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Assurance of Discontinuance

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.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome once again to Friday’s Letter from America, this week is Earth to ARDA, it is an open letter to Mr. Clements, Mr. Nusbaum and Mr. Roth, it is jointly written article by Eron Grant and Irene Parker. Inside Timeshare can also report that the US team have had three resolutions this week. Diamond  is Listening. So well done all the US volunteers.

justice2

This week has been a rather busy one for the courts in Spain, with three sentences from the Courts of First Instance, two from the High Courts and ruling number 90 from the Spanish Supreme Court.

Anfi have had three judgements against them this week two at the Court of First Instance and one at the High Court. In the first two, Court Number 3 at Maspalomas, GC found for the clients, declaring their contract with Anfi null and void. This case was highlighted in the Tuesday Slot with Irene on 6 March.

The second case, held at Court Number 4, again in Maspalomas, another Anfi member had their contract declared null and void. Ordering the return of over £15,000 plus legal interest.

In the High Court Number 5 in Las Palmas, the judge again declared an Anfi contract null and void, with the return of over £14,000 plus appeal legal fees and interest.

In the same court another timeshare company Airtours has had one of their contracts declared null and void, with the judge ordering the return of over 12,000€ plus legal interest.

At the Court of First Instance Number 4 in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol, Club la Costa has been ordered to return over £19,000 including legal fees and legal interest. The contract was also declared null and void.

In the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, another historic ruling, bringing the total number made by the Highest Court to a whopping 90!

This was against the Tenerife operation Silverpoint, again the contract was declared null and void with the return of over £10,000 plus legal fees and interest. There will be full article on this and another Supreme Court ruling next week, so keep an eye on these pages.

All these case have been brought on behalf of the clients by the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, no doubt the clients and the lawyers will be celebrating this weekend.

cla-brochure

In other news, we had an enquiry into another company contacting Club Class members, this call was from a Madeline Swann of Gateway Services, apparently based in Telford. In the call she is telling the client that there is a payment due from the banks for being mis-sold his Club Class membership. All he needs to do is pay a certain amount by bank transfer to a Santander account to have the money released.

Haven’t we heard this one before?

On searching for this supposed company nothing came up, no company house records, nothing. So if you get a call from this Madeline Swann or anyone else saying they are from Gateway Service, do let us know. Remember, there will not be any money waiting for you from the banks or the courts.

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

Protest photo

This photo was posted on a Diamond sponsored member Facebook page, but removed. If you see these members at a resort near you, please send them to:

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

Earth to ARDA: WE GIVE – ARDA ROC – A MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. BLUEGREEN DOES TOO

TO: Robert Clements, Lobbyist and General Counsel, Regulatory Affairs,

Howard Nusbaum, ARDA CEO,

Peter Roth, media contact

From: American Resort Development Association‘s Code of Ethics:

According to ARDA’s website – “Vacation Ownership is one of the most highly regulated vacation products in today’s consumer marketplace.”

Inside Timeshare will be following Platinum Diamond members Roy and Lillian Simmons as they make their way through Vacation Ownership’s highly regulated industry. Mr. and Mrs. Simmons are worried about losing their home, up-sold at age 69 and 70 to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. They are one of 23 Diamond Platinum members alleging they were fraudulently up-sold into financial disaster. Roy and Lillian Simmons first submitted their demands to Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy Department on January 8. Tuesday’s article describes what happened:

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-13/

Next, they filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau the end of February. The BBB closed their complaint in two days because a Diamond Hospitality agent from the Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department responded, “They signed a contract.” As Mr. Simmons describes on the YouTube, they were told Diamond shares were going to go up and split and they could make $3,000 to $4,000 a week renting Hawaii points because Hawaii points are so valuable. Mrs. Simmons is too devastated to have taken part in the YouTube production. Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Simmons have a daughter. On March 6, their daughter Angela filed a complaint with the FBI at IC3.gov against three Diamond sales agents, one in Hawaii and two in Orlando. She also filed a complaint with the FTC. Today she will refile a complaint with the BBB again asking, “What?”

You can file a complaint with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but since companies like Diamond and Bluegreen service the timeshare loan, members don’t even know the name of the lender unless the borrower has a lower credit score. Quorum Credit Union handles the lower score people. You have to select a lender from the CFPB drop-down menu. Timeshare companies are not an option.

Onward with complaints, they will file with the Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota and Nevada Attorneys General. The Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014. Then there’s the state real estate division in Florida and Hawaii against Diamond’s Hawaii sales agent John Jessup and Florida sales agent Rafael Carerra.

If Diamond won’t help them, it’s possible the Simmons will lose not only their vacation points, but also their home, according to their daughter Angela. Angela said the $2,700 a month Diamond loan is a significant portion of their retirement income. It’s doubtful any of the filings will have an effect. Angela is surprised all of this is like a ten hour a week part time job.

Like Kevin and Brenda Hopkins, the Simmons are supported by Whistleblowers of America, an organization dedicated to seeking justice for military and government workers.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Kevin and Brenda Hopkins describe their extraordinary sales pitch:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-39/

Some Peasants Revolt

By Eron Grant and Irene Parker

Friday March 9, 2018

meeting in office

Mr. Clements, Mr. Nusbaum and Mr. Roth,

We are educated professionals, two among thousands demanding accountability, transparency and respect. Two of 44 Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates who have listened to 326 Diamond members allege predatory sales tactics that has caused financial disaster for hundreds of families, the possible loss of Military Security Clearances, ruined vacations, ruined honeymoons, damaged credit reports, members alleging they were over promised and oversold on availability, the ability to sell points, pay maintenance fees with programs that do not exist, the ability to rent points and the ability to lower interest rates, as in the case of Active Duty Navy members Amanda and George Jones. http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Lawmakers are beginning to listen, a few Attorneys Generals are listening (not Florida or Nevada), regulators are listening, and the FBI is listening. ARDA is not listening.     

Sure, there are 9 million happy timeshare owners who own and enjoy their timeshare. They might not have been affected by a life crisis, only to learn their timeshare has no secondary market, or been sold or up-sold by a deceitful bait and switch. By your own accounting, 83% of timeshare owners are happy. That leaves 1,530,000 members that are not happy. Over 900 Diamond members complained to the Arizona Attorney General’s office accusing Diamond and their sales agents of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. Complaints to our Advocacy Group have not diminished since Arizona Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance. The AOD is linked at the bottom of the press release.

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

Early complainers consisted of over 1,000 British Diamond members crying foul.

DRIP Enjin: http://drip.enjin.com/

Our Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook launched by an economics professor has over 1,000 members. It’s hard to find Disney Vacation Club complaints.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Here’s what happened to Mark and Eron   

YouTube produced by Doctor and Ms. Mark Grant

Our Timeshare Nightmare of a Lifetime

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FMk_45zRzk&feature=youtu.be

My husband Mark and I have kids. We are working professionals. We said we need to travel close to home. Our Diamond sales agents said, “No problem!” Grapevine, Texas Great Wolf Lodge sounded great! It was a bait and switch….

Most people don’t pull their kids out of school to take them to Great Wolf Lodge, so we searched Friday to Monday three nights:

April 6 – 9 Family Suite (6)

19,700 DRI points required @ $.22.5 maintenance fee $ = $4,432 for three nights.

As opposed to Booking.com April 6 – 9 Family Suite

 $819.97

101.67 ($33.89 per night service fee)

106.59 (13% tax)

$1,028.23 for three nights

This is not an ARDA’s Code of Ethics concern? I ask again:    

red dress

What ARDA Code of Ethics?

The ARDA Code of Ethics was designed to encourage an honest and fair competitive landscape for the vacation ownership industry, while upholding the highest forms of integrity, dignity and propriety.

Let’s review this Code. I actually read it.

Code of Ethics: Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  Why does ARDA have a Code of Ethics?

Answer:  ARDA and its members are committed to the highest standards and ethical behavior in vacation ownership. To demonstrate that commitment, all ARDA members as a condition of membership must agree to comply with the ARDA Code of Ethics. The Code consists of not only general conduct requirements, but also specific requirements for members to adhere to when transacting with consumers, standards for disclosure of information to the public, rules regarding resort management, base guidelines for resale activities, as well as administrative procedures for interpretation and enforcement of the Code.

Note from Eron and Irene: Diamond points have no resale activity. We think this is something a consumer might like to know before signing a perpetual contract.

Question:

What can be done to a (an ARDA) member whose actions are in violation of the Code?

Answer:  If a member is determined to be in violation of the Code (of Ethics), ARDA may take the following actions:

  • Privately or Publicly Admonish the Member
  • Prepare a Letter of Censure
  • Place the Member on Probation
  • Suspend the Member from ARDA Membership
  • Terminate the Member from ARDA Membership

Note from Eron: In addition to Diamond members giving ARDA ROC a million dollars a year, Diamond President Ken Siegel sits on ARDA’s Board of Directors. Diamond members are billed $7 for a “voluntary opt-out” donation from members who in all likelihood cannot even tell you what ARDA ROC stands for. I know I had no clue what the letters ARDA ROC stand for.    

Question:  Who do I contact if I have questions about the Code?

Answer: After reviewing the provisions of the ARDA Ethics Code, if you have questions, please call 407-245-7601 and ask to speak to the ARDA Ethics Administrator, or e-mail [email protected].

Note from Eron: After waiting 4 months for a response from Julie Schwartz (not Lobbyist and General Counsel Robert Clements because he would not take my call), I’m not feeling optimistic about making a phone call to ARDA’s Ethics Administrator. The fact you have to email customer service is not a good sign.

Note from Advocate Irene: I have sent ARDA about 100 of our most grievous complaints from Diamond Resorts members, seniors in fear of losing their home, military members in fear of losing their Security Clearance, alleging they were victims of fraud for profit. Not a word other than through the timeshare grapevine, “She’s writing articles for people.” No I’m not. I edit articles submitted to Inside Timeshare.

Inside Timeshare has received 340 reader complaints, 78 since January 1. Our Diamond Advocacy Facebook page has over 1,000 members, Bluegreen members’ Facebook 800 (they are trying to keep their membership below 800).

Question: Does ARDA support the consumer?

In our opinion, only when the issue at stake is in line with developer’s wishes. One Advocacy Group banned ARDA from attending their meetings after a 2015 Florida bill was passed making it more difficult to get out of timeshare contracts due to nonmaterial errors.  

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-roc-donation-in-maintenance-bill

If the wishes diverge, lobby dollars go to work:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

Question:  What does ARDA do with the information it receives from the general public regarding the potentially unethical conduct of its members?

Note from Eron: Nothing – My non-response from Julie Schwartz, ARDA-ROC Consumer Support representative serves as an example:

Answer:  ARDA does not mediate or arbitrate individual disputes between consumers and ARDA member companies. When we receive information regarding a potential violation of the Code we forward those complaints to the company for their consideration and resolution.

Note from Eron:  Who sits on your board and gives you a million dollars a year.

It is then up to the respective parties to resolve any potential dispute. Information submitted by the public may be used by ARDA to act against members when there is a consistent pattern of business practices that are in violation of the code.

Note from Eron: What about the 900 Diamond members who complained to the Arizona Attorney General? Better Business Bureau lists over 1,000 complaints.

Don and Irene Parker’s Diamond experience:

Like Eron, we purchased points for a specific location, New York City. Our daughter lives there. Like Eron, we learned it would cost approximately $8,500 in  Diamond maintenance fee dollars to stay one week at the same hotel, same time for $950 through an online booking service. I checked year round.

Next, we attended a predatory sales presentation at Diamond’s Grand Beach in Orlando. I spent three decades in sales selling everything from pianos to stocks and bonds. I know a predatory sales agent when I meet one. Thoroughly disgusted, we went back to our room at Mystic Dunes, turned on the television, and saw the Queen of Versailles, a FOX News Property Man segment about Jackie and David Siegel, the owners of Westgate timeshare building their 90,000 square foot home. We were in the process of moving from Kentucky to Venice Florida, so it just seemed natural to write an article called “The peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles” describing wealth out of touch with reality.

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

One true benefit of owning Diamond points has been developing relationships with other professionals, over 1,000 of us, who have bonded together like a band of brothers and sisters, to fight widespread timeshare corruption we feel is so ingrained in the timeshare industry, it is accepted and considered normal, kind of like #metoo or sexual abuse, as happened at Michigan State. Look how long that went on.

At least timeshare members are finding each other now, no longer silenced and isolated. When timeshare members need a voice, they can contact Inside Timeshare. We can help.

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

 

If you need any information about this or any other article, company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or advertising in the press, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

It pays to do your homework and due diligence before engaging with any company, not all are what the say.

Have a great weekend and join us next week.

weekend

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today’s article is not from our very own Irene Parker but submitted by another contributor Kevin Hopkins and his wife Brenda Hopkins, ex-Air Force, in the light of this article and the recent news regarding the President’s son in law, Inside Timeshare asks our readers the following:

How do you feel about Apollo‘s $184 million loan to Jared Kushner, no matter the side of your political aisle, knowing there have been over 30 members of the military and law enforcement who have filed complaints similar to Kevin and Brenda Hopkins, people who have put their lives on the line for us, alleging timeshare deceit.

Scotty Black, retired Navy, currently working in law enforcement, worried about his Security Clearance. Active Duty Navy couple George and Amanda Jones, worried about their Security Clearance,  previously published articles. Terry and Roxanne Hurley, 26 years Canadian army lost their entire life savings. Does Diamond care? Does Apollo? “You signed a contract.” It doesn’t matter what the sales agent said. Too many others to mention in an introduction.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/business/jared-kushner-apollo-citigroup-loans.html

Roxane and Terry Hurley lost their entire life savings

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

Samuel Melendez

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

Amanda Jones

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

Use our comments section to leave your thoughts, now on with Kevin’s story.

Diamond Apollo Points – An Investment Opportunity!

Think Again!

conference

March 2, 2018

By Kevin Hopkins, Retired Air Force, Electronic Warfare

And Brenda Hopkins, Prior Air Force, Avionics

Our Diamond ownership:

Liki Tiki Orlando FL, deeded week with 2250 points (4500 every odd year)

Purchase price in 2010: $10,971

Maintenance fees: $747

Our Diamond membership:

3000 Diamond points purchased Jan 15, 2017 in Orlando

Sales agent: Sofiane Mannai

Purchase price: $14,100 including $2,951 charged to a Barclay card the same day

Amount financed through Diamond Financial Services: $11,643 @ 16.99%

Maintenance fees: $960

About a month after purchasing 3000 Diamond points, we realized things were not quite right. After a year, we realized we made a bad mistake. Yes, we signed a contract. The thing is though; almost everything we were told was NOT TRUE.

What Happened to Us – Our YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAkBlfyhVYQ&feature=youtu.be

In January 2017, when we met with sales agent Sofiane Mannai at Grand Beach in Orlando, we told him that our biggest complaint about our Liki Tiki timeshare was increasing maintenance fees, over $700 for points we rarely used. Mr. Mannai had introduced himself as an Apollo Customer Service Representative. Mr. Mannai said we could lower, or even eliminate, our maintenance fees if we bought 3000 additional Diamond points. He said that with the additional points, we would become Platinum Members because we would be over 5000 points. “As Platinum members you will be able to sell back annually unused points at a rate of $.50 per point. The money can be used to pay your maintenance fees or whatever you want to do with it,” he explained.

However, Mr. Mannai wasn’t done. He went on to tell us that if we were not happy, starting January 2018, DRI will buy back our points because Apollo wants happy investors. Apollo Global Management is the private equity firm that had recently purchased Diamond. Mr. Mannai said Apollo wants Diamond members to feel that their Diamond points are more of an investment than a prepaid vacation that you may or may not use. Apollo/Diamond loves to buy back points at the price we were paying for them ($4.70) because Diamond can turn around and resell the points for $8 or $9. “It is free money for them. Also, Diamond points are going to be easier to use because Apollo is so big – travel sites are going to start using them like currency. All the major travel sites will have an option to pay for services using Diamond points instead of credit cards!” he added

We asked how much our maintenance fees would go up. “With 3000 more points, your fees would likely double, but think about it – if you sell back all 5000 of your points for $.50 a point, that is $2,500. You’ll be able to pay all of your fees and still have some leftover. Where else could you get such a good return on your investment? But you have to be at Platinum to use this program,” he further explained.

Let me backup at this point and say that we enjoyed our Liki Tiki timeshare but we rarely used it. This would provide a way for us to keep Liki Tiki and use it only if we wanted to. When we didn’t use it we could sell back points to avoid maintenance fees. This would be perfect for us.  

He gave us a timeline that Apollo would be rolling out these changes. This was done verbally of course. I remember because I wrote it down so that I would remember. I now suspect this timeline was a way to ensure that we waited past the rescission period before we complained. The “points as currency” program was scheduled to begin March, 2017, the $.50 per point buyback option June 2017, and the buy-back program January 2018. “These programs are still being implemented by Apollo, so it will not be in your paperwork,” Mr. Mannai added. He also said we were lucky to be receiving this offer now, before Apollo’s new benefits are announced, because the price will certainly go up once that happens.

hook

Yeah, we fell for it. We fell hard. We spent $14,100 for 3000 points.

Our first surprise came about a month later when the additional points showed up in our account. We were not Platinum members. We did not have one account with 5250 points. We have two accounts, the original Liki Tiki 2250 points and the additional 3000 points. The phone calls began. We learned 5000 points is not Platinum loyalty level. Platinum requires 50000 points. The accounts cannot be merged because they are vastly different, one being a deeded account and the other a US Collections account. You cannot combine the points. I have tried. Also,

  • There is no program to buy pack points at 50 cents a point
  • There is no program to buy back timeshares from unhappy owners
  • All travel sites do not accept Diamond points as currency

The only honest thing Sofiane Mannai told us was that our maintenance fees would double. They actually more than doubled.  Furthermore, there is absolutely zero resale value for Diamond points. We can’t even unload it.

We are not alone

EW

Since January 1, there have been 31 similar complaints filed by Active Duty Military, Military Veterans and members of law enforcement or retired law enforcement. Some of their stories are chilling. All of their stories should be a major concern as some of our older veterans are tricked into losing most, if not all, of their retirement income. Some Active Duty members are in, or near to being in foreclosure, affecting their Security Clearances and careers. Many of their stories can be found on insidetimeshare.com such as this one by former Navy member, Scotty Black. In it, he also links several more stories. Note that the number of complaints he refers to has gone up since his article was published.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-36/

These 31 complaints are just the ones I know about. Many more report aggressive Diamond timeshare sales tactics. If you have been reading Inside Timeshare articles, then you probably know that Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich launched an investigation against Diamond Resorts in which a settlement was reached and an Assurance of Discontinuance issued.

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

Members who filed complaints described the same sales misrepresentations that we experienced in Jan 2017. Another class action lawsuit was filed against Diamond, this one in Nevada where Diamond’s headquarter is located.

https://www.insidethegate.com/2018/02/major-developer-sued-for-alleged-violation-of-securities-act-of-1933/

For us the hits kept coming… Since we bought the 3000 points early in 2017, we had to pay the 2017 maintenance fees. In March we got a bill for $956.

In November 2017 we received a bill for $960 for the 2018 maintenance fees on the 3000 points and of course the $747 for the timeshare bought at Liki Tiki.  

Alas, there was good news coming our way. In January 2018 I began talking to Diamond employee, Amanda Rody. She said we could finally merge our accounts.

All I had to do was purchase 2500 more points. We’re not making this up.

If I didn’t, our accounts would stay separate. I would have them FOREVER, and at least one of them would be passed on to my children along with the maintenance fees. We did not purchase more points, but we still have her offer in an email.

calling cs

So….what did we do?

I started doing a lot of research and, like I said, we are not alone.  Eventually, I found this Facebook group.

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

There are literally hundreds (983) of members in our advocacy group with similar stories. If you are reading this and have an experience with Diamond, this group is worth a look.

We have gained the interest and support of Whistleblowers of America, an organization that seeks justice for military and government employees.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

On January 27, 2018 we filed a complaint. We asked for a refund. It was immediately shot down with the typical “Sorry, you signed a contract.” The DRI Hospitality Consumer Advocates even scanned in little pieces of the contract I signed to show me what I signed. Diamond must instruct them to hide behind the contract’s fine print to side-step the true issue of sales agent misrepresentation.

A little more research and it turns out that what we experienced meets the FBI’s definition of white-collar crime, defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” The FBI has advised timeshare buyers who feel they were a victim of a bait and switch of a serious nature, like ours, to file a complaint at IC3.gov and to file a complaint orally by contacting their local FBI field office (prompt #4, then prompt #3 white-collar crimes). It is not legal for companies to use fine print to allow sales agents to make false claims. In addition to filing a complaint with the FBI, we have filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

We will file a complaint with Florida’s Attorney General since that is where we purchased, and the Nevada Attorney General since that is where Diamond’s headquarter is located. We will file a complaint with Florida Real Estate Division against Sofiane Mannai. We are looking into how to file with the Military Complaints Board because there are protections that can and should be put into place to protect our Military and Veterans from predatory sales practices.

We are military. We fight back.

support troops

Thank you Kevin and Brenda, your story is becoming a recurring theme at Inside Timeshare, on a daily basis we are receiving more and more complaints. The US team are becoming overwhelmed with similar cases, so a great big thank you to all the volunteers who work so hard to get some justice.

If you need help or advice then contact Inside Timeshare, please let us know if you are a US or European member so we can direct you to the right team.

Have you been contacted or found a company on the internet and need to know if they are genuine and will what they say, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to check them out. Remember doing your homework will keep you and your money safe.

Have a good weekend and join us next week.