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Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Patty Boyak who has been attending court on behalf of Inside Timeshare reports on the verdict in the trial between Candace Czarny and Hyatt for unfair dismissal. Unfortunately, it is not the result that we had all hoped for. We then go on to report on seven more complaints against a Diamond Resorts sales agent in Las Vegas and five against another Diamond sales agent in California. These complaints are becoming all too frequent with Inside Timeshare receiving them almost on a daily basis, yet the timeshare companies do nothing and continue to allow their sales agents to behave in this despicable manner.

Now on with Patty’s report.

Former Hyatt Timeshare Sales Executive Candace Czarny v Hyatt Residential Marketing Corporation and Kent and Allison R. Drysdale

CASE NO.  CV2013-006230

Jury Trial Verdict

Seven complaints against our Diamond Resorts Las Vegas sales agent and five complaints against our California agent 

By Patty Boyak

July 19, 2019

In the trial of Candace Czarny v Hyatt and Kent and Allison Drysdale, the jury ruled in favour of Hyatt. While the verdict was a profound disappointment for Candace, when God closes one door he often opens another.

In 1991 Anita Hill got dragged through the muck of Senate hearings after accusing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. She didn’t want to go public, but knew in her heart she needed to speak out about actions she felt were inappropriate for a Supreme Court justice nominee. A movie was made about her humiliating ordeal. At the end of the movie, the wrap-up listed the positive consequences because of her efforts. Nationwide revisions to antiquated sexual harassment policies and procedures ensued.

To be honest, having listened to a week of testimony, I felt Candace had at best a 50/50 chance. She had only worked in the timeshare industry for 17 months. However, Candace scored a major victory in court for timeshare members, assisted by other witnesses, and Hyatt’s attorneys provided landmark evidence or lack of:

THERE IS NO LETTER!  

The reason this is so important is that so many timeshare complaints begin with, “They said I should have gotten a letter.” This statement is reported by many Diamond members, including a disabled veteran who caught deception on a recording. Understandably, his dispute was quickly resolved. We experienced the same agent but were told another member’s complaints had no bearing on our complaint.

If you listen to the recording, most would conclude this agent should have been fired. Instead, he introduced himself to us a year later as a Platinum Counselor, and just a few weeks ago, our group received complaint #7 against this agent.

Defendant Kent Drysdale was Hyatt’s Director of Training, but some of the deceptive practices described in Candace’s lawsuit (like the letter), were the same practices members complained about during the Arizona Attorney General’s investigation of Diamond Resorts in 2016. Mr Drysdale was the Director of Training for Diamond prior to being recruited by Hyatt. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against Diamond Resorts after the AG’s office received hundreds of complaints from Diamond members.

A “deceptive price freeze” demands the member buy points the same day or loose special pricing. In the case of the veteran who recorded our Diamond sales agent, not only had the veteran repeatedly asked for his driver’s license and credit card back over two hours of a five hour ordeal, he was told that because he “didn’t get the letter” he was not grandfathered in for a special price after Apollo Global Management had acquired Diamond. Alaa stated this meant they would have to pay enormous maintenance fees over the next ten years unless they purchased additional points. As this dispute quickly resolved, we will not identify the buyers or link the article published about their dispute.  

Thank you, Candace!  

Those of us whose families have been harmed by timeshare sales agents, now have proof of deceptive and unfair practices because Hyatt’s attorney could not produce the letter. One of the members of the jury had asked where it was. There were 200 exhibits. Two letters hastily produced at trial, but neither had anything to do with a prior letter the member was supposed to have received.    

I would like to share our Diamond Resorts experience so consumers may understand how the decked is stacked against the consumer. Of the 913 complaints our advocacy group has received, 115 are veterans and active duty service members. My husband is a Navy veteran.

Our Timeshare Accountability Group™  members share experiences in an effort to expose timeshare sales agents that have had multiple complaints filed against them. Including the veteran and our family, a total of seven complaints have been received, directed against Las Vegas sales agent Alaa C, and five complaints against California agent Trevor W. We purchased from both agents!

I have asked Inside Timeshare to publish our complaint submitted to the California and Nevada Real Estate Divisions hoping to reach lawmakers who, in recent Arizona legislation, bent to the will of ARDA lobbyists. ARDA’s position is that a state should not take responsibility for those who did not bother to understand the product and Arizona Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita was quoted, “These people are adults. There was a meeting of the minds and they signed a contract. They should take responsibility.”

I’d like for ARDA lobbyists and lawmakers to read five complaints against the California agent in today’s article, and the seven complaints against Nevada agent Alaa C (to be published next Tuesday) to understand the kinds of minds that meet.            

Five complaints against California Diamond sales agent Trevor W and Principal Broker Peter M

Trevor W complaint #1 A Senior in her mid-70s

Trevor W complaint #2 Brandon and Patty Boyak

Trevor W complaint #3 A Navy veteran

Trevor W complaint #4 Reported complaint but did not buy

Trevor W complaint #5 A senior age 75, resolved 

Trevor complaint #1 Platinum Member #80 of 101, age 75

April 10, 2019

My mother lost her entire retirement annuity of $350,000, plus maintenance fees are $20,000 so almost $400,000. She was switched back and forth five times over six transactions.  (Highlighted in red are agents Inside Timeshare received multiple complaints against):   

Everything was okay until May 2015 when Rick C transferred her points to the US from Hawaii, which cost $42,000. September 2015 she was switched back to HI by Paul M for $33,000. April 2016 HI points were switched back to the US at Mystic Dunes in Orlando, by Angelica S. In March 2017 she was switched back to HI by Ras for $38,000. November 2017 Palm Canyon Resort $80,000 bought points from Trevor W. October 2018 Billie B and Fred K transferred points back to the US telling her she would be able to pay maintenance fees costing $45,000. In Hawaii, one of the brokers said he has a broker who could help her rent points (which is not allowed for-profit) to get her money back and in the future, her points could be sold back to Diamond. 

She did not buy a second time March 2019 from Paul M. Paul said she should switch back to HI because there was going to be a huge Special Assessment in the US if she didn’t switch back to Hawaii for $63,000. She ended up with 100,000 US Collection points and $17,000 in annual maintenance fees

Trevor complaint #2 Platinum Member #28 of 191

July 6, 2019

Brandon and Patty Boyak

Our complaint is against CA Diamond Resorts sales Agent Trevor W.  

We purchased 17,500 points October 21, 2017, from Trevor at Palm Canyon Resort in Palm Springs, CA for $72,850.

Consumers need to know there is nothing to prevent timeshare fraud without a recording because proof is required. I spoke to attorneys to ask what constituents proof. I was told a pattern of complaints serves as a form of proof.  This is why we are gathering complaints.    

Peter M, Principal Broker California  

Trevor W said if we became Platinum “members” as opposed to “owners” we would be eligible for a program to sell points back to DRI at $0.30 per point. He explained this as a buyback program available only to Platinum members. We had never heard the term “member” before.  Trevor explained that by becoming a member we would lock in our maintenance fees, preventing them from increasing at alarming rates over the coming years. There is no such thing as member or owner points.

We never attempted to sell points back at $.30 because we missed the window period. Trevor explained that we had to turn in points by November 30 and we had to have 20% of our loan paid to be eligible for the maintenance fee buyback program. In no way would we have 20% of the loan paid in such a short time. This avoided the rescission period.  We were already aware of a travel discount program called 30/30. We did not know at the time only Platinum members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point, a worthless benefit because 50,000 points turned in at $.04 a point would cover only $2,000 towards an $8,631 maintenance fee bill (in 2018).

Trevor explained that as soon as a buyer makes an initial purchase of Diamond points, they become an owner.  Any new purchaser is considered an owner, but once we became Platinum we would become a Diamond member. He reminded us that we were considered “owners” because of our past Monarch affiliation.

We had five contracts prior to this meeting. This would finally give us true Platinum Member status with DRI.  The contracts were not wrapped.

Trevor Complaint #3 #78 of 101

A Navy veteran (retired), age 69

April 5, 2019

To: Michael Flaskey, CEO

Maria Kalber

ARDA

ARDA ROC

Barclay’s Bank

January 28, 2018

Points purchased: 1,500

We attended a presentation at a hotel on January 28, 2018.  Mr R. He said it would be better if we were to upgrade to Platinum because then we would be able to use our points to pay maintenance fees. I explained that we did not have the resources to upgrade. After several hours we agreed.

September 4, 2018, NV

Points purchased: 16,000

Sales Agent: Mr J Trevor W

Manager: Mr Matthew G

Purchase price: $48,000

September 4, 2018, we met with Trevor W. Mr W went over our account and stated that we were only a temporary platinum member and that we could not use our points towards maintenance fees.

I recall being told several times that if we were to upgrade to Platinum it would be an investment that we could pass to our children. He said if our children did not want the timeshare in the future they would be able to say that they did not want it or that they could sell points to pay maintenance fees.

Mr W asked us how we were able to purchase our existing points at such a low price because the price for points now was much higher.  He left to talk to his manager and came back stating that they would honour the low point price but if we waited the price would be substantially higher, somewhere in the range of 9 dollars and that they would increase soon in the future.  It was again mentioned that we would be able to use our points to pay maintenance fees by selling points. He said we would be able to sell our timeshare points outright in the future, but not at the present time.

Mr W said he would assist me in using Barclay Card points and Platinum exchanged points to pay maintenance fees. Mr W gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him towards the end of the year and he would assist me with the process.  Mr W never returned calls. After contacting customer service I found out that the point conversion was so small it would not make a dent in the liability. I did not find this out until I was billed for maintenance fees and attempted to pay the fees via points.   

 I have learned members are not required to attend presentations unless accepting a promotion. This also is deceptive to be told an update is required when it is not. Diamond points are worthless on resale. 

A senior, age 73, who did not buy from Trevor  

Trevor Complaint #4 Platinum member #85 out of 101

At Palm Canyon CA Trevor showed me a graph of maintenance fees showing maintenance fees increasing. Trevor had said that the way my contract with Al C had been written, my maintenance fees were at a higher rate of increase. Al had told me my maintenance fees would be at the lower rate of increase, but Trevor explained that because of how C wrote the contract I was at the higher level because C wrote the contract as an owner contract and not a member contract. He explained that there is a difference between members and owners in terms of how much you pay in maintenance fees. However, I bought non-deeded Diamond points from Al, so what he sold me was a membership. He said C made more money selling owner points.

Trevor waived the maintenance fee graph in front of me and said, “I know you are telling me the truth because there would be a signature acknowledging receipt in your file”. I asked Trevor for a copy of the contract history he was reviewing, but he said he could not give this to me. Trevor said the only way to fix the problem C caused was to buy more points for $125,000. Had I believed Trevor’s nonsense about buying ownership and not membership points, I would have been driven deeper into debt. I would be another Platinum member-driven into foreclosure.

Trevor also presented the misrepresentation about heirs saying that my heirs would be responsible if I did not buy an additional 75,000 points for $125,000.

Trevor, and a second agent, Brad G, said I could get out of the owner status and go to “member status” if I made the purchase.  Trevor assured me if I bought the points, I would then have the lowest maintenance fees. He told me I would need to do this to take care of the mess C had created.

Trevor and Brad acknowledged that “middle easterners at Cancun” in Las Vegas often made these mistakes. They thought Al was one who had put another person in a bad situation, but they would call Mike B to see if they could help me. Trevor agreed that Al had sold me a bait and switch.  Trevor and Brad also stated that Al had sold me 7000 more points than I needed to reach platinum status.

In the end, I did not feel that I could trust Trevor. I asked Trevor for a copy of his proposal that he had written down so I could talk to my financial advisor. He would not give it to me. I said I had to talk to my family because they had been waiting for hours. My friend and daughter-in-law returned with me and said that I was not going to sign anything. Trevor got nasty and said, “I resent you coming in here at the last minute giving advice.”

I also was told that unless I bought the new points from Trevor I could not sell my points.  If I did buy the points from them, Diamond would give me a list of members to whom I may sell. Diamond points are worthless on resale.

Besides ruining my afternoon with my family for my grandson’s birthday, I was a mental wreck.  When I returned, I told the two men that I didn’t have enough funds to make the purchase. I asked for more time so I could talk to my financial advisor who was not available by phone.  Trevor denied that request. He said I had to sign right then. He said if I signed I had 7 days in CA to cancel the contract. 

Trevor Complaint #5

A senior, age 70, Diamond Platinum member #90 of 101

June 5, 2019

To Michael Flaskey, CEO

Hospitality

Barclay’s President’s office

ARDA ROC

California Real Estate Division

Peter M

Trevor W

On 4/22/19 in Palm Desert, I went to an “Owner Update” with Platinum specialist Trevor W.  I had previously been assured that since I already owned 90,500 points, I was well in excess of the 50,000 points needed to be Platinum. I am 70 years old and have no children. The timespan and need for points are limited. Trevor launched into an explanation of why I had to buy additional “membership” points because the prior Hawaii sales agent had fraudulently, or at least mistakenly, sold me “owner” points due to inadequate training.  

I explained to Platinum specialist Trevor W that my only goal was to find a way to SELL my points, and also to make absolutely sure that Diamond could NOT attach my estate because my heirs did not want the points. 

Trevor explained that my points were essentially worthless, that there was no market for them because of the type of ownership category I held. He explained that the points that I owned, on the secondary market, would have none of the myriads of benefits like travel reimbursement for air and hotel, or access to other features. The buyer could only access specific Diamond-owned properties. 

The Hawaii sales agent said that Hawaii points were the premium to own and in huge demand by buyers. They explained that Hawaii points have a limited supply, so I could use them and then easily sell them. In fact, they said Diamond itself would likely buy them back because they were running out of property in the tight Maui market. 

Trevor pretended to be disappointed that I was sold a pack of lies, and implied that the Diamond rep knew the Hawaii points had no resale value. He said the rep should have disclosed this fact about worthless “ownership” points, worthless even when sold in Hawaii. I was really discouraged. Trevor posed as my friend, sorry to have to explain this to me.

Trevor offered a solution. Apollo owned Diamond, and Apollo was going public in the next couple of months. He said Apollo wanted Diamond to be clean as a whistle to have a stellar rating and reputation. Many owners had complained about not being able to resell, so Apollo had created a new class of ownership called “membership” which entitles a future buyer to all the Platinum benefits of my points. The maintenance fees for “owners” were going to skyrocket, compounding every year. He showed me a horrifying chart showing maintenance fees growing to a million dollars in aggregate over 20 years.  But the “membership” category would be capped. This would result in huge savings over time.

Trevor said the terms of the public offering SEC filing by Apollo mandated that points had to be sold at a base rate of slightly over $11/point. No more bargaining. Trevor said there were scores of Platinum buyers clamouring to buy points, as they would not want to pay the new rate, creating a hot market to sell points to those who had previously purchased “ownership” points like I had been mistakenly sold. Trevor said he would give me a list of buyers with their emails once Apollo went public. Of course, it would be up to me to make a private party agreement.  We had an elaborate discussion about what my average cost per point would be – about $4.50. 

Trevor said he had recently purchased points, knowing he could sell them back at a profit. Being leery, I said I wanted to see his purchase contract, which he said was at home, so on speakerphone, he called his wife to ask her to fax it.  She answered, such a sweet voice, and said she was at the market, but would send it as soon as she got home. So we took a break, as we’d been talking for hours. The break stretched to an hour. When we reconvened Trevor showed me his purchase contract. It must have taken an hour to make the mock purchase contract, backdate it, and have it faxed.

The hook was lowered.  I would be required to buy 25,000 points at $112,500 in order for Diamond to convert all my “ownership” points to “membership” points.  I was shocked at the dollar amount. It was like betting on the come, but it seemed the only way out. In about 2 months, Apollo would go public and Trevor would give me a list of eager existing Platinum owner-buyers. As I stalled, exhausted and discouraged, Sales Manager, Bradley reassured me.

I signed the purchase contract with misgivings, and explained to the contract/quality control guy (who said he was there to protect me from any misleading sales practices), that I was forced to buy points in order to be able to sell points in the near future and at least break even.  He didn’t blink an eye, which was reassuring. 

During this process, a loved one was rapidly sinking into dementia/Alzheimer.  

Members and current and former timeshare sales agents like Candace can help by joining forces with others seeking to reform timeshare. Sign this petition for reform to let your voice be heard, and join one of these self-help groups.

https://www.change.org/p/state-legislators-in-arizona-florida-and-nevada-demand-reform-of-the-timeshare-industry-s-unfair-and-deceptive-practices

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

Free at Last Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/623703881470577/?ref=share

Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide

https://www.udprep.info/june

Bluegreen Facebook

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

Wyndham Facebook

New: https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/  

Sapphire Starpoint New: https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

Diamond Resort Facebook

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

Gold Key Facebook

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

Inside Timeshare Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2213231165610648/

Once again thank you Patty for taking the time to attend the trial and submitting your report, itjust unfortunate that it was not the result that Inside Timeshare and our readers had hoped for. We must also give Candace a very big thank you for having the courage to take on the big boys, we all hope that you will now move on and rebuild your life.

If you have any comments or views on this or any other article published, please do use our contact page and let us know.

That is it for this week, have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Sheila Brust gives us an update to her previous article “Pencil Pitch”, again edited by Irene Parker.

It would seem that Darth Vader has sent in his Imperial Stormtroopers and Inside Timeshare is under attack from the dark side, no problem, the force of the good is with us. Keep your stories coming, the truth will always prevail!

Now on with this week’s Letter from America

An Update to Sheilah Brust’s Pencil Pitch

The Florida Timeshare Division told us,

“You have no Proof” and we were not allowed a rebuttal

Why is this not proof?

July 6, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

Many potential timeshare buyers have watched timeshare sales agents scribble timeshare promises on a piece of paper. Buyers are not allowed to keep a copy of the “Pencil Pitch” but Sheilah Brust managed to walk out with hers.

Sheilah listened to her pencil pitch in Daytona presented by Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie. She filed a complaint with Florida’s Department of Business Practice and Regulation (DBPR) and was told the following,

As you are aware, alleged verbal misrepresentations are very difficult to prove in light of the written documents and disclosures.  In terms of evidence we rely on these documents to prove or disprove the allegations. The actions taken by other state agencies are not evidence of the alleged misrepresentations related to the sales transactions conducted in Florida.  Based on our review, it did not appear that the information provided to you by the sales agents were false and misleading. Lack of clarity could be an issue but that in itself cannot be considered a violation. We are not surely, if the sales agent had voluntarily provided the hand-written notes or you had kept them on your own.  If there are discrepancies between the notes and what was actually received in terms of points, we will address that issue.

By Sheilah Brust

My husband Thomas and I have been Diamond timeshare members since Diamond acquired our resort. Our original timeshare was purchased in 1994. Things were fine until we fell for the Pencil Pitch.   

On February, 4, 2017, we attended an update meeting at Diamond’s Daytona resort The Cove. We wanted to attend the update because Diamond had been sold to Apollo Global Management. We are Platinum Diamond members so already had more points than we needed, but wanted to hear about the changes.

Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie said that he had just returned from training in Orlando and had learned about a new program that would allow us double point usage. We patiently followed Brad’s presentation. He wrote the numbers upside down. I remarked at how he could he do that. He said practice.

We feel Diamond must not understand the Pencil Pitch or they would cancel this purchase. I have learned Diamond retained the law firm Duane Morris to write a letter implying our article was defamatory. I have submitted this article as our rebuttal. We understand the figures we were presented. We were not confused. I have an accounting background. I wrote down everything Brad Leslie said.

Here’s the pitch. We hope you post a comment expressing your interpretation.  

The actual Pencil Pitch is three pages long. Page 2 of the Pencil Pitch is based on 15,000 additional points instead of 25,000 points pictured above because we said no to 25,000 points. The numbers below reflect 65,000 points instead of 75,000.  For those not familiar with the point system, a Diamond timeshare points sells for around $4 a point.

Timeshare members incur annual maintenance fees. For Platinum members the annual maintenance fee is $.15 per point, or $8,631 for the 50,000 points we owned before the purchase of 15,000 additional points.

From the original illustration above, to offset maintenance fees, on the right side of sheet, Brad said and wrote:

  • Own 75,000 points
  • Ability to get (Double Usage) 150,000 points – 50,000 points is what would be left for travel
  • 100,000 points would be available for point redemption @ 10 per point through a Travel Reimbursement program. Brad told us to book hotels, etc., and then cancel the reservations. We would receive a reimbursement check back for $10,000. The 50,000 points tendered would not be credited back. Brad said we would be reimbursed via check in about 30 days or 72 hours if via a reloadable debit Visa card. Without the double points, this program is of no value. If we used all our 50,000 points for redemption at $.10 a point, we would receive a reimbursement check for $5,000 that would only pay $5,000 towards a $8,631 maintenance fee bill with no points left for travel.

Brad said we could use the reimbursement check to pay maintenance fees but he said he could not tell us that. He said, “It’s your money!”

Brad said we paid $8,631 in maintenance fees for 50,000 points in 2017.  Following Brad’s logic, we could eliminate $8,000 of the increased $11,252 maintenance fee (due to the purchase of 15,000 additional points), by taking advantage of this new program.

65,000 own                 $8,631 current maintenance fees before 15,000

65,000 given              2,621 maintenance fees on the new 15,000

130,000 points            $11,252 Total maintenance fees with new 15,000

50,000 if used            8,000 Less reimbursement check

80,000 left                 $3,252 Maintenance fees still owed       

x $.10 reimbursed     EXCEPT THERE WAS NO 65,000 POINTS GIVEN!

$8,000

Brad said Diamond was working on a new member page for the new program that would have a split screen and that we would be able to see our newly acquired 15,000 points in the background. He said the 65,000 points “given” (Brad’s word) would also appear on a “split screen” on our member account page.

When I asked about the maintenance fees on the new 15,000 points, Brad said, “If you don’t use them you don’t pay maintenance fees on them. They will be kept in the background. If you want to use them then you will pay maintenance fees.”

I specifically asked Brad, “So if I had all 130,000 points reimbursed, they could all be redeemed for a check? Brad said, “Yes.”

I asked Brad why this program was developed. He said Diamond wanted to make sure we STAYED VACATIONED.     

We met with Brad again in May 2017. Brad said the program had changed. Brad said Diamond was getting rid of the debit cards because there were problems. He said DRI was working on the split screen. He said now we would need to generate the reimbursement checks by participating in the Travel Reimbursement program. I was familiar with this program and had used it before. This was a benefit we already had as Platinum members, but only beneficial if we were to lose points. We feel Brad adulterated the Travel Reimbursement program, incorporating it into his February Pencil Pitch.  

Brad’s reply to our complaint submitted to the Florida DBPR was that 15,000 points in the background was for a Dream Vacation. He said I was confused! Dream vacation points were not in any background account. They were added to our account February 17, 2017 so these could not have been the points in question. Brad sent us a $2,621 check to reimburse us the maintenance fees on the newly purchased 15,000 points. If it wasn’t for the NEW 15,000 points, we never would have gotten a $2,621 reimbursement check for the maintenance fees. Diamond representative Brandi said sales agents are allowed to reimburse members for their first year’s maintenance fees. Dream Vacation points don’t have maintenance fees.

Of course Brad was selling a double point program. He wrote down 130,000 and called the 65,000 points “given” points. I had told him that this program better be right because we are retired and living on fixed incomes and that we had NO extra money if he was not telling us the truth.  His answer was that he hoped to rebuild our trust in Diamond. We had told him we had been duped previously, told we had to buy 4000 points to prevent our heirs from being stuck with Diamond points.

Diamond’s response to us was that the information as presented was confusing, but not illegal. This is the CLARITY promise Diamond launched in response to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an Assurance of Discontinuance.  

The CLARITY Promise: With this clear, concise and consistent information, consumers can easily determine whether the Diamond Resorts hospitality experience is the right decision for them and their families.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170123005839/en/Diamond-Resorts-Launches-New-National-Customer-Service

Diamond’s Response:

On April 5, 2018, we received a call from a DRI Hospitality agent. She said our complaint had been escalated to the legal team and they found no wrongdoing. This is part of what she said to us.

I definitely agree that your confusion of that process is warranted. I have spoken to our legal team and sales team and we agree the double point explanation is definitely something that could have been misconstrued or seen as confusing by members or purchasers.

We have made changes to the way that information is given at the time of sale but we have to say the stance we take on this is: because there may have been some confusion on how you may use those points to create a savings for yourself doesn’t make the explanation illegal.

Summary

As a result of this upsell and lack of clarity, we have less time to travel because we have to work to pay for the additional points that increased maintenance fees to $11,252. We have a loan with Diamond for $31,000 and $26,000 Barclay Card balance.

Brad charged on two Barclay Cards $14,000 in my name and $12,000 in Thomas’ name. He had us fill out a credit card application to see if we qualified for the new program. He returned and said, “Barclays loves you! You got $26,000 credit!” I was livid after I learned we had been charged these amounts. We could have used a different credit card that would have gotten us rewards points.  

This whole deal was based on having 130,000 points using points at $.10 a point for a Travel Advantage reimbursement service taking advantage of 65,000 bonus points. You can book a lot of vacations with 50,000 points that would vastly exceed a measly reimbursement check for $5,000. You can stay a week for roughly 2500 to 5000 points. At an estimated 4000 points per week, about 12 weeks.       

What CLARITY?

According to the Federal Trade Commission Section 5

An act or practice is deceptive where

  • a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer;
  • a consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances; and
  • the misleading representation, omission, or practice is material.

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

From the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance:

IV Assurances

“Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

 

  1. Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  2. Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

 

 

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2018/jun/17/whconsider-when-buying-time-share-vacatispot/472994/

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help with a timeshare concern or would like to share your experience.   

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Thank you Sheila for your candid story, it just amazes us that this type of sales practice still goes on, yet the companies involved deny all responsibility for their sales agents actions. In Europe timeshare is very much on the decline, partly due to the antics in the past of unscrupulous sales reps, not all I hasten to add, I do know many who abhor the deceitful practices and are genuine in their approach to selling the product. They believe that telling the truth sells the product.

We have said this on many occasions, timeshare was and could be a good product, it may not suit everyone but sold properly and truthfully will only strengthen it and give it a future.

So we say to all timeshare companies, get your house in order, reign in your sales agents / reps, stop these types of sleazy sales presentations, take control or you will lose a product that could work.

News has just come in from Canarian Legal Alliance of this weeks court cases, on the receiving end are Anfi in Gran Canaria once known as the flagship of timeshare resorts in Europe and Silverpoint in Tenerife.

The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, has had NINE sentences passed against them this week. The clients will receive back all their money and have had their contracts declared null and void.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint, who are well known on these pages has lost another case in the Court of First Instance in Arona. Again the court ordered the return of all money and the contract declared null and void.

In total these 10 cases will cost these timeshare resorts over 325,112€ plus legal interest and in most cases the return of the client’s initial legal fees.

So the week ends with another “Black Cloud” hanging over the timeshare industry. Will they ever learn?

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments and stories, if you would like to share these with the rest of the timeshare world, then use our contact page and get in touch.

So that is all for this week, join us on Monday for more news and views of the timeshare world, have a great, enjoyable and safe weekend.

Money Vs Morals

A Fraudulent Timeshare Sale can pose a National Security Threat

One Marine sacrifices, not only his money and his security clearance, but also his air unit command, as a result of believing a timeshare sales agent.

Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, former Marine Corp pilot and investment banking and capital market underwriter, was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm.   

http://www.navy.mil/navybio_ldr.asp?id=1001

NNSA

December 27, 2017

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare received an alarming response in response to last week’s article about Samuel Melendez. Mr. Melendez spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, working with soldiers and colleges to teach them chemical, biological and nuclear defense. A Diamond Platinum member, he alleges he and his wife Delores were up-sold by deceit and bait and switch by Diamond Resorts top selling sales agent Rick Casper at DRI’s Polo Towers resort.

Inside Timeshare has been informed one Marine lost more than his money and security clearance. He lost his air unit command, as a consequence of believing a timeshare sales agent. He was forced into foreclosure which jeopardized his security clearance. We will not name the Marine who lost his air unit command, or the timeshare company, because Inside Timeshare has received reports directed against four timeshare companies offering members of our armed forces deals like the ability to rent for a profit, the ability to easily sell vacation points, or buy vacation points at a special military discount price that does not exist. Fifteen active duty and retired military and law enforcement personnel allege they were sold by deceit.

Marine

Former Marine Jeff Diehl describes how his Vacation Village sales agent over promised the income that could be generated from renting his week.

Jeff Diehl

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-30/

Jeff expressed outrage after hearing a fellow Marine lost his command post due to predatory timeshare sales. He sees such tactics as a threat to our national security. “It would be easy for anyone, seeking to do our country harm, to get hired to sell vacation points in an effort to remove an armed service member from their command post,” said Jeff. Jeff is encouraging service members to write to the Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer and Commandant of the Marines Robert B. Neller, as well as other directors of our armed forces.

I fear Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer, a former top venture capitalist, may have conflicting feelings about how Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo Global Management, achieve their sales target. Apollo is the third largest private equity company. Secretary of the Navy Spencer is a former Marine Corp pilot and a former investment banking and capital market underwriter. He was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm. Mr. Spencer was sworn in August, 2017. Apollo manages Diamond as a fund of funds.  

Our fifteen Timeshare Advocacy Group™ military and law enforcement members have mobilized as a unit of armed forces to put an end to timeshare’s predatory sales and marketing targeting the military. Jeff, a retired Marine and disabled, is the unit commander. All fifteen allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. Four are worried about losing their security clearance. Four are disabled.

https://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/2017/11/242nd-marine-corps-birthday-message-commandant-marine-corps

Given dismal regulatory enforcement, we fear the only court open to any timeshare buyer alleging deceit is the court of public opinion, so in addition to 15 members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines, alleging they were victimized by Vacation Village, Bluegreen, Wyndham and Diamond timeshare sales agents, four members of our media outreach committee will assist our military in an effort to reach mainstream media.

Diamond Resorts is offering free passes to the military and to first responders for their upcoming invitational golf tournament to be held in Orlando January 12 – 14. Model and golf pro Blair O’Neal is featured.  

https://www.insidethegate.com/2017/12/military-first-responders-to-receive-complimentary-tickets-to-third-annual-diamond-resorts-invitational/

USN

Navy computer technicians Amanda and George Jones are also worried about their Navy security clearances. Amanda and George say they were told by two Diamond sales agents, at two different locations, there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. Banks will not finance timeshares. They too could be forced into foreclosure and lose their security clearance, unable to afford the 18% timeshare loan interest rate.

Amanda and George Jones were featured in last week’s article. Mary Bowling, former #2 top selling Diamond Resorts sales agent, describes in a lawsuit, how the deceptive “price freeze” works.

Amanda and George Jones

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Here is the “price freeze” script

Case 1:17-cv-00562-DKW-RLP filed in Hawaii District Court Page 10 of complaint

#43 Owners Update is deceptive because it is to sell points.

#44 Customer is told the current “list price” but the agent has to see someone else.

#48 the sales agent has customer sign a form indicating they were updated and the agent has to have the manager sign off.

#49 the sales manager has reviewed all prior customer contracts and the manager falsely states the customer was given a “price freeze” but none exists.

#50 (In bold) because of the “price freeze” only today can the customer buy for the discounted price.

#51 (In bold) the price given is the real price planned from the outset.

#52 the “price freeze” never existed because (a) The special deal available to this customer only is available to anyone and (b) Urgent to buy only for today

#54 this is lucky news for the customer – brand new information!

#55 the sales agent waits for the customer to “step in”

George and Amanda Jones “step in”

We went to an orientation in Orlando presented by DRI sales agent Jonathan Pineda at DRI’s Resort Mystic Dunes March 2017. (This is the second complaint Inside Timeshare has received from our readers directed against Mr. Pineda) We ended up purchasing an additional 4000 points for $15,732. Our loan balance $13,271.16 is financed at 18.6794%. Jonathan (like our first Virginia DRI sale agent), said both loans could be refinanced and combined by companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. He said we would have to wait until we made our first payment (long after the contract rescission period). When we asked for a company name, Jonathan said we could google it.  

We were told we were buying our second purchase in Orlando at a price point that was almost unheard of and was not being offered to any new Diamond customers right now. “I can’t believe your first sales agent didn’t tell you about this price from the first purchase!” Jonathan said.  If we did not buy that day we would lose out and would go from $2.85 per point to $10 from that day on. He said not to go to any future promotional events because it would change our price point. Jonathan said parents had died and the children did not want the points so DRI was reselling at this low price.

Jonathan also said that we needed to get to Gold so that we could pay our maintenance fees with points. We have since learned only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point. He said it would be worth it to spend all our savings so that we would not have to pay maintenance fees. We were not comfortable so we only bought 4000 points.

USArmy

Samuel Melendez, Army veteran

http://insidetimeshare.com/nightmares-timeshare-street/

Mr. Melendez is the eighth Rick Casper Platinum DRI member to reach out to Inside Timeshare, and the only complainant not to have been resolved. The Melendez complaint was dismissed. Mr. Melendez said he received an email from their DRI Consumer Advocate hospitality agent, with the family’s initials on their contract, confirming the oral representation clause.

Platinum members are Diamond’s most loyal customers. They are unsuspecting because they have dealt with the company for years without major complaints until their encounter with Rick Casper or others with questionable business practices.

We’re not sure if Rick Casper is still with DRI. Like Elvis, some members report Rick Casper and Wadji Kassas (another name frequently mentioned) are no longer with the company, while others tell us Casper and Kassas are still working at DRI. I can imagine them holed up in a special Platinum bunker.

Inside Timeshare also published the story of army veteran Terry Carter, diagnosed with blood cancer. Terry lived next to a burn pit in Iraqi. Bluegreen offered this family a loan cancellation but no refund. Terry says he will not give up without a fight. Sold in a group presentation, promised the ability to sell their timeshare at a profit should they need to sell, the family is demanding a 50% refund. Bluegreen’s defense is the family used the timeshare for 19 days since making their first purchase in 2013. They stopped making loan payments in July.

Terry Carter http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-2/

One of the worst upsell stories was reported to Inside Timeshare by Karen Vartan, another disabled vet. She was contacted by DRI marketing in San Diego. As a Platinum member for more than five years, Karen was hosted by the Diamond Resorts East Coast Mystic Dune Sales Team in Arlington, Virginia. Karen says she was told if she purchased 25,000 additional DRI points, added to her exiting 57,000 points she would have 82,000. But if purchased today only, double points – 165,000 – allowing Karen to be able to pay her maintenance fees with points left over to travel. The program does not exist. Diamond’s response was again to provide Karen with her initials on her contract acknowledging that Karen “did not rely on any oral representation to make her purchase.”

Canada is also represented in our military victim report  

Canada

Roxanne and Terry Hurley

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Inside Timeshare directed Roxanne and Terry Hurley to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department over a year ago after the family reported they lost their entire life savings to DRI. Chalk it up to a bad decision, but having served in the Canadian army their entire career, they have nothing left. DRI did provide some help. We are not lawyers, so are not privy to the terms, but the family thought it would be alright, not violating the non-disclosure agreement, to admit they are still DRI members. Roxanne’s mom’s condition has worsened since she reached out to us. With no secondary market, their savings wiped out, their dream vacation future turned into a financial tragedy.

homeland

Law Enforcement is also at risk

Lela Renea is a Florida detective trying to work with Bluegreen to resolve her complaint.  Inside Timeshare, back in July, published Detective Renea’s article describing how she feels she was a victim of a Bluegreen bait and switch. We will not use the word “alleged” because if anyone knows they were baited and switched, it’s a detective.  

Detective Renea  http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Scotty Black, MS Criminal Justice, also works in law enforcement. Inside Timeshare will publish Scotty’s battle with Diamond Resorts in an upcoming article. Detective Renea and Scotty could also lose their security clearances if forced into foreclosure.

There are others who have moved on. We will not republish their articles or mention their names, as they have signed a mutual release agreement, agreeing not to say anything bad about Diamond Resorts.

When will this industry wake up? Never, I fear if there is not some federal enforcement. Members cannot even file a complaint effectively with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if the timeshare company finances the loan because, as not the actual lender, there is no drop down CFPB menu choice to select a timeshare company. Only banks are listed.

monay v morals

According to FBI agents I spoke with, and several attorneys, hiding behind the oral representation clause is not legal but continues as a hamster wheel because there is no federal timeshare enforcement. In our opinion, state enforcement is, in some states, influenced by powerful lobby dollars. With so little enforcement, unscrupulous sales agents have little to fear. Lie to make the sale, force the member into foreclosure, take back the points, resell for full value to the next consumer.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has dismissed all Diamond Resorts complaints, submitted by members who contacted Inside Timeshare, despite Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issuing an against DRI accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The AZ AG office received, according to a source, 400 complaints, and an additional 500 complaints after the press release.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

We do not dispute there are many timeshare members, having not yet experienced a life crisis, who use and enjoy their vacation points. We know there are honest timeshare companies, like Disney Vacation Club, and honest timeshare sales agents, but it would take another lengthy article to list the lawsuits that have evolved, like the Wyndham whistleblower Trish Williams $20 million jury award describing TAFT days – tell them any blank think on slow sales days.

At least timeshare members, those who find Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below, are not silenced and isolated.

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

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

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

help

          

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Richard Cordray

Timeshare Developers and ARDA vs the Timeshare Consumer

donkey

ALEC – What’s a Corporate Bill Mill?

Part I – The Manhattan Club

Part II – Marriott and Florida legislation Tuesday, November 28

By Irene Parker

November 21

Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an agency that overreached or a necessary protection for consumers?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Director Richard Cordray recently announced his resignation. Timeshare members not familiar with the CFPB may remember 3.4 million Wells Fargo customers receiving restitution from unauthorized credit card accounts being opened that allowed Wells Fargo representatives to meet incentive targets. CFPB conducted that investigation.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/15/richard-cordray-resigns-consumer-financial-protection-bureau-24493/

Timeshare today seems as polarized as Democrats vs the GOP. Given the corporate driven political climate in Washington DC, it is unlikely Cordray’s replacement will bolster the agency’s power or recourse for timeshare consumers.

Timeshare members have not benefitted from the CFPB like the Wells Fargo victims. The opening of an unauthorized credit card is annoying, but probably not financially devastating. The majority of our 209 Inside Timeshare readers, reaching out to us for advice, are often financially devastated by their decision to purchase a timeshare or continuing to own one. The perpetual contract, accompanied by rising maintenance fees and little or no secondary market can spell disaster, especially if sold by deceit.

Still, timeshare members appreciate the CFPB’s interest in hearing timeshare complaints. The CFPB did initiate a Westgate timeshare investigation that lasted two years, only to be dropped after the 2016 presidential election. Call me suspicious, but seeing Westgate owner David Siegel pictured left of Mr. Trump on the stump during the campaign, while the Trump organization simultaneously launched a timeshare in Scotland, seems beyond coincidental.

Trump1

Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s name was mentioned in the Politico article linked above as a possible Cordray replacement. Given Florida’s current legislative and timeshare enforcement climate, timeshare members have little to cheer should a former or current Florida elected official be named director. In our opinion, Ms. Bondi has done little to address deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale. As Inside Timeshare previously reported, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints received from April 2014 to April 2016.

In contrast, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club members, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich $800,000 for Diamond Resort members, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III $3 million for Festiva members, and other smaller settlements by Colorado, Wisconsin and Missouri Attorneys General.

Despite AG settlements that seem mere financial speed bumps in the life of a timeshare corporation, timeshare members are hopeful our grassroots efforts to educate lawmakers will someday bear fruit.

The Manhattan Club investigation was one member vs developer battle over lack of availability and other concerns that led to the $6.5 million settlement. TMC owners were banned from the timeshare industry as part of the agreement. While the settlement was hailed as a significant accomplishment, Douglas Wasser, an attorney involved with the investigation is not so sure:

The $6.5 million was set aside for the benefit of “hundreds of purchasers” as a restitution fund.  But The Manhattan Club has upwards of 14,700 unit owners.  So, the pool of Manhattan Club owners entitled to a purchase refund may be a very small one.

The forced divestiture by the current sponsor of control over the Manhattan Club could be a lift for the entire community. Given the lack of confidence in the current reservation system and the many complaints that the reservation system was heavily tilted to benefit the sponsor, this seems like a significant positive to the Manhattan Club community.  It may restore confidence, perhaps drive up market value of the units and allow those who want to leave to do so, and bring in new and willing participants.   

Will it be uplifting for all timeshare members?

Inside Timeshare and other advocates expect little improvement given the polarity that exists between member advocacy groups and ARDA, the American Resort Development Association. I have personally forwarded close to 100 complaints to ARDA, prepared by members alleging timeshare sales agents violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics, which have been ignored.

The two resorts which seem to have the highest volume of complaints each give ARDA ROC, the supposed owner’s arm of ARDA, $1million dollars a year through “voluntary” opt out donations. It took until November to have my $7 removed. When I contacted my resort to have the donation removed, it was instead moved to another account and reported as a delinquency on that account. When members ask what ARDA ROC is, members are told it is a nonprofit that helps members. However, ARDA seemed to be on the side of TMC developers.

mclub

The picture above shows two ARDA attorneys observing a TMC meeting and taking notes. The notes may have later turned into an amicus brief written by a high ranking executive member and attorney for ARDA attempting to defend TMC.  In the brief, Robb Webb described the company’s practices as “routine industry transactions” and, according to one source, drafted some TMC original documents.

Our readers would agree false promises and shady sales tactics are often routine industry practices or transactions, but members are alarmed ARDA defended such practices. In the settlement, the Manhattan Club defendants acknowledged that they misled buyers about availability and the ability to sell back the timeshare.

“The owners of the Manhattan Club lured thousands of timeshare buyers with false promises and shady sales tactics that violated New York law,” Schneiderman said.

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

What’s a corporate bill mill and does such an entity play a role in timeshare?

On Friday in Part II we will examine how politics played a role in the Marriott racketeering case, as lawyers involved with the case suspect. It’s been reported backdoor politics contributed to a bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott that, in effect, rendered the Marriott case non-meritorious.

Unsure of the allegations, I researched lobby efforts and their influence on legislation and the possibility of timeshare participating in an ALEC type endeavor. Georgia Senator Nan Orrock described ALEC as “a corporate bill mill.” ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council.

According to Senator Orrock, ALEC is an organization that gets money from lobbyists and gives the money to legislatures and it is considered charity. Three lawmakers, mentioned in this video, received $22,000 in “scholarships” from ALEC, considered an educational charity. The YouTube is disturbing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNA0-GBuunc

The timeshare PAC ARDA also has a charitable educational organization called AIF ARDA International Fund. I don’t know enough about AIF to parallel it to ARDA, but the legislative action in the Marriott case seems similar.

http://www.arda.org/foundation/

Open Secrets list ARDA’s contributions to political candidates:  

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00358663

So where do we go from here and why can’t we all just get along? Has greed so permeated timeshare and American politics that a working relationship between timeshare members and developers or between the rich and the not rich, is as unlikely as Bernie Sanders and President Trump coming to terms over health care?

a

Fortunately, the court of public opinion is still open as long as the first amendment stands while timeshare members keep coming forward filing regulatory complaints and reaching out to the media if they feel they have been harmed. Someday, somewhere, someone will listen. Until then, we build our case brick by brick.

If you or someone you know needs help with a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or a self-help advocacy Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene, as usual you explain things in a way that is easily understood, we look forward to Part II next week.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we decided to run with this particular article following the news from Europe on Monday that Diamond was closing its sales offices in Europe. Obviously this will have a great impact on the many employees, who are now out of work and will need to find jobs in an ever decreasing sales industry.

As usual before we go on with our article, this week has not been a very good one for Silverpoint in Tenerife, with another loss at the High Court and also at the Supreme Court.

The judge at the High Court Number 2, found serious breaches of the timeshare laws, declaring the client’s contract null and void and ordering the return of over £49,000 plus legal interest.

At the Supreme Court in Madrid, the judges upheld previous rulings and declared another Silverpoint contract null and void. This particular client will now receive over 28,000€ plus all legal fees and legal interest. Another happy ex Silverpoint owner.

As usual these were clients of the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. So this does go to show that in spite of what many timeshare companies are claiming, such as the article published on Wednesday about Anfi attacking CLA, this law firm is doing what it says.

CLA Logo

Now on with Friday’s Letter.

Inside Timeshare leapt at the chance to publish details of CLARITY, Diamond Resort’s program to promote accountability, transparency and respect for the Customer. The program was introduced after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. The Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of Diamond complaints. One source informed us the office received 400 complaints leading up to the investigation and 500 more complaints after the press release.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Diamond Resorts also provided a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department to assist members from day one if they have concerns about their timeshare.

Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints from members almost daily, with common complaints:

Purchase more points as that will be the only way to sell points. (Diamond’s secondary market restrictions make Diamond points almost impossible to sell.)

Purchase more points because that will provide you with the ability to pay maintenance fees by tendering excess points at 30 cents per point. (No such program exists as this is an adulteration of a 30/30 program designed for other purposes.)

Agents working for the same company selling against each other from the Hawaii Collection to the US Collections telling the member they made a mistake purchasing the collection they purchased, depending on which side of the Pacific the member is on.

Inside Timeshare has forwarded members complaints to Diamond’s PR firm and to ARDA. Both have ignored the complaints, but it is unlikely ARDA will enforce their Code of Ethics against a corporate member that gives ARDA a million dollars a year from Diamond members who unwittingly are billed $7 as an “opt-out” voluntary donation on their maintenance fee invoice. It is doubtful the average timeshare members understands even what the initials ARDA ROC stand for.

After reading complaint after complaint from our Nightmare on Timeshare series, I am certain our EU Diamond agents did not stoop to such tactics. Did this contribute to sales targets not being met?  Inside Timeshare has received 187 reader complaints, of which 178 are from Diamond Resort members.

Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never returned Marsha’s call. One of Diamond’s Advocacy “hospitality” agents left one message but never returned her calls. CEO Michael Flaskey ignored Marsha Young.

A representative from Barclay’s Bank did contact Marsha Young. Although they cannot help, as Barclays does not physically open credit card applications, Marsha appreciated the respect she was given by at least being acknowledged.

You be the judge of Marsha’s story.

How Buying a Timeshare can be Financially Devastating

Luke

Introduction by Irene Parker

Since our first Inside Timeshare US member story was published October 2016, we have received 186 member complaints, of which 171 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, meeting the FBI definition of White Collar Crime. Of the 186 complaints, 177 are from Diamond Resorts members. We don’t dispute there are many timeshare members who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but many have not yet been made aware of the lack of or limited secondary market. The majority of complaints allege they were told to buy more points because only at the next loyalty level could they sell points or be able to offset maintenance fees. Neither program exists. These members are stuck with a product they paid thousands of dollars for, felt were sold by deceit, incur maintenance fees and can’t sell. Their network of friends and family want nothing to do with timeshare. Sales centers should take note as Social Media no longer keeps members silenced and isolated. Diamond Resorts did not respond to our request for comment.

November 10

By Marsha Young

The vacation memories my husband and I shared together at Embassy Suites and Sunterra in Hawaii on the island of Maui are my most treasured, but our memories so precious have been destroyed. Maybe not the memories, but the timeshare we knew and loved has turned into a financial trap.

My husband passed away in 2011. I still travel some with friends and family and I enjoyed the flexibility of the point program until I succumbed to high pressure sales. In the past, when explaining the struggles of raising a family, or other reasons why we could not upgrade, agents would not push us when my husband and I said no, so I was not prepared for what happened. In an effort to warn others to seek counsel before you sign a perpetual contract after a six hour sales session, with rising maintenance fees, and no secondary market, I share my story.  

My problems began at the Diamond Resorts sales center at Williamsburg Virginia May 2017. I told the hospitality agent about how I had been deceived previously by a Hawaii sales agent. She told me she understood and explained that is why sales were stopped at the Williamsburg center for a while until a new program called CLARITY was put in place. My Williamsburg sales agents were Richard Rodgers and Mark Schilling. I told them I did not want to spend any more money as the maintenance fees were going up so much for the Hawaii Collection. They told me I should transfer my Hawaii points to the US Collection because maintenance fees would be less. The cost was never discussed. I thought there would be no charge. I saved the paper they used showing points transferring over to the US Collection. They also encouraged me to open a Barclay credit card because it accumulated points rather than miles, but neglected to tell me the card would be charged $7,100 for a down payment. I had sent an email to both Richard and Mark telling them I did not want to spend more money. The sales presentation lasted six hours. I was exhausted. When I got home and went to my DRI account. I was shocked at the new $34,000 mortgage. The maintenance fees did not go down.

I did not know where to turn so I called a friend who is an investment advisor. He called Mark Schilling. Mr. Schilling’s response was, “She signed the contract. The QA session was videoed.” Recorded QA Sessions are part of the new CLARITY program. The sales presentation is what needs to be taped because that is when sales agents make promises not kept.

Richard Rodgers told me $400 a month would be the maintenance fee but it is the mortgage payment, so I owe maintenance fees on top of the mortgage payment. I was also told I could still book Hawaii, but in July 2017 I went to a meeting in Hawaii and was told I should not have transferred to the US Collection, because I would not be able to get back into Hawaii. They also said the value of the Hawaii Collection was more valuable and had the highest availability. Jessica Ocegueda was the sales agent. She said I had traded down and if I want to go to Hawaii on US Collection points in all likelihood “it’s not going to happen.” I have learned from other members you still can book in Hawaii with US points. I was convinced to transfer all my US Collection points to Hawaii Collection.

After six hours, there is insufficient time or energy to review an inch high stack of documents. Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never responded to my complaint, but they did send the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Barclays Bank my initials for the charge on a document.

  • Of the $138,000 approximate purchase price, $66,915 was taken back as credit for the US points and the balance financed was approximately $70,000
  • The down payment charged to my personal credit card was $8,529
  • A Barclaycard was charged $7,100
  • The monthly payment is $917.58
  • Estimated maintenance fee is $7,418

sad

At age 71, I watched my credit score plummet from the 800s to the 700s. I am a widow living on a teacher’s pension. I learned from reading Inside Timeshare articles and joining an Advocacy Facebook page, many have been told if they purchased more timeshare points, maintenance fees would go down. While the maintenance fee per point may decline a cent or two, the maintenance fee invoice does not decline. It’s easy for the resort defending their position to say, “You were confused,” but the volume of complaints found on the internet speak of sleight of hand, in my opinion.   

Not knowing where to turn I had contacted Irene Parker. Irene told me about the new CLARITY program Diamond Resorts implemented after the Arizona Attorney General issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing DRI of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. She also said Diamond Resorts now provides an advocacy department for those who have concerns about their purchase. CLARITY is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. I received none and was ignored by DRI Advocacy. It feels like the customer is always wrong.       

The actions of these agents have taken away my financial security. I feel trapped. It is not as easy or as enjoyable to travel without my husband. I can still travel with friends and would have been able to remain a Diamond customer had I not succumbed to an upgrade for reasons that were not necessary or true.  

I should have learned from the first bad experience I had in Hawaii. In Hawaii, I had been charged $2,995 for a program called the Sampler. I was refunded for that purchase because I did not know a credit card had been charged then until I returned home. Diamond said the agent, Mr. Frank Rippe, had been fired. They also said he had been the top selling agent of that particular product.

It is my hope timeshare members will continue to reach out to other members. It is a sad day when vacation timeshare plan buyers need a support group and a media outreach plan to warn other potential buyers.

act now

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/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

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

As we read many stories such as this it no longer comes as any surprise, what does seem to be a recurring theme is the age group of the people that contact us. They also all have the same story, credit scores being destroyed, after years of no defaults.

One thing that did make me chuckle in Marsha’s story is Diamonds comment on the the sacking of the sales agent, “he had been the top selling agent of that product”, well that is not surprising if he was being that devious!

Once again Inside Timeshare thanks all those who provide us with the information and contribute their stories, if you would like to contribute contact Inside Timeshare. If you just require any information about your membership or about any company that contacts you or even thinking of doing business with, but don’t know where to start, contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good weekend and join us next week.

weekend

End of August Roundup

Considering August is usually a quiet month with all the holidays, Inside Timeshare has had quite a run on articles. We began August with news on the Tauro Beach Project entitled “Tauro Beach: In the UK News”.

This followed the publication of a story in The Guardian, a UK newspaper, on the importation of the sand used to build the beach, from Western Sahara. The article by Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer, two independent journalists who investigated the possible illegal importation of the sand.

They explained that if this sand did originate from the Western Sahara, which it most certainly looks like, it was against UN Resolutions and rulings from the European Court of Justice. In their article they quote the head of SEPRONA in Gran Canaria, Lt Germán Garciá who stated “The sand was brought illegally, it was discharged with no control at all,” we know this has caused concern among environmentalist on the Island, as there is a protected area just 300 meters off the beach.

gc-seprona

For the full story follow the links at the end of this article.

The following day we published the Mid Week Report, this started with the news that TATOC had truly gone as their website is no longer accessible. It was then followed with a link to The Canary News, an English language newspaper based in Gran Canaria. The Canary News article by Ed Timon, the editor, gave a very good insight into the history of Western Sahara, which was the subject of the previous article.. (Again see links below).

We also published the first article of the month from Irene Parker, from our US branch, this was to do with a lawsuit in the US by Welk Resorts against Timeshare Exit Team. This is the first in a series of articles highlighting lawsuits by timeshare developers against resale / exit companies and law firms.

Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare was the title of the next article. This highlighted Timeshare Compensation’s blog on Silverpoint now known as Signallia. In this blog Timeshare Compensation warns its readers of the “dodgy” past of this company, which was very surprising indeed as the owner of Timeshare Compensation, Mark Rowe, is an ex-senior sales manager of Silverpoint and thereby employee of Robert “Bob” Trotta. Told you there were some strange things in the world of timeshare!

loyalty1

In our first Friday’s Letter from America for the month, we published the article by Eron Grant, this covered the question of why does ARDA have a code of ethics? One question we have also asked of the RDO.

Once again that family of fake law firms in Tenerife came up, yes you know the ones, Litigious Abogados.

Another new contributor from the US made her debut, Bonita Hill. Her article was on the question of Diamond’s Clarity Programme, regarding the Oral Representation Clause. This was launched in response to an Assurance of Discontinuance issued by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Diamond has stated they intend to go beyond the requirements of the AOD.

We then published “Truth, What is Truth?” This was in response to readers enquiries about Anfi denying losing any court cases. This has caused confusion among members, after all these cases have been publicised in the press, yet Anfi tell everyone it is not true! So who do you believe?

In the next Friday’s Letter from America, we published Part 4 “Our DRI Misadventures” by David Franks. He Joined our team of writers from the US, some months ago and has given us a great deal of fun. He certainly has a style of his own and is a welcome member to the team.

We then started our “Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message” by Irene Parker, this is based on the book Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer. He is to be a keynote speaker at the Interval International Shared Ownership Conference to be held at the Miami Beach Eden Roc Hotel October 23 – 25. Mr. Baer has advised more than 700 companies including The United Nations and 32 Fortune 500 companies.

Next came the news of a story we published last year, it involved The Manhattan Club in New York. The NY AG Eric T Schneiderman had suspended all sales at the club back in July 2014, this followed many complaints of deceitful practises. The case is now finally over, with a settlement of $6.5 million, also the owners are being forced to sell and have been barred from participating in the timeshare industry. Well done Eric, one for the consumer!

Attorny_General_Eric_T_Schneiderman
NY AG Eric T Schneiderman

Once again Karen Garello from our Timeshare Advocacy, contributed another “Secret Shopper Report”. In this article, Karen gives sound advice on the questions you should ask when going on a sales presentation. Following her advice could save a lot of problems in the future.

It was back to Europe for our next piece, this was titled “ Timeshare In the Press”. This was actually very timely as it followed on from the Truth What is Truth article, it was based on the article in the Spanish paper El Diario. It highlighted the Supreme Court rulings, mainly against the Tenerife company Silverpoint, who just like Anfi deny any cases going to court or being lost.

It also included the article published in The Canary News, based on the one from the paper La Provincia, this began with a recap of the groundbreaking first Supreme Court ruling back in March 2015. Again throwing out the claims of the timeshare industry that these are all fictitious cases.

There followed a couple more articles by Irene Parker and a Timeshare Advocate. The first highlighted the  lawsuits between developers and law firms, the second was an open letter to the timeshare industry. Whether they take any notice is another thing.

In The Monday Briefing, we again focused on the Litigious Abogados family, giving a recap on how they operate their rather sophisticated scam, but also some sound advice which if followed will protect you from becoming one of their victims.

In the same article we welcomed and wished all the best to a new forum for timeshare owners, Timeshare Users Forum. This has been set up by disgruntled members of Timeshare Talk, a previously independent forum. We won’t go into detail here, but you can read the full article.

The last article for August was Part II of Hug Your Haters: A Customer Service Message.

So that is it for August, tomorrow we don’t cross the great lake to the US, we go to the land down under, for another Letter from Australia, contributed by Justin Morgan, on the role of private equity and the secondary market in timeshare. Do join us and bring your didgeridoo!

didgeridoo

Links to some of this month’s articles.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-uk-news/

http://insidetimeshare.com/tauro-beach-latest-development/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/28/trouble-in-paradise-the-canary-island-beach-accused-of-illegally-importing-sand?CMP=share_btn_fb

http://insidetimeshare.com/loyalty-no-thing-timeshare/

http://insidetimeshare.com/truth-what-is-truth/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-15/

http://insidetimeshare.com/manhattan-club-6-5-million-settlement/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-16/

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-in-the-press/

http://insidetimeshare.com/legal-news-us-castle-law-group-pc-v-timeshare-developers/

Manhattan Club: $6.5 Million Settlement

It would look like the long drawn out battle between the New York State Attorney General, Eric T Schneiderman and The Manhattan Club is finally over. It was back in July 2014, that AG Schneiderman announced he had obtained a court order halting the sale of timeshares at The Manhattan Club.

As AG Schneiderman put it in July 2014 “Purchasers Duped Into Paying Tens Of Thousands Of Dollars To Become Owners; Later Denied Benefits Of Ownership In Alleged Bait-And-Switch Scam”.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-court-order-barring-sales-manhattan-club-timeshare-hotel

They were also subjected to ever rising maintenance fees and unable to book as there was according to the hotel “no rooms available”. It transpires that rooms were being rented out over the internet to non-owners, even though they were told it was for the exclusive use of timeshare owners. This is not an uncommon problem that timeshare owners face, we see the same practice at resorts in Europe.

As part of the settlement, the Manhattan Club owners are not only being forced to sell, they must also give up management control and will be barred from the timeshare industry. This must go out as a warning to other timeshare developers, times are changing, if the industry itself cannot improve itself, then we can see more AG’s taking up the fight on the behalf of owners.

manhatton club

It must also be said that Eric Schneiderman is only one of a hand full of Attorney General’s who actually sides with the consumer, there are many more who are in bed with the industry. This is a list of those who are on the side of the consumer:

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance following a probe of Diamond Resorts. A settlement of $800,000 has been awarded for restitution:

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Other Attorneys General have come down on the side of timeshare owners, including:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, as reported by Business Den reporter Amy DiPierro, concerning Highlands Resorts in Colorado and Sedona Pines in Arizona:

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III settled with Festiva timeshare for $3 million:

https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/38312

One AG that is conspicuous by her absence is the Florida AG Pam Bondi.

http://insidetimeshare.com/news-across-pond/

Others that need to be congratulated are the following coalition that worked with the Manhattan Club Independent Owners Group and the NYAG,  they are: NTOA, RedWeek, Sharket and Attorney Douglas Wasser. This goes to prove that by working together nothing is impossible.

Images from meetings of the Manhattan Club Independent Owners Group

image1 image3 image4

Follow the original article by Alison Fox published in amNEWYORK

am new york

http://www.amny.com/real-estate/the-manhattan-club-settlement-includes-6-5-million-in-restitution-ag-says-1.14048559

Article by Inside Timeshare’s  Irene Parker originally published in TheStreet back in September 2016

thestreet

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13653117/2/the-timeshare-industry-has-improved-its-reputation-but-still-faces-scrutiny.html

In Europe we are seeing Spain leading the way for timeshare consumers, the Spanish Supreme Court has now made 57 rulings against the industry, this is unprecedented. This has been largely due to the efforts of one law firm, Canarian Legal Alliance who continue to make Spanish legal history and help consumers to gain justice.

If the timeshare industry is to continue and prosper, it must take note and change the way it sells the product. The owner / member should be the priority, not huge profits for the sake of profit, (could they be the Ferengi from Star Trek)?

ferengi_profit_by_aweswanky-d5du6p4
Timeshare Developer

We have said this before, timeshare is a great concept, it does provide quality resorts, it does suit some, but it also becomes a burden to others.

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments, if you have a story to share or just want information or advice, contact us and we will try to give you the best answers possible.

 

 

 

Tuesday Review: Clarity

Following on from previous articles on Diamonds Clarity Program, Inside Timeshare welcomes today’s article from Bonita Hill, edited by Irene Parker. Bonita explains her experience of this program which is suppossed to “clean up” the sales process, it does appear to fall rather short.

But first a quick round up from Europe, as we said before August is usually a rather quiet time, especially in Spain, so at present there is little news coming from the courts as they are on vacation.

It would also seem the family of “fake” law firms, Litigious Abogados are continuing to claim they have cases waiting to be heard at court, with thousands in compensation waiting to be claimed. Well we do know there will be no money coming from this little crowd.

Inside Timeshare is also working on another Anfi story, they still seem to be denying that they have lost and are losing in the courts. Is it possible they are that worried of more litigation they are conducting a damage limitation exercise? More on this story when we publish.

Now on with today’s article.

Diamond Resort’s CLARITY™ Program

Battles the Oral Representation Clause

clarity

By Bonita Hill  

August 8,2017  

Diamond members on our member sponsored Advocacy Facebook page are confused about an email all US members received earlier this year describing a new Diamond CLARITY™ program being rolled out nationwide designed to provide members with enhanced transparency, accountability and RESPECT for the customer. Diamond’s CLARITY™ program was launched in response to an Assurance of Discontinuance issued by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Diamond has stated they intend to go beyond the requirements of the AOD.

The response my husband and I received fell short of the CLARITY promise. Basically, the company said it doesn’t matter what the sales agent told us because of the oral representation clause, yet the requirement of the AOD clearly states DRI sales agents shall not deviate from approved sales materials. Instead of CLARITY, the company should just provide a person in advance of a sales presentation the answer we received after we filed our complaint:

“We must advise that it is specified clearly in the contract documentation that if you relied upon any verbal information given during the presentation you must ask for this to be put in writing. Likewise, if anything was said that was of particular importance to you, but which is not contained in the terms and conditions of the membership, this should have been requested to be implemented in the body of contract before documentation was signed.”

Here is what the Assurance of Discontinuance says. The complete AOD can be found linked at the bottom of the press release.

IV Assurances

Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

  • Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  • Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

We attended a sales presentation in Las Vegas in 2017 after CLARITY had been introduced in Arizona. Our sales agent was Adam Drell. There my husband and I were told by Mr. Drell that because we had so few points we were paying more in maintenance fees and that if we bought more points we would pay less. Mr. Drell also said he was going to add in a Westgate week so that we would be Silver. We did not own a Westgate week.

Mr. Drell said our new maintenance fee would be $1,124. However, I received a bill for $661 for the new points. I had already paid $880 for the old points so the total of $1,541 did not match. Adam did not respond when I tried to contact him.

family

I am 30 years old and my husband is 32. How can we pay for maintenance fees that will go up every year for life? We bought the additional points because we were told it would make our maintenance fees go down. Our loan is financed at 17.15% on top of the maintenance fees. Mr. Drell opened Barclaycards. I was approved initially with a limit of $2,100. Adam offered the Silver plan with a down payment of about $3,400. We did not want to put more money into timeshare that day. He then asked me to call Barclay’s reconsideration line. We were denied due to our high ratio balance on other cards, Diamond’s response tells us nothing prevents a Diamond sales agents from saying anything they can think of to sell vacation points because they know the company can and will fall back on the oral representation clause. This makes it easy and convenient for sales agents to tell falsehoods. I’m sure Mr. Drell’s response would be, “I didn’t say that.”

On our DRI Advocacy Facebook I learned of several others who posted that they were told things by the Diamond sales agent that weren’t true. Marjorie Menacker previously published an Inside Timeshare article.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Marjorie Menacker’s letter to Mr. Michael Flaskey, Diamond CEO (excerpt)

I just listened to your podcast No Vacancy with Glenn Hausmann. We were told in Virginia by Brian Humphries that if we purchased more points on the day we were there, we would not have to pay maintenance fees again.  Why does Diamond allow their sales agents to say anything, no matter how outlandish, to sell points?  Since the Diamond contract is in perpetuity, the repercussions are even more disastrous.

When we explained this (our medical bills) to Mr. Humphries, he told us about a one day opportunity that day that would allow us to trade our points to pay off maintenance fees.  When we attempted to use the program he described to us, we learned no such program existed.

I was a satisfied Timeshare owner for over 15 years until, in our opinion, we were deceitfully up-sold at our last update. Instead of poisoning another Diamond customer, isn’t it best to do what is right by standing up for the customer instead of advocating for the sales agent? Another Diamond member not only posted an identical complaint, it was against Brian Humphries, the same sales agent.

Sincerely,

Marjorie Menacker

Marjorie had been hit by a construction truck while walking. The family was struggling to pay maintenance fees due to this and other medical issues. Diamond refused to cancel their loan and refund because of their allegations of deceit, but offered a voluntary surrender for medical hardship. However, more and more timeshare members like Marjorie and I are standing up to timeshare companies offering to take back their points in exchange for nothing when the member feels they were sold based on promises not delivered. There are so many complaints. It has to stop.

conference

Diamond’s Advocacy Department has helped several members resolve their complaints. Out of 80 complaints filed, 29 have reported a positive outcome. Out of 80 complaints, 71 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. Several of our member Advocates belong to this Facebook page.  

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

Members are concerned CLARITY is nothing more than a window dressing for the media.

Through social media timeshare members are finally able to get together to share experiences. This has produced a pattern of complaints that is compelling and compounding. It is hoped all timeshare companies will recognize the need to sell their product professionally and honestly rather than punish the buyer for life stuck in an unending contract with no secondary market often sold based on false promises.

fair trade

Through Inside Timeshare and our Advocacy facebook pages we have been asked about costs for legal services, we reached out to Mike Finn of Finn Law Group and this is his reply.

Hello all, thanks for your interest in our services.

We do try to charge a fixed fee because that provides a lot of certainty for the client as these cases sometimes take quite some time for resolution.

A couple of factors that we consider in setting the fee, is the date of the purchase, as that has statute of limitation ramifications, and also the amount owed to the resort and perhaps other third-party credit providers. Another factor is whether or not there is more than one active contract.

If I have this information I can provide a fixed fee and even offer terms in some cases.

Mike Finn

Thanks Mike, that has certainly made things clear, a lot more clearer than Clarity!

Remember, Inside Timeshare is here to give sound and accurate information, these are your stories, they are from owners experiences, the industry will eventually take note.

It just remains for Inside Timeshare to thank all those who contribute and help with the proof reading.

 

Friday’s Letter From America

It’s that time again, another Friday Letter From America, this particular article has been submitted by Dr. Jeffrey Taylor, it really does shed some light on the Diamond Clarity Programme.

An Almost Nightmare on Timeshare Street

A Diamond CLARITY™ Experience

Shaking hands

By Dr. Jeffrey Taylor

Introduction Irene Parker

June 2, 2017

First the good news: CLARITY™ worked! Diamond’s CLARITY™ program was launched after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” having received hundreds of complaints filed by Diamond members who either lived in Arizona or purchased in Arizona.

Inside Timeshare previously reported on an instance in Sedona Arizona when a few sales agents must not have gotten the memo about CLARITY™. Diamond did reach out to those members and resolved the dispute.

Today we are grateful to report an example of how CLARITY™ is supposed to work and did work. Unfortunately, the Taylors previously purchased two 50,000 vacation point packages they allege were sold by similar deceptive tactics spending approximately $150,000 per package. The Taylors hope Diamond will help them resolve the prior purchases applying the same principles of accountability, transparency and RESPECT for the customer.

Inside Timeshare is grateful to Jeffrey and Debra Taylor for coming forward to explain why timeshare is an industry in need of reform. Diamond Resorts is certainly not the only timeshare company under scrutiny. The Taylor’s story is long, but tangled webs often are.

Today’s timeshare story comes from Diamond’s Virginia sales center. Inside Timeshare has received several additional complaints from the same Virginia sales center, including the most recent report written by Marjorie Menacker.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Timeshare Buyers Beware – A Lesson

By Jeffrey Taylor, PhD

My wife Debra and I were original Sunterra owners. Convinced we had to become Diamond points owners after Diamond acquired Sunterra, we gave up our deeded weeks and purchased enough points to become Platinum loyalty level members. We had been having problems with availability and were assured becoming a part of the official Diamond program would resolve the issue. However, after upgrading to Platinum in 2013, we still had problems with availability.

Twice we were convinced we had to purchase additional points and did purchase two 50,000 point packages. We would have purchased a third based on tall tales, but thanks to CLARITY™, the deception was stopped. CLARITY™ kept us from making a third mistake. We are sharing our story hoping others will come forward as Diamond needs to know about the harm being done to families like ours.

How CLARITY™ worked

Our meeting took place at a Diamond Sales Center in Williamsburg, Virginia in 2017. We were having serious issues with Diamond’s program and wanted to meet with a vacation counselor. After signing a contract to buy more points, we met with a Diamond Quality Assurance person named Rick who went over the new CLARITY™ forms with us. In doing so, we realized we almost succumbed to what we feel is deception a third time. Rick asked us to write a letter.

Rick:

Thank you again for the professional way in which you handled the horrible misrepresentation that happened during our owners update yesterday. My wife and I were so upset that it was difficult to put our thoughts together in your office. We have never had a business transaction where things were not only misrepresented, but outright lies were told.

My family has been a member of Diamond for almost 27 years. We have 150,000 points. Our sole purpose in coming to Williamsburg was to have an owners update. We were specifically interested in the ways that we might sell Diamond points and see if there were ways to offset the cost of maintenance costs. We made it clear we had no interest in purchasing new points.

We met with Geoffrey Cash for over six hours. After going over a number of routine items, Geoff got to the point of explaining some “New” programs that were instituted at Diamond on Apollo’s recommendation. He made it clear that Apollo was advising Diamond,  making sweeping changes to improve Diamond’s customer satisfaction. He then started a three hour conversation on a “new” program of maintenance fee offsets. The story we got was that Apollo thought that the value of Diamond points was undervalued, but that now Platinum members could use a 30 cent per point value to pay maintenance fees. Geoff did indicate that the going rate for fees was at 4 cents a point, but that platinum members had this new program. We were told that we could use ANY amount of unused points in November and a check would be cut to pay the maintenance fees. I took Geoff’s calculator and multiplied 100,000 by 0.3 and said, “So if we had 100,000 points left over in November, we could get a $30,000 check to pay fees with”. He said this was correct.

But in being totally honest with us, Geoff indicated there was a “catch”. Apollo could only do this for Platinum members who had a minimum of 100,000 points, but 100,000 of our 150,000 points were “deeded” and another 50,000 were in the Diamond trust. To qualify for this program we would need a total of 100,000 “trust” points. Geoff flatly stated that to be a “full platinum benefits member” we need to purchase 50,000 additional “trust” points in order to benefit from the maintenance fee program. We were shown two pieces of paper with 10 and 20 year projections of the maintenance fee cost now as opposed to the reduced costs over the same time periods if we purchased the additional points. The reduction amounted to about half the fee costs, from $380,000 for 10 years to about $180,000 in the new program.

We rejected a quote for 50,000 points. They came back with a 25,000 point quote. Finally we were presented a quote for 10,000 points and told our “equity” would cover the missing 40,000 points. Geoff went into a detailed written analysis of how the total cost of the 10,000 points over 10 years would be paid for by the maintenance points offset savings. The only reason we purchased the 10,000 new points was to gain access to the maintenance fee offset. We have zero need to purchase additional vacation points. Geoff acknowledged that he understood.

The paperwork that Geoff used to explain and justify getting these new points we found out later were shredded. Why were the sales related handwritten documents destroyed rather than presented to the buyer? We have no proof of what we were told. Geoff told us twice that we should not be concerned if the “finance guy” did not know about the deals we were offered. He said finance people were several months “behind” the sales promotions.

Thankfully Rick, you caught this and prevented us from making a big mistake based on serious misrepresentations.

It appears most of the information we received is seriously incorrect. Debra called the Platinum number this afternoon and tried to verify several key points. Almost everything was not in agreement with what Geoff told us, and the written guides Geoff gave us contradict what he verbally told us. At best this is unprofessional, at worst it’s fraud.

Thank you again for the professional treatment that you demonstrated with us.

Sincerely

Dr. Jeffrey L. Taylor and Debra C, Taylor

Why we purchased two 50,000 point packages for $150,000 each

truth

Thanks to CLARITY™ the 2017 upsell was cancelled, but the 50,000 points we purchased in Williamsburg in 2016 and 50,000 points purchased in Hawaii in 2014 at Ka’anapali were sold employing the same level of outlandish claims.  

The Hawaii Up-Sell

In 2013 we were Platinum members. Availability had not improved. We went to Hawaii in 2014. Here we were told that booking priority came from the DRI collection. We were told the Hawaii collection was the DRI flagship “Premier” collection and being in this collection would solve all our availability problems. We had to purchase another 50,000 points in order to transfer our 50,000 US collection points into the Hawaii collection.

This was the first time we heard about the 30 cent per point maintenance fee reimbursement program (we know now does not exist), said to be part of the new Diamond level above Platinum.

We were also told that “renting” the weeks around Christmas in Hawaii would generate more than enough money to cover the yearly maintenance fees and was routinely done by members. When we expressed concern over how complicated this seemed, the salesman said he could help advertise the rental.

 

The CLARITY™ forms were not available at this time but the policies are the same: I may not engage in any commercial rental activities to rent our Points for cash through online or print advertising to the general public and understand that my membership may be suspended or terminated if I do.

Now we owned a total of 100,000 points but availability did not improve.

The Williamsburg Virginia Up-Sell

We went to Williamsburg for our anniversary in March of 2016 to get some answers. When we arrived we were immediately singled out as “premier double platinum members” and were assigned to their best representative, Brandi.

They explained that Brandi was based at the Polo Club in Las Vegas and was visiting the Williamsburg center to train everyone on the latest DRI offerings. She claimed to have helped develop many of Diamond’s policies.

Brandi said she would get to the root of our problems. We had Brandi go on her computer and log into our account to try and make reservations. Sure enough, there was no availability. She seemed perplexed. In checking our account Brandi was “horrified” to find that there was key information missing from our account that would help in booking resorts. After about an hour she said she knew what the problems were and, unfortunately, there was not an easy fix.

Brandi said the Hawaii Collection points only gave us booking priority in Hawaii. She said our current status in the Hawaii collections was essentially useless in booking US collection resorts. No one in Hawaii told us this fact. In addition, there was still an issue with the original grandfathered points that were not “real” DRI points. Our understanding was that the Williamsburg and Hawaii collection purchases resolved these problems and gave us priority in booking at all DRI resorts. She stated absolutely not. This was devastating news. We had points that were worthless unless we went to Hawaii every year or “rented” points.

Irina Allen has had her 139,000 Diamond points suspended, accused of renting her points. She owns Hawaii points and disputes Brandi’s verdict. “The Taylors could have used Hawaii points to book on the US Mainland as they would only lose the 13 month reservation priority. They could make reservations in any of the US Collection resorts up to 10 months in advance.”

“But gosh,” said Brandi, “You seem like such nice people.” Brandi said she was going to see if she could help because we were so upset. The answer from management was to buy another 50,000 points in the US collection so we could convert the other 100,000 points to the US collection. DRI was going to allow us to do this with only a 50,000 point purchase as opposed to 100,000 points if we did the deal that day. Our choice was leaving with 100,000 useless points or taking the 50,000 point purchase for 150,000 US points total.

We made several points clear to Brandi. We could not afford the maintenance fees over time on 150,000 points and we could not use that many points in a year.

I asked if DRI bought back points or if we could sell them. Brandi indicated that DRI did indeed buy points back. She said the market value of DRI points was $10 a point at that time and going to $12 or more in the future. Since they were selling us the 50,000 points at a huge discount of $3 a point, we could easily sell them on the open market for $3. However, if we were going to sell that low, DRI would most likely buy the points back at the price we paid for them. To prevent people from buying and dumping points, we would need to wait two years before DRI would buy them back or we could sell them.

Note from CLARITY™: Diamond does not offer a buyback program and makes no representation regarding tax deductions, refinancing, or that there will be a secondary market for the sale of Points. Points do not typically appreciate in value.

As far as too many points, Brandi told us about points being just like money and we could get rental cars, cruises, hotels, and travel tours for 30 cents a point in 2017. The same amount per point would be true for maintenance fees. When we pointed out that we could not find this on DRI’s web page, Brandi said the 30 cent deal would be in the 2017 handbook. She knew all of this because she was part of the Polo Club management team who were developing the policies.

Note from CLARITY™ form: Redeeming Points for reimbursement of travel services does not provide the best monetary value for my Points and is typically no lower in cost than spending cash for the same arrangements.

That brings us up to February 2017 in Williamsburg seeking answers because very little that Brandi told us came to pass. Geoff spun six hours of dialog, again telling us our points were not “real” platinum points and we need to buy more. That triggered the investigation and the complaint we sent Rick.

new beginnings

All Diamond members hope CLARITY™ does indeed mark a new beginning. If what the Taylors said they were told is true, it meets the FBI definition of White Collar Crime which is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.”

Inside Timeshare has been receiving a number of complaints from Diamond members with very similar, and in some cases, identical complaints from highly educated professional people. It’s getting harder and harder to accept that the Taylors and all those featured in our articles are making up allegations.

Dr. Jeffrey Taylor worked 30 years for Perkin Elmer in sales and sales training.   Debra worked as a Special Education teacher until their special needs grandchildren required their support.

The Taylors found Inside Timeshare by finding our member sponsored Diamond Advocacy Group launched February 2017, now up to 300 Facebook members.

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/

Here are other Inside Timeshare “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” articles

By Neina Orrillo

http://insidetimeshare.com/diamond-in-the-news-again/

By David Franks

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-5/

Barclaycard and Member stories

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-barlcaycard-us/

By Marjorie Menacker

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

By Eron Grant

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-4/

By Nancy Callahan

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

A Filipino Family

http://insidetimeshare.com/anatomy-timeshare-foreclosure/

By Laurie Sabbagh

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

A Military Family

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

The Hurleys

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Irina Allen

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-news-across-atlantic/

Kathie Old

http://insidetimeshare.com/call-change-us-timeshare-industry/

Wyndham Trish Williams $20 Million Whistleblower Jury Award

http://insidetimeshare.com/wyndham-whistleblower-update/

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

Sylvia Saldana

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

Thanks to Dr Jeffrey Taylor for his excellent views also to Irene who is coordinating the articles from the other side of the great lake.  So all that remains is to wish you all a very good weekend.

friday dog

The Secret World of Timeshare Sales.

Following on from the many articles on timeshare in the US, Inside Timeshare today publishes the story of a former sales agent with Hyatt and Diamond Resorts. Her story is one that will resonate very clearly with many people who attended timeshare sales presentations, not just in the US but also in Europe, although in Europe it must be said, most of the industry especially Diamond have cleaned up their act. Much of this is down to the adverse publicity in the press and the ongoing litigation in the Spanish courts.

The many sales reps that I personally know and have known through the years are decent and honest people, the problem came in the way the industry was run during the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000. It was and still is with some companies, on a commission basis only, you don’t sell, you don’t eat. For many they were also tied into company apartments, so if they did not reach their targets and were fired, they also ended up homeless.

For those who did get a “basic wage”, it was usually twinned with “On Target Earnings”. Again if targets were not met your basic was reduced or not paid. Another factor which is well known in the European model was the so-called “drip feeding”, this was a method by which companies held on to staff who did deal. Basically, the company would tell the rep that the client had not completed, then that pay would be held back, this forced the rep to stay, knowing that if they left they would never get paid.

It was also not uncommon for some unscrupulous companies to claim that the client had cancelled, when in fact they had completed. For some this meant a “claw back” of the pay they had received from the commission and the “spiff” they received for dealing, (the spiff is an incentive payment, paid in cash at the morning meeting the following day).

So it is not difficult to see how normal decent folk would say anything to close the deal. That being said, yes there were and are some who are just out and out “blaggers”, having no sense of conscience or morals. Many companies loved these type of reps, as they would do whatever the managers tell them.

So now to the story of Candace, where she explains her time and experiences as a timeshare sales agent.

Former Timeshare Sales Agents Strike a Blow against Timeshare

By Candace Czarny – February 9, 2017

ethics

Several current and former timeshare sales agents, management and employees have joined forces with timeshare owners to take a stand against timeshare companies, including Hyatt Corp, Westgate, Wyndham, The Manhattan Club, Marriott, Highland Resorts, Sedona Pines and Diamond Resorts.

It’s a modern day David & Goliath story. Timeshare companies employ armies of attorneys in their effort to suppress the seedy side of timeshare. While many owners use and enjoy their timeshare year after year, others fall into deceptive and fraudulent sales presentations ending up with a vacation dream that sometimes turns into a nightmare. Others have called it a timeshare trap.

Now we are beginning to see a powerhouse of attorneys and regulatory agencies on the side of the timeshare consumer in an effort to expose selling strategies that incorporate psychological manipulation, omissions, deceptions, and fraud.

I am a former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts sales agent. While at Hyatt I was advised by management to order a copy of the CIA Guide to Interrogation and Human Manipulation. Some timeshare companies employ these strategies, designed to intimidate and confuse hardworking consumers worldwide, in order to generate profits and earn wildly inflated executive compensation. Honest sales agents, previously able to earn a good living with reputable timeshare companies, find themselves subtly maneuvered out of this new more sinister timeshare business.

Don’t get me wrong, I went to work in the timeshare industry because my family owned one and used it every year.  Our family created unforgettable memories every year using this property.

It was only after working in the industry as a sales agent that I came to see and understand the complicated strategy of greed from the inside.  Like Trish Williams, awarded $20 million in a recent Wyndham Whistleblower case, I am one of the single individuals not willing to be a pawn perpetuating a scam against hard working people trying to create a happy life for their families. Three former Hyatt sales agents are year five into our Whistleblower case.

At some resorts, dramatically rising maintenance fees turn a family’s vacation into a money pit with no way out. Voluntary surrenders are not guaranteed, so owners not able to keep up with annual fees and assessments fall victim to listing and transfer agents. Many owners with loans, not eligible for a “voluntary surrender” are forced into default or must obtain legal help in order to have their timeshare loan cancelled. This just adds to their existing financial burden.

This complex and convoluted strategy for wealth and power is like a hamster wheel. The timeshare company generates profits from selling the same timeshare over and over and over again. To arrive at a solution one must arrive at the cause and in the case of timeshare, the cause begins with corporate greed at the expense of the individual employee and the consumer.

Timeshare companies hide behind carefully and strategically worded contracts intended to shield them from responsibility and litigation. This leaves the owner feeling hopeless and angry with no recourse. Timeshare companies rely on the burdened owner not being able to withstand a costly and lengthy legal battle.

A new age is dawning where individual owners, in partnership with regulatory agencies and lawyers, are banding together to fight back against timeshare corruption.

huddle

The Arizona Attorney General has put a stake in the ground and alleged that Diamond employee’s’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Diamond Resorts Corporation has settled with the Arizona Attorney General for $800,000 in a case involving allegations of customer deception and was issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” (linked below).  This is just one of an avalanche of lawsuits and investigations exposing a minefield of corruption, fraud and deceit perpetuated at the highest levels of corporate timeshare.

While New York, Colorado, Tennessee and Arizona Attorneys General are making some progress, more needs to be done. There has been a notable lack of concern from many state and federal regulatory agencies. Lawmakers have demonstrated a “Well, they signed a contract” attitude. Such lawmakers have no concept of the depth of deception some timeshare companies go to in order to “close the deal”.

Based on ARDA’s estimates there are over 9,500,000 timeshare units in the United States.  To give you an idea of how profound this corporate culture of greed is and how the courage and bravery of single individuals are making a difference in the name of what is right, listed below are just some of the settlements, judgements and lawsuits against these timeshare giants.

  • Hyatt Corp is sued by three former Hyatt timeshare agents alleging deceit and fraud. They are in year five of a Whistleblower case alleging deceptive practice.
  • Tennessee Attorney General announced a $3 million settlement with Festiva, a network of vacation and timeshare companies, for alleged violations of the federal Telemarketing Act, federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
  • Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
  • Colorado Attorney General  is suing Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.
  • Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices in a Whistleblower case.
  • The NY Attorney General investigation into the Manhattan Club is proceeding. The motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to March 31, 2017 because the sponsor appears to have engaged new counsel, Gibson Dunn – the third set of sponsor attorneys in this matter. This motion is for request to release monies previously frozen by court order to pay the sponsor’s attorney’s fees.
  • The Marriott racketeering lawsuit as of February 7, 2017 is still waiting for a decision on motions to dismiss and is engaged in discovery, according to attorney Jeffrey Norton.
  • In Spain there are approximately 800 live cases in various courts and over 2000 clients. The total claim value is around 80 million Euros, These cases are being brought by Canarian Legal Alliance.
  • A billion dollar lawsuit has been filed against Diamond Resorts International.
  • Arizona Attorney General´s $800,000 settlement with Diamond Resorts International.  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is working on the front end to stop outrageous oral representations.

If you feel you are a victim of deceitful timeshare sales or are an employee whose livelihood has been threatened by refusing to participate in deceptive and fraudulent tactics, I encourage you to tell your story. Alone we perish under the weight of power and greed. Together we can overcome and thrive.

Diamond timeshare owners worldwide, who purchased a timeshare in Arizona since 2009, have until the end of April 2017 to file a claim of relief with the Arizona Attorney General’s office.

Instructions on how to file a complaint are included in this press release:

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Thank you Candace for writing this article, Inside Timeshare welcomes articles from anyone with a similar story, or even from those who have been on the receiving end of the sales presentation. It through these article we might just see a change in the industry that will benefit not just the consumer but the industry as well.

For information about pending litigation or questions on how to file a complaint, contact Inside Timeshare either through email, by posting a comment, or finding us on Facebook. Please state if it is a US or European timeshare. We’re here to help.

https://www.facebook.com/insidetimeshare/

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