As usual the industry attacks those that highlight their failings, this time it is the turn of our main writer and colleague Irene Parker.
In today’s article Irene’s husband Don, who knows her better than anyone else comes to her defense, like the knight in shining armour. Inside Timeshare has seen these sort of tactics many times in the past, the industry trying to discredit those who are doing some good, letting you know what they upto.
If the industry and the industry trade bodies, not just ARDA in the US but the RDO in Europe, focused on the failings of their own members instead of attacking and making snide comments about others, then maybe, just maybe we would have an industry that we could believe in.
For too long the industry has been riding roughshod over you the consumers, allowing their sales agents to lie to you just to get the sale, continually upgrading when you don’t actually need it. Collecting maintenance fees yet giving you nothing in return.
Then comes along someone like Irene, who gives all and expects nothing in return, take a leaf out of her book. She is known as the Peasant of Venice, as opposed to the Queen of Versailles (madam Westgate). Irene is an inspiration to many, she has pulled together many others who volunteer their time to help others all for no personal gain other than satisfaction that they have helped and made a difference.
We now leave the stage to Don.
ARDA, Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen
Irene does not get paid!
By Don Parker
July 19, 2017
On more than one occasion, my wife Irene told me there are those at ARDA and at Diamond Resorts convinced Irene is receiving compensation from timeshare members who contact her asking for assistance after they explain how they feel they were victims of deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.
While I understand it might be difficult for those earning high salaries to comprehend why someone would forfeit their retirement opting to spend 40 to 50 hours per week advocating for others, people that know Irene and have worked side by side with her in previous advocacy efforts will vouch for her credibility.
Irene and I have been together for 35 years. Here are a few examples of Irene’s past efforts:
In New Jersey Irene ended up at the Drop-In Center for Aids patients in Newark. One Sunday we heard about an Aids Awareness Day at a Catholic Church in New Jersey where we lived at the time. Diocese wide, 90 volunteers were recruited. The problem was the Diocese did not expect that level of interest. They had no program. Having sent the Diocese a letter presenting her volunteer experience, the Bishop requested an interview with her. He sent Irene to meet Brother Joe McAlister at the Newark Aids Drop-in Center. When Irene told Brother Joe the Bishop recruited 90 volunteers to help with the 8,000 cases of Aids in New Jersey, Brother Joe replied, “We don’t need any fxxxing Florence Nightingale’s here.” After a staring contest, Irene asked Brother Joe, “Do you need money?” He wavered. Irene reached into her purse, took out her checkbook and wrote a check for $35 to buy a coffee maker for one patron and an iron for a Hispanic man who liked to iron his shirts. After that Brother Joe, the Drop-In Center patrons and Irene became the best of friends. I helped out too and have to say I learned a lot from those brave souls. That was about 30 hours per week unpaid.
In Hawaii Irene worked with the Salvation Army and was a founding mother of the Waimea Salvation Army Board on the Big Island. She worked about 10 volunteer hours a week helping the Army find appreciable assets for their Charitable Remainder Trust program. Hawaii has a high tax rate and Irene had several clients who could use the tax benefits provided by a Charitable Remainder Trust. She and their development director also gave presentations around the islands.
Irene came home from work one day with a Korean baby and mom. Irene had learned dad was alcoholic and addicted to heroin. He was a Harvard graduate and fellow Rotarian. Before I knew it we were at the Korean Embassy in Honolulu arranging to fly mom and baby back to South Korea so they could get out of Dodge before the baby was placed in foster care. Mom was here illegally since Dad never married her. Salvation Army Major Ganot advised us on how to handle this situation which led to Irene’s Salvation Army involvement. Major Ganot could be a major in anyone’s army. She worked 26 years in Haiti.
Irene got really mad in Michigan. By now she had retired from the brokerage business and had been hired as a pipe organist and Music Director for a Catholic church. One day there appeared in the paper an article about how a few bad apple nuns sexually abused 120 Indian boys from the 1st to the 7th grade back in the 60s and 70s. Just like timeshare, our Priest said there is no evidence this happened, despite a four part article with the surviving victims interviewed by an Indian working on her Ph.D.
Before long, Irene and I were at the tribal headquarters meeting with the Chippewa Peacemaker (judge) and about a month later we were with Peacemaker Paul at the Diocese meeting with the Bishop demanding an apology. That’s all they wanted. But, just like timeshare, an apology is a tall order as it really is an admission of guilt. This was a good Bishop who listened and did offer an apology to a group of people and in print media. Irene calls them Indians because the root of the word means In-Dios, in God, and American means Amerigo Vespucci who contributed to the destruction of their land and people.
Kentucky was another state where Irene worked full time for free as a CASA volunteer, advocates on behalf of children in foster care. After about a year, Irene raised enough money to fund a “Fostering Futures” program assisting teens aging out of foster care, who had agreed to extend their commitment for educational purposes. This population of youth “aging out” is probably the highest risk population in the country. Since Kentucky was the last state we lived in, there are many at CASA who will vouch for Irene’s efforts like Debbie Harwood and Andrew Wollin who wrote a grant in order to hire Irene to be a full time paid CASA Supervisor writing and editing court reports for children in foster care. CASAs also attend all hearings and trials.
Debbie can also vouch for the effort Irene put into selling ads for the Ombudsman program housed at legal aid. Ombudsmen advocate on behalf of nursing home patients. Irene put in about 20 volunteer hours per week on that one for several months.
Last, but not least, Irene became a Volunteer Enactus Advisor at Western Kentucky University helping Burmese Karenni refugee women, not literate in their own language, sell beautifully woven scarves and bags at the Farmer’s Market and was able to introduce them to a few stores. Irene convinced me I should teach a few of the Burmese how to drive (on our car). Enactus is a worldwide organization partnering major corporations with universities worldwide to improve impoverished populations. She completed a WKU graduate course on “Teaching English as a Second Language” concentrating on pre-literate learners. The Burmese speak over five languages. They are not dialects.
That brings us to Florida where we live now. While we were in between houses, waiting for our home in Venice to be built, we attended a predatory timeshare presentation at Diamond’s Grand Beach Resort in Orlando. The reason I say it was predatory is because I was 77 years old at the time. The last thing I needed was vacation points. I remember Irene asking three times if we would be paired with a commissioned sales agent as we were only interested in long term care plans at this stage of our life. Told no because there had been so many complaints, we were held for over three hours by bad and worse cops that left Irene so angry she wrote to Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi of Fox Business Property Man. Out of all the viewers who responded to a show about Westgate Timeshare called “The Queen of Versailles”, Irene and I were selected for an interview because the producer told her she was the only respondent who wanted to talk about the positives in addition to the negatives concerning timeshare. Irene has called herself “The Peasant of Venice” ever since.
I hope this answers the question, “Does Irene get paid to assist timeshare members who are angry, confused, overwhelmed and desperate?”
Instead of worrying about whether Irene gets paid or not, I hope ARDA, Diamond and Bluegreen will think about the harm being done to so many consumers. Instead of attacking my wife, I think they should track down the sales agents using unscrupulous tactics and drain the swamp of them, instead of always saying the sales agent didn’t say that.
I am the first person to read Irene’s articles and the articles submitted to her written by other timeshare members. I’ve heard and learned a lot about timeshare. Not all presentations are predatory. We are actually not unhappy with our Diamond points. I don’t know that I would use the word happy, but our first two sales presentations before 2015 were professional. It seems the escalation in aggression has really ramped up over the last two or three years.
When Irene and the member run into a dead end with the timeshare company, she does refer to a variety of lawyers. She receives no compensation from any attorney unless you consider the time a few of them give for legal editing.
By now, if you are still reading, you might be asking why Irene is so determined to find and assist victims. When Irene was 24 years old her best friend, Jayme Simmons, asked if she could live with her because she was afraid of her husband. Jayme and her two year old daughter left after two months. A week later her husband John Moore shot her in the face three times in front of her daughter. He served only seven years in a California prison. That kind of an event can have a lasting effect. You could say Irene has channeled that anger into advocacy.
I hope others volunteer to help write timeshare reports because there has been an increasing number of callers and emailers. We hope someday, somewhere, a lawmaker or regulator or AARP will either stop the predatory behavior or enough public exposure alerts the public to buyer beware. Irene knows there are also a lot of Wyndham members who complain, but they have not been calling – yet.
Contact Inside Timeshare or Irene if you have a concern about your timeshare purchase, but I kindly ask that you call between the hours of 1 to 5 PM Eastern Standard Time as that is a good time to call. Irene writes reports and articles in the mornings.
There you have it, that is what it means to be a VOLUNTEER, something these businesses fail to understand. It is not all about money, it is about doing what is right.
In Spain we are seeing the industry on the run, their failure to abide by the laws because they believed they were above the law, is now starting to bite them back. Millions of Euros are being awarded back to consumers by the courts. Other European countries are looking at Spain to see how they can protect the consumer from these timeshare giants.
The industry needs to take note, carry on running it like you do, then there will not be an industry left. Consumers are getting wise to your tactics, Inside Timeshare will publish what you do wrong, but we will also publish when you get it right. We would love to publish more positive articles, timeshare could be a good product, but your greed has destroyed what was once loved by many.