Before we go on with today’s article from Irene, there has been some breaking news over the past week. The Supreme Court in Madrid has issued three rulings against Silverpoint, on behalf of three clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, all three came within days of each other.
In the first was the British Client who purchase at Club Paradiso, the court ruled that this was indeed timeshare and not a “club affiliation” as Silverpoint claimed. This case has taken around five years to get to this stage, with appeal following appeal.
The second case was that of a CLA client from Belgium, the court declared once again the illegality of contracts over 50 years.
Another British client of CLA who purchased the Hollywood Mirage and Beverly Hills Club Vacation Package. Again this ruling was around the “club affiliation” scheme, the court once again ruled that this did indeed fall under the scope of Spanish timeshare law, (Ley 42/98) as in the first ruling.
So far since March 2015 CLA have achieved remarkable results, with around 42 rulings from the Supreme Court, involving numerous timeshare companies, with Anfi being the most prominent. (Follow the link to The Northern Echo article on the first case).
In the article by Irene today, she looks at the Diamond Resorts Clarity (™) programme, it would seem that Diamond are trying to change the way they operate amid growing protests from owners, especially the elderly.
This programme at present will not be rolled out in Europe, Although Diamond Resorts in Europe have already begun to make considerable changes in their approach to owners / members. They have set in place a programme where members can surrender their timeshare under what Diamond call “exceptional circumstances”, with this there is no charge.
One reader has Steve has taken advantage of this, with Diamond accepting his surrender, but there is a twist in this story. Diamond are investigating how he was sold and how he also ended up with a finance package, they obviously believe that there is something wrong. Once this is completed, Inside Timeshare will bring you the results.
Contained within the article is an interview Irene had with Maya Pogoda the Diamond Public Relations Officer. She has welcomed the chance to speak with Inside Timeshare and has supplied numerous comments and answers to our questions. So on with Irene´s article.
Diamond Resorts Clarity (™) – The Good, the Bad and the Critical
Diamond Owners are Hopeful but Skeptical
By Irene Parker January 29, 2017
DIAMOND CLARITY(™) is the offspring of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance” resulting from allegations that Diamond Resorts International violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.
Maya Pogoda, Diamond Public Relations spokesperson, talked to me about the new national program consisting of a series of operational procedures and enhancements, new training and compliance procedures and protocols, and other customer-friendly changes to the sales process.
Press Release excerpts:
Missing from press release: “We recognize the need for Diamond Resorts and all timeshare companies to change or improve timeshare business practices that have led to predatory lending and deceptive sales techniques, resulting in harm to timeshare owners,” suggests Irene.
I took issue with several statements made in the press release:
“At Diamond Resorts, we already excel in customer satisfaction, but we are constantly looking for ways to do even better,” said Executive Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Michael Flaskey.
I spoke with a few timeshare attorneys. One paralegal who works for a timeshare attorney asked not to be identified. Their firm has released 10,000 owners from timeshare contracts and said Diamond is their biggest “customer”. Timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group carries approximately 500 timeshare cases with 20% to 25% against Diamond Resorts. Mr. Finn said he’s never had a Disney timeshare client.
There are also several angry Diamond owner groups:
Intrawest Embarc Diamond Facebook page has over 2500 Intrawest members. An administrator of this group recently suggested I post our last Inside Timeshare article on their Facebook page after being banned by a Diamond Influenced Member Supported 7000 member Facebook group.
I had sent the article to an Intrawest administrators individually. She receives a link to all my articles. Unfortunately, one of the administrators from the 7000 member group voiced a warning to one of the other Intrawest administrators urging a word of caution concerning the dangerous piano teacher, Irene Parker.
The 7200 member Facebook group consists of about 50% happy/angry owners. Members who are 100% negative on Diamond Resorts are privately and quietly urged to join DRIP, according to one member who asked not to be identified. Ironically, the same administrator was banned from the DRIP website accused of being too positive.
Charles Thomas was banished within days of joining the 7000 member Facebook accused of supporting the Canarian Legal Alliance. Charles can better explain the success CLA has had fighting timeshare abuse.
Owner infighting is strongly encouraged by Diamond Resorts because United we Stand and Divided we Fall. There is a lot of that going on in the world today.
Inside Timeshare allows political commentary to enter into our articles. In fact, given the fact the Trump family is launching a timeshare in Scotland, it is even encouraged. One of President Trump’s closest friends of 20 years is David Siegel of Westgate. Westgate has been under Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigation for the last few years.
Continuing the litany of unhappy Diamond owners:
Monarch Website of angry owners owning fixed weeks could not gain access after converting to points, resulting in a class action lawsuit.
Poipu Angry Owner website: Assessments resulting in a class action lawsuit.
Thousands of complaints have been voiced on Redweek, BBB and other internet complaint sites. Just yesterday a Redweek member reached out to me. I sadly informed her she made my list of top two percent timeshare horror stories. The subject of Diamond timeshare sales agent Rick Casper of Polo Towers Las Vegas will be the subject of my next article
Of course, people can always contact me directly.
RedWeek continues to allow me to post. I was asked to provide a link to the article that caused me to be banned. Controversy generated by an article is a writer’s best friend.
My Facebook page has no quota on happy/angry comments. I deny I am 100% negative on Diamond. We still enjoy Diamond Resorts and find good value at times. I am encouraged by the meaningful conversations I have had with diplomat and PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.
Back to the Clarity Press Release:
“It will increase transparency”
Will the sales agents still be called Vacation Counselors? They are out of your life after the contract is signed and often the buyer has never even attempted to use the program for real before signing. The Vacation Counselors are the booking website and the 800 number.
“Diamond PROMISE memorializes a series of operational procedures and enhancements in a single document that will be provided to all customers at the beginning of every sales presentation.”
Irene: Another document to add to the one inch high stack of paper the buyer faces after sometimes a five hour or longer sales presentation?
Maya: It will be provided to the customer at the beginning of the sales presentation. The sales agent (Vacation Counselor) will also go over the form with the customer.
The Big Question
Will the Customer Read the Document?
The consumer is not off the hook here. “Buyer Beware” is never more apparent than when buying a timeshare. I read the contract that stated “you can sell your timeshares, but we won’t assist you.” I thought that meant being able to pick up the phone and call a licensed timeshare resale broker. All the complaints that begin with, “the salesperson said” demonstrates the buyer has not read the contract. The oral representation clause has frequently been described by timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group as a “license to lie” clause.
Four key operational changes across the entire US platform in the near future:
Recording Quality Assurance sessions – I don’t think I will be able to find an existing owner who will take this seriously. Any fraud and deception will have already been committed by the time the Quality Assurance closer gets there and the customer will remember nothing after the first three hours.
MAYA: The owner will be recorded with their permission. It will take place in a room separate from the sales floor.
IRENE: Like in Blue Bloods?
IRENE: The customer and existing owners especially would be thrilled to record the sales presentation! Can they do that?
MAYA: No because they will be in a room crowded with other prospective buyers.
IRENE: The Bullpen? I’ve seen some Facebook posts where owners have invested in recording devices that can last up to eight hours. Can they use those?
MAYA: No I think that’s illegal.
IRENE: It’s probably inadmissible in court anyway. Inside Timeshare reader pre publishing: This will only strengthen Diamond’s position if an owner takes Diamond to court because the QA session is nothing more than going over the documents. This is Diamond turning a lemon into lemonade.
Creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel – Great Idea! But there should be an advocate not employed by Diamond to walk with the owner until the issue is resolved or results in legal action. We are testing this now. I have never been flooded with so many “thank you because I had nowhere to turn and felt so all alone” statements. One of our tests is an attorney and DRI owner suffering from a workplace disability who has been stonewalled for months, starting over for the third time seeking surrender.
Increased training of frontline personal – Why not hire a disgruntled owner an opportunity to take part in the quarterly training? We used to do this at Edward Jones as a role play when I helped train new stockbrokers. Having a real grumbler on your hands would add a touch of reality.
MAYA: That’s an interesting idea. I don’t think Diamond has considered this. I will forward your suggestion.
Regularly placing “Consumer Engagement Observers” at sales presentations to provide feedback. Care should be taken to not make the customer feel like this has escalated to four instead of three against one. Try not to make that person look like a bouncer.
MAYA: No the sales agent and customer will not know who the observer is.
IRENE: Kind of like a secret shopper?
IRENE: Won’t it be easy to bust them like an undercover narc? Do you have that many of them?
MAYA: No but we’re working out the details.
IRENE: Can I apply?
The Very Ugly
“Clarity seeks to build on Diamond’s already impressive standing with its members. Almost 70% of the company’s sales are to existing members seeking to increase their Diamond resorts vacation memberships,” said Mr. Flaskey.
I should warn our readers and timeshare owners this was written for the media.
Oh boy, if I put this one on Facebook, I will get 1000 replies. All of the complaints I am receiving now, on a daily basis, are from existing owners like the Saldana family who had to surrender six Diamond contracts worth $60,000 left with no vacation but a $41,000 home equity loan, recommended by their sales agent Vacation Counselor to reduce Diamond’s 14% to 18% interest rate. I confess we bought two contracts having been promised New York properties. It was not explained it would cost $5000 to $10000 in maintenance fee exchange rate to stay one week at a New York hotel that could be booked online for $2400, including tax. I checked several times throughout the year. Our daughter lives in New York.
Stay Vacationed (™) – sends a chill down the spine of people who have signed a perpetual contract like Mr. Marble, unable to be released from his contract for eight years until our local television reporter contacted the company. According to the AOD, the Transitions surrender program will be “case by case”.
Diamond Resorts is the only major timeshare that the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will not buy or sell due to restrictions Diamond has placed on the use of secondary points. I’m told only one member will market Westgate. One LTRBA member has offered to work with Diamond Resorts as she has worked with other developers to design secondary market programs.
Wake Up Diamond!
Take off the media colored glasses and listen to us! We’re not all dummies that don’t know how to use our points.
If you think I am angry, read what happened to Irina!
Irina’s complaints are similar to a class action filed against Diamond Resorts by Matt and Janet Finazzo.
“In addition, the complaint argues that Diamond Resorts controls or trains sales representatives to make such false statements, because Diamond Resorts profits from those timeshare sales.
The class action asserts that these misrepresentations are “untrue or misleading” statements, and are “unfair” business tactics in violation of California consumer protection laws”.
Well, that wasn’t easy, but at least owners have a vehicle to express their dissatisfaction. On a positive note, Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy department has helped two of the owners I sent to them and they will go on record explaining why they needed the help of an advocate not employed by Diamond. It’s the same reason people need their own real estate agent or lawyer when fighting a battle or entering into an important contract.
I want to end by thanking Maya and Diamond Resorts for listening. I believe this may be the first meaningful dialogue timeshare owners have had with developers. When our readership started building I began to hear from many worried and sometimes devastated owners.
Let’s Keep Talking!
Next week Part II: How owners feel about Clarity.
Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who contributed comments and answers to our questions, especially May and Diamond Resorts, at least a dialogue is starting to take place. It is only with timeshare companies listening to owners concerns that real change can take place, we have often said timeshare can be a could idea, it is how it is sold and how owners are treated that has caused a problem.
If you have any comments, views or questions on this or any other article published, contact Inside Timeshare. We welcome your comments and want to create a meaningful discussion.