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.
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.
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.
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.
Secret Shopper Questions and a Secret Shopper Report
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.
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.
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
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 Resorts – The 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.
- May I take notes?
- How long have you worked at this resort?
- Have you worked at other resorts?
- What did you do before you sold timeshare?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
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:
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 –
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.