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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, This week Irene Parker writes about Americano Beach Resort and the lawsuit that has been filed regarding Foreclosure Proceedings, but first a quick warning to our European readers.

Another warning is being issued to those clients of Eze Group, a new firm has just emerged contacting consumers stating they have been appointed by the court to manage the return of money paid to Eze Group.

This company name is Egerton Advisory Limited, Company Number 10286171 and the registered address:

Eighth Floor 6 New Street Square, New Fetter Lane, London, United Kingdom, EC4A 3AQ

With an alternative location address registered as:

Q3 The Square Randalls Way, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 7TW

The directors are named as:

Victoria Noland Carter Egerton and William Luke Le Beward Egerton, both registered the New Street Square address.

The company was incorporated on 19 July 2016, but the filing history shows very little information or filing of any accounts.

As we have stated before, the courts do not appoint private companies or third parties to manage any payouts. No money has been awarded by Birmingham Crown Court to consumers of Eze Group, the O’Reilly‘s are now subject to investigation under The Proceeds of Crime Act, which will take some time to complete.

Along with Money Advice Limited, Claims Assistance Bureau Limited, Egerton Advisory Limited are fraudulent companies, if you are contacted by them or any other company with a similar story then let Inside Timeshare know and file a report to Action Fraud.

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

A Class Action Lawsuit was Filed against ARC Daytona Americano Beach Resort Contesting Real Property Foreclosure Proceedings are being Illegally Applied to Foreclose on Personal Property  

By Irene Parker

March 29, 2019

DC Capital Law, LLP filed a class action lawsuit on November 6, 2018, against ARC Americano, LLC and Americano Beach Lodge Resort Condominium Association on behalf of plaintiffs Gerald J Sohasky and Norma J. Sohasky in the Florida Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Volusia Civil Division.

According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs Gerald and Norma Sohasky allege illegal practices that violate the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act and the Florida Vacation Plan and Timeshare Act by threatening foreclosure on a piece of personal property and threatening to charge up to 40% of amounts owed in collections, where the original contract or law does not authorize charging such collection fee. The ARC lawsuit contends “Floating Week” debt is consumer debt, incurred primarily for personal, household or family use.

Having read or listened to complaints from 746 timeshare members and owners, I am astonished by the level of stress caused by what is supposed to be a stress reducing product.  

Comment sent to Inside Timeshare

My parents bought into the Americano in the 90’s. Fast forward to 2017 – my 70 something year old mother, now a widow, had to pay for a service we hadn’t used in ages.

They (Americano) HOUNDED MY MOM about switching to the freedom 365 plan. She was a 13 year widow on a very fixed income and somehow we were pushed into signing for a new plan that would offer us huge hotel discounts and she would be able to stop paying after 5 years.

My mom is going broke!  Sara

My husband and I purchased an Ozark timeshare in 1985. A St. Louis native, we enjoyed years of vacations, but after moving to Florida we no longer desired to vacation in the Ozarks. I contacted the resort and talked to the manager I had gotten to know over the years. “Yeah, we had a board meeting and decided we can’t expect loyal owners who faithfully paid maintenance fees for thirty years, now older, to be held hostage,” she said. A few days later I received a one page form to be notarized, sent it back and that was that. We paid $8,000 for the timeshare in 1985. I had no regrets getting nothing in return as we had used the timeshare for many years. Like Sara’s mom, and many in my age bracket, we are losing hips, knees, eyesight and spouses. The thought of going to the Ozarks alone, should something happen to my spouse, is depressing.

Americano is demanding owners, many who have owned at Americano for decades, spend an additional $5,000 to $6,000 to join a Freedom 365 Travel Club in order to be released from their deeded weeks. Making this mandatory for seniors seems unfair. Granted, the resort is in need of funds as Americano is the only Daytona resort still not opened after suffering hurricane damage, but other developers now have voluntary surrender programs for members in good standing. There may be a fee, but the fee is less than $1,000. Don’t forget that we were all told we were buying real estate so no problem selling the timeshare should we need to dispose of it. In a statement made by ARC’s law firm, they assert they will work with owners to find appropriate alternatives but typically for seniors, a Travel Club is the last thing needed. I’m looking at long term care plans.

The issues related to property damage are complicated. When Americano owners contact me, I explain that if they bought a primary residence condo, and the condo is rendered uninhabitable, the assessment fees don’t stop. It would be difficult to sell an uninhabitable condo. I understand ARC’s argument from this perspective.

Due to pending litigation, ARC’s response is from their attorneys. I have found others at Americano willing to listen and weigh in consideration; the harm timeshare exit in general is causing especially seniors. Let’s hope continued dialog will result in some form of relief for angry and frustrated owners.

Below is the response we received from ARC’s attorneys. Contrary to the attorney’s response, this article will not be disseminated to some of the Americano owners. Some Americano owners do read and share our articles. We sent a draft of today’s article to ARC to give ARC an opportunity to correct any inaccuracies, which they corrected. Inside Timeshare is published from Spain. Following ARC comments, are arguments presented by the plaintiffs’ attorney taken from the lawsuit complaint. A legal expert weighs in. Plaintiffs’ attorneys did not respond.

Response from ARC’s attorneys submitted by ARC President Scott MacGregor:

This information is given to correct inaccuracies to be contained in a publication that will be disseminated to some of the owners.  Americano is a Legacy resort that was severely damaged due to the recent back to back hurricanes, 2016 Hurricane Matthew and 2017 Hurricane Irma. There was one Special Assessment for $4,348,109, not $15 million, which will correct the incorrect reference in the article. The Association continues to seek insurance from its carriers, but had to pursue litigation to address the claims. The Developer is seeking financing and other options for the remaining restoration of the Resort estimated to be $15 million plus. However, it is imperative that all owners pay the maintenance fees, taxes and assessments as required under the Declaration and Florida law. It is fundamentally unfair to the paying owners for other owners not to pay to operate and restore the resort.

The Association is faced with vigorously defending any lawsuit against the Association, which litigation will only increase fees and costs to all owners, as required under Florida law, at the Resort. While our trial legal counsel has stated that no comment should be made at this time concerning any lawsuits, the Americano Beach Lodge Resort is a real property timeshare under Florida law and actions taken are authorized and required under the Declaration and Florida law.

The Developer and Association continue to try to work with each owner to find appropriate alternatives as discussed before. Owners are encouraged to seek ownership and payment options through the Association and Developer.  Lawsuits against the Association will not only increase maintenance fees and assessments for all of the owners due to legal and professional fee expenses, but also may leave those owners with potentially expensive legal bills in addition to their ongoing obligations to the Association. We believe it is much better to work together to resolve the issues that everyone is facing rather than unnecessarily expend owner and Association funds and resources that are needed to restore the Resort, for court expenses.

More from Sara:

They used scare tactics to convince my mom that I would be responsible for the timeshare in the event of her passing, and my children would be responsible after I passed. I have learned this is not true.

The Freedom 365 plan supposedly offered us huge hotel discounts and would allow my mom to stop paying after five years.  We attempted to use the Freedom 365 plan. The first two times we used it we did get a good discount on hotel rooms, but after that the deep discount was no longer available. We got a good rate the first time at $93 for a Hyatt room, but when we later tried to book the same week of the year the price was $100 more, about $170 plus tax. I called and asked why it was so much more. They stated they could price match if we got a better price on another website. What good is that? You don’t have to pay any kind of upfront money, financed by a loan, to book a hotel room using an online service. We were promised the best deals. We were promised so much and at what cost? My mom is going broke! The amount financed was $6,000.

Following are allegations made in the lawsuit

Is a “Floating Week” timeshare real estate or personal property?

If the timeshare is defined as personal property, the lawsuit claims foreclosure rights do not legally exist and are in violation of the Florida Timeshare Act.

I’ve had many discussions about timeshare foreclosure questioning whether a timeshare really is real property. I found the requirements governing real vs personal property foreclosure in Texas helpful:

Comparison of Texas Foreclosure Procedures for Real property and Personal Property

Real property and personal property foreclosures are dramatically different. Real property foreclosures are conducted on the first Tuesday of each month between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the courthouse door in the county in which the real property is located, with a notice posted at the courthouse door, personal notice to the debtor, and filing of the notice with the county clerk, all 21 days before the foreclosure sale. These requirements are defined by § 52.001 of the Property Code and are unique to Texas law. Personal property foreclosures are conducted under § 9.504 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, which generally requires a commercially reasonable sale. The requirements of Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code are followed, with some minor variations, by all states except Louisiana.

According to the ARC lawsuit, plaintiffs purchased only the ability to make a reservation rather than ownership in real property. In the “Floating (or flex use) periods and The Timeshare Plan article of the Declaration, the Declaration makes it very clear that the Warranty deed of an “owner” who switched  to Floating time to become a member of a “Right to Use” program renders the deed worthless and provides none of the requisite rights associated with real property.

I asked an expert, as argued in the lawsuit, if switching from a “Fixed Week” to “Floating Week” would render the “Fixed Week” deed worthless.

Purchasers still own that deeded week and it can be found in land records. The purchaser simply surrendered their right to occupy that week and the use rights that went with it in exchange for a floating week use right. Their interest, however, is tethered to an actual real property ownership (even if they cannot legally possess it). If they sold their interest, they would be selling the deeded week they bought which would include the surrender and exchange agreement for a floating week. By the same token, if they are foreclosed upon for non-payment, it would be the deeded week that would be foreclosed and the agreements tied to it (i.e., the floating week right) would be rendered null and void.

As an analogy, let’s say you join a car-sharing group where everyone in the group can use whatever car is available using a reservation system. In order to get into the group, however, you are required to purchase a car to add to the fleet. You don’t buy the car outright; you finance it through the group such that your monthly dues are part car payment and part fees. Even though you hold title to one car in the fleet, you have no more right to use that car than anyone else in the group. If you fall behind in your monthly dues, you will lose your car-sharing membership (i.e., the use rights you bargained for), and the car that you added to the fleet (i.e., the tangible property you hold title to but surrendered possessory interest in) will be repossessed by the group.

Note from Inside Timeshare: Spanish Timeshare Law prohibits Floating Weeks and Points as there is no tangible product and they lack any substance.

My unnamed source is not saying the lawsuit is without merit, in that they feel the underlying real property is illusory, but they feel it may be a tough argument to win.  

Related articles:

Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders     

What happens if I stop paying my maintenance fees? Timeshare attorney Mike Finn answers the question in this article:

Proprietors behind Americano are ARC American Resort Collection

www.arcresorts.com/about-arc/

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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/

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 Irene, next week in the Tuesday Slot we welcome Mike Kosor with his response to the Wyndham Sr VP Jason Gamel and his testimony to the Florida HB 435 workshop.

Join us again next week and have a great weekend.

Start the Week: O’Reilly’s Sentenced and Others Under Investigation

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, today we review last weeks news from Birmingham Crown Court with the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly and Stephanie O’Reilly of Eze Group. We also look at other people and companies who are also under investigation and may just be finding themselves in court.

On Thursday 21 March at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Laurence Creed passed the following sentences.

Dominic O’Reilly, jailed for 2 years 4 months, disqualified from directorships for 9 years.

Stephanie O’Reilly, 9 months suspended for 2 years, 18 months suspended for 2 years plus, disqualified for 6 years.

Dominic & Stephanie O’Reilly (Birmingham Mail)

Inside Timeshare has received a transcript by a court reporter, which although it is not verified, it does match reports published in the press.

In the Prosecution opening statement, it was asked that the judge consider monetary harm, this was extremely high according to the prosecution, with 36 complaints, 90 in process and 45 further complaints pending.

The prosecution also explained the emotional impact, consumers were told they had no cancellation rights along with aggressive sales tactics. It was also mentioned that the defendants were told to stop these tactics including the institution of cancellation rights, but these did continue even after Trading Standards began investigations.

In mitigation, the defence for Mr O’Reilly asked for the sentence to be suspended as he did plead guilty at an early stage. He also told the court that Mr O’Reilly is now 54, in ill health and in need of a heart operation.

The fact that one elderly couple aged 68 and 69, one who had recently had a stroke, the other had diabetes including an attack during the meeting, were made to transfer money before being allowed to leave, does make the above mitigation plea a complete joke.

Miss O’Reilly’s defence used her being the mother of a 1-year-old baby which is breastfed and she is now 11 weeks pregnant. Also, she has no support structure in the UK, as her parents live in Tenerife, that her partner would have to give up his job to look after the baby if she was jailed.

In all, the 36 complaints totalled £425,000 of which only £3,813 was ever refunded, Trading Standards found another 100 complaints totalling £1.3 million. In all the company made by 2017 around £3.375 million.

Much of this money was transferred to the Tenerife company Regency Shores SL when the customers believed it was being paid to Eze Europe Ltd.

The judge also highlighted several clients, that were sent threatening letters for payments when the client wanted to cancel. One client had to call their daughter to help pay, then chased with a letter before action.

The client cases in this trial are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, there are hundreds more, unfortunately, many of these are now subject to scams due to this trail. Cold calls from companies stating they are working with or have been appointed by the courts to help them get money back which the courts are holding. As we have said before this is not true.

The O’Reilly’s are now being investigated under the Proceeds of Crime Act, The authorities have to power to seize accounts and assets such as houses and cars if it is deemed they are from the proceeds of crime. The problem now is can they link it, where is the money, are any properties in their names, or are they in his wifes or her partner’s names. If so can it be proven the money used was from the O’Reilly’s in the first place?

We can only wait and see.

If you have been a client and receive any calls regarding money being held for you, then contact Inside Timeshare. We will then explain where you stand and if you are able to get anything back.

Link to the Birmingham Mail

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/timeshare-boss-dominic-oreilly-jailed-16010172?fbclid=IwAR1HB-9OyDuv4d5Xytwk0mjX7ZmeIWIWJNGMZqUibWaE7fKXa0nR__dbnH0

Another investigation is also being conducted into several Mark Rowe companies, by the Regional Organised Crime Unit of Avon and Somerset Police, along with the authorities in Tenerife.

Mark Rowe

This investigation is very similar in nature to the one into Eze Group, it is still underway and no new or further information is yet available. But no doubt we may see a case in the courts in the near future.

Over the past few months Inside Timeshare has also been following several other names, Ali Farhoud, Alex Farhoud and Lee Burton, all linked to Silverpoint.

Ali Farhoud

In the case of the Farhouds and their company Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, they now entice their old Silverpoint clients with legal action against their one-time employer Silverpoint. See the links below for further information.

We have from very reliable sources been informed that criminal denuncias have been made to the Spanish authorities against all three. Many of these by their very own clients.

Although we know that these investigations take time, especially when new complaints are likely, one thing is certain, the authorities always get them in the end.

As and when new information comes in, it will be published on these pages.

If you require any further information or have had dealings with any of the companies mentioned, then use our contact page and let us know. Inside Timeshare will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

As usual, a word of warning, before you deal with any company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or from an advert, do your homework. If you are not sure then contact Inside Timeshare.

The Tuesday Slot: More on Florida House Bill 435

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, we continue this week with more on the Florida House Bill 435 Workshop held in 12 March, once again written by Irene Parker who attended.

As usual before publication we have sent the article to Wyndham and ARDA for comment, but as always these tend to be ignored. As a matter of course we always send the proposed article as we welcome comments from the industry, as it furthers debate and it can accomplish our goals of consumer protection.

Without this debate nothing will ever be achieved and the consumer will forever be at the mercy of the industry. In this respect the lack of response only says one thing, for that we let you the reader decide what it is!

More on the Florida House Bill 435 Workshop held March 12

In response to ARDA ROC and Wyndham’s testimony:

How Timeshare Sales Agents can Dodge a Rescission Period

Why Reading the Timeshare Contract does not Always Help

Why the Delay in Reporting Fraud

By Irene Parker

March 19, 2019

The Florida HB 435 Workshop held March 12 in Tallahassee:

At the Florida HB 435 workshop held in Tallahassee March 12, Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 timeshare complaints in 2017 and 2018, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation. There have been 700 complaints filed so far in 2019. Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale.

This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints submitted to Florida’s http://Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) were met with “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.” This lack of enforcement gives a green light to perpetrators, knowing their company will dismiss complaints with, “You signed a contract,” echoed by DBPR’s response, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”

Platinum timeshare member Sheilah Brust, who designed our Timeshare Regret T-Shirt pictured above, and other Platinum members, are organizing a protest in May in Orlando, astonished at the figures reported by Florida’s timeshare division. The oral representation sentence in the timeshare contract stating, “I did not rely on oral representations to make my purchase,” buried in an 80+ page contract, gets a workout. Our goal is to alert the public that they should not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says, which is not fair to timeshare agents selling the product honestly.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 735 families. Of the 735, 100 are veterans and active duty service members. Over 200 of our readers have sent complaints to the timeshare lobby and PAC ARDA ROC. ARDA ROC does not mediate complaints, but they have a Code of Ethics. All complaints sent to ARDA ROC but one were ignored. ARDA ROC responded to one complaint, “This has been resolved,” even before the member, with a top security clearance, had heard from the company. The CEO of the company sits on ARDA’s board.  An active duty service member or a defense department worker can lose their security clearance, their job and their career over a timeshare foreclosure. ARDA ROC purports to be the voice of timeshare members.    

On Saturday, March 16, I heard from Platinum member #74, told that by purchasing additional points, they would be able to sell or rent points to offset rising maintenance fees, now over $10,000 per year. A 126 page summary report I prepared of reader complaints, shows a pattern and volume of complaints, often the sales agent a repeat offender. All the Platinum members report being told of maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist or a program allowing the member to sell points, if they purchased additional points.      

Platinum report submitted by Andrea K, Platinum member #74:

Our family has been emotionally and financially devastated because of the last timeshare points purchased. By 2016 or 2017 our maintenance fees had increased. The sales agents said we were the only deeded owners left and that is why they said our maintenance fees were so high. They said they were not sure if it was too late, but they could try to get us converted to points.

In 2017 we went to Hawaii. We purchased $55,000 worth of more points. They said if we purchased Hawaii points, we could easier sell because Hawaii is so popular. He showed me a magazine listing Hawaii timeshares for sale. I still have the magazine. He also said if I have this many points I can rent, especially in January to pay for the maintenance fees. We have learned our timeshare company does not allow us to rent using the internet, and that their points are worthless on resale.  

In 2018 we stayed at Tahoe in California but purchased in Nevada. In Tahoe they said because we had not purchased at our last stay, we lost our $3 price so that we would have to pay $9 per point if we did not buy additional points that day. He said our price lock was lost, but when he checked our records, he said for some reason the $3 was still there. He said I needed to sign a paper to remove the $3 price and in the future I would have to buy points at $9. He should have told us our timeshare points are worthless on resale. These presentations have taken 6 to 8 hours, despite being told they would only be for 90 minutes.

As years have gone by, we have learned that things we were told are either exaggerated or not true.  Many of the reimbursements promised did not yield what they had said they would yield.

Twenty of the 74 Platinum complaints were lodged against the same sales agent over a two year period. According to a lawsuit the agent has filed against the company, he said he was instructed to create reasons why existing members needed to buy additional points. He reported earning over $1 million in 2015 selling timeshare points, $2.4 million in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017, before being terminated. His replacements are generating similar to identical complaints.

Mr. Ken McKelvey, ARDA ROC Chairperson, questioned why timeshare buyers wait so long to report deception. Mr Jason Gamel, Wyndham Sr. VP, Legal said exit companies are not needed because Wyndham has a hardship department to address members struggling with high interest rate timeshare loans. Both spokespersons said the rescission period provides enough time to review a contract and rescind. Our reader complaints address these objections:

How timeshare sales agents and timeshare companies can easily dodge the rescission period:

  • The buyer is told, “This is a new program, so don’t say anything to quality assurance because I could get fired.”
  • The buyer is told, “This program will be available after January 1.”
  • The buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period. Several buyers report being told airfare is included when booking. It’s not until they attempt to book they learn this is Blarney.
  • The buyer reports being told loans will be consolidated, but then the loan is not consolidated. The buyer does not learn this until the next loan payment, after the rescission period.
  • The buyer is told to wait a few months before refinancing.

Why reading the contract does not always help:

  • Buyers are shown a booklet of resorts, but the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period. Actual availability cannot be determined by reading the contract.
  • My contract stated, “You can sell points, we will not assist you.” It left out the part about licensed timeshare brokers will not accept a listing for my timeshare points.

Why there is a delay in reporting fraud:

  • The reason that it may be several years before fraud is reported is because a negative life event triggers the need to sell. It is not until that trigger occurs that the buyer, who was sold on the promise that the timeshare is like real estate, easily sold, learns their timeshare is worthless.
  • It is not until a tax preparer, attorney, or grown child of elderly parents discovers predatory actions, such as the retired Navy veteran, living on a letter carrier’s pension, up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. There have been numerous complaints involving Alzheimer diagnosed buyers.

We are hoping Marine veteran James Sherwood fell through the cracks at Wyndham, and that Wyndham will reach out to Mr. Sherwood. Mr. Sherwood’s wife broke both hips three years ago and has had a total hip replacement. He is disabled. Neither can travel. Wyndham would not accept that Mr. Sherwood was disabled. They demanded proof he could not travel. The VA provided a letter stating Mr. Sherwood could not travel. This was not sufficient. Mr. Sherwood felt it was an invasion of privacy to demand all medical and financial records, especially since he was told when he purchased the timeshare, that the transaction was a real estate transaction and could easily be sold. http://insidetimeshare.com/http-insidetimeshare-com-p5114/

Timeshare members are deeply grateful to Florida lawmakers, who echoed some of their negative timeshare experiences during the Florida HB 435 workshop. For the first time in memory, lawmakers’ voices talked back to the timeshare industry and to industry lobbyists. A timeshare consumer protection Arizona HB 2639 bill is currently being debated, strongly opposed by ARDA. The Arizona Attorney General’s office received 400 complaints against just one company. After a press release announcing an investigation a few years ago, they received an additional 500 complaints, according to members who spoke with the Arizona AG’s office.  

The question I am most frequently asked:  “How do they sleep at night?”

My answer, “Bernie Madoff had no trouble sleeping at night.”

The comment I hear most frequently, “I feel so stupid.”

I answer that the following have reached out to us describing unfair and deceptive sales practices, in addition to the vulnerable:

  • Three PhD economic and criminal justice professors
  • A Florida detective who worked economic crimes undercover
  • A Consolidated Edison contract specialist
  • Lawyers and mortgage brokers

Can it be, after all this time, the consumer’s voice is being heard?

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help:

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.

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 Irene and all our advocates for all the hard work you put in on behalf of the consumer, without you there would be nowhere for them to turn.

If you have any comments or views on this or any other article published on Inside Timeshare, use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

The Tuesday Slot: Secret Shopper Report

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome back Laurie Sabbagh with her second Secret Shopper Report, this was edited by the Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbs, with the introduction by Irene Parker. But first some Breaking News from the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

British clients being represented by lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance has just received the news that the Supreme Court have found in their favour against Club La Costa Leisure Limited. Initially their case was heard at the Court of First Instance in Fuengirola, Malaga, unfortunately this court found in favour of Club La Costa.

The CLA lawyers promptly lodged an appeal with the High Court of Malaga, this court overturned the First Instance verdict, finding in favour of the clients. Club La Costa launched an appeal with the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

The Supreme Court rejected the case and the verdict of the Malaga High Court stood firm. The contract was declared null and void with the client being awarded over 28,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest.

This is a significant case as the offending company was Club La Costa Leisure Limited, a UK registered entity. This may just bode well for other similar contracts, more news on this legal aspect as and when we receive it.

The Team at Canarian Legal Alliance

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

My Secret Shopper Report

By Laurie Sabbagh

Edited by Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes

March 12, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from timeshare members told they need to switch to a different program within the same company because they should not have purchased what their last sales agent sold them. In other words, sales agents within the same company sell against each other.

Heartbreaking is the experience of Navy veteran Roy Simmons and his wife Lillian Simmons. A retired letter carrier, living on a letter carrier’s pension, he ended up switching back and forth between programs until he reached $2,700 a month in Diamond Resorts loan payments. The foreclosure process took a tremendous physical and emotional toll on the family. They sought legal advice from a bankruptcy attorney as Mr. Simmons felt he had no choice but to charge loan payments to credit cards. Roy and daughter Angela’s YouTube explains how this happened. In her research Angela discovered the FBI website, which is why she expresses her opinion that her mom and dad’s allegations meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime. Roy and Angela’s February 26, 2018 YouTube:

Roy and Lillian Simmons, ages 69 and 70, Minnesota residents published March 6, 2018

Arizona representatives proposed House Bill 2639 offering protections for timeshare consumers. My experience over the last three years, reading emailed complaints and listening to 730 families report unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, has left no doubt in my mind as to the need for protection. I wrote an article, “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders.” that foreclosed members can provide to future lenders. The article offers support to my assertion, listing just some of the Attorneys General investigations and settlements and lawsuits. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-18/

Bill sponsor Representative Shawnna Bolick and others who supported Arizona HB 2639, thank you. The timeshare lobby ARDA opposed the bill.   

Laurie Sabbagh’s Secret Shopper Report

I can’t believe it has been two years since my first Secret Shopper report was published March 17, 2017. I attended an update this month in Arizona thinking it had gone well until I was informed that the need to switch from my current Hawaii program to the US mainland program was likely proposed under false pretenses, based on the opinion of an ocean engineer. I want to state at the outset that I enjoy my Diamond points, find good value and absolutely love Sedona. As they say, God created the Grand Canyon but He lives in Sedona.

My first Secret Shopper report:  http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Diamond sales agent Paul said that he had worked in the industry for 22 years and had previously sold timeshares in Las Vegas. Paul and a second sales agent, Justin, asked me about the Hawaii special assessment I paid for the Point at Poipu water intrusion damage, which all right-to-use point owners and deeded week owners were assessed after Diamond bought out Sunterra. I told them that my portion of the assessment was much smaller than those of deeded week owners, who ended up being assessed about $5,800 per week owned.

Later Paul tried to convince me that the beach erosion problem at Ka’anapali Beach Club (one of four resorts part of Diamond’s Hawaii Collection), is putting me at risk for another special assessment. Paul further told me that if I were to switch to the US Collection, I would never be charged a special assessment because the US Collection is part of a trust. He insisted that this provision is in writing, but I was not provided documents to backup that claim.

One of our member-sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook members is an ocean engineer. He explained why beach erosion is not the responsibility of a resort, but the responsibility of the state or federal government. In a RedWeek post, a Diamond member had been advised to switch due to a 2020 special assessment:

My suggestion would be to ask Diamond for documentation to support the additional charges. For instance, it is reasonable to ask if the funding is for future flood protection that might be afforded by a beach nourishment project. If the assessment is intended for a beach nourishment project, it is likely that arrangements are in place for cost sharing between local stakeholders and government entities.  The cost and scope of government efforts are a matter of public record, and learning the particulars is typically as easy as calling the project managers.

In addition, 2020 is too far out to predict with any sort of fidelity. Concrete financial planning numbers at this stage are unlikely. I have not heard of a federal project in Hawaii. It could be state, but most major beach nourishment projects are underwritten in part by the federal government. I have not heard of a state paying for damages from a flood.  The member needs to know what the assessment is for, in more detail than just beach erosion. Is it for protection or for damage that has already occurred? One is flood damage expense, the other is flood protection afforded by beach nourishment projects.

Justin told me that Diamond bought out Sunterra but I was still an owner of Sunterra points. Justin said that I could apply my equity in Sunterra to the purchase price of 6,500 additional US Collection points to get me to the Silver level and bring the price per point of $9.33 to about $4 per point. We went back and forth. The last offer was for 2,000 points for $5 per point. I declined.

Later Quality Assurance representative Mark told me he used to be with Sunterra until Diamond bought them out, and my Sunterra points were automatically converted to Diamond’s “The Club” points, so I was indeed a Diamond member. This contradicted what Justin told me.

Mark offered me 20,000 points to be used within 24 months at $3,995. He said this offer is only valid to Diamond members. First, I thought it odd a Quality Assurance person was trying to sell me points, and second, the Sampler is a trial product, so available to anyone.

As I said in the beginning, I use and enjoy my Diamond points. I stayed a week at the Celebrity House in Sedona, two bedrooms, two baths, full kitchen, using “Point Saver” at 8,250 points. With all expenses considered, it averaged $260 per day. Best Western in Sedona during the same period was $300 per night for a standard room so this ended up being a huge bargain for me.

I am disappointed that the pressure to sell points is so great that agents feel forced to misrepresent. I feel Diamond has a product, and when sold properly, members benefit. It must be the pressure to produce sales that prompts sales agents to mislead in order to make a sale, but that is just my opinion.

We appreciate Laurie’s second Secret Shopper report.

Timeshare is a product in which the sales agents demand the buyer buy the same day, even though most have no intention of buying the product prior to the day of purchase. Unlike buying a car, there is little frame of reference, especially for first time buyers. Buyers usually sign a perpetual product without even having had a chance to use the product, except to stay at a resort property. Numerous members have reported not being allowed onto the booking site until after the rescission period has expired.

Learn to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, it’s advisable to not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says, based on my experience and the experience of many.

These are self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced. Social Media is here to stay, so consumers can now share experiences. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to share your timeshare experience, good or bad.

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.

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 Laurie, Pete and Irene for your efforts with this weeks article, we certainly look forward to more Secret Shopper Reports.

The breaking news today from the Spanish Supreme Court was very welcome news indeed, what a start to the day.

If you have been contacted by any company or found one on the internet or advert and want to know if they are genuine, use our contact page and we will help you find out.

Do you feel that you were mis-sold your timeshare in Spain and would like to know if you have a claim, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will check to see if you have a valid and viable case and point you in the right direction. This service is done free of charge and under no obligation.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to our weekly Letter from America, this week we have another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” from yet another veteran, this now makes 99 who have been in touch with us. In this article the Sherwood Family tell their story of their dealings with Wyndham. But first the latest from Europe.

At the Court of First Instance N1 in Barcelona, Case Number 362/2017, lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance, presented a case against Club Estela Dorada SL, Restotel SA, Medhotel Group SL  and Clubotel La Dorada SL, which is part of the ONA Group, based in Barcelona.

The breach of the timeshare laws were the contract was in excess of the 50 years laid down by law, what is commonly known as perpetuity, plus the illegal taking of deposits within the 14 day cooling off period. It seems that the companies involved tried to bypass Spanish law through the Tax Haven of Andorra, but the paperwork did show that a Spanish registered entity was involved, which put the case directly under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Courts.

Andorra itself is an independent principality situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains, it is mostly known for its skiing and being one of Europe’s main Tax havens.

Click on the link below to open the court document or click to download.

The client has now had their contract declared null and void, and will receive the following:

  1. Purchase price          70,778.07€
  2. Deposit paid              32,973.00€
  3. Maintenance fee         8,973.24€ (this is approximate as the final amount has yet to be determined)

This is a total of 112,724.31€ (approx).

The lawyer in this case was Judith Diaz Pascual, another of the young and dynamic CLA team.

Judith Diaz Pasqual

So congratulations to the client and also to the team at CLA, they are certainly making a mark on the world of timeshare.

Now for our Letter from America.

Veteran/Active Duty Service member #99 Timeshare Trapped

The “Unfair” in Unfair and Deceptive Practices

An Arizona House Bill 2639 designed to protect consumers is opposed by ARDA.

Please voice your support for this Bill by calling and writing to the Bill sponsors listed in this article: http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-arizona-house-bill-2639/

By the Sherwood Family, a Wyndham Hostage

March 8, 2019

Mr. Sherwood’s YouTube:

I am sure there are plenty of timeshare members quite happy to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their timeshares every month because they are getting use out of it. However, what happens when your circumstances change? You will quickly come to regret every penny you sunk into the timeshare capable of holding the member hostage for life.

Due to health issues that have been piling up over the years, my wife and I can’t use our Wyndham timeshare anymore. I spent 20 years in the service of my country and am a 75-year-old 100% disabled veteran and retired Master Sergeant from the US Marine Corps. I also have early onset glaucoma. My wife is 71 and has had total hip replacement surgery twice in the past 3 years. Our Wyndham sales agent did not tell us about the Wyndham Armed Forces Veterans Club.

We bought our Wyndham timeshare in 2014. We used it twice a year for the first three years. It never lived up to the billing our sales reps gave it but we were happy enough. We never thought twice about handing over our money because we were getting something out of it. Unfortunately, getting old is no fun. Your circumstances can change overnight. Change may come soon after purchase or arrive years down the line. When those changes come you will be hit in the face with the reality that there is no way out of your timeshare if there is a loan outstanding. You are stuck with paying for your slice of thin air out of your social security allowance until the day you die unless foreclosed.

One of the reasons for this article is that I do not take kindly to being bullied and will not be dismissed, told to shut up and hand over my money. Another reason is that I would like as many people as possible to be aware of what they are getting into before purchasing a timeshare.

I sent Wyndham my letter from the VA attesting to the fact that I am 100% disabled. They would not accept that letter, stating they wanted proof I couldn’t travel. They requested full access to my medical history. I found this an egregious invasion of privacy so refused. I went back to the VA for a letter that stated specifically that I couldn’t travel but Wyndham would not accept this. A letter from the VA stating that I am 100% disabled and cannot travel seems more than enough for Wyndham to join the dots.

Imagine what the scenario is if you are not a senior, or a veteran, or disabled – if we are being refused, how many other people with their own reasons and issues will be refused?

Wyndham stopped communicating with me when I delinked to give them access to my medical records despite me reaching out by letter and phone on several occasions. They have now sent me to collections with Pinnacle Recovery Inc. I will tell Pinnacle what I told Wyndham; they will not see a penny from me.

To confound matters, the third Stooge in this story after Wyndham and Pinnacle; Barclays Bank, want us to pay them too. When Wyndham tried to open a credit card for us, my application was refused but my wife’s was accepted. My wife receives in income less than a thousand dollars a month but after Wyndham added my social security income, military retirement and VA compensation, they made it look like she was earning several times more than she actually did. Wyndham has charged the card several times already with fees we were not aware we would be asked to pay. Needless to say, Barclays won’t be seeing any money from us either.

My advice to potential timeshare customers; use Airbnb.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-reasons-why-airbnb-better-than-timeshare-wayne-c-robinson/?fbclid=IwAR3QPmnZYAHlyox8oNdjgru1ik7Kdb0WpPOo3vC85gqCvwJ62DUyJjp70pw

My advice to Wyndham; if you can’t listen to your customers then you shouldn’t be in the hospitality business.

Thank you to Mr. Sherwood for sharing his story. If the public knew the difficulties of getting out of a timeshare, would anyone buy one? What car, boat, home, or pair of shoes would you buy that you cannot sell if there is a loan outstanding?

Here are member supported groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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.

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 Sherwood Family for their contribution this week, as we mentioned at the start, this is the ninety ninth veteran who have been in touch with Inside Timeshare and the other groups. It would seem that even though they have served their country, the timeshare sales agents just do not respect that fact, they just see them as easy money. Not all the blame can be placed on those sales agents, the timeshare companies must also take responsibility for allowing their staff to get away with it.

So to finish today’s article, we are still calling on any reader who has had any dealings with Meredith Pritchard and Stephen Paul Fairclough to come forward, it is your information that will help the police get the evidence to bring Fairclough to justice. Use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget be vigilant when dealing with any company that contacts you or you find on the internet or advertising in any publication.

Start the Week: More Fakes Surface

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, as you can tell from the title we have news of yet more fake companies surfacing.

The first warning is a company that claims 4 offices in the Canary Islands, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and La Palma, Refund My Funds. The only address the actually give is:

Av. Ángel Guimerá 67, 38003 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.

The telephone number is 0845 095 0080 this is a Premium Rate number and will cost you when you call.

There is not even any email address shown, the contact us page is just a form for you to fill in with your details and your situation. The term “lead generator” also springs to mind.

They have a website https://refundmyfunds.org/

Registered on 14 January 2019 and set to expire on 14 January 2020, this does not give much confidence that this could be a genuine firm. The registration details as is always usual for these sort of outfits, is hidden, so know way of knowing who is behind it.

The website itself shows very little detail with no company registration details or even linked to any registered company, which would usually be listed in the following manner:  Refund my Funds is the trading name of Name of Parent Company.

They claim that they will get your money back for the purchase of a timeshare or holiday club, this is on a No Win No Fee basis. But to do the consumer will need to travel to Tenerife for a meeting to discuss the claim. No doubt this meeting will end up with another product being sold or substantial charges to cancel the membership.

The next is yet another “Fake” law firm, going by the name of Gonzalez F y Asociados, based at the following address:

16 Calle del Carmen, 28013 Madrid

They show a Spanish mobile number on the website +34 603 290 420 with the email address e/[email protected]

The website was registered on 4 January 2019 and expires on 4 January 2020, again only registered for 1 year, not a big confidence booster.

No registration details are available, so whoever is behind this “Fake” firm is hidden by a privacy protect company.

Other details on the website include a Colegio registration number 25321, the unfortunate thing is it actually belongs to a genuine lawyer called María José González Fraile, who graduated in 1985. This law firm has a website https://www.abogadagf.com/ which does show the registrar as the lawyer named.

Censo de Letrados _ Abogacía Española Maria Jose Gonzales Fraile

Once again we see a genuine lawyers credentials being “stolen” for a criminal enterprise.

The modus operandi is one we have seen before in timeshare. The case has already been won and a substantial amount has been awarded. There is only a small matter of paying a legal fee to have the money released. The figure is 9.2% of the awarded amount, this will be paid into an escrow account for the peace of mind of the client.

As is always the case once you pay this “legal fee”, “tax” or whatever they call it, that will be the last you ever hear from them.

Remember, never take anything you are told at face value, these fraudsters are well versed in telling a convincing story and getting hold of your money.

Before doing any business with a firm that has contacted you, or you have found on the internet or publication, do your homework. This can be a daunting task, especially where the company has hijacked the name of a reputable company or person.

If you need help in determining if the company is genuine, then use our contact page, we know what we are looking for and can point you in the right direction.

The Tuesday Slot

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.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-29/

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.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-5/

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.

https://www.justanswer.com/law/4cemo-illegal-audio-record-someone-virginia-without.html

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.

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 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.

 

Christmas Greetings

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2018 from Across the Miles

By Irene Parker

The holidays provide an opportunity for better communication, but better communication should be a year round opportunity.

Article Title: Christmas Truce of 1914

Author: History.com Editors

During World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.

Did you know? On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914

Our 2017 Christmas Wish (I don’t feel I need to improve upon)

December 22, 2017 restated December 24, 2018

I wish to thank all our readers and supporters as we journey down the path towards resolution of conflict whether with our timeshare, or with our world. The relationships that have blossomed and grown are precious to me. The few I have had the opportunity to meet face to face solidifies and takes our relationship to a new level. I look forward to more of those experiences in the New Year.

There are no words to express the love and support I’ve felt from my band of brothers and sisters seeking to reform timeshare for the better, and we know there are honest timeshare sales agents and even some executives who feel the same.

Here’s hoping 2018 (19) will bring communication, resolution and relief to those who have laughed and cried with me over life’s ups and down. I also want to wish the best to those who may not like us very much, but know in their heart we only wish for better accountability, transparency and respect.

Thank you Charles Thomas, our Facebook admins, those supporting timeshare members working behind the scenes, our past and future Inside Timeshare contributors and to all our Facebook members, Inside Timeshare readers, Timeshare Accountability Group™  followers as we change our name to reflect our mission:

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.

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/

 

  

 

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.

 

Start the Week: Exiting Timeshare and the False Promises from Exit Companies

At the end of last week we started our Letter from America with information provided by many of our readers on their attempts to exit or relinquish their timeshare, for many this has proved to be very costly. Many of these readers have given the same account, they paid a company many thousands of pounds to “exit or relinquish” the timeshare, only to find out that 3 years down the line they are not out and now owe thousands in maintenance arrears. Many are also facing court action by debt collection agencies.

In many cases it all starts with a cold call, in others the timeshare owner is seeking help and has either found the company on the internet or has been recommended by one of the so-called independent timeshare consumer advice sites. Many of these companies pose as law firms, paralegals and experts in timeshare exit, all to fool you the timeshare owner.

The initial offer is to get you “compensation” for being mis-sold, all on a no win no fee basis, but this is just the bait, before this can go ahead you first need to have the contract cancelled. Unfortunately this is what they are actually after and it does entail a payment upfront, in some cases upto £10,000!

So how is the “exit or relinquishment” processed?

Very simply it isn’t, the company will send a “unilateral letter of cancelation” or “exit notification letter”, all this means is that you have stated your intention to withdraw your membership. Along with this letter the owner is then told not to pay anymore maintenance, if the timeshare company sends an invoice for maintenance, just ignore it, you are out!

Eventually, as has happened to many of our readers who have sent in emails, they are now being bombarded with notices of huge sums in arrears, with the threat of being taken to county court for a debt. The timeshare company itself does not take the “debtor” to court, it is passed to a debt collection agency who do the legal stuff on behalf of their client, the timeshare company. One of the main companies that deal with this field is Daniels Silverman, who have a reputation for always getting paid.

As far as the timeshare company is concerned, you are still a member / owner and are liable for the maintenance, they have never accepted the letter of exit from the company that was paid to “exit” you from your timeshare. As we have stated in many previous articles, the timeshare companies do not accept or deal with theses “exit or relinquishment” companies, they will only deal with the member direct. They have their own systems in place for dealing with a cancellation, subject to certain conditions.

Have you paid a company for the cancellation of your timeshare and are now receiving demands for maintenance arrears with threats of legal action, if so use our contact page and we will get back to you.

If you answer yes to this question and want to know where you stand legally and what you can do about it, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will get back to you.

Remember, do your homework!