Welcome to this Friday’s Letter from America, first a recap on the past week.
On Monday we wished the National Timeshare Owners Association a happy anniversary. For 20 years this organisation has been the voice of US timeshare owners, it is a totally independent body, not governed by the industry. Greg Crist the CEO works very hard to create a dialogue with the industry, he believes as we do that without dialogue there can be no changing of attitudes.
We also warned about another new addition to the Litigious Abogados family, Abogados Amable & Garcia.
Their website http://www.abogadosamablegarcia.com/ is the same as all the others, except for new photographs of the so called “lawyers”, (probably just downloaded from the images on the web), even the names are variations of the others used. We have yet to see what the paperwork is like and what names appear on those and the emails, somehow we think the “Departmento Legal” will have the same ladies names as all the others.
Yesterday we publish the story about the legal action by the London law firm Edwin Coe, who are representing around 106 clients against Barclays Partner Finance. This case is being held at the High Court in London, it revolves around the issuing of loans for the sale of timeshare as an “investment” by Resort Properties / Silverpoint, with a claim of over £1.5 million.
This article has already prompted a huge response on both sides of the great lake.
On another matter, it would look like that MGM Muthu (formerly Petchy) are being very aggressive in chasing “arrears” in maintenance. Many of these that we are hearing about are those who believed they no longer owned as they “sold” years ago.
These demands are coming from “Customer Services” and signed by Luliia Sulovei. They threaten court action if they are not paid and also demand around £3000 plus the “arrears” to be paid for them to grant a surrender. Most of those contacting Inside Timeshare are elderly and some are widows. This is not a nice situation and in our view amounts to bullying and extortion!
We will be publishing a full article on this in the next week or so.
Now, on with this weeks Letter from America.
Don and Irene are making their way back home today from Arizona. Irene met many new and old Diamond Advocacy Group friends during her stay and two baby rattlesnakes. (These may have been trainee sales agents). Irene has a degree in biology and said she used to teach a class on reptiles. Irene says she likes snakes and alligators (you would need to to survive a timeshare presentation). Yes, they were rattling.
Irene would like to thank Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey, intervening on behalf of the ailing pool table at Spoke and Wheel restaurant at Los Abrigados in Sedona. Kyli, the restaurant manager, contacted Irene informing her that the antique Brunswick pool table (and I thought Brunswick only made pin spotters) is to be restored to its original glory and another manager, that same day, went out and purchased additional pool sticks (we call them cues). Don and Irene ate at the restaurant. The food was superb. While dining, the Diamond Advocacy Group gained a new member. Many of the guests staying at Los Abrigados are original ILX owners. Now they are Diamond members.
Eron Grant is not a pool table, but she hopes Mr. Flaskey will show her family the same compassion.
Diamond Resorts was a Huge Mistake!
By Eron Grant
May 12, 2017
I have asked Inside Timeshare to publish an account of our experience with Diamond Resorts. We hope to warn others to not fall victim to high pressure same day sales and encourage readers to become involved with our Diamond Advocacy Group before buying something they will live to regret later.
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.
Many Diamond members are happy with their Diamond membership. I believe if sold properly, Diamond’s vacation program could be of benefit to some families. In our case the program was grossly oversold in terms of availability. The Diamond program will not work for us as we have all the basic timeshare benefits we need as Marriott timeshare owners.
Here’s what happened
We stayed at Diamond’s resort, The Ridge in Sedona Arizona, over Thanksgiving 2016. We booked our stay through Interval International. At the time, I had not heard of Diamond Resorts.
I called the concierge at The Ridge to ask for restaurant recommendations. She said she would get back to me. I thought it odd that a concierge needed to get back to a guest about restaurant reservations.
Later that day the concierge called back asking if anyone had scheduled us for a presentation with a DRI team member. She told me about a few restaurants she thought we would enjoy, adding that Diamond would give us a $150 gift card if we agreed to attend a 90 minute sales presentation. We agreed.
When we arrived we told the sales representative, Karen Calvano, we had a tee time scheduled in a few hours. She seemed irritated and said we would not be finished in that amount of time. Puzzled, we told her the concierge told us the meeting would only take 90 minutes. She wanted to know who told us that. She complained about the tee time when we followed her to the presentation area. She kept saying that she felt rushed going through the presentation. The presentation lasted six hours.
Ms. Calvano told us that Diamond owns numerous properties and that finding something in our local Texas area would not be a problem. We specifically asked about Texas and Louisiana because we are both working and with the kids, we can’t easily fly to take vacations due to the expense and trouble flying entails. We did say we could drive to New Mexico to ski with our kids, and added that we wanted to stay at Great Wolf Lodge.
We agreed to purchase 3500 Diamond points. When I tried to book Great Wolf Lodge, I learned it would take approximately $11,000 in equivalent DRI maintenance fee dollars to stay one week at Great Wolf Lodge when it could be booked online for $3,300. The same holds true for New York City and other big cities because Diamond does not own these properties. They are “affiliated” properties so never discounted.
I recently got in contact with another Diamond member on our DRI Advocacy Facebook group who reported an almost identical complaint. According to a DRI customer service representative, the only property available near Boston was Great Wolf Lodge Fitchburg.
The Fitchburg property was available August 14 – Aug 18 for 16,000 points.
Diamond only had availability for a Deluxe Queen.
Searching the Great Wolf Lodge Fitchburg site directly, Great Wolf had availability for a Wolf Pup Den for four nights for $1429.96 plus 270.31 tax totaling $1700.27. At $.23 per point DRI maintenance fees, this equals $3,680 in equivalent maintenance fee dollars so $3,680 for the same property, the same week, could be booked directly with Great Wolf for $1700.
Back to our Diamond experience
Ms. Calvano told us we would be assigned the Platinum loyalty level due to being Marriott members. We own a three bedroom Marriott timeshare in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Therefore, Ms. Calvano said we could book a studio room and upgrade three times at no additional fee. Later we were told this was not true.
As we were leaving, Ms. Calavano said to contact her at any time if we had questions or needed anything at all. I emailed her on December 1, 2016 with a question but never heard back.
In December 2016 Linda Barton, Member Marketing Agent called us and asked to attend an “orientation for new members”. She said we would learn all about our new membership, and told us to be sure to bring our tablet given to us by DRI. The orientation took place January 13-15, 2017. It was called a Diamond “Once in a Lifetime Event” in Orlando, FL. My husband had asked what this event of a lifetime entailed. He was told we would learn all about our new membership and possible upgrades. “But we just purchased our membership! We are not going to spend any more money,” my husband informed Ms. Barton.
Looking back, we should have suspected the orientation would end up a sales presentation. At the orientation the sales representative, Chris, told us we would only be allowed to upgrade one time at no extra fee. This contradicted what Karen Calvano had initially told us.
Chris said at the orientation we could sell our points back for 30 cents per point if we were platinum, but the brochure we had been provided said it was 10 cents per point. When my husband asked Chris to show us on paper where it said $.30 cents per point, Chris pointed to his handwritten notes to show us where he had written that number down. My husband demanded he show us somewhere in the DRI paraphernalia where it said points could be sold back for $.30 per point, but Chris said, “Never mind if you’re not interested. I don’t want you to have hard feelings.”
Next, we were handed over to another DRI employee who repeatedly said, “I am not sales.” He then proceeded to encourage us to purchase more points, because we could get them at a low cost of $4 something per point which, according to him, was unheard of. The fee to purchase the additional points was over $3,000 with another $4,000 something due in a year or so after that. We turned it down. This ordeal took over 3 hours.
We contacted the Diamond Resorts Advocacy Group at Diamond that promises “to assist Diamond member from Day One should a member have questions or concerns about their purchase!”
Diamond refused to cancel our contract. We filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General after learning Diamond had been issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” as a result of over 400 complaints filed against the company just in Arizona. Diamond automatically denied our claim, but after filing a rebuttal the Arizona AG said we are eligible for consideration.
In response to the Arizona AG action, Diamond has introduced a new program called Clarity that is about Accountability, Transparency and RESPECT for the customer. As far as we are concerned, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Here’s a bit of information about one of our local Texas businesses owned by Jim McIngvale. Mr. McIngvale has owned Mattress Mack since 1981. It is a hugely successful business in Houston.
Gallery Furniture believes in being on the right side, in other words, to be on the Gallery Furniture customers’ side instead of defending the industry. Advocate for the customers! Gallery Furniture makes it very clear, that we’re here for the Gallery Furniture customers, to better their lives with high quality furniture sold at the best price possible, not to pad the pockets of our manufacturers. Come out to Gallery Furniture TODAY for the best customer service in the business… (August, 2015):
Mr. McIngvale can be booked for speaking engagements.
Perhaps Diamond would like to book him soon?
Thank you Eron for your contribution and another thank you to Irene Parker for coordinating it from the States.
Inside Timeshare welcomes contributions outlining your experiences, it helps other to know that they are not alone. Together you can influence the industry, changing the way they view the owners / members, along with the NTOA, the advocacy facebook pages and this publication you do have a voice. The industry is taking note, we know that for a fact, it is just a matter of time before they actually implement real changes.
All it leaves us to say is we hope that Irene and Don have a safe journey home from vacation, that all of you have a great weekend.