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November 2018

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to another Tuesday Slot, this week we have a new contributor, the Walency family with their own “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this time it is Hilton Grand Vacations that are in the frame. It is just amazing that even a company with a prestigious reputation as Hilton allows their sales agents to mislead and lie to prospective clients in order to line their own pockets. As we have said before, the timeshare product is not a bad concept, it is the behaviour and underhand tactics of sales agents with the complicity of their managers that are bringing the industry into disrepute. The CEO’s of these companies must take full responsibility for this, they are after all in charge!

Our Eternal Hilton Vacation Nightmare

By the Walency Family

November 27, 2018

This article was sent to Hilton for comment November 5. There was no response and at the time of publishing no response has been received.  

We don’t understand how a huge company like Hilton Grand Vacations can allow their sales agents to say anything at a timeshare presentation and then lay claim to the contents of our wallet from now until we die. We have unchecked corporations picking on small fish while lawmakers and big government agencies sit back watching the show and timeshare sales agents and executives rake in millions at our expense.  

Something is very wrong when a product, so often sold as an asset, forces buyers no choice but to foreclose if they don’t want it. If you buy a house, and you have an outstanding loan, you can still sell it. Timeshare buyers like me have no choice but to foreclose, due to the lack of a secondary market, ruining our credit, and I’m sure the credit of thousands.  Change will only happen through the cumulative voices of everyday people who have had their financial lives wrecked by this timeshare industry. We need to keep shouting until we can’t be ignored. If Hilton won’t listen, we hope others timeshare companies will.

Consumers need to think twice about buying any timeshare, as you can find yourself held financial hostage buying something that cannot be sold and is accompanied by rising maintenance fees.  The timeshare industry is leaving buyers with ruined credit scores and the anguish that goes along with foreclosure.

We received our closing documents well after the rescission date which prevented us from cancelling the contract.  We feel we experienced deceptive sales, but the difference in what we bought and what Hilton sales agent Bruce K sold us did not become apparent until long after the rescission period. We feel we experienced a bait and switch.

We purchased the Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare in New York City, New York, 2016 for $13,390. We no longer intend to pay for this contract. Bruce K misled us about the total cost of the timeshare. He did not mention property taxes, increased maintenance fees, or yearly assessments. We have had to pay $150 in yearly club dues, $335 for club inventory activation fee and $690.52 for annual assessment fees that he did not mention at the presentation.

We have been trying to communicate with Hilton since June 2018. To date, we have received only one letter with a copy of our contract and little else. In other words, they got us because we signed a contract, despite what the sales agent told us to get us to sign.

Bruce K told us he wasn’t a salesman, just there to help timeshare owners find buyers. Two lies in one. He was a salesman. Hilton does not have a resale department. We have tried to find his real estate license number, unsuccessfully, and wonder whether he was licensed to sell us the timeshare in the first place.

Bruce K told us it would be a good investment because it was real estate that this would be great to pass on to my daughters. He said it already had equity. This was the third lie as timeshares are a liability to be passed on to your kids.

He said we could book wherever we wanted, easily. We wanted to book Florida on the east coast. We were told it was not available, but could be booked through the next year or so.

In this day and age of easy online booking, we have to wait a year?

We asked for Cape Canaveral and Panama City Beach Resorts and Galveston, but ended up in Vegas as a last resort. We were never able to book with the ease that Bruce K told us we would be able to book.

What we were told:

  1. Bruce K said the Hilton timeshare was just like any other property where you can claim the interest paid on your taxes each year and it would pay for itself by renting it out and that he would help us do that. When I called to see if I could rent out my week, I was told Hilton does not allow renting the timeshare.
  2. Bruce K said there was a market to sell the timeshare if we needed to sell. We entered that market and were scammed the same way Hilton scammed us. Hilton Grand Vacations doesn’t have a buyback program.
  3. Bruce K stated several times how this would change the way we took vacations for the rest of our lives and how we could get reduced prices on airfare and ground travel in Europe and be able to book exotic vacations anywhere in the world. Booking vacations during our week is impossible because it was never available during week 31 of our agreement.

The New York and Texas Attorney Generals were useless and provided no help whatsoever, but I understand the New York Attorney General was able to help The Manhattan Club timeshare members get back $6.5 million. I found this on the internet:

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

So is their hope for the rest of us?

Self-help groups:

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you to the Walency family for their contribution, if you have had a similar experience with any timeshare company and would like to share this on our “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, use our contact page and we will get back to you.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to our Friday’s Letter from America, this week Wayne Robinson explains why it is often very difficult to cancel after purchasing a timeshare, but first a quick look at Europe.

Earlier this week it came to our attention that one of the largest tour operators TUI had been advertising weeks at Anfi Emerald for 1000€ p.p.p week, this was for a 1 bed deluxe apartment and included flights, transfers and breakfast. Now when we consider that members have paid thousands for their floating weeks along with the annual maintenance fees, yet we constantly hear from them that there is no availability, it makes you wonder what is going on?

This is not just a problem with Anfi, we have heard from many timeshare members that they are constantly having trouble booking, yet they see their own resorts being advertised on the various booking websites. Is it fair that these people pay thousands for what they are told is exclusive to members and find they can in many cases book cheaper than their maintenance fees, without having to pay the initial purchase extortionate price.

In another twist, mindtimeshare which formerly under the now discredited Alberto Garcia, was funded by the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation), has just published what can only be described as a rebuke of their former paymasters.

It revolves around the liquidation of Enduria Travel, also known as the Travel Shop and was based in Gran Canaria, they were also affiliate members of the RDO. In their article, mindtimeshare explained that they actually expressed concerns to the RDO about this company, but the RDO still accepted their membership. All we can say is how things have changed.

Today is what everyone is calling Black Friday, but at the start of the week it was for Anfi BLACK MONDAY!

Canarian Legal Alliance received on that day alone 12, yes 12 sentences against Anfi in favour of their clients, with over 900,000€ awarded, plus all contracts were declared null and void. They also received another sentence from the High Court in Tenerife against Silverpoint. In all this year CLA have secured over 11 million euros in awarded claims.

Now for this weeks article.

5 Strategies Timeshare Resorts Use To Prevent Cancellations

By Wayne Robinson

Black Friday November 23, 2018

Today is Black Friday in America, celebrated by standing in long lines at shopping malls to be followed by Cyber Monday, when stay at home shoppers shop the internet. I hope you will add my book Everything About Timeshares: Before, During and After the Sale onto your Cyber Monday shopping list.

Available through Barnes and Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

Many timeshare buyers do not even think about the contract they signed until after the rescission period has passed. Given that buyers are often not allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period, the product the consumer bought is for the most part bought sight unseen and untried. Anything we can do shed light on these important rescission days could save the timeshare buyer untold grief and money, should they come to regret their purchase.

The Rescission Period     

The rescission period is the time allotted by local governments for consumers to review their purchase and legally cancel their timeshare. The length of time varies by state, but is typically three to ten days. In Aruba, and in some American states, there is no rescission period.

If the timeshare buyer cancels their purchase during the rescission period, the government requires timeshare companies to give purchasers a full refund of any monies they have received. There is nothing more frustrating for a sales team than to spend 6-8 hours making a sale that later cancels. Sales agents and their managers will do everything they can to prevent new owners from cancelling their timeshare purchase during the rescission period.

Here are 5 strategies that many timeshare resorts use to prevent new timeshare owners from cancelling during the rescission period.

  1.      Sales agents will avoid the rescission clause that is included in the documents.

Although the rescission clause is clearly written in the documents, many timeshare agents or Legal Verification Officers (VLO) will avoid mentioning this very important item. Many reps will discuss other matters to avoid the clause that outlines the rescission.

The resort’s management will not allow sales reps to mention the rescission period during the sale presentation.  Mentioning it could lead to disciplinary action or being fired.

This is how many timeshare sales reps avoid having their sales cancelled.

Most timeshare buyers will not review the paperwork during the rescission period. After a 6-8 hour grueling sales presentation, the last thing the new owner wants to do is review all the legal jargon included in the documents.  If the rescission period is not mentioned by the staff, too often the buyer is not even aware of it. In some states trial products have no rescission period.

Each state rescission period is listed in this chart provided by ARDA, the American Resort Development Association.  There have been more than a few complaints from timeshare members who were denied release, despite being only a half day late. Instructions on how to rescind are buried deep within the contract, and sometimes instructions are vague.

http://arda.org/uploadedFiles/ARDA/Government_Affairs/Government_Affairs_Call_Out_Boxes/RescissionPeriodsDec2012.pdf

  1.      They will follow-up to overcome Buyer’s Remorse
Photo by Samantha Hurley by Burst

It is important for the timeshare sales staff to keep in touch with their new clients shortly after the sale to prevent them from cancelling.  Most clients will have buyer’s remorse and reconsider their purchase after the buyer has taken the time to think about their purchase, research the company that they just spent $21,000 on (on average), to ensure that they did the right thing. For this reason, sales reps need to be available just in case the client wants to cancel. After all, it might have been a very expensive and unexpected purchase that was sold on emotion

According to a Redweek article, Dr. Amy Gregory, assistant professor at the University of Florida has been studying the impact of buyer regret and remorse and rescission decisions. She says that most timeshare buyers regret their decisions.

A whopping 85 percent of all buyers regret their purchase (for money, fear, confusion, intimidation, distrust and other reasons).”

Dr. Gregory’s findings are as follows:

  • The average rescission rate is 15% – essentially identical to the daily average percentage of people who buy a timeshare following a sales presentation.
  • 85% of all buyers regret their purchase, citing reasons including money, fear, confusion, intimidation, and distrust.
  • 41% of buyers never thought they would regret their purchase but ended up doing so; 30% were neutral prior to buying, but came to regret their decision.
  • 95% of all buyers go back to their resort and sales team for more information after the sale, usually within one to three days, seeking more information about maintenance fees, resale options, and pricing alternatives.

Some sales reps will treat their new owners out for a nice dinner to help “bond the relationship.”  This tactic works well as the new owners are getting to know the sales agent on a personal basis rather than as a sales person.  After all, the salesperson used their own money and time to take the new owners out for dinner. Why would they consider canceling with “their new friend?”

  1.      They will follow-up by phone.

If the new timeshare owners are on vacation some resorts will require the sale staff that made the sale to meet with the new clients the next day, or call them within 24 hours. This is to overcome buyer’s remorse, and to answer any questions or provide clarifications.  Often, the new owners forget the verbiage made during the presentation.

  1.      The resort may reduce the sales price.

If the new timeshare owners decide that they want to cancel, the resort can offer to reduce the price. Often this “second round” rendezvous could require another 2-3 hours of negotiations. Many take the bait and purchase at the lower price, or some keep the original agreement.  Unfortunately, the timeshare company may not change the original rescission period, and the new owners now have less time to reconsider their purchase.

Consumers need to be aware that the “today only” price will always be available the next day, week, month or maybe even years later.

  1.      The resort may offer more gifts.

If the resort offered gifts, there are hundreds or thousands of additional monies that was left on the table because the sale did not exceed their “bottom line” price.

If the new owners want to cancel, the management can offer more gifts to “sweeten the deal.”  These free gifts might include free accommodations, free meals, free activities, free or discounted RCI weeks or other options.

New owners must be aware of the new terms that might have entered the contract.  These terms could include paying rack rates for the free accommodations or paying the highest advertised prices for any gifts just in case they decide to cancel the deal. This action could add into the thousands of dollars if they decide to cancel.

Timeshare resorts will use every strategy that they can, including embarrassment and condescendence to keep the sale, but it’s the consumer’s final decision to end the relationship or move forward. Therefore, it is imperative to read all the documents thoroughly before signing, or present it to an attorney during the rescission period.

Wayne C. Robinson is the author of Everything About Timeshares:  Before, During and After The Sale. He is a former timeshare executive who is advocating with consumers to assist them their timeshares problems, and to help consumers better understand the timeshare business from an “insider’s” perspective.

For more information, visit his website at www.everythingabouttimeshares.com

Related article: About Wayne Robinson

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-21/

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Wayne for your contribution this week, it is certainly an eye opener.

If you have any questions or comments about this or any other article, then Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you. We hope that you have a great weekend and join us again next week.

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.Court Masp

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.

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

By Irene Parker

August 29, 2017

Customer Service is a Spectator Sport, according to Hug Your Haters author Jay Bear. 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.

How does a timeshare company respond to the following complaint?  

An 85/83 year old couple was sold nine timeshare contracts over a 2 ½ year period, with the last contract sold four months ago. They were sold approximately $550,000 worth of timeshare vacation points. They were encouraged to open a Barclaycard to make a down payment on the last contract but the application was denied. They cannot travel alone and soon will not be able to travel at all. The wife has been diagnosed Alzheimer’s. The husband has dementia. He is a Vietnam Vet having served 21 years in the military. They cannot remember signing any contracts. Their maintenance fees and loan payments are $64k a year which is 100% of their after tax income.  

Mr. Baer discusses in his book the difference between onstage and off stage Haters. The couple above would be described as an offstage Hater, unfamiliar with Social Media. I describe myself as a seeker of timeshare accountability and transparency, but I acquiesce to the title of an onstage Hater to keep with the Hug Your Haters theme. Sometimes offstage Haters need an onstage Hater to plead their case. It has often been reported some timeshare sales agents target the elderly.  

 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

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-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

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).

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.

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.