Welcome to another edition of The Tuesday Slot, This week Irene Parker looks at the Bass Pro Shops and Bluegreen who are both locked in a legal dispute not only with each other but also their own clients. It would look like there is no end to the deceptions, misleading and bad practices that the timeshare industry thrives by. This brings us to ask yet again, when will the industry change its ways and sell a fair and useful product without the bad practices that we see on these pages day after day week after week? Somehow I don’t think we will get an answer any time soon.
Bass Pro Shops v Bluegreen $40 million Settlement
A Separate Lawsuit of Nearly Three Dozen Bluegreen Member Plaintiffs
As reported by The Palm Beach Post June 14, 2019
Boca Raton-based Bluegreen Vacations will pay Bass Pro more than $40 million to continue operating sales kiosks in its stores.
In a separate lawsuit filed this year, nearly three dozen timeshare buyers from around the country sued Bluegreen and Bass Pro Shops. The consumers said they were lured into high-pressure sales pitches, then sold expensive shares in units that they claimed were overpriced or in poor repair.
Who’s the Fish?
By Irene Parker
July 9, 2019
Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-54
Excerpts from the Civil Action complaint (my comments highlighted in blue)
In the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville, a third amended complaint was filed April 8, 2019 against defendant Bluegreen Vacation Unlimited, Inc. in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and BPS Direct, LLC dba Bass Pro Shops (BPS), seeking contract rescission and damages on behalf of 16 co-plaintiffs (as of the April 8 filing) for alleged illegal, deceptive and misleading business and sales practices, statutory violations and fraudulent conduct.
Such practices as described pertain to the Bluegreen Vacations Mountain Loft, Ascend Resort Collection Resort at Gatlinburg. Relevant to this lawsuit, Bass Pro Shop, partially in conjunction with Bluegreen, operated its retail business at its Tennessee-based facilities in Kodak and Nashville, along with 67 other locations across the United States.
According to the lawsuit, Defendant Bass Pro Shops were involved in the offering of a promotion for attending a timeshare presentation, which was solicited through representations made from within Bass Pro Shops, through BPS agents, or at least individuals who appeared to consumers to be acting as agents of BPS, and thus, such actions are attributable to Defendant BPS. The lawsuit Bass Pro Shops filed against Bluegreen seemed to focus on commissions not being paid on any “sampler package” and the “clawing back” of commissions not paid when a member defaulted or cancelled years after the sale.
The lawsuit alleges Plaintiffs were induced to purchase a timeshare interest from Bluegreen by fraud, without knowing the true nature of the presentation, because material information was either intentionally or negligently concealed. Defendants did not disclose material facts concerning the use of points and availability caused by overselling interests, and the right to the Public Offering Statement disclosures, which included rescission rights.
First Basis: Concealment of Rescission Rights and Public Offering Statement
The lawsuit alleges POS disclosures were avoided and/or intentionally hid, including material information about the rescission period. Despite Bluegreen’s legal duty to provide a copy of its POS, not one Plaintiff recalls receiving a copy of such a document. The lawsuit further alleges Bluegreen representatives had a strong incentive to conceal Plaintiffs’ rescission rights and limit access to the information contained in the Public Offering Statement. Plaintiffs were not aware they had a right of rescission or that they were entitled to review the POS before entering the contract.
Violations of the Tennessee Timeshare Act of 1981 include:
- Public Offering Statement disclosure – The POS must be provided to purchasers “before the transfer of the timeshare and no later than the date of any sales contract,” and that the contract is voidable until the purchaser has received the POS.
Since late 2016, Inside Timeshare has heard from 890 timeshare members reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, including 113 veterans and active duty service members. Only in the last six months have I started asking the members about the Public Offering Statement to which the members reply, “A what?” Digging through past paperwork, they find it to exclaim, “It says,” READ THIS DISCLOSURE STATEMENT BEFORE SIGNING ANYTHING!” The timeshare customer service representative, also a fine print detective, responds to the member with their initials agreeing that they read and reviewed the document. If the closing is recorded, the presentation of the POS should be recorded.
According to the lawsuit, after often five to eight hours of mentally and physically wearing the consumer down, there is a rapid signing of many documents that lasts only about ten to fifteen minutes. The Closer or Quality Assurance Specialist controls the entire process. Consumers are not permitted to read the contract, leave the room, discuss the contract alone, are not permitted to review the contract with an attorney.
Consumers are not permitted to take the contract and come back the next day.
The lawsuit alleges this constitutes unlawful practice of law, overlaid with fraud and deceit with no meaningful disclosure of contract terms.
If you think this is unfair, sign the Petition to Reform Timeshare, which seeks a 24-hour “cooling-off” period before signing a contract. This proposed 24 hour cooling off period was hotly contested by timeshare industry lobbyists during the 2019 legislative sessions.
Of note is mention of Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL) in that consumers are told about how they can plan their Estate with the new “asset” to leave a “legacy” to their child or children using a Will while fraudulently concealing a known “successor” clause that forces obligations upon future generations who are all jointly and severally liable for ever-rising debt.
Inside Timeshare has received numerous complaints from consumers falsely told they must convert a deeded timeshare to a point-based timeshare or their heirs will be liable. It is also my belief this constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.
I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn about this, as I understand it, rarely is an heir forced to assume a timeshare liability. According to Mike, “Although I haven’t studied the so-called “successor clause” I am of the firm belief that unless the children were listed on the original sales contract as co-owners and signed the contract as same (assuming of course that they were of the age of majority on the date the contract was executed), that they cannot be bound by any third-party, to the contract, including their parents. Again, in my opinion, I believe this would be a violation of the “due process rights” of the children.”
How Can I Eliminate my Timeshare Liability for my Heirs?
Bluegreen is the sole owner of a subsidiary corporation housed within its corporate headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida called “Pinnacle” and the lawsuit alleges Pinnacle is devoted to exclusively keeping Bluegreen owners trapped in the resale market void.
Second Basis: Intentional Misrepresentation: Buy-Back Program
Bluegreen has never operated a program that buys back unwanted VOIs. Pinnacle sells services to VOI owners which purports to help owners sell unwanted VOIs when in actuality there is no viable resale market.
“Owners Meetings” or “Owner Classes” air to sell existing owners additional timeshare interests. Owners are told such meetings are mandatory to teach Bluegreen members how to navigate Bluegreen’s reservation system. In reality, such meetings are an attempt to sell existing Bluegreen members more points. Reported disappointments with the product can be resolved by buying additional points, but the lawsuit alleges promised benefits are rarely if ever, realized.
Plaintiffs’ Common Factual Allegations
Promised 90-minute presentations lasted typically four to eight hours. Some presentations are timed with the presentation beginning only after completion of a known driving tour that lasts at least three hours, and for two Plaintiffs, the drive lasted eight or nine hours.
After long sales sessions, only 10 to 15 minutes was spent, on average, for the entire contract signing process, which harboured unknown obligations and lacked the use rights, amenities and features that were promised.
Plaintiffs allege they were told:
(a) Bluegreen timeshares are good investments and will always go up in value.
(b) Bluegreen timeshare is a long-term asset that can be resold at a profit.
(c) Maintenance fees do not exist, do not go up, or only go up very little.
(d) Bluegreen timeshares are a valuable asset and “a legacy” to pass on to children.
(d-f) Plaintiffs did not know that, despite any possible future contract to make a Will or Codicil, contracts executed that day would bind all children as “successors’ that are jointly and severally liable for the inter-generational debt.
(g) Plaintiffs have anytime, anywhere “easy booking.”
(h) Rental income can pay the mortgage, fees and sometimes earn a profit. Rental is impossible as represented.
(i) Promises that an “Upgrade” will resolve deficiencies, but were never fixed.
All Plaintiffs have a strong correlation regarding these four rescission-based commonalities:
(a) Plaintiffs did not receive Public Offering Statement prior to signing.
(b) Plaintiffs did not receive proper Statutory Rescission notice.
(c) Plaintiffs were deceived about a Will Asset (vs Successor Liability).
(d) Plaintiffs spend up to $21,000 for a one-week vacation, representing over 1000% of the timeshare’s online market value, accompanied by rising fees.
Third Basis: Intentional Misrepresentation: Points Value Representation
No Plaintiff had access to Bluegreen’s inventory system until after they were contractually-bound as Bluegreen owners for life. Upon access, they discovered availability constraints, insufficient point values, or other cost prohibitions they were not made aware of.
This is another source of a multitude of complaints. Members complain of having been sold too few points to book their desired locations, but they were not allowed access to the booking site until the next year.
In spite of this lawsuit and so many others, the timeshare developers and their lobbyists insist all is well and we are just a disgruntled few. In addition to member complaints, former timeshare sales agents have joined efforts to expose unfair and deceptive sales practices. Our Friday, July 5 article describes former Hyatt Sales Executive Candace Czarny v Hyatt wrongful termination/whistleblower lawsuit and our February 2019 article about a Wyndham Florida Whistleblower lawsuit:
It is in everyone’s interest to drain the swamp of perpetrators.
Join one of the self-help groups, organize, and get involved:
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.
Free at Last Facebook
Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide
Diamond Resort Facebook
Gold Key Facebook
Inside Timeshare Facebook
Thank you Irene for this weeks article, If you have any questions or comments on this or any article published, then use our contact page and get in touch, we would love to hear from you.