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Hug Your Haters Part II: A Customer Service Message

Today’s article by Irene Parker is part II of her Hug Your Haters, which we published on 15 August,

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=customer+service+message

But first some of the latest in Europe.

At the end of last week, even though the courts are closed for business, another sentence against Anfi Sales SL and Anfi Resorts SL was published. This was issued by the Court of First Instance Number 1, based in Maspalomas, the court ruled according to the precedents set by the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Court Masp

In this case, the court ruled that the contract be declared null & void with the return of over 13,279€ plus legal interest. In this case the infraction was the length of the contract was greater than the 50 years allowed by Spanish timeshare law 42/98, which came into effect in January 1999.

Again this flies in the face of Anfi’s assertion that their contracts are legal and that they have not lost any cases, see the article “Truth, What is Truth?”  Published on 10 August.

It is not just Anfi who deny these facts, Silverpoint have been doing so for years, they have even left the RDO and claim they no longer sell “timeshare”. So what are they now selling?

Well the ploy by Silverpoint is the move to transfer the blocks of timeshare weeks they sold to clients (with the promise to sell in 2 years for a profit), into what is euphemistically called a “Company Participation Scheme”. Not much is known at present, a lot more research is yet to be done, but it appears that clients sign a document at the notary which makes them shareholders of the company Club Paradiso. If this is the case, then all liabilities of the company will fall squarely on those clients shoulders. More on this when the research is complete.

Now on with Irene’s article.

Hug Your Haters Part II

My Marriott Customer Service Experience

testimonials

By Irene Parker

August 29, 2017

Customer Service is a Spectator Sport, according to Hug Your Haters author Jay Baer. Although Hug Your Haters was written primarily for the providers of customer service, users of Customer Service can benefit from the book as well. Social Media has dramatically changed Customer Service in a way many timeshare companies have yet to acknowledge. The Marriott hotel chain seems to have gotten the message and has adapted to the new world order.

 

Mr. Baer discusses in his book the difference between onstage and offstage Haters. Many of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received are from offstage Haters, unfamiliar with Social Media. Sometimes offstage Haters need an onstage Hater to plead their case.

Disney Vacation Club seems to have bucked the timeshare trend, refusing to fall back on the oral representation clause that states, “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase” which translates to the customer is always wrong. Disney has few timeshare complaints so it’s not surprising to find former Walt Disney theme park executive Lee Cockerell, author of The Customer Rules, mentioned in Hug Your Haters. Mr. Cockerell explains in his book how he would encounter employees blaming the customer:

“From time to time over the years, a customer would complain to me that a frontline employee had been belligerent. When I asked the employee what happened, I’d usually be told the customer was wrong about the facts, or had been abusive, or trying to cheat the company. Most of the time, the employee believed it was better to lose a bad customer than appease one.” p. 115

A Lesson for Other Timeshare Companies

Another Hug Your Hater example is Pella Windows and Doors, VP of marketing Elaine Sagers. “Monthly, our executives call a random selection of unhappy customers to talk about their experiences with us…..We’ve also played recordings from the call center so you can hear the emotion in our customers’ voices around what’s been happening with jobs and their homes.” p. 120

Having listened to 133 timeshare complaints, mainly about maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist, or the ability to sell points when no secondary market exists, it’s hard to understand how companies can so often ignore or dismiss allegations, especially when a volume of complaints (119 out of 133) meet the definition of white collar crime – “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch” – painting a compelling and compounding picture of trouble within a company or within the timeshare industry as a whole. I challenge any timeshare executive to listen to the tone of the voices of families devastated financially by their vacation plan. “Well you signed a contract,” is not the appropriate answer. I’m sure Mr. Baer would agree.

Mr. Baer makes another important point I have often stated when it comes to offering a customer wronged an apology. “In some corners of the business universe, anyone interacting with customers is prohibited from saying (or typing) an apology, because it is believed – by particularly Draconian attorneys – that it could weaken the company’s position in a legal proceeding.” “In the world of Charles Dickens, ‘If that’s the law, then the law is an ass,’” Mr. Baer quotes Michael Lasky, an attorney and litigator with the Davis & Gilbert law firm in New York City. Mr. Laskey emphasized that of course companies should be careful about what they say, but the answer is not to ever say “I’m sorry.” p 125

marriott rewards

Page 138 of Hug Your Haters discusses the importance of rapid complaint response time. My husband and I have been Platinum Marriott Rewards members for several years. About a decade ago I complained about something I can’t remember at a Marriott Hotel front desk. I was just complaining, not asking for compensation, yet the company responded with an automatic adjustment in reward points. Every 20 or so stays, something might happen that I would complain about had it not been for the times the company responded rapidly and appropriately.

Right out of the Hug Your Haters playbook, I posted a comment on the Marriott Facebook about how a trainee and a manager patiently and pleasantly changed our room three times to address our concern about highway noise. I posted this experience on Marriott’s Facebook and they almost immediately responded, “Irene, we would like to share this on our comment site if that’s alright with you.” As Mr. Baer explains, onstage Haters (or Lovers) don’t expect to be answered. When they are, they are taken aback, astonished that a company as large as Marriott would care.

I can’t speak for Marriott Vacation Club, the timeshare company, because I am not a member, but one of our Advocates, a senior manager with a Fortune 500 company, also a Marriott Vacation Club member, made this comment about Marriott in Part I of our Inside Timeshare article Hug Your Haters, “I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost. Also, while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience.”

Onstage Haters compared to Offstage Haters – Chapter 7

Some companies respond to negative comments by expanding their advertising budget. “Advertising is a tax paid for being unremarkable,” is a quote Mr. Baer said is usually attributed to Robert Stephens, founder of The Geek Squad,  but he rephrases the comment appropriately, “Advertising is a tax paid when you’re poor at retaining your current customers.” p. 18

“Listening is the ability to pay attention to what the sounds means and understanding it. We hear noise, but we listen to music. That is because noise falls on our ears without any effort at our end,” said an anonymous writer explaining the difference between hearing and listening. Too often customer complaints are dismissed as noise in the form or automatic denials to a complaint filed against a timeshare sales agent (s).

create

These are but a few timeshare Advocacy Facebooks and websites of members helping members because company complaints so often fall on deaf ears. They are closed groups, but all would welcome corporate representatives bold enough to listen and learn. We hope timeshare industry executives, ARDA and lawmakers will take the time to not just hear, but listen.

Bluegreen and Diamond Resorts Advocacy Facebooks

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/

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

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently sent a message in the form of a $6.5 million settlement against The Manhattan Club timeshare accused of restricting availability for members who paid thousands of dollars for a timeshare while allowing access to those booking online. The settlement response was a reaction to a chorus of timeshare members mobilized and action orientated. All timeshare owners are grateful because a victory for one is a victory for all. Lack of availability is a universal complaint.

change

Thank you Irene, once again you have given us a look into the world of “Customer Service” or in some cases lack of. It is one of the main complaints that Inside Timeshare does receive, in many cases the sales staff are only intent on getting more money from you, rather than helping to get the best from your membership.

If timeshare is to flourish, developers and resorts really do need to look at this aspect and change their practises. Disney is a very good example of this as we showed in a previous article by Irene, “Disney Vacation Club Vs The Timeshare Industry”, published in July’s “A Lesson for Other Timeshare Companies”.

If you have any questions or comments Inside Timeshare invites you to contact us, your views are important, it will help to change the industry for the better.

Have you been contacted by a company you have never heard of, or want to know more about but don’t know how to start, again contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

help

A Lesson for Other Timeshare Companies

Over the past few weeks many of the articles have shown some of the worst of timeshare, today however we show what can be good about timeshare.

In the UK there is a certain saying which is normally associated with substandard, shoddy or a bit of a joke, that saying is “Mickey Mouse!”

But in the context of this article it means brilliant!

Irene Parker explores one timeshare product that excels, in the world of timeshare this is rare indeed, Inside Timeshare has also done a lot of investigating and concurs with Irene, we can find no complaints against this “Mickey Mouse” outfit.

Before we published this article we reached out to Bluegreen, they told us they would have a response within 24 hours, that was on Monday, we still have not heard from them. The point is, by reaching out to other companies, we are giving them the opportunity to change, by working with us and our readers they have the chance to put right what is wrong with timeshare.

In Europe and Spain in particular, it is legislation that is forcing timeshare developers to change what and how they sell. The proliferation of court actions has changed timeshare for the better, we are seeing products and sales techniques change. Disney have shown that by having respect for their clients and putting their needs first, they have a product that is worthy of the name “timeshare”.

So on with Irene’s article.

Disney Vacation Club vs The Timeshare Industry

https://disneyvacationclub.disney.go.com/membership/

Why can’t I find any Disney complaints?

disney

By Irene Parker

July 26, 2017

Try as I might, I cannot find complaints about Disney’s timeshare arm, Disney Vacation Club. Searching in vain, it brought up memories of the old Maytag repairman ads describing the Maytag repairman as “The Loneliest Guy in Town”. The point of this long running series of commercials was that the product was so trustworthy and dependable that Maytag repairmen spent their days waiting for the phone to ring.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXJ0rAyE_mQ

Why does the Disney Vacation Club have so few complaints? Any company has its grumblers, but the best I could find were a few owners complaining about availability. I asked Fernando at the Disney sales call center. Fernando was not allowed to provide his last name but was happy to talk about what makes Disney different and why Disney customers are so loyal.

Fernando attributed such a low volume of complaints to customer expectations met. As far as the complaints about availability, “Some timeshare members plan better than others”, said Fernando. “But it’s all about meeting customer expectations.” Just like hotel bookings, timeshare bookings are subject to supply and demand that fluctuates with peak and off seasons.

I also asked Fernando if he felt a viable secondary market was a benefit for the company as the timeshare owner obviously benefits from access to a secondary market. “Disney does not attempt to control the market. We believe timeshare should be a free market,” he explained.

Members of the Licensed Timeshare Broker Association say Disney has one of the best secondary market prices. Tom Tubbs of Island Consulting Realty told me Disney almost always exercises their Right of First Refusal. A company that exercises its ROFR actually supports the resale price. Island Consulting Realty is BBB accredited with an A+ rating and a member of LTRBA and ARDA.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

The Timeshare Store markets basically only Disney timeshares.

“We don’t charge any upfront fees. A seller pays a commission at the time of closing and $170 in fees to Disney Vacation Club,” explained Jason Erpelding, Licensed Real Estate Broker Associate. Above all, consumers buying or selling a timeshare on the secondary market should work through a licensed broker as timeshare resale and listing scams are common. The Timeshare Store has a Better Business Bureau rating of A.

http://www.dvc-resales.com/

Contrast Disney timeshare resale prices with timeshare resale prices in general. Many timeshare are offered for $1 to $99, originally purchased for thousands of dollars. As demonstrated by The Timeshare Store listings, Disney resales are offered for $10,000 to $30,000 or more. Contact The Timeshare Store or a LTRBA member to find out the benefits or lack of benefits buying resale vs buying directly from the timeshare developer.

https://www.bbb.org/west-florida/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/island-consulting-realty-in-sarasota-fl-18003121/bbb-accreditation

Disney’s website states: You purchase a real estate interest in a Disney Vacation Club Resort. The keywords are real estate. You own something and thus have a beneficial interest. Some timeshare company non-deeded points have been compared to buying air. Lack of availability is a frequent complaint.

Fernando and I talked about Disney’s corporate culture. Ray Kroc of McDonald’s restaurant fame and Walt Disney both drove an ambulance for the Red Cross in World War I. “While we were out chasing girls, Walt was drawing cartoons. All those girls are dead but Walt’s cartoons thrive to this day”, said Kroc.

mickey

Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Corporation were originally motivated by art. Money was the by-product of a pure motivation. Think of a real estate agent who is motivated by finding you the best house as opposed to the real estate agent that has nothing but the vision of a commission check dancing in front of his or her eyes. The purity of Walt Disney’s original motive has had an effect that has carried through the decades. “People buy a Disney timeshare because they know Disney and believe in Disney”, said Fernando. In other words, the strength of the Disney brand, supported by met expectations, has led Disney to become the model for timeshare developers industry wide. “I love what I do here,” Fernando added.

Lisa Ann Schreier, former timeshare sales agent and author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies, echoed Fernando’s enthusiasm. Lisa worked at Celebration World Resort, right in Disney’s Orlando neighborhood. “Most if not all Disney Vacation Club purchasers/owners are given sufficient information on the product before and after purchase. There’s no feeling of being rushed into a purchase and Disney’s famous Guest Service is no less evident with DVC than at The Magic Kingdom”.  

There doesn’t appear to be any angry owner Facebooks or websites either. Let’s contrast Disney with Bluegreen timeshare. The following are member supported Bluegreen Facebook pages. In parenthesis I have changed the words to be generic as the advice provided is appropriate for any would-be timeshare buyer.

This Bluegreen Facebook page of 1,670 members, Sales Team Reviews & Update/Sales Presentation Experience, is for the benefit of the members, corporate Bluegreen personnel and sales agents working towards a more honest and transparent sales process.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1718664518412381/

(Any timeshare company) IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR DOING ANYTHING OTHER THAN WHAT IS STATED IN THE CONTRACT. IF YOUR SALES REP CANNOT SHOW IT TO YOU IN WRITING IN THE CONTRACT DO NOT EXPECT TO SEE IT HAPPEN.

YOU HAVE A CANCELLATION PERIOD WHICH VARIES BY STATE AND THAT INFORMATION IS ALSO IN THE CONTRACT.

(Many)  BENEFITS ARE NOT GUARANTEED. THEY CAN BE CHANGED OR CANCELLED AT ANYTIME.

This is a public group accessible to everyone, including Sales and Corporate. You are responsible for your own comments, opinions, etc. I am merely providing this page as a single location for both positive and negative experiences in regards to the sales team. Allowing both them and corporate to better improve how owners and possible new owners are treated, likely increasing sales.”

A Member Sponsored Bluegreen Facebook page:  770 members

This Facebook page seems to be a sort of self-help Facebook for members trying to be released from their contract. A book on how to write a letter to an Attorney General is available.

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

The following internet consumer complaint sites list Bluegreen reviews:

Consumer Affairs rates Bluegreen 1 ½ stars out of 5 stars based on 100 ratings. There were a total of 411 reviews. In all fairness, Disney ranked only 2 stars out of 5. Typically happy customers don’t bother searching for complaint sites to post positive reviews. Consumer Affairs posts a balanced collection of consumer reviews helpful for consumers researching online.

Pissed Consumer rates Bluegreen 1.9 out of 5 stars based on 155 reviews. There were a total of 761 reviews. There were no Disney reviews on this site.

Complaints List – There was only one Bluegreen complaint but the comment was intriguing.

“One federal authority told me they are in violation of the constitution by enslaving people with unending contracts because this is a form of indentured slavery and slavery is unconstitutional…”

Better Business Bureau

TUG Timeshare Users Group noted that Bluegreen lost their rating in 2010 with an F rating.

http://tugbbs.com/forums/index.php?threads/bluegreen-corp-loses-its-bbb-accreditation-with-an-f-rating.132284/

Bluegreen is not BBB accredited but now has a B+ rating.  Keep in mind BBB does not resolve complaints. They rate how effectively a company responds to complaints.

7 positive

4 neutral

67 negative (out of 78 reviews)

Bluegreen had 761 complaints in the last three years.

https://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/vacation-clubs/bluegreen-corporation-in-boca-raton-fl-8195

Contrast the Bluegreen BBB rating with Disney’s rating:

Disney has been accredited since 1991 with an A+ rating. There was one review:

1 positive

0 neutral

0 negative

Disney had nine complaints in three years.

In my research I found useful timeshare tips provided by the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Division, the most important being:

Oral promises: Make certain all promises made by the salesperson are written into the contract.

https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Publications/TimesharesResellers182.aspx

Here is the company response one of our Diamond Resort readers just emailed me in response to their allegations that they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. I have highlighted the oral representation section in red.

“We must advise that legally the contract is binding and as we have previously advised the relevant information could be found in the body of the agreement and was in fact acknowledged by yourself. We must advise that it is specified clearly in the contract documentation that if you relied upon any verbal information given during the presentation you must ask for this to be put in writing. Likewise, if anything was said that was of particular importance to you, but which is not contained in the terms and conditions of the membership, this should have been requested to be implemented in the body of contract before documentation was signed.”

It would certainly save the timeshare company and the timeshare buyer a lot of times and trouble if the paragraph above would be provided to the person about to enter a timeshare presentation. Most, if not all of the complaints Inside Timeshare receives begin with, “The sales agent said…..”

The Finn Law Group maintains approximately 500 timeshare cases. Timeshare attorney Mike Finn told me he has never had a Disney client which led me on this quest to find Disney complaints. Mike Finn has often said the timeshare contract’s oral representation clause is “a license to lie”, used and abused by some timeshare sales agents. Just think. If Disney were the only timeshare company out there, Mike Finn would be Disney’s version of the Maytag repairman.

maytag

So there we have it, not exactly rocket science is it?

Put the customer first, give a good service and bingo, happy all round. A business model that keeps going, a business that people are proud to work for, a business that customers are happy to be members of.

On another note, Canarian Legal Alliance, announced that it had just received another Supreme Court ruling, that now brings the total to a massive 57. You could say that they have just had their “Heinz” moment.

In Spanish legal history this is unprecedented, no other law firm has achieved anything like this, from what our sources tell us this figure is set to rise, as they have many more cases waiting to be heard in Spain’s highest court!

As the news comes in we will keep you informed.

In this week’s Friday’s Letter from America we will be publishing another article on Advocacy, written by one of The Timeshare Advocacy Group. In this analysis of the industry the writer puts forward some very interesting points, so stay with us for the next article, see you then.