints – we can sometimes guess the name of the sales agent.

Timeshare members have had enough. Social Media now allows timeshare members to contact other members to find out they are not alone. Members include professionals offering their skills to help other members. We are hoping one day, if the timeshare companies themselves will not acknowledge the problems, lawmakers will pay attention.

My husband Don, and first read editor, asked me as I was writing this article, “Why does Disney have so few complaints?” Disney, I said, is a company backed by generations of little critters enmeshed in a corporate culture and brand that will not allow deceit but does allow a secondary market. It does not seem to have hurt their bottom line. Zacks estimates a year over year growth estimate of 11.27% forecasted for 9/20/2018 with an impressive 1.66% allowance for doubtful receivables 10/1/2016.

https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/DIS/detailed-estimates

Walt Disney Co.’s allowance as a percentage of current receivables, gross declined from 2014 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2016.

 https://www.stock-analysis-on.net/NYSE/Company/Walt-Disney-Co/Financial-Reporting-Quality

Bad-Debts

Contact Inside Timeshare to share your news and views or one of the available self-help groups. Our success is not measured in dollars. While many have received resolution or refunds, relinquishments, or loan cancellations, others brace for foreclosure. It’s about the “3Rs or F of Timeshare” – getting a bad decision in the rear view mirror supported by other members who care and bring their expertise from all walks of life into our Timeshare Advocacy Group™.

create

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

We now share some more news from the courts in Spain, the High Court in Tenerife yesterday announced another crippling verdict against Silverpoint. The judge has declared another client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £40,000 plus legal interests. Once again the courts are finding in favour of clients as per the rulings of the Supreme Court.

So no matter what the industry claims, they are losing the battle, consumers are protected by the law, at least as far as timeshares sold in Spain are concerned. It now needs the rest of Europe to follow suit, giving the protection that the EU Timeshare Directives promised. The industry must acknowledge the fact that they have for too long run roughshod over consumers in their quest for easy money.

 

End of August Roundup

Considering August is usually a quiet month with all the holidays, Inside Timeshare has had quite a run on articles. We began August with news on the Tauro Beach Project entitled “Tauro Beach: In the UK News”.

This followed the publication of a story in The Guardian, a UK newspaper, on the importation of the sand used to build the beach, from Western Sahara. The article by Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer, two independent journalists who investigated the possible illegal importation of the sand.

They explained that if this sand did originate from the Western Sahara, which it most certainly looks like, it was against UN Resolutions and rulings from the European Court of Justice. In their article they quote the head of SEPRONA in Gran Canaria, Lt Germán Garciá who stated “The sand was brought illegally, it was discharged with no control at all,” we know this has caused concern among environmentalist on the Island, as there is a protected area just 300 meters off the beach.

gc-seprona

For the full story follow the links at the end of this article.

The following day we published the Mid Week Report, this started with the news that TATOC had truly gone as their website is no longer accessible. It was then followed with a link to The Canary News, an English language newspaper based in Gran Canaria. The Canary News article by Ed Timon, the editor, gave a very good insight into the history of Western Sahara, which was the subject of the previous article.. (Again see links below).

We also published the first article of the month from Irene Parker, from our US branch, this was to do with a lawsuit in the US by Welk Resorts against Timeshare Exit Team. This is the first in a series of articles highlighting lawsuits by timeshare developers against resale / exit companies and law firms.

Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare was the title of the next article. This highlighted Timeshare Compensation’s blog on Silverpoint now known as Signallia. In this blog Timeshare Compensation warns its readers of the “dodgy” past of this company, which was very surprising indeed as the owner of Timeshare Compensation, Mark Rowe, is an ex-senior sales manager of Silverpoint and thereby employee of Robert “Bob” Trotta, as well as colleague of the CEO Mark Cushway. Told you there were some strange things in the world of timeshare!

loyalty1

In our first Friday’s Letter from America for the month, we published the article by Eron Grant, this covered the question of why does ARDA have a code of ethics? One question we have also asked of the RDO.

Once again that family of fake law firms in Tenerife came up, yes you know the ones, Litigious Abogados.

Another new contributor from the US made her debut, Bonita Hill. Her article was on the question of Diamond’s Clarity Programme, regarding the Oral Representation Clause. This was launched in response to an Assurance of Discontinuance issued by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Diamond has stated they intend to go beyond the requirements of the AOD.

We then published “Truth, What is Truth?” This was in response to readers enquiries about Anfi denying losing any court cases. This has caused confusion among members, after all these cases have been publicised in the press, yet Anfi tell everyone it is not true! So who do you believe?

In the next Friday’s Letter from America, we published Part 4 “Our DRI Misadventures” by David Franks. He Joined our team of writers from the US, some months ago and has given us a great deal of fun. He certainly has a style of his own and is a welcome member to the team.

We then started our “Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message” by Irene Parker, this is based on the book Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer. He is to be a keynote speaker at the Interval International Shared Ownership Conference to be held at the Miami Beach Eden Roc Hotel October 23 – 25. Mr. Baer has advised more than 700 companies including The United Nations and 32 Fortune 500 companies.

Next came the news of a story we published last year, it involved The Manhattan Club in New York. The NY AG Eric T Schneiderman had suspended all sales at the club back in July 2014, this followed many complaints of deceitful practises. The case is now finally over, with a settlement of $6.5 million, also the owners are being forced to sell and have been barred from participating in the timeshare industry. Well done Eric, one for the consumer!

Attorny_General_Eric_T_Schneiderman
NY AG Eric T Schneiderman

Once again Karen Garello from our Timeshare Advocacy, contributed another “Secret Shopper Report”. In this article, Karen gives sound advice on the questions you should ask when going on a sales presentation. Following her advice could save a lot of problems in the future.

It was back to Europe for our next piece, this was titled “ Timeshare In the Press”. This was actually very timely as it followed on from the Truth What is Truth article, it was based on the article in the Spanish paper El Diario. It highlighted the Supreme Court rulings, mainly against the Tenerife company Silverpoint, who just like Anfi deny any cases going to court or being lost.

It also included the article published in The Canary News, based on the one from the paper La Provincia, this began with a recap of the groundbreaking first Supreme Court ruling back in March 2015. Again throwing out the claims of the timeshare industry that these are all fictitious cases.

There followed a couple more articles by Irene Parker and a Timeshare Advocate. The first highlighted the  lawsuits between developers and law firms, the second was an open letter to the timeshare industry. Whether they take any notice is another thing.

In The Monday Briefing, we again focused on the Litigious Abogados family, giving a recap on how they operate their rather sophisticated scam, but also some sound advice which if followed will protect you from becoming one of their victims.

In the same article we welcomed and wished all the best to a new forum for timeshare owners, Timeshare Users Forum. This has been set up by disgruntled members of Timeshare Talk, a previously independent forum. We won’t go into detail here, but you can read the full article.

The last article for August was Part II of Hug Your Haters: A Customer Service Message.

So that is it for August, tomorrow we don’t cross the great lake to the US, we go to the land down under, for another Letter from Australia, contributed by Justin Morgan, on the role of private equity and the secondary market in timeshare. Do join us and bring your didgeridoo!

didgeridoo

Links to some of this month’s articles.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-uk-news/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-latest-development/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/28/trouble-in-paradise-the-canary-island-beach-accused-of-illegally-importing-sand?CMP=share_btn_fb

http://insidetimeshare.com/loyalty-no-thing-timeshare/

http://insidetimeshare.com/truth-what-is-truth/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-15/

http://insidetimeshare.com/manhattan-club-6-5-million-settlement/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-16/

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-in-the-press/

http://insidetimeshare.com/legal-news-us-castle-law-group-pc-v-timeshare-developers/

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish Part II of Karen Garello’s Secret Shopper report, but as usual we look at what is happening in Europe.

During our daily searches of various timeshare websites and forums this particular article made us chuckle. It was published on the Travel & Leisure Group (timeshare resale) website under information and Timeshare Blog, it is an interview with Gavin Brown and his recent stay at Anfi, he is manager of the said company, obviously written by one of the employees who conducted the interview.

The piece starts out with Anfi Beach Club is known throughout the timeshare industry as a real gem”. It then goes on to describe the location, “Ideally located on a heart-shaped island in Gran Canaria”. Well straight away that brought everyone down laughing, the heart shaped island is a man made island which is situated between the beach and the marina. It does not have the room for the huge resort called Anfi! It does however have sunbeds, a cocktail bar and a restaurant. You can also hire the island for weddings, if you can afford the 12,000€ for the basic package.

heart shaped island Anfi
The heart shaped island at Anfi

It turns out that Mr Brown, who has been in the timeshare industry for years, has never owned a timeshare, (I wonder why?). Mr Brown stated that he always booked with online travel agents and package holidays, but due to sometimes being disappointed with room location and the standards of the hotels, he felt that timeshare resorts offered better standards.

Well, we can agree with that, so why did he choose Anfi? As he put it he has a great knowledge of Anfi, having sold so many resale weeks, so when “A fantastic week and apartment became available at a great price, and I couldn’t pass it up”. Although we couldn’t help wondering if he would have bought at the ridiculous prices direct from Anfi?

He then goes on with a wonderful sales pitch on how great the place is, the wonderful facilities and the great restaurants, with reasonable prices compared to other 5* resorts. Well sorry Mr Brown, but you can get even better food at even better prices by leaving the resort and heading to some of the local restaurants.

The article then ends with “If this has made you consider Anfi Beach Club, or any of the other Anfi resorts, why not call Gavin himself or one of his colleagues to discuss further”?

Could it be they have that many weeks on their books they need to do a sales drive to get rid of them?

The other point to remember is that when you buy resale you don’t get all the benefits as you would buying direct from Anfi. See the link to the previous article on Resale Vs Direct.

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=anfi+resale

It has also been announced that ABC Lawyers Ltd, another Mark Rowe company has bought Lansdown Financial Ltd, a claims company registered with the Ministry of Justice. This is another acquisition following that of Tucola Ltd and Justice4 Ltd, Mr Rowe is certainly expanding, the question is why?

After all, his past is not what you could call squeaky clean, there has been a lot in the press and on TV about some of his past enterprises, Monster Credits springs to mind. By purchasing a company already regulated by the MoJ it does save him the problem of applying to the MoJ for authorisation, then having to pass the competence and suitability assessment, which is not a simple task.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/481751/CMR_Applications_for_Authorisation_Guidance_WEB.pdf

Going back to Anfi, although the courts are closed during the month of August, some staff are still working and issuing sentence papers from cases heard previously, this particular case was heard on 6 July. The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas awarded the former Anfi member 42,625€, again the infringement of the timeshare law was the length of the contract, being over 50 years in duration. So Anfi, do you continue to deny that you are losing in the courts?

So on with this week’s Letter from America.

Link to Karen’s first report.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Secret Shopper Questions and a Secret Shopper Report

two meeting

By Karen Garello, Secret Shopper Coordinator

August 18, 2017

Inside Timeshare encourages its readers to submit positive articles about timeshare experiences, so I was relieved to have attended a positive sales presentation at The Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri. Unfortunately, the presentation was followed by a less than positive customer service experience.

My Diamond saga began when I purchased a trial Sampler program I had not realized I had purchased until I returned home and saw a $3,995 charge to a Barclaycard. Diamond would not reverse the charge.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I decided to attend a presentation as this is required when purchasing a Sampler. After I returned home from a Branson presentation, I attempted to access Luxury benefits but was denied access. Luxury benefits include luxury hotels, shopping and wine. When I contacted customer services at the Sampler department, asking why I was denied access, the customer service agent put me on hold for a long time while he called Branson. After completing his “investigation” he told me the reason I could not access Luxury benefits is because Branson reported me as a “NO SHOW”!!!

Had it not been for our Diamond Resorts member supported Advocacy Facebook, I probably would not have gotten the sales agent’s name, and I certainly would not have prepared a report.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Admitting deceit it seemed, the customer service agent said, according to the notes during the presentation (he initially said I had not attended), I had told the sales agent TK I had complained about the unauthorized charge to purchase the Sampler. I pointed out that I had used my American Express for all the charges I made at The Suites. Customer service said they will investigate further and get back to me.

Now onto my original article

buttons

Many timeshare companies already have Secret Shopper programs. Still, it doesn’t hurt for timesharing member Secret Shoppers to evaluate for other members how near or far a timeshare sales agent ventures from his or her script.

I guess I am not that secret of a Secret Shopper in that my name is on this article, so I hope the good experience I had at Diamond ResortsThe Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri wasn’t because they were aware of my Timeshare Advocacy Group™ position, Secret Shopper Coordinator. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.

My presenter was TK Armstrong. She used to work for Bluegreen but joined Diamond because she said they have more resorts. TK and I talked for about 45 minutes. I went over my Polo Towers experience. She seemed sincerely concerned. She showed me a description of CLARITY™ Diamond’s new Enhanced Quality Assurance program. She was supportive of the program and said she was going to abide by it. She went over the Sampler product I did not realize I purchased until I returned home from Polo Towers. At least I know what I bought now.

We have three new Secret Shoppers. We will not identify them because they are, well, secret. After compiling over 100 complaints from readers who have reached out to Inside Timeshare for assistance, we have determined the most popular complaints involve the following:

  • Maintenance Fee relief program that do not exist,
  • The ability to sell points or weeks when there is no secondary market,
  • The value of travel awards,
  • Misrepresenting the value of using a credit card to offset Maintenance Fees,
  • Stating a lower loan interest rate can be obtained from a bank or credit union in order to escape high timeshare loan interest rates,
  • Oversold availability

We arm our Secret Shoppers with intelligent questions that, maybe because of being on vacation brain, people forget to ask. These are questions of course that any timeshare consumer can ask, so we share them with our readers. Transparency, honesty and accuracy are rated on a scale from one to five with a five being the most honest. Results are tabulated quarterly and sent to our team for review. After we complete our pilot program, we hope to submit the data to the respective resort for review.

Suggested Questions

  • May I take notes?

Qualifications

  • How long have you worked at this resort?
  • Have you worked at other resorts?
  • What did you do before you sold timeshare?

Consumer Protections

  • May I call my lawyer 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?
  • 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.

Resale or Exit Program

  • What happens if I can no longer use or afford the timeshare?
  • If I can sell it, how can I sell it? Who do I call? Can you give me a reference?

Note: Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to ask about the benefits or lack of benefits buying on the resale market and to see if they will accept a listing for the timeshare you own.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Maintenance Fees

  • Please show me in the paperwork the cap on maintenance fee increases. How much does a maintenance fee go up on average annually? Does it go up every year?
  • Can you provide a five year history of Maintenance Fee increases?
  • Is there anything I can do to offset Maintenance Fees?
  • 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 offset Maintenance Fees with credit card purchases, please provide an example of the value of a $1 purchase and how many purchases it would take to pay off my annual maintenance Fee? (One member reported it would cost over $270,000 in annual purchases to pay a $2,700 Maintenance Fee!)
  • Can I rent my timeshare to pay Maintenance Fees?

Travel awards

  • If I can use my points for hotels, what is the value per point?
  • 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?

Loans

  • 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?
  • What is the interest and penalty if I miss a payment?

risk

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 without comparison shopping. Well over half of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received involve high interest rate financing.

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. Societal changes are influencing the wants and needs of today’s traveler. Are timeshares more flexible or less if you are locked into usage and maintenance fees increasing annually.

Our first Secret Shopper, Laurie Sabbagh, offered the first Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Secret Shopper report. She reported some good and not so good observations. Of merit is the warning to timeshare buyers to take the promise of travel awards a step farther and ask, “At what value?” In general consumers should buy a timeshare for its intended purpose which is to vacation at a resort. Here is Laurie’s report:

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

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. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ posts information from all sites. Our motto, courtesy of Jimi Hendrix, is –

knowledge speaks

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

Thanks to Karen for her Secret Shopper part II, also thanks to Irene as usual for the editing and coordination from the other side of the great lake. We have many more articles coming up in the next few weeks with part II of Hug Your Haters and a piece about the Castle Law Group lawsuit with Orange Lake. We will also be having another article from our Antipodean friends from the other side of the world.

So that’s it for this week, have a great weekend and we will be with you next week.

 

 friday dog

 

It Works in Other Industries So Why Not In Timeshare?

In todays article Karen Garello shares her experience as a Secret Shopper at a timeshare presentation. Most restaurants, bars and supermarkets are familiar with this concept, it is a useful tool for improving service. The first the staff know about it is when the report is filed by the Mystery Shopper.

The idea is that the staff, sales people, waiters even managers, have no idea, so it gives a very true reflection of service, it also keeps everyone on their toes, especially when you know that your firm employs these mystery people. Inside imeshare hopes you enjoy the article from our new contributor.

Timeshare Advocacy Group ™

Secret Timeshare Shopper

secret shopper

By Karen Garello

June 22, 2017

If you are reading this article, there’s a good chance you bought a timeshare based on something a timeshare sales agent said that was not true. You probably already know about the oral representation clause that states, “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase” which allows the sales agents to say anything to sell vacation points. Even with proof, the timeshare developer can still fall back on that clause.

After what happened to me, I have decided to become a Secret Shopper to report sales agents that are untruthful, as well as sales agents that do tell the truth, and to collect stories from other Secret Shoppers. Our Timeshare Advocacy Group’s new Secret Shopper program has been in existence since March when Laurie Sabbagh published our first Secret Shopper report.

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

But here’s what happened to me

head

I bought a Diamond Sampler product. This is a program that allows you to use a set number of points to try out a vacation plan. Since it is a trial program, the buyer is not locked into a perpetual contract. You do have to attend a sales presentation when you stay at one of the company’s resorts.

I attended a sales presentation at Polo Towers in Las Vegas. My first sales agent was Greg. Greg was respectful when I said I did not want to buy any more timeshares since I was already a Starwood member. He turned me over to Aries. I am a Filipino occupational therapist. Aries is Filipino. Aries offered me 20,000 Diamond points to try out the Diamond program because I was a Starwood member. He said they wanted to give me the points so that I would have an opportunity to compare Diamond’s program to Starwood. I have never had any problems with Starwood, so I had no need to buy additional vacation points. Still, it couldn’t hurt to compare.

Aries said I should open a Diamond Barclay MasterCard. The company was going to give me 20,000 vacation points. I saw no harm in filling out the credit card application. While I was putting my initials on a small piece of paper, I did notice the figure of $3,995 and asked what this amount referred to. Aries said it was the limit on the Master Card. I left with no paperwork.

Leaving the sales presentation, I was elated. Aries told me he was also going to give me a cruise and a $200 restaurant coupon. I called my cousin and told her this Filipino guy gave me 20,000 vacation points, a $200 restaurant coupon, and a cruise! I was embarrassed to later tell my cousin what really happened.

When I arrived home, I was shocked to see a charge for $3,995 on the BarclayCard. The statement said I had purchased a Sampler. Not only had I not heard the word Sampler before, I never heard the word purchase or buy mentioned throughout the entire sales presentation. I called Diamond thinking there must have been some kind of mix-up. I spoke with “Hospitality” agent Kayla. Kayla basically said, “Too bad, you signed a contract.”

Diamond Resorts has a new program called CLARITY™ which is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. How can the company claim to have this program when I have been treated this way?

Kayla kept repeating that I bought a Sampler. She said she would send me a copy of the contract. What contract? I walked out of Polo Towers with nothing.

What can I do to stop others from being harmed?

speak up

What happened to me wasn’t right. In my opinion, what happened to me was criminal. I began to research corporate fraud and found this on Wikipedia.

First, customers are “baited” by merchants advertising products or services at a low price, but when customers visit the store, they discover that the advertised goods either are not available or are not as good as expected, or the customers are pressured by salespeople to consider similar, but higher-priced, items (“switching”).

In my case, my switch wasn’t higher. I didn’t even know I bought anything!

According to a publication called the balance, unauthorized credit card charges include any type of charge to your credit card account that you didn’t give permission for. I should have called Barclays Bank right away instead of assuming Diamond Resorts would correct it.

https://www.thebalance.com/what-to-do-about-unauthorized-credit-card-charges-960260

Many of our Diamond member sponsored Advocacy Group members say they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. It is one thing to use a timeshare for a long time and just give it back, but many of our Facebook members have invested sometimes $50,000 or more saying they were deceived and found out only two weeks, two months or a year later. I hope others join our Advocacy Group to get the support and encouragement I received in the hope of educating the public as to what to watch out for when on vacation.

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.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

eye

By Irene Parker

Thank you to Karen for joining our network of Secret Shoppers. The more people who uncover deceptive sales practices and report to regulatory and enforcement agencies, the more likely the industry will be forced to change. Public awareness and education through print and broadcast media can make a difference, as in the almost overnight appearance of a generic $200 Epipen.

It is legal to record a conversation in Arizona as long as one person is aware, according to Attorney Carrie Wilcox. “In the case of a telephone or in-person conversation, recording simply means making a copy of the conversation between two or more people. Recording is illegal in Arizona if NO party to the conversation knows that the conversation is being recorded. However, in Arizona, and this varies by state, if one party to the conversation knows that the conversation is being recorded, it is not illegal. However, bugging/wiretapping is always illegal. Don’t make assumptions about the law in other states -consult an attorney to determine what is allowed.”

The Law Office of Carrie M. Wilcox

http://wilcoxlegal.com/bugging-and-tape-recording-conversations-in-arizona-is-it-legal/

There was a time we would never have thought people would not leave home without a phone in their pocket, briefcase or purse. Who knows? Maybe someday timeshare buyers will come equipped to timeshare sales presentations able to record with a blink of a contact lens eye!

https://www.facebook.com/ScienceNaturePage/videos/vb.693504594115135/1087812741350983/?type=2&theater

Deceit and bait and switch tactics will probably always be part and parcel of timeshare, but once victimized, you feel you have to do something about it.

shopper cartoon

Inside Timeshare thanks Karen for her contribution and once again thanks to Irene for her editing. If you would like to share your experiences with others contact Inside Timeshare or Irene on the advocacy facebook page. We look forward to and welcome your views, by sharing it helps other to learn and see they are not alone.

 

 

Timeshare Advocacy Group: Update

Today Inside Timeshare welcomes a new writer and contributor from across the Great Lake, Angela Johnson. Firstly Irene Parker gives an update on our Timeshare Advocacy Group, with a new Secret Shopper Programme being launched. We certainly look forward to reading some of the reports from this project.

At the end of the article, we give a summary of the latest Class Action against Diamond, which we published in Friday’s Letter From America. The summary has been published as a PDF attachment, due to the length, just click to read.

On now with today’s article, firstly Irene followed by Angela.

The Results of our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Pilot

“If you build it they will come” Field of Dreams

pointer

Introduction by Irene Parker

Don’t Give Up Your Gold Key Deed

By Angela Johnson

The Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Pilot now has a team of leaders that will assist timeshare owners and members in distress over timeshare problems they have not been able to resolve through their own efforts. Any timeshare problem can and will be resolved through the “3Rs or F of timeshare” – Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund or Foreclosure. The class action complaint at the end of today’s article (attached as a PDF) details what members facing this last unfortunate option must endure.

Many highly educated, professional people who have contacted our Advocacy Group, almost all with 800 credit scores, are facing foreclosure for the first time in their life. I found line 77 of the class action complaint particularly appalling:

That Defendant continued to place several dunning telephone calls to Plaintiff’s cellular phones using an automated telephone dialing system and/or a pre- recorded or artificial voice.

77. That Plaintiffs were charged for the phone calls made by Defendant to their cellular phones.

Clearly people who have lived their entire life financially untroubled, need support and direction during this most discomforting foreclosure process.

 

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has also launched a Secret Shopper program – a real one.

Laurie Sabbagh was our first secret shopper. Many timeshare buyers fall victim to the oral representation clause. Many contracts, not just timeshare, contain a clause that states “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” Timeshare has for years been notorious for using and abusing this clause to get a prospect to sign a contract to buy vacation points by fabricating reasons for purchase that venture far afield from reality. Laurie reports her experience, offering prospective timeshare buyers valuable advice in regard to the value of travel awards.

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Our two newest additions to our Leadership Team are Angela Johnson, Advocate Coordinator, and Karen Garello, Secret Shopper Coordinator. Angela shares her Advocacy experience this week and next week Karen Garello will tell us what happened to her and why she has volunteered to become more involved.

Angela went through Diamond Resort’s Advocacy Department to air her grievance against Diamond’s Williamsburg Virginia sales center. In all fairness, although never admitting wrongdoing, Diamond has helped several families. Angela was not in that fortunate group so she reached out to our member sponsored Diamond Resort’s Advocacy Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

I should add that my husband and I purchased points in Williamsburg. Both sales agents were courteous and professional. We hope our advocacy efforts will support timeshare sales agents trying to sell timeshare points in a non-deceptive way without resorting to a “bait and switch” as Angela alleges in her article.

A Warning: Don’t give up your Gold Key Deed!

By Angela Johnson

June 12, 2017

woman

My complaint was long and complicated, but I felt it was important not to leave out any details. After submitting a 2,000 word complaint to Diamond’s Advocacy department, my mom and I were told we were stuck with the timeshare points we didn’t need and didn’t know we had bought until we got home and opened the first bill.

After being declined a refund, I reached out to the member sponsored Diamond Advocacy Group. After reviewing my complaint, we reduced my accusation from 2000 to 37 words, thinking this would make it easier to understand. While I did get an immediate call back, I was told I was going to be assigned to another Diamond Advocate team member. I gave up at that point because my complaint had already been investigated. My 37 words were so simple there was no need to start over.

My mom and I met with Diamond sales agent Eursla Giles-Jones at a Diamond Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia. What happened, simply put, was this:

Angela: “I cannot afford two loans.”

Eursla: “We are going to combine the two loans.”

Angela: “But I did a credit card balance transfer to reduce the high interest rate.”

Eursla: “We can still combine them. I can make it happen.”

Then the dodge began. My mother was with me when we bought the points. We both heard what Eursla said. I have since learned about the oral representation clause allowing timeshare sales agents to say anything since often there is no proof. We did not have proof. I ended up with two loans instead of one. There is no way I can afford both loans. I did not know about this until I started receiving the bills long after the period when I could have cancelled the contract.

I feel there is a need for timeshare members to be able to have an organization to turn to before taking the drastic step of calling a lawyer. Given I have double loan payments, I can’t afford a lawyer. I had not even thought of contacting the following organizations that I now know exist thanks to the Timeshare Advocacy Group ™. Contacting the following organizations is my next step.

  • The FBI, due to alleged deceit and “bait and switch”,
  • ARDA for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics,
  • Attorneys General where we signed our contract, where we live and the state where the resort is domiciled,
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option and the bank that financed our loan or issued the credit card,
  • Federal Trade Commission for violating “The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 which outlaws unfair methods of competition and outlaws unfair acts or practices that affect commerce.”
  • State Real Estate divisions against the agents. as most states require sales agents to be real estate licensed (the agent’s ID number is helpful)

My mom and I were Gold Key owners holding a deed, but we gave up our deed so we are now Diamond point members. As members, we don’t own anything. We deeply regret this decision. I have since read several posts on our Advocacy Facebook warning Gold Key owners not to give up their deed. I have joined this cause hoping to warn others to check the facts before you sign.

signing contract

Thank you to Angela for sharing her story. Let us know if you need assistance or would like to share your story.  

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ will be scaling up the Pilot to three satellite programs at the request of many. Thus, our most recent US Inside Timeshare article was about a Wyndham owner.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-8/

The article lists what I find to be the salient parts of Diamond’s new CLARITY™ program issued in response to the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance. If just those points are abided by and enforced, there would be no need for timeshare Advocacy Facebooks.

Next week: Secret Shopper Coordinator Karen Garello rolls out Secret Shopper

***

ExcerptfromClassActionDiamond (1)

Things are certainly moving, owners / members are mobilising in a way not seen before, they are starting to realise that together they can achieve more. Through groups such as our Timeshare Advocacy Group you now have a voice along with others to share with and also offer sound advice.

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments and stories, contact us through our comments section. If you have been in contact with any company, be it resale, claims or any other offer and you are not sure about them, contact us and we will put you in the right direction.