Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today we publish Part 2 of our Secret Shopper Questions, by Pete Gibbes, our Secret Shopper Coordinator.
First we have some rather sad news to share, Bob Massi, a Las vegas Attorney and host of the Fox TV show Property Man has sadly passed away at the age of 67, after a battle with cancer.
He was a great advocate for the underdog, even suing Diamond Resorts for Elder Abuse. He was also one of the law firms listed on the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy group on Facebook, which is reserved only for the most trusted of firms.
Inside Timeshare would like to extend our sincerest condolences to his family.
R.I.P. BOB MASSI
Secret Shopper Questions Part II
By Pete Gibbes, Secret Shopper Coordinator
Friday February 8 2019
Many timeshare complaints begin with, “The sales agent said….” and are dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Due to this overused knee-jerk dismissal, timeshare buyers should record their sales presentation. You can legally do so without the other person aware in a one party state. This link allows you to select your state to determine if you can legally record.
If you are attending a presentation in a two party state, note taking may be the next best alternative. If the sales agent says you are not allowed to take notes, red flag. Walk out. No gift is worth being lied to. If you do stay and the sales agent scribbles a “Pencil Pitch” on a piece of paper, buyers should remember that paper, ask to see it during the signing process, and ask the agent or closer to show you in the contract where his or her promises appear in the contract. Ask to have the item added to your contract as an addendum. This is an actual response to a “The sales agent said” complaint:
“We must advise that it is specified clearly in the contract documentation that if you relied upon any verbal information given during the presentation you must ask for this to be put in writing. Likewise, if anything was said that was of particular importance to you, but which is not contained in the terms and conditions of the membership, this should have been requested to be implemented in the body of contract before documentation was signed.”
It’s a good idea to get to know the agent’s qualifications.
How long have you worked at this resort?
Have you worked at other resorts?
What did you do before you sold timeshare?
What’s your ID number?
Consumer Protection Questions
May I call my lawyer/accountant/son/daughter/mother/father to discuss your proposal? May I take the contract to my room so that I can have an adequate amount of time to review such a major purchase?
If the answer is no, ask why not? The reason they say no will be suspect. Contrary to what you will be told, trust me, you can still buy a timeshare tomorrow. The reason for this, “You have to buy today” strategy is because anyone who thinks over buying a timeshare in all likelihood will not buy if given a chance to think it over. You need to be in the driver’s seat, not the sales agent.
According to Highlands Resort sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in a Colorado Attorney General’s investigation, “In the eighteen months he worked for Highlands Resorts, not a single consumer returned after their sales presentation to make a purchase. In his fifteen years in the timeshare industry, Abrahamson never saw a consumer purchase a timeshare after leaving a sales presentation.”
Are you a member? May we log onto your account so I can check actual availability and value? I am spending a significant amount of money on something I have not even attempted to use.
There are many complaints about promised availability and limitations on trial timeshare products the buyer was not aware of.
Ask about Resale or Exit Programs
What happens if I can no longer use or afford the timeshare?
Who do I call? Can you give me a reference? Most timeshare companies will not allow their agents to assist in resale in any way, shape or form.
BEFORE you go on your sales presentation, contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge no money upfront to list a timeshare. The best part is they work with all timeshares, so you are not relying on the word of a sales agent that their program is the best program. Check the pros and cons of buying directly from the timeshare company compared to buying on the secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/
Is there anything I can do to offset maintenance fees?
This is what we get the most complaints about – bogus programs that claim to offer maintenance fee relief. Watch out for scare tactics. For instance, beach erosion is one reason provided as a reason for special assessments, but an ocean engineer, one of our Supporters, said beach erosion is the responsibility of the state or federal government. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-17/
What is the cap on maintenance fee increases? Do you have a five year history of maintenance fee increases? If not, don’t buy.
If I can use my points for maintenance fees, how much per point are they credited?
Where in the paperwork can I verify this information?
If I can offset maintenance fees with credit card purchases, how much of a $1 purchase (typically $.01 or $.02) will be credited toward maintenance fees? How much would I have to charge to pay off my entire annual maintenance fee? (It would cost $200,000 in annual purchases to pay a $2,000 maintenance fee at $.01 per dollar spent!)
Travel awards are often grossly misrepresented
If I can use my points for hotels, what is the actual value per point? Provide an example. If I can use my points for airline tickets, what is the value per point?
If I can use my points for a cruise, what is the value per point?
Can I rent my timeshare to pay maintenance fees? If the answer is yes, review the requirements in the contract. Some companies do not allow the member to use the internet to rent points.
Where in the paperwork does it state my loan interest rate?
How much will I pay for the timeshare if I carry the loan for the maximum term?
Is there anything I can do to reduce my interest rate? This is a set-up question because banks do not finance timeshares. Never transfer to a third party lender because then you are asking the timeshare for a refund instead of a loan cancellation.
If consumers must take out a loan to buy a timeshare, consider carefully the actual cost of financing a vacation at 12 to 18%. America is a buy now pay later society. I don’t think many financial planners would recommend financing a luxury item at 12 to 18%.
We hope Secret Shoppers create smart shoppers asking the right questions before plunging into a purchase so many of our readers have come to regret.
Our first Secret Shopper, Laurie Sabbagh, offered the first Secret Shopper report:
Contact Inside Timeshare if you have interest in becoming a Secret Shopper or would like to share a positive or negative timeshare shopping experience.
There are several member supported Facebooks and websites where members can reach out to other members to share experiences.
We seek to provide times 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.
Thank you Pete for your contribution, also a big thank you once again to Irene Parker for your editing efforts, we know that you have been very very busy of late, so we appreciate you taking the time to carry on.
Well that is it for this week, remember if you are unsure about any company that has contacted you, or that you have found yourself on the internet or from an advert, then contact Inside Timeshare.
If you purchased your timeshare in Spain and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then Inside Timeshare can point you in the right direction.
Have a great weekend.