Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome Pete Gibbes, with another Secret Shopper report. Pete as Secret Shopper Coordinator, has revised the secret shopper questions, this is part 1.
But first a quick summary of some news from the Spanish Courts. Canarian Legal Alliance has reported that last week they received eleven (11) new sentences, these were against Anfi Del Mar, Silverpoint and Petchey Leisure. Once again the courts have declared the contracts null and void, plus ordering the return of substantial sums of money to the clients, with this week alone over 340,000€ having been awarded.
Over the next 30 days, CLA have informed Inside Timeshare of the number of trial and pre-trials they have in various courts around Spain, it is a staggering 101! That is certainly keeping the judicial system busy.
Their execution of sentence department headed by Cristina Batista and Judith Diaz Pascual, have filed “provisional executions”, with a total worth of over 6 million euros against all major timeshare resorts. The total value is over 6.000.000,00 € and is against all of mayor timeshare resorts.
These execution orders are made in the interests of the clients and ensure that the resorts payout what they have been ordered to.
Now for this weeks article.
Secret Shopper Questions Revised, the Backstory – Part I
Part II – Friday February 8, Secret Shopper Questions
By Pete Gibbes, Secret Shopper Coordinator
January 29, 2019
I previously wrote about a positive timeshare sales presentation I attended not long ago in Sedona, Arizona. I mentioned that my Diamond Resorts sales agent and manager expressed shock and dismay at the misrepresentations we told them we experienced at a November 18, 2016 Virginia sales presentation. The Sedona agents stated that they were appalled and determined they would go to bat for me by contacting headquarters. I was asked to write out my complaint. Wary but hopeful, I waited. As expected, nothing happened.
To recap what happened at the 2016 Virginia presentation, we attended a member update hoping to learn about how to get rid of 11,500 timeshare points we had previously purchased. After several hours our sales agent had an epiphany. He recalled a new program that would give us the option to sell ALL of our points back to Diamond Resorts! We listened to three more hours of this agent’s version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. After the sixth repetition, we became convinced this program existed. He told us, (and wrote down on a paper), a figure of $108,000 which was the amount he said we should be able to sell our points back for in three years. While I presently cannot locate the paper with $108,000 written on it, I do still have this agent’s “pencil pitch” indicating a “value” of $72k ($72,420 to be exact if you multiply the 8,500 points proposed times $8.52 per point). A formal proposal containing the exact numbers was presented, but that document is proprietary so we cannot present in this article. Diamond will argue that $8.52 per point represents “retail” not “resale” value, but I contend not disclosing Diamond points are virtually worthless is a material omission. Licensed timeshare brokers I contacted, who do not charge upfront money to list timeshare points, will not accept a listing for Diamond points.
Diamond Resorts has launched a program called CLARITY™ promising clear, concise, transparent and accountable information. This is what I was provided:
At the bottom of this unclear pencil pitch, you see “G 2” and “S 3”, and below that ‘Loyalty 3 ys’. This meant that in 3 years we would have earned enough loyalty to sell the points back at a handsome profit. If we became Gold, we could sell back in two years. According to the sales agent, this new buyback policy was not available to mere Standard members like us who owned less than 15,000 points. We agreed to buy 4000 points for $15,500 to become coveted Silver members in order to qualify for the buyback program.
When I complained to Diamond I was told I did not have sufficient written evidence. I made up G2 and S3?
I remember asking the sales agent how Diamond could afford to offer a $108,000 buyback which could have exceeded our cumulative purchase price plus maintenance fees. He mentioned investment returns Diamond makes on sales. As an MBA and a CFP this made sense to me, as it made sense to George Yamada, a pension administrator who purchased Diamond points thinking he was making an investment. George is an Army veteran, Agent Orange disabled.
It appears I was not the only member excited about how this ingenious new buyback program was going to make their product more attractive to buyers. The sales agent, Mark Wilkerson, no longer works for Diamond, but he explained the program as a brand new Apollo related deal. Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, acquired Diamond Resorts.
Does Diamond think I would go to this much trouble if I was making this up? Under threat of perjury, I have filed a complaint with the Virginia Attorney General’s office that has been under review.
Unfortunately, I do not possess a video tape of the presentation. This has prompted me to volunteer to be our Secret Shopper Coordinator. I’m on a media binge to warn other timeshare buyers to RECORD THE SALES SESSION! This is legal in Virginia as Virginia, like some other states, is a one party state. I feel this is the only road to true clarity.
Not only did we pay $15,500 for nothing, we incurred additional ongoing maintenance fees and $2,250 in income taxes on a retirement distribution I had to make to pay for the purchase.
I asked for the contract to be cancelled and my down payment refunded. I am asking nothing for my permanent loss of faith in humanity. Like several members of our 2,400 member sponsored Diamond Facebook page, I am disabled. My sole source of income is my SSI disability income. I have learned from our Facebook other timeshare companies also respond to complaints with, “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” and “You signed a contract.” I received a certified letter from Diamond’s legal department (Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Officer) asking for written evidence. I provided the pencil pitch above, but even that does not break through the oral representation clause.
Timeshare sales agents are not supposed to deviate from company approved sales strategies, but complaints from timeshare buyers continue to flood the internet, Attorneys General offices, the Better Business Bureau and other regulatory agencies. With little enforcement, we feel members need to take matters into their own hands by becoming Secret Shoppers so we can evaluate for other members how near or far a timeshare sales agent ventures from his or her script.
We have about a dozen Secret Shoppers. We arm our Secret Shoppers with intelligent questions timeshare buyers often forget to ask. It is our hope we can publish some positive Secret Shopper experiences. After compiling over 500 timeshare complaints, we have determined the most popular complaints involve:
- Maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist,
- The ability to sell points or weeks when there is no secondary market,
- Misrepresenting the value of using a credit card to offset maintenance fees,
Having run on for many words describing what was supposed to be a brief introduction to our Secret Shopper questions; Friday, February 8 we will publish our revised Secret Shopper questions as a Part II to this article.
Contact me at Inside Timeshare if you would like to become a Secret Shopper.
We seek to provide timeshare 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.
Thank you Pete, we look forward to part 2 next month.
If you have any questions or comments about this or any other article, contact Inside Timeshare, we welcome your input.
Do you have any questions regarding your timeshare, how can you get out or if you have a valid claim, then again use our contact page, we will try to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. Remember, not everything you will be told by many of these companies touting for business will be true, most will only be after your money, so do your homework and do your due diligence.