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Marsha Young

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we decided to run with this particular article following the news from Europe on Monday that Diamond was closing its sales offices in Europe. Obviously this will have a great impact on the many employees, who are now out of work and will need to find jobs in an ever decreasing sales industry.

As usual before we go on with our article, this week has not been a very good one for Silverpoint in Tenerife, with another loss at the High Court and also at the Supreme Court.

The judge at the High Court Number 2, found serious breaches of the timeshare laws, declaring the client’s contract null and void and ordering the return of over £49,000 plus legal interest.

At the Supreme Court in Madrid, the judges upheld previous rulings and declared another Silverpoint contract null and void. This particular client will now receive over 28,000€ plus all legal fees and legal interest. Another happy ex Silverpoint owner.

As usual these were clients of the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. So this does go to show that in spite of what many timeshare companies are claiming, such as the article published on Wednesday about Anfi attacking CLA, this law firm is doing what it says.

CLA Logo

Now on with Friday’s Letter.

Inside Timeshare leapt at the chance to publish details of CLARITY, Diamond Resort’s program to promote accountability, transparency and respect for the Customer. The program was introduced after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. The Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of Diamond complaints. One source informed us the office received 400 complaints leading up to the investigation and 500 more complaints after the press release.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Diamond Resorts also provided a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department to assist members from day one if they have concerns about their timeshare.

Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints from members almost daily, with common complaints:

Purchase more points as that will be the only way to sell points. (Diamond’s secondary market restrictions make Diamond points almost impossible to sell.)

Purchase more points because that will provide you with the ability to pay maintenance fees by tendering excess points at 30 cents per point. (No such program exists as this is an adulteration of a 30/30 program designed for other purposes.)

Agents working for the same company selling against each other from the Hawaii Collection to the US Collections telling the member they made a mistake purchasing the collection they purchased, depending on which side of the Pacific the member is on.

Inside Timeshare has forwarded members complaints to Diamond’s PR firm and to ARDA. Both have ignored the complaints, but it is unlikely ARDA will enforce their Code of Ethics against a corporate member that gives ARDA a million dollars a year from Diamond members who unwittingly are billed $7 as an “opt-out” voluntary donation on their maintenance fee invoice. It is doubtful the average timeshare members understands even what the initials ARDA ROC stand for.

After reading complaint after complaint from our Nightmare on Timeshare series, I am certain our EU Diamond agents did not stoop to such tactics. Did this contribute to sales targets not being met?  Inside Timeshare has received 187 reader complaints, of which 178 are from Diamond Resort members.

Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never returned Marsha’s call. One of Diamond’s Advocacy “hospitality” agents left one message but never returned her calls. CEO Michael Flaskey ignored Marsha Young.

A representative from Barclay’s Bank did contact Marsha Young. Although they cannot help, as Barclays does not physically open credit card applications, Marsha appreciated the respect she was given by at least being acknowledged.

You be the judge of Marsha’s story.

How Buying a Timeshare can be Financially Devastating

Luke

Introduction by Irene Parker

Since our first Inside Timeshare US member story was published October 2016, we have received 186 member complaints, of which 171 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, meeting the FBI definition of White Collar Crime. Of the 186 complaints, 177 are from Diamond Resorts members. We don’t dispute there are many timeshare members who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but many have not yet been made aware of the lack of or limited secondary market. The majority of complaints allege they were told to buy more points because only at the next loyalty level could they sell points or be able to offset maintenance fees. Neither program exists. These members are stuck with a product they paid thousands of dollars for, felt were sold by deceit, incur maintenance fees and can’t sell. Their network of friends and family want nothing to do with timeshare. Sales centers should take note as Social Media no longer keeps members silenced and isolated. Diamond Resorts did not respond to our request for comment.

November 10

By Marsha Young

The vacation memories my husband and I shared together at Embassy Suites and Sunterra in Hawaii on the island of Maui are my most treasured, but our memories so precious have been destroyed. Maybe not the memories, but the timeshare we knew and loved has turned into a financial trap.

My husband passed away in 2011. I still travel some with friends and family and I enjoyed the flexibility of the point program until I succumbed to high pressure sales. In the past, when explaining the struggles of raising a family, or other reasons why we could not upgrade, agents would not push us when my husband and I said no, so I was not prepared for what happened. In an effort to warn others to seek counsel before you sign a perpetual contract after a six hour sales session, with rising maintenance fees, and no secondary market, I share my story.  

My problems began at the Diamond Resorts sales center at Williamsburg Virginia May 2017. I told the hospitality agent about how I had been deceived previously by a Hawaii sales agent. She told me she understood and explained that is why sales were stopped at the Williamsburg center for a while until a new program called CLARITY was put in place. My Williamsburg sales agents were Richard Rodgers and Mark Schilling. I told them I did not want to spend any more money as the maintenance fees were going up so much for the Hawaii Collection. They told me I should transfer my Hawaii points to the US Collection because maintenance fees would be less. The cost was never discussed. I thought there would be no charge. I saved the paper they used showing points transferring over to the US Collection. They also encouraged me to open a Barclay credit card because it accumulated points rather than miles, but neglected to tell me the card would be charged $7,100 for a down payment. I had sent an email to both Richard and Mark telling them I did not want to spend more money. The sales presentation lasted six hours. I was exhausted. When I got home and went to my DRI account. I was shocked at the new $34,000 mortgage. The maintenance fees did not go down.

I did not know where to turn so I called a friend who is an investment advisor. He called Mark Schilling. Mr. Schilling’s response was, “She signed the contract. The QA session was videoed.” Recorded QA Sessions are part of the new CLARITY program. The sales presentation is what needs to be taped because that is when sales agents make promises not kept.

Richard Rodgers told me $400 a month would be the maintenance fee but it is the mortgage payment, so I owe maintenance fees on top of the mortgage payment. I was also told I could still book Hawaii, but in July 2017 I went to a meeting in Hawaii and was told I should not have transferred to the US Collection, because I would not be able to get back into Hawaii. They also said the value of the Hawaii Collection was more valuable and had the highest availability. Jessica Ocegueda was the sales agent. She said I had traded down and if I want to go to Hawaii on US Collection points in all likelihood “it’s not going to happen.” I have learned from other members you still can book in Hawaii with US points. I was convinced to transfer all my US Collection points to Hawaii Collection.

After six hours, there is insufficient time or energy to review an inch high stack of documents. Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never responded to my complaint, but they did send the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Barclays Bank my initials for the charge on a document.

  • Of the $138,000 approximate purchase price, $66,915 was taken back as credit for the US points and the balance financed was approximately $70,000
  • The down payment charged to my personal credit card was $8,529
  • A Barclaycard was charged $7,100
  • The monthly payment is $917.58
  • Estimated maintenance fee is $7,418

sad

At age 71, I watched my credit score plummet from the 800s to the 700s. I am a widow living on a teacher’s pension. I learned from reading Inside Timeshare articles and joining an Advocacy Facebook page, many have been told if they purchased more timeshare points, maintenance fees would go down. While the maintenance fee per point may decline a cent or two, the maintenance fee invoice does not decline. It’s easy for the resort defending their position to say, “You were confused,” but the volume of complaints found on the internet speak of sleight of hand, in my opinion.   

Not knowing where to turn I had contacted Irene Parker. Irene told me about the new CLARITY program Diamond Resorts implemented after the Arizona Attorney General issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing DRI of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. She also said Diamond Resorts now provides an advocacy department for those who have concerns about their purchase. CLARITY is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. I received none and was ignored by DRI Advocacy. It feels like the customer is always wrong.       

The actions of these agents have taken away my financial security. I feel trapped. It is not as easy or as enjoyable to travel without my husband. I can still travel with friends and would have been able to remain a Diamond customer had I not succumbed to an upgrade for reasons that were not necessary or true.  

I should have learned from the first bad experience I had in Hawaii. In Hawaii, I had been charged $2,995 for a program called the Sampler. I was refunded for that purchase because I did not know a credit card had been charged then until I returned home. Diamond said the agent, Mr. Frank Rippe, had been fired. They also said he had been the top selling agent of that particular product.

It is my hope timeshare members will continue to reach out to other members. It is a sad day when vacation timeshare plan buyers need a support group and a media outreach plan to warn other potential buyers.

act now

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/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

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

As we read many stories such as this it no longer comes as any surprise, what does seem to be a recurring theme is the age group of the people that contact us. They also all have the same story, credit scores being destroyed, after years of no defaults.

One thing that did make me chuckle in Marsha’s story is Diamonds comment on the the sacking of the sales agent, “he had been the top selling agent of that product”, well that is not surprising if he was being that devious!

Once again Inside Timeshare thanks all those who provide us with the information and contribute their stories, if you would like to contribute contact Inside Timeshare. If you just require any information about your membership or about any company that contacts you or even thinking of doing business with, but don’t know where to start, contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good weekend and join us next week.

weekend

Tide-Is-Turning-300x251

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™.

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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.