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Bluegreen

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, this week we welcome another new contributor Diane Smith with an introduction by our very own Irene Parker. This article looks at Bluegreen and their suggestion that Diane donates her points to one of four selected charities. Have we not heard of a scheme like this before?

Bluegreen offers new Pilot Program to Donate Points to Charities 

Diane Smith Responds to “Who’s the Fish?”

Bass Pro Lawsuit v Bluegreen

https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-38/

July 10, 2019

By Diane Smith

Introductory comments by Irene Parker

I was alarmed when Diane reported that Bluegreen suggested she donate her 5,000 points to one of four select charities. Charities don’t need the liability of a perpetual contract and ongoing maintenance fees. After learning one of the charities was founded by the co-founder of RCI, and other timeshare executives are members of the 18 member Board of Directors, I reached out to industry insiders, puzzled.  

Christel DeHaan, Founder and Chairman of the Board

Co-Founded and sold RCI for $825 million

https://www.forbes.com/profile/christel-dehaan/?fbclid=IwAR3Qn-QE_uDsHYPVo0b9yuh3qb4Y4opDRT7zAiC0wk97D_n0H19_bD7re7k#6d7903079fd0

https://christelhouse.org/our-people/

Olivier Chavy, President, RCI Exchanges

Gordon S. Gurnik Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Hilton Grand Vacations

Don Harrill, Vice Chairman of Board of Directors, Orange Lake

According to an industry source, who wishes to remain anonymous, the charities will not be liable for maintenance fees or the perpetual contract. If Diane were to donate her 5,000 Bluegreen points, it would prompt a paper transaction known throughout the industry as a “Press and Clean” that will ultimately transfer the points back to Bluegreen. While transferring timeshares is perfectly legal, legal point laundering does not solve the problem when timeshare buyers experience unfair and deceptive sales practices.  

If my source is correct, in this scheme, Bluegreen controls who gets referred to the charity, so you can’t just call up one of the charities and ask them to take your Bluegreen points. Bluegreen benefits because they are not as bothered by calls from people wanting to get rid of their points, as they can refer the member to the charities if there is no loan outstanding.

It is ironic Christel House works with those in poverty, considering Inside Timeshare has heard from 894 timeshare members and more than a few driven into poverty because of unfair and deceptive sales practices that are accompanied by rising maintenance fees and no secondary market.

So why is being allowed to donate timeshare points to a charity, not a good idea? When sold by deceit, the charity becomes a link in the progression described by one former sales agent as a hamster wheel: deceive, force insolvency, take-back, resell – with the charity brokering the points back to the timeshare company.

We hope this isn’t the timeshare lobby ARDA’s idea of a Responsible Exit.

ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit

https://responsibleexit.com/

Diane’s Response to “Who’s the Fish?”

I read Inside Timeshare’s article about the lawsuit filed on behalf of nearly 36 Bluegreen plaintiffs against Bass Pro Shops and Bluegreen with great interest after I received Bluegreen’s response to my complaint. My reports of deception are similar to identical to those listed in the lawsuit complaint.

My concerns were not even addressed. Instead, I received an email suggesting I donate our points to a charity. Given an attorney I contacted was going to charge me $5,000 to get us out of this financial trap, I questioned why a nonprofit would want to accept timeshares.  

Bluegreen responded to my complaint saying that they have no provision to take back a timeshare (even when deceived?), but I could contact one of four selected charities to donate our 5,000 points. The four select charities are listed below. While I applaud any assistance is to a charity, I don’t feel this is appropriate. 

Our family purchased our points in 2011 after we had endured the Joplin, Missouri EF5 tornado that killed approximately 160 people. My father broke his back and ribs, his home was destroyed, and we endured over $40,000 in damages to our home. Shortly after the tornado, we took a trip to Branson to get away for a breather. At Bass Pro Shops we were approached by a Bluegreen representative. The resulting consequences I would describe as a financial tornado.

In the lawsuit Bass Pro Shops filed against Bluegreen, they were concerned about commissions they had not been paid. Bass Pro Shops will be rewarded $40 million, but there is little concern as to the deception described by Plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Bluegreen members. In the lawsuit complaint, Bass Pro Shops mentioned aggressive sales practices that were offensive to their customers, but I’m sure the reason for the lawsuit was to sue for commissions. It’s all about the money with timeshares – our money.

We experienced the following:

  1. The meeting promised to last no more than an hour, lasted for hours,
  2. They explained how we would save money on vacations by buying points. In actuality, most of the places we attempted to book were either not available when we were able to use them, or we couldn’t book them at the time we wanted to book (not in the booking window). We have never been able to vacation anywhere using Bluegreen points but Branson, except for one Florida trip.
  3. We were told we were not buying a timeshare! They provided us with a “deed” explaining that we were purchasing real estate.
  4.  We were told we could sell Bluegreen points at any time and that points would appreciate in value like our home. There is no resale value as evidenced by their suggestion we donate points to a charity.
  5. A credit card was opened to make the purchase and we were advised to transfer the purchase price to a home equity loan.
  6. They explained the benefit of being able to transfer the points to our heirs. We now know what is passed down is a financial liability.

The few trips we did take were a disappointment due to high-pressure sales tactics that made us feel like we could not leave unless we purchased additional points. We have no desire to stay at another Branson property due to our last stay when we experienced soft spots on the bathroom floors, roaches, and the same furniture as 2011. The pool looked nasty, cloudy and full of algae. 

Bluegreen responded to our concerns as follows:

We are sorry to hear that you wish to cancel your ownership. Unfortunately, there are no provisions for you to cancel your contract at this time.

However, we would like to offer you the opportunity to participate in a pilot program we have developed to assist owners like you who have no outstanding loan but would like to separate from the Bluegreen Vacation Club. The program is outlined below:

1.     Donate your timeshare interest benefiting a charitable organization. Please see the attached document regarding worthy organizations.

2.     You will be provided with a donation letter from the charity based on the current third party comparable selling price. With respect to your ownership, this is estimated to be $745. Please note that this letter does not represent proper documentation to support a deduction on your tax return nor is it a substitution for any third-party valuation that may be required by the IRS. We recommend that you consult with a tax advisor regarding requirements for claiming non-cash charitable donations.

3.     You will have the option to utilize one-year’s allotment of (5,000) Vacation Points for up to two years (at no cost to you).

4.     You will be released from any future obligations to the Bluegreen Vacation Club.

Charitable Giving Program – Donation Options 

Junior Achievement of South Florida (JA)

SOS Children’s Villages – Florida is a foster care neighbourhood in Coconut Creek.

Christel House Some things should be handed down from one generation to the next. A life of poverty isn’t one of them.

JDRF is the leading global research organization accelerating medical breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).

I imagine waves of baby boomers, with children and grandchildren, have experienced the same. We will teach the next generations to avoid timeshares and travel clubs. The existence of unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices is apparent. See the lawsuits and Attorneys General investigations below.  

Thank you to Diane for informing us of this remarkable timeshare development. Our readers are not just a disgruntled few:

The NY Attorney General investigation into the Manhattan Club resulted in a $6.5 million settlement. https://www.amny.com/real-estate/the-manhattan-club-settlement-includes-6-5-million-in-restitution-ag-says-1.14048559

Colorado Attorney General sued Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices. https://businessden.com/2016/12/07/ag-sues-timeshare-firm-for-deceptive-tactics/

Missourians sometimes are targeted by real estate developers and resort communities to buy vacation timeshares. https://ago.mo.gov/civil-division/consumer/consumer-topics/vacation-timeshares

Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of complaints against Diamond Resorts, fined the company $800,000 and issued an Assurance of Discontinuance. https://azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

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. https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/2016/2/24/pr16-04.html

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen says his office received 58 timeshare complaints in 2018, including concerns about pressure sales tactics, exorbitant fees, and difficulty reselling. https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Timeshare-Troubles–What-To-Do-Before-You-Buy-and-Sell-504017151.html

A Florida Whistleblower lawsuit filed on behalf of ten former Wyndham employees, including eight former sales agents. Plaintiffs allege that they objected to and refused to participate in illegal timeshare sales practices.  https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-42/

Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams, a jury awarded an initial $20 million. https://dolanlawfirm.com/2016/11/wyndham-timeshare-whistleblower-lawsuit/

Candace Czarny v Hyatt and Kent and Allison Drysdale – Former Hyatt timeshare sales allege that they were instructed to make certain false statements and omit certain facts when communicating to Hyatt owners and potential clientele in order to make more sales. https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-57/

Petition to Reform Timeshare:

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 

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

Thank you Diane and Irene, this certainly looks like one of those schemes which only benefits the timeshare company, if you have any views, comments or questions on this article please use our contact page and get in touch.

That is all for this week, we hope that you all have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot

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.

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190614/bluegreen-vacations-bass-pro-shops-settle-dispute-over-timeshare-sales-tactics?fbclid=IwAR2T5UbBR9fHwDbyhHIJk0HqhhHqgHYec8Npi2QpcrgE0ufBSEWIkIarxWk

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.

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

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?

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/eliminate-timeshare-liability-for-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:

https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-57/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-42/

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.

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/314773876071616/members/

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

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

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.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, the original article which was going to be published today has been replaced, this is due to the timeshare company reaching out to the members. As always, Inside Timeshare sends a draft copy to the timeshare company for comment, we do not always get a response, but on this occasion the company did respond. It may have been at the eleventh hour, but we congratulate the timeshare company concerned for their reaching out and we hope that they are able to resolve the matter.

As a last minute replacement we publish a revised version of The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles, by Irene Parker, originally published in November 2016.

This week has been a rather quiet one as far as the courts are concerned, there have been many cases going before the judges, but the sentences are unlikely to be announced until the New Year. Although we did get news of two sentences issued this week.

The first was from the Court of First Instance No4 in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, the judge in this case declared the contract with Anfi null and void. The reason was the length of the contract which exceeded that allowed by Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, which states that perpetuity contracts or contracts with no end date and exceed the 50 years maximum are illegal. The client in this case has been refunded over 61,000€ plus legal Interest.

At the High Court No4 in Tenerife, Silverpoint was on the receiving end. The contract was declared null and void as it did not include any tangible product. Again under Law 42/98, a timeshare must include specific information such as a set apartment or an exact time of year. The client in this case has been refunded over 10,000€ plus legal interest.

Once again these cases were brought on behalf of the clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, contrary to what some forums run by some very dubious characters will tell you, these are genuine cases and are a matter of public record.

     

Now for this week’s replacement article.

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles Revisited

    Jackie Siegel, Queen of Versailles  

By Irene Parker

December 14, 2018

“The Peasant of Venice and Queen of Versailles” article was first published November 6, 2016. I wrote the article because I wanted to explain how I went from being a 30 plus year timeshare owner without a timeshare complaint, question or post, to a full time volunteer whistleblower.

In July of 2015 I experienced a pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation in Florida. We had previously purchased points in Virginia because the company said they were adding New York properties, only to learn it would take about $10,000 in equivalent maintenance fee dollars to stay at the same hotel, same week that could be booked online for $1,000 plus tax. When I checked December 1, 2018, it would have cost $12,000 using our timeshare points. I don’t blame the sales agent. He may not have known about the poor value. It was the response from the company to the Attorney General listing all the times we had used our points prior to that purchase that bothered me. Eventually I was offered our money back for that purchase, but could not bring myself to sign the non-disclosure agreement.       

Rosa Parks said, “I was just trying to get home from work.” In my case, we were trying to get to our new home, moving from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Venice, Florida. It was my intention to return to my first love – teaching piano lessons. That all changed after the revolting timeshare presentation we experienced in Florida.  Disgusted, I returned to our unit, turned on the television and witnessed the jaw dropping house pictured above, being built by Westgate timeshare owners Jackie and David Siegel. I could not resist.

It was a hot July summer day in Orlando when my retirement turned upside down.

We entered the hospitality area where we were invited to attend a 55 minute “information only” presentation for existing owners. “Will we be paired with a commissioned sales agent?” I asked three times. “No”, Julie replied, “Only if you have questions in the last ten minutes. I attended and I learned a lot! We have group presentations now because we had so many complaints about high pressure aggressive sales sessions.” We did not sign the form agreeing to the 55 minute meeting because the fine print said we would be robo-called if we did. We were robo-called anyway. There was no form to be signed for the three hours that followed the 55 minutes.

A Diamond Resorts member recently sent me this comment from a former Diamond concierge describing an unfair and deceptive practice:

Concierge (Former Employee) – Virginia Beach, VA 23451 – December 3, 2018

A typical day of work consisted of misleading current owners and their guests in order to persuade and entice them to attend a timeshare meeting that could last well over what was initially disclosed….The hardest part of this job was knowing I was intentionally misleading owners/guests of the length of time for their timeshare meeting, as well as not disclosing it as a timeshare meeting as instead it was mandatory we refer to it as simply an “update on their current status” or “ways you can stay here and affiliated businesses in the future”. The most enjoyable part of this job was the interaction with varying people and the connections I gained therein.

https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Diamond-Resorts-International/reviews

Our Nightmare on Timeshare Street begins:

The next day we entered the reception area to be greeted by an attractive young lady. “Hello,” Donna greeted us. “Are you a commissioned agent?” I asked.  Puzzled, she took us by the arm and escorted us to the 55 minute presentation, retrieved us immediately after, and led us to her den.

I told Donna, “My husband is 77 years old. We do not want to invest in vacation plans because we need to investigate long term care plans.” “Why, we have many in their 90’s who come and enjoy our resorts!” she cried. “But we are in the middle of building a house and have no permanent residence at this time,” I countered. Kneeling and looking up, she gazed into my eyes and confessed she was a single mother and had to resort to her Diamond points when she divorced. “I know you didn’t put all your money in that house though,” she added. I kept saying over and over, “We don’t want to travel. We like our new house.” Frustrated, the manager ended by advising me to go to the website if I want to find out what’s new. Three hours and three sales agents and managers later, we returned to our unit.

I checked my email and learned the 4,500 points we had been promised for our Port Elsewhere Ozark timeshare deposit was credited only 3,000 points. Sure enough, I learned later the 4,500 points promised could be changed at any time for any reason. It’s all in the fine print.

I then decided to take my mind off this disturbing revelation by watching television. I turned on the FOX news show Property Man show hosted by Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, and there she was – The Queen! The King and Queen of Westgate timeshare were building a 90,000 square foot home that defied the imagination. Jackie’s clothes closet is 5,500 square feet!

http://www.realtor.com/news/trends/queen-of-versailles-q-and-a/

Thinking about the pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation we were deceived into attending, and the worthless points specifically purchased to stay in New York City, I wrote to Mr. Massi at Property Man never dreaming I would earn a response. Copying the letter to Diamond customer service, they credited the correct amount promised for our Port Elsewhere week.

A few months later a FOX producer called. I was asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. The producer told me the Queen of Versailles show wasn’t even about timeshares. It was about their house, but FOX had been flooded with timeshare complaints. She said I was the only viewer they asked to interview because I was the only respondent who said I wanted to talk about the positives in addition to the negatives of timeshare. I told her I was sorry, but I had just accepted a position as interim music director for a large church and could not participate, but I offered to research timeshare to help them with their talking points.

I started digging. The deeper I dug, the more alarmed I became. Wyndham, Westgate, Bluegreen and Diamond seemed to have the most complaints, with Disney, Hilton and Marriott far fewer. I submitted my research to FOX and returned to the choir. Six months later, after arranging a flight to Phoenix to stay at  a Diamond resort in Sedona, I received a call from the FOX producer, asking if we would agree to be interviewed by Mr. Massi in Phoenix as they had interviews scheduled that weekend. Some things are meant to happen.

The FOX producer told me David Cortese of Magical Realty had also been interviewed by Mr. Massi about timeshare resales. David is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association (LTRBA). After viewing David’s segment, I contacted him to see if he would sell our Diamond points. I was told their company would not accept a listing to sell Diamond points. I surveyed all 64 LTRBA members and 22 responded also saying they felt Diamond points were worthless on the secondary market. “We feel Diamond has placed too many restrictions on the use of secondary points to be of any value to a buyer,” they sadly explained.

One of the LTRBA members asked if I would speak with a Hispanic family. Since this first October 2016 complaint, the calls and emails have not stopped. I have heard from 646 timeshare members.

Timeshare members want straight answers but straight answers are in short supply at some timeshare customer service desks. Callers or emailers explain how a sales agent lied to them, but when they contacted the timeshare company they were told, “You signed a contract.” Some described how the rescission period was dodged. Some things, like over promised availability, can’t be determined by reading the contract. I feel I was deceived by reading the contract which stated, “You can sell your points but we will not assist you.” They left out the part about no buyers.

From the October 2016 article describing what happened to the Hispanic family:

Maintenance fees increased to the point where they could no longer afford to own their points. The family soon found that they had to charge maintenance fees to their credit card in order to pay them. The family had already taken out a $33,000 home equity loan from their credit union to reduce the high loan interest rate, typically 14% to 18%.

In August 2015, when they complained about maintenance fees, they said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase another 10,000 points in order to achieve Platinum level. He said that by being Platinum, it would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only Platinum members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees. Then and now Platinum members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point, so if all 50,000 points were tendered, it would pay $2,000 towards a 2018 $8,631 maintenance fee bill.

If the family had agreed to the additional 10,000 points, they would have gone further into debt with little recourse. Based on hundreds of reported responses, if they had purchased the points, they would have been told, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” They have a daughter who just graduated from high school and has started college.

I spoke to the family not long ago. They relinquished their $60,000 worth of points that they had accumulated. They are still paying off the home equity loan.

Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare has resale value.

Property Man was preempted due to the 2016 election coverage, so our segment aired April of 2017. The Florida DBPR timeshare division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014, so ignore Pam Bondi.  Bob Massi and his advice on timeshare resales:

https://www.facebook.com/RealBobMassi/videos/1041694629230338/

From FOX I stumbled onto Jim Cramer of Mad Money’s investment news service TheStreet, where remarkable editors, possessing the patience of Job, provided a crash course in editing.

https://www.thestreet.com/author/1684637/irene-parker/all.html

A member who submitted an article to Inside Timeshare introduced me to Whistleblowers of America https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/. Accepting an invitation to attend a Whistleblowers Summit in Washington DC this year, I was introduced to OpEd News:

https://www.opednews.com/articles/Witness-to-Las-Vegas-Octo-by-Irene-Parker-America-181030-359.html

And of course, there’s Charles Thomas at Inside Timeshare in Spain and Wayne Robinson in Malaysia and Wayne’s book.  I was honored to edit and write the Forward. Everything About Timeshare, Before. During and After the Sale

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

So all in all, I’m getting great value from my timeshare points measured in the people I’ve met, readers who read my articles, and the gratitude from members who are grateful for straight answers. We especially appreciate our Facebook administrators and our growing team of members helping other members. I do believe we are a disruptor and hope our efforts will benefit sales agents who sell the product honestly, as well as forestalling new buyers and existing members from making a decision that has financially devastated more than a few families. When sold honestly, timeshare provides years of fun for friends and family.

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene for getting this article out to us so quickly, it is difficult to replace an article at such short notice, but at least the timeshare company did respond and for that Inside Timeshare was happy to replace the original one.

That’s it for this week, join us again next week our last one before Christmas.

To all our readers have a great weekend and remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that contacts you or that you have found on the internet.