Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today we welcome a new contributor David Althage with his “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” story. David is another in the long list of veterans who have experienced problems at the hands of timeshare sales agents. Once again a big thanks to Irene Parker for her introduction.
A Wyndham Timeshare Buyer, a Marine Veteran, Shares his Timeshare Experience
January 11, 2019
Introduction by Irene Parker
Marine Veteran David Althage is one of 90 veterans and active duty service members who feel they have been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare. Many of the veterans are disabled. By publishing member accounts, we hope others will be made aware of the financial hardship that can result when a perpetual contract is signed, a contract accompanied by annual maintenance fees, with little to no secondary market.
We understand there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. Many may have not been made aware of the difficulties that can arise when there is little to no secondary market.
A draft of today’s article was sent to Wyndham but the dispute was not resolved. We feel there should be better disclosure as to the lack of a viable secondary market. Timeshare companies list in their 10k annual reports a viable secondary market is a risk to their investors.
By David Althage
I would like to share my Wyndham experience, hoping others will take the time to think about a decision that can easily become a financial albatross. I deeply regret our decision to buy the timeshare. They pressured us to a huge extent, but we didn’t realize this until much later. I feel we experienced elder abuse.
I am a veteran of the Marines. I served from 1964 to 1968 and ended up as a Corporal E4. I spent most of 1965 and 1966 in Vietnam and my specialty was machine gunner which I did on the ground and also as the door gunner on helicopters. I was wounded twice and I have also suffered from skin cancer, possible from Agent Orange. All of that seems a lifetime away as my wife and I have been settled for many years in Missouri. These days I repair mobile homes for work, and I keep going at this even though I am now 73. I do not have retirement or a pension. I only have social security.
My wife and I were in a Branson, Missouri mall when a woman at a kiosk told us she had some things to give away, but we would need to attend a 90 minute presentation. The 90 minute Wyndham presentation lasted over five hours. Over 5 hours!
The sales reps kept talking, stalling and feeding us more information. They talked so fast it was difficult to take it all in. There was a lot of paper. We started at 8:30 a.m. They did not tell us how much the timeshare would cost until about 12:30 p.m. We were tired, hungry. We kept asking how much longer it would take. The reps did not offer lunch nor would they allow us to leave to get lunch. Due to our medical issues, our heads were spinning, and my wife’s blood sugar was really dropping. She felt unwell. I suffer from macular degeneration and glaucoma, and I also need cataract surgery. I don’t see well. It was impossible to properly examine all the paperwork. And by the way, the original agent at the kiosk promised us show tickets on the Branson Belle, but it was sold out.
We are shocked at how hard this program is to use. Early in November 2017 we wanted to book a suite in Branson after Christmas in order to see a special show. We were surprised and totally disappointed when the booking center told us that we would have to book at least nine to ten months in advance. They had nothing available at any of their six Branson resorts. We don’t know our schedule that far ahead due to health issues and doctors’ appointments, etc. They did not tell us about having to book so far in advance at the sales meeting. We received a letter from Wyndham which stated,
“As part of an ongoing commitment to enable more owners to vacation where they want, when they want and how they want, in May we introduced updates to the CLUB WYNDHAM Plus Program Guidelines. These updates, made by the FairShare Vacation Owners Association Board, were introduced to help you own your vacation experience and get more out of your vacation.”
We really resent that Wyndham said we could vacation wherever and whenever we wanted. They didn’t give us the straight facts on how hard it is to book. I can only conclude that this statement was a lie.
We found out later that when you book a room and you have to cancel, you have to do it 17 days in advance of your reservation or you lose your points. This is an egregious way to treat anyone, let alone senior citizens! As a result of all this, the timeshare is not of much benefit, especially considering the price we pay.
Another point we wish to make is that the sales reps told us that by taking out visa cards through Barclays, and by making all our payments through these cards, the timeshare would “pay for itself” by generating income from points on purchases. They claimed that these points would then pay for our maintenance fees and our payments to Barclays as well. This is absolute nonsense! You can only pay for about 1% of the maintenance fee by charging, so a $2000 maintenance fee purchase would require $200,000 a year in charges!
One of the reps told us that if we decided we did not want the timeshare, we could easily sell it with no problem. By saying we could do this “with no problem” we took it that it would at least hold its value. Checking online, we were shocked to find out that these timeshares have almost no value at all. He misled us.
Sales agent Landon Anderson gave us his phone number and said to call him any time. He said, “If you ever have any problems, we will work with you.” We said we were going to Branson after Christmas to which he replied that he would take us out to dinner. We called and called, but there was no answer. We believe this number was a burner phone in a drawer somewhere.
Finally, the reps never gave us a hard copy of the contract. We specifically asked for this, but instead handed us a tablet saying that these days everything was electronic. As a result, we could not read the contract so I don’t even know if we could have rescinded in time. I called Wyndham and insisted that they send me a hard copy by mail. It took a long time to arrive. We have been unable to make the electronic device work, so for the longest time we had no idea what was on there.
It felt like they were only interested in making a sale.
This is my sorry Wyndham experience.
From Florida Trends
The world’s largest timeshare developer, Wyndham Destinations, got off to a promising start this summer as a standalone company. The Orlando-based business, established when Wyndham Worldwide split its hotel and timeshare divisions, announced in August that timeshare sales increased by 7% and earnings exceeded Wall Street expectations during its first quarter on its own. “It was an outstanding quarter,” Michael Brown, Wyndham Destinations’ president and CEO, said on the company’s earnings call with analysts.
There was a cloud over the results, however. During the call, Wyndham also revealed that the number of owners defaulting on their timeshare mortgages climbed during the second quarter, extending what has become a multiyear increase in defaults. The company says the rate of increase in its provision for loan losses has slowed to “under 5%” in the second half of 2018, but in the earnings call Brown said defaults remain “higher than we would like,” seconded by CFO Michael Hug, who added that “loan loss remains a central area of focus.”
Of the company’s nearly 900,000 owners, only 200,000 have loans. However, the company expects to set aside 21% of its gross sales to cover losses in 2018 — meaning it expects not to collect $21 of every $100 it’s loaned.
Wyndham blames much of the problem on secondary companies in the timeshare market — firms that resell timeshares, arrange for the transfer of ownership or help purchasers get out of their timeshare contracts.
We are no fans of exit companies, but the industry as a whole seems to show undue finger pointing at exit companies, rather than even consider there might be a problem in-house.
Former Wyndham sales agent and whistleblower Trish Williams was awarded $20 million:
Wyndham’s sales goals for employees were impossible to meet if representatives adhered to the company’s policies and regulations governing timeshare sales, Robert Parker, a former sales executive, testified in depositions. When sales at the Canterbury lagged, he explained, something known as “TAFT days” came into play.
“TAFT is the acronym for ‘tell them any frigging thing,’” Mr. Parker testified. “In other words, it didn’t matter what you said. We need business. Today’s your day. Just tell them whatever you got to tell them. That’s what TAFT is.”
It may be a lofty goal, but we are hoping that by hearing the consumer’s side, a better relationship, and better corporate margins can be achieved, by addressing the problems rather than pretend the problems don’t exist. Inside Timeshare has listened to 659 mainly infuriated timeshare members.
Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:
Thank you to David for sharing his story, if you find after reading these articles that you have similar experiences and would like to share them with other, then use our contact page. We will then be in touch and welcome your contributions. It is only through your stories and “Nightmares on Timeshare Street” that the industry might, just might take notice, then we may see changes for the better.
Following on from the many articles that Inside Timeshare publishes about bogus law firms, claims companies, resale and exit companies, if you have been contacted or even been taken in by them, again use our contact page to get in touch. Your information can then be published to warn others, it is only through you the readers that these scam merchants can be outed and others prevented from falling victim.
As always do your homework before engaging with any company that has contacted you or that you have found either on the net or through adverts in various publications. Just because you see an advert in a prestigious paper or magazine, does not mean they are legitimate. Remember, the advertising department is there to sell advertising space, they make no checks on whether the company is genuine.
Have a great weekend and join us again next week.