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Castle Law Group

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the first Letter from America for June, this week Irene Parker follows on from Haley Saldana’s Tuesday article, but first we look at the end of the week in Europe.

Over the past few weeks we have been issuing various warnings on some very dubious claims companies and fake law firms, we have now received some new information about one called Abogados Lopez.

In the past warnings the name of the lady on the phone was Hope Brugge, well it seems that Hope has now changed to Megan Haywood.

The pitch is the same as before, checking the details of how much they paid etc, before they file the case at court, the a day or so later the great news comes in that they have won the case and the court has awarded a substantial amount. Yes you guessed it they need to be paid to release the money.

The telephone numbers being used are:

0034 951 242 867 which is a Malaga code

0034 602 654 670 which is a Spanish mobile

Another number that has been used is

0044 1291 440 500 which is a Chepstow code.

This week has also been busy with the courts, Silverpoint has been on the receiving end of yet more Supreme Court rulings, with four in one week, this makes a total of 118 against the timeshare industry as a whole.

There have also been six sentences issued in the Courts of First Instance against Anfi del Mar and Silverpoint, with the total being awarded by the courts to the clients amounting to over 409,000€ plus in most cases the return of legal fees and legal interest. The contract have also been declared null and void, leaving these client not only financially better off but timeshare free.

All these cases were brought on behalf of the clients by none other than those intrepid lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance.

Now on with this weeks Letter from America.

Diamond Resorts International Lawsuit against Castle Law

Declarations of Two Former Castle Law Employees

The Tangled Web: Castle Law Group Entities

How money was funneled from timeshare members to Castle Law

By Irene Parker

June 1, 2018

Diamond Resorts International filed a first amended complaint for damages, injunctive and other relief against Judson Phillips, Esq., Castle Law Group, P.C. and 24 other defendants in the US District Court of the Middle District of Tennessee on February 21, 2118, in an effort to untangle Defendants’ web  of deceit and so as to end Defendants’ improper and legally inappropriate schemes, and in doing, not only vindicating its own rights, but also safeguarding the unsuspecting public and positively impacting the timeshare industry at large.

Case 3:17-cv-01124

Timeshare developers say timeshare exit companies like Castle Law are targeting timeshare members, enticing them to get out of their timeshare contracts. Some of these exit companies charge thousands of dollars upfront, but members are held in suspense for months or years, only to learn they were not released from the timeshare contract. On the other side of the dispute, timeshare members have been contacting Inside Timeshare, desperate to be released from timeshare contracts they never knew were perpetual, and had little or no secondary market.  

https://www.nashvillepost.com/business/legal/litigation/article/20972343/resort-company-sues-local-lawyer-over-timeshare-exits

This past Tuesday we published an article about Haley Saldana getting caught in the middle of a dispute between Castle Law Group and Resort Relief. Haley lost $3,495 after paying Castle Law to get her out of her Silverleaf timeshare, only to find herself foreclosed anyway. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-6/

Two former Castle Law employees, a director of business development and an attorney, relate their experiences working for Castle Law Group, PC and Castle Marketing Group, LLC in depositions filed. I reached out to both employees through Linked-In and the attorney’s law firm. They did not respond.  

Over a year ago I received an email from Carly Vaughn, former public relations manager and content writer for Castle Marketing, asking if I would be interested in writing for the Castle blog. I declined the offer.

We first published an article about developer lawsuits against Castle Law and Judson Phillips August 22, 2017.

http://insidetimeshare.com/legal-news-us-castle-law-group-pc-v-timeshare-developers/

Among the twelve causes of action in the “cease and desist” letter Castle sent to developers, are those Inside Timeshare readers, asking for help in complaints against developers, would not disagree with. From the Castle “cease and desist” letter found in public filings:

  • Improper and unethical high pressure sales tactics.
  • Gross and deliberate misrepresentations regarding benefits of ownership.
  • Gross misrepresentation regarding the ability to utilize timeshare points to cover fees associated with membership and exchanges.
  • False information regarding the ease and/or ability to resell for a profit.
  • False sense of urgency to purchase the same day.

A “cease and desist” letter demands all communication with the client, including collection attempts cease under the Fair Debt Collections Protections Act.

Declaration from an attorney who worked for Castle Law

In his declaration, the lawyer states that it became clear to him that Castle Law was not functioning within the ethical boundaries of a proper law firm. At no time was the lawyer tasked with meeting with and/or engaging clients. Rather, according to the attorney, Castle Law clients were primarily engaged through outside third-party exit timeshare companies. Only on a few occasions does the lawyer recall even speaking with a prospective client. The attorney graduated from law school in 2015 and was hired by Castle Law Group, P.C. in 2015. He worked for Castle Law until May 2017. According to the attorney’s declaration:

It was my understanding, through observations, that many prospective clients engaged the services of Castle Law without ever speaking with any attorney. Strangely, I agreed to have a rubber stamp made of my signature to be used by assistants, which made me uncomfortable.

While at Castle I was shocked to learn telephone calls were being recorded without my knowledge, whereby neither of the two parties was aware they were being recorded. I learned of this practice from Sean Austin, president of Castle Marketing, which I now know to be illegal.

I was involved in the evaluation of various cases of timeshare owners who did not have valid claims and should have been entitled to a refund of monies paid to any of the Castle entities. I reported my claims to Judson Phillips and Michael Keever. To the best of my knowledge, very few, if any, actually received a refund. (Castle Law Group and Castle Marketing were both operated by Sean Austin and Michael Keever, neither licensed to practice law)

After I left Castle, I became aware that Castle Law sent out letters to their purported clients that they never represented them. I became aware of such letters after I was forced to defend my license to practice law against four bar complaints against me. All four complaints were eventually dismissed.

DECLARATION 2

This declaration was provided by the “assistant director of affiliate relations” who later served as “director of business development” for Castle Marketing Group as an independent contractor in 2015.

The director’s role was to communicate with and manage outside affiliate companies, referred to as Third Party Exit companies (TPE) who solicited timeshare owners to cancel their timeshare contracts. According to the director:

I observed that Castle Law allowed the outside affiliates to use Castle Law Group’s engagement agreement without an attorney being present or consulted. I observed that timeshare owners were being led to believe they were paying legal fees entirely to Castle Law Group, which was not true.

Initially, Castle Law Group collected all of the funds and was engaged in the practice of sharing the fees with the TPEs. Sean Austin told me that they had created Castle Marketing Group to “act as a buffer between the clients and the law firm” and to “protect the law firm” and to “get around the issue of fee splitting.”

Later Sean Austin told me Castle Law Group was not making any money, which was “not legal,” and that funds had to be pulled out of Castle Marketing Group and transferred to Castle Law group, so that it would appear as if Castle Law Group was earning revenue as part of the transaction. The TPEs kept their portion of the amounts paid for legal services and sent the rest to Castle Marketing. Castle Marketing then transferred funds to Castle Law Group and the many other business entities operated by William Michael Keever and Sean Austin (pictured above).

I observed that attorneys at Castle Law Group rarely, if ever, met with or spoke to the timeshare owners. Sean Austin told me that the staff needed to keep the timeshare owners happy as the lawyers did not have time to confer with them.

At times a year or more went by without any action taken by Castle Law Group on behalf of the timeshare owners. I witnessed that timeshare owners who persisted with their complaints, or demands to speak with an attorney, would be placed on an “escalation sheet.” Staff members would, in some instances, contact customers to calm them down and say whatever was necessary to keep them hanging on until the deadline for their money-back guarantee had expired. My job became so stressful as a result of timeshare members and TPEs demanding answers, my health was impacted and my doctor advised me to quit my job.

The funds collected from the legal fees paid to Castle Marketing Group were funneled to other business ventures owned by Sean Austin and/or William Michael Keever. These businesses included: Castle Venture Group, Worthington Galleries, God Cloud, ExxoGear, Advisant, Kryptobit, and Instant Merchant Group, among others. Sean Austin expressed to me on more than one occasion that the payroll and budget for all these companies was dependent on my work with the TPEs and the funds generated.  

When I expressed my concern that “clients” would complain to the Tennessee Attorney General, Sean Austin stated that Castle Law Group was registered only in the name of attorney Judson Phillips, so Sean Austin, William Michael Keever and the staff, as non-lawyers, would be shielded from any liability or fault.

The Director left Castle Market Group in 2016.     

To date Inside Timeshare has received 437 requests for assistance from timeshare members who allege they were defrauded by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. It is our hope a meaningful dialog will develop to clean up both sides of the timeshare sale.  

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups before paying anyone to get you out of a timeshare contract.

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/

So that’s it, the end of another week in the world of timeshare, a week that has seen more fake companies emerging and many cases against some of the major timeshare companies being resolved in the courts.

If you require any information or have any comments on any article published, use our contact page and send us a message.

Have you been contacted by a company with a similar story to the ones published and want to know the truth, or have you found one on the internet, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to find the information you need.

Remember to do your homework before engaging with any company, it will save you a lot of heartache in the end.

Have a great weekend and join us next week for more “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this weeks Tuesday Slot we welcome a new contributor, Haley Saldana, who shares her experience with Resort Relief and Castle Law, the introduction is by Inside Timeshare’s very own Irene Parker.

But first, yesterday it was announced by Canarian Legal Alliance that they have secured a Court of First Instance sentence against Club la Costa, in the number 4 court of Fuengirola.

The case was brought against Club la Costa Leisure Limited by CLA on behalf of their English clients. The main basis for the judgement was the contract did not have an end date, which made it a perpetuity one, this has been declared illegal under Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, which states that contracts have a duration of between 3 and 50 years.

In this case the contract has been declared null and void, with the clients being refunded a total of £19,442 plus all their legal fees and legal interest.

It is quite clear that the lower courts are following the now 115 rulings made by the Supreme Court, which is good news for all clients who have cases pending or are considering filing claims.

Now for today’s article.

Resort Relief and Castle Law Group’s Tangled Web

Part I: How Haley Saldana Lost $3,495 retaining Resort Relief

Part II June 1: Declarations of former employees of Castle Law Group, P.C. and Castle Marketing Group, LLC

Haley Saldana shares her Castle Law and Resort Relief experience

Introduction by Irene Parker

May 29, 2018

Former Silverleaf member Haley Saldana relates her frustration over a cycle of hopeful vacation promises that ended with a desperate need to get out. More consumer awareness is needed, so Haley has shared her story today hoping people ask the right questions before buying a timeshare or signing up to get out of one. It’s important to examine the reasons why people reach out to a timeshare exit company in the first place.   

Inside Timeshare has heard from 431 mostly angry, overwhelmed, desperate timeshare members. They don’t know where to turn for straight timeshare answers. Most allege that they either bought or upgraded a timeshare from sales agents employing bait and switch tactics. If deceived, or just not understanding the nature of the product they purchased, they soon learn the challenges one faces attempting to be released from a timeshare contract, especially if there is an outstanding loan. The contract is perpetual, and the resort usually dismisses the member with a “You signed a contract.” Some state regulators second that response. With no other way out, the buyer seeks legal or third party assistance, or gets foreclosed. In Haley’s case, seeking third party assistance cost her $3,495 and she still got foreclosed!

Haley explains why she feels she was deceived into purchasing a Silverleaf upgrade. Unable to get help from Silverleaf, she contacted Resort Relief. Haley is 31 years old and her husband Louis, 34. Haley and Louis went from Silverleaf timeshare owner, to Resort Relief, to Castle Law, and ultimately to foreclosure.

Through public filings, we obtained depositions from two former Castle Law Group, P.C. employees. Their descriptions of what it was like to work for Castle Law will be the subject of Friday’s Letter from America.      

By Haley Saldana

I contacted Resort Relief in 2016 after being convinced to make a second Silverleaf timeshare purchase. In 2014 we had paid approximately $11,000 for our first Silverleaf timeshare. We had no problem affording this purchase.

We feel we were deceived into making the second Silverleaf purchase. We could not use the bonus time that went with the original purchase. At a members’ meeting we were told a second purchase or upgrade would give us more availability, but it did not. I contacted Resort Relief. Resort Relief set us up with Castle Law Group. We were charged $3,495 February 2016.

Castle Law Group told us if we talked to Silverleaf they would drop us and keep our money. I heard nothing until I talked to a guy at Castle in 2017. He said to keep not paying and again told us not to talk to Silverleaf. We had gotten a letter from Silverleaf that said we should contact them. We received a second letter from Silverleaf June 23, 2017 that said if we do not pay them what we owed them, it would go against our credit, but we had been instructed not to talk to Silverleaf. By this time it had been well over a year since we had originally contacted Resort Relief February 2016.

I emailed Barb Holland from Castle Law the Silverleaf letter June 23, 2017.

Next, now almost two years later, we got a letter from Silverleaf January 26, 2018 saying that they were proceeding with foreclosure.

We notified Castle Law. Castle responded by letter informing us they no longer represent us because of a serious legal conflict with the organization that referred us to Castle Law Group (Resort Relief).

We contacted Resort Relief. Resort Relief owner Kevin Hanson told us, “I’m sorry, I lost $2 million because of Castle Law. He said that Castle Law Group came back to Resort Relief and said “Here are your clients. Castle Law Group is no longer representing Resort Relief clients.”

You would think Resort Relief would make things right since they were the ones that set us up with Castle Law. Instead, Mr. Hanson said if we pay Resort Relief $750 they will transfer our case to a local attorney. We lost the timeshare through foreclosure, and the $3,495 paid to Resort Relief/Castle Law. I have all the emails confirming this disaster.

Mr. Hanson said Baker & Britt is the local (Conroe Texas) law firm that is representing him (Resort Relief) against Castle Law Group.

On the creditor’s side of the fence, back in March 2017, I interviewed Kristie, an HOA collections agent. Kristie expressed her discomfort with Timeshare Exit Team and timeshare attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman. Countering Kristie’s comments, timeshare attorney Mitchell Sussman Reed responded:  

While I understand their position, the simple fact is that if the timeshare had any value at all….the resort should be thrilled to take it back so that they can resell it for a profit. Of course, since the timeshare is a liability and not an asset; the resorts refuse to take back what is essentially a lifetime financial obligation.

Senior citizens are especially vulnerable. When for health reasons or simply lack of income they are unable to utilize the timeshare the resorts have zero sympathy, refuse to take back the timeshare and then report the owner as a dead beat to the credit reporting agencies.

Shame on them, and bravo to any attorney willing to sue or otherwise punish the resort for taking advantage of the weak and infirm.

If a resort wants attorney’s in the field of timeshare cancellation to not feel as I do, they should simply agree to take back their timeshare when asked by their owner. Not by the attorney. Why should there have to even be attorneys in this field?

If timeshare resorts maintained a policy that would allow owners who are no longer willing and able to travel out of their timeshare, there would be no need for timeshare attorneys or timeshare transfer companies.

Mitchell Reed Sussman

Attorney at Law

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-hoa-collections-agent-shares-experience/

Resort Relief has an A BBB rating! As explained on a TUG post below, an F rating may be more credible than an A+ rating.  

https://www.bbb.org/houston/business-reviews/timeshare-advocates/resort-relief-llc-in-conroe-tx-90046035/reviews-and-complaints?section=complaints

Here’s a complaint almost identical to Haley’s complaint!

Complaint

We were sent a letter from Resort Relief where we were talked to about getting timeshare relief for the Timeshare we have through Silverleaf Resorts and was told that this service was a money back guarantee and that we were going to be able to get out of our timeshare once we paid the $4050.00. We… paid the monies and was referred to Castle Law Group who took the information and received all of our documents for them to proceed. I had no heard from the in sometime so I contacted Castle Law Group for a follow up. I was informed on September 11th that the law firm could no longer represent us due to a conflict of interest and referred me back to Resort Relief. I have been calling nonstop and no one is available to give me information or anything. I have stressed that I want my money back and I am getting tossed back and forth from Resort Relief back to Castle Law Group and back to Resort Relief. This has been stressful and I am not getting anything but a Reba will bet back to me and I haven’t heard anything and the worker that answers the phone Tyler doesn’t either and he knows its stuff going on and can’t tell me.

Thank you, Haley for sharing your disappointing experience after responding to a “Get you out of your timeshare or your money back” ad, powered by massive search engines seeking desperate timeshare members. It’s very difficult to reach Castle Law and when I tried calling Resort Relief I kept getting the busy signal.   

Maybe it’s just me, but I find today’s timeshare product one of the most flawed products in history. First, members contacting us allege they were deceived into buying or upgrading a timeshare. When they complained to the resort, the resort dismissed them with, “You signed a contract.” The member is then driven into the net of a search engine, and contacted by someone that often is a former timeshare sales agent or executive. When we researched one questionable timeshare sales agent, we learned he had several open and closed LLCs with names like Vacation Planning. Hence, the sales agent dangled the bait, made the sale, the timeshare buyer victimized, the exit company next deceived them, and possibly by the very person who sold them the timeshare in the first place! Worse, one snoop removed from our advocacy Facebook, had in his background a company called, Timeshare Fraud Recovery. No question this meets the definition of racketing. The member is defrauded by an exit company and then contacted by the same people offering fraud recovery!     

We’re not lawyers, so Haley and Louis would need to contact a reputable lawyer for an opinion as to where to go from here. Given what money has already gone down the drain, I can understand her reluctance to pursue this further. It’s a mess.  

When a reader asks about an exit company, keeping an open mind, I contact the company, explaining one of our readers asked us whether we would recommend them. Often they hang up the phone after a few questions. Once I received a threat accompanied by a string of expletives. Three timeshare exit companies I contacted I feel are reputable and we have maintained communication in an effort to better understand this murky world of timeshare exits and transfers.   

One timeshare insider provided us with this Timeshare User Group forum (beginning November 2016). I can vouch for one of the licensed brokers mentioned, Judi Kozlowski. Judi has helped us out with a few of our articles.

(Brokers recommended) Fred Messreni

www.timeshare-gallery.com

Seth Nock

www.sellingtimeshares.net

Judi Kozlowski

www.timeshareresalepros.com

Tug review crew comment November 16, 2016

I’m adding one more voice strongly recommending that you steer clear of any and every “exit / release / escape” entity — and to ignore meaningless BBB ratings.

 

You might consider “sweetening” the TUGgiveaway” by now additionally offering to pay the transfer fees — and maybe even the next maintenance fee bill as well (…said bill is likely already in hand at this time of year, or very soon en route to you). You’d still be mathematically “ahead” compared to paying any shaky upfront fee parasite, whoever they may be.

Finding a valid new recipient is infinitely more “clean” and legally conclusive than getting involved with (and/or paying) any upfront fee “exit / release/ escape” entity. Bear in mind that some of these entities are actually committing outright fraud by design …which could boomerang back around to you in the future.

Good luck, but do yourself a big favor and stay away from any and all of these alleged “escape artists”.

TUG Admin February 23, 2018

Looking at your ad, we see you are still asking for money for your Festiva timeshare.

You also don’t appear to be offering to pay closing costs as the seller.

Both of these factors are the reason you are having no success in selling your timeshare…not that fixing them will guarantee a buyer…but having them is certainly guaranteeing that the only folks interested in your ad…are upfront fee scammers.

(You are welcome; we just saved you thousands of dollars being thrown away for an upfront fee company)

Contact any of these independent self-help groups if you have a question or concern about your timeshare.

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/

Thank you Irene and Haley, this industry is in dire need of a major shake up and regulation, the periphery companies such as resale, terminations and claims are a product of the greed of the major developers, with the lack of a resale market and the inability to terminate membership.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other article published on Inside Timeshare, use our contact page and we will get back to you.

Have you been contacted by a termination or claims company, or have found one on the internet and are not sure if they are genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to check them.

Remember, by doing your due diligence and your homework, you will save thousands in the end.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish Part II of Karen Garello’s Secret Shopper report, but as usual we look at what is happening in Europe.

During our daily searches of various timeshare websites and forums this particular article made us chuckle. It was published on the Travel & Leisure Group (timeshare resale) website under information and Timeshare Blog, it is an interview with Gavin Brown and his recent stay at Anfi, he is manager of the said company, obviously written by one of the employees who conducted the interview.

The piece starts out with Anfi Beach Club is known throughout the timeshare industry as a real gem”. It then goes on to describe the location, “Ideally located on a heart-shaped island in Gran Canaria”. Well straight away that brought everyone down laughing, the heart shaped island is a man made island which is situated between the beach and the marina. It does not have the room for the huge resort called Anfi! It does however have sunbeds, a cocktail bar and a restaurant. You can also hire the island for weddings, if you can afford the 12,000€ for the basic package.

heart shaped island Anfi
The heart shaped island at Anfi

It turns out that Mr Brown, who has been in the timeshare industry for years, has never owned a timeshare, (I wonder why?). Mr Brown stated that he always booked with online travel agents and package holidays, but due to sometimes being disappointed with room location and the standards of the hotels, he felt that timeshare resorts offered better standards.

Well, we can agree with that, so why did he choose Anfi? As he put it he has a great knowledge of Anfi, having sold so many resale weeks, so when “A fantastic week and apartment became available at a great price, and I couldn’t pass it up”. Although we couldn’t help wondering if he would have bought at the ridiculous prices direct from Anfi?

He then goes on with a wonderful sales pitch on how great the place is, the wonderful facilities and the great restaurants, with reasonable prices compared to other 5* resorts. Well sorry Mr Brown, but you can get even better food at even better prices by leaving the resort and heading to some of the local restaurants.

The article then ends with “If this has made you consider Anfi Beach Club, or any of the other Anfi resorts, why not call Gavin himself or one of his colleagues to discuss further”?

Could it be they have that many weeks on their books they need to do a sales drive to get rid of them?

The other point to remember is that when you buy resale you don’t get all the benefits as you would buying direct from Anfi. See the link to the previous article on Resale Vs Direct.

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=anfi+resale

It has also been announced that ABC Lawyers Ltd, another Mark Rowe company has bought Lansdown Financial Ltd, a claims company registered with the Ministry of Justice. This is another acquisition following that of Tucola Ltd and Justice4 Ltd, Mr Rowe is certainly expanding, the question is why?

After all, his past is not what you could call squeaky clean, there has been a lot in the press and on TV about some of his past enterprises, Monster Credits springs to mind. By purchasing a company already regulated by the MoJ it does save him the problem of applying to the MoJ for authorisation, then having to pass the competence and suitability assessment, which is not a simple task.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/481751/CMR_Applications_for_Authorisation_Guidance_WEB.pdf

Going back to Anfi, although the courts are closed during the month of August, some staff are still working and issuing sentence papers from cases heard previously, this particular case was heard on 6 July. The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas awarded the former Anfi member 42,625€, again the infringement of the timeshare law was the length of the contract, being over 50 years in duration. So Anfi, do you continue to deny that you are losing in the courts?

So on with this week’s Letter from America.

Link to Karen’s first report.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Secret Shopper Questions and a Secret Shopper Report

two meeting

By Karen Garello, Secret Shopper Coordinator

August 18, 2017

Inside Timeshare encourages its readers to submit positive articles about timeshare experiences, so I was relieved to have attended a positive sales presentation at The Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri. Unfortunately, the presentation was followed by a less than positive customer service experience.

My Diamond saga began when I purchased a trial Sampler program I had not realized I had purchased until I returned home and saw a $3,995 charge to a Barclaycard. Diamond would not reverse the charge.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I decided to attend a presentation as this is required when purchasing a Sampler. After I returned home from a Branson presentation, I attempted to access Luxury benefits but was denied access. Luxury benefits include luxury hotels, shopping and wine. When I contacted customer services at the Sampler department, asking why I was denied access, the customer service agent put me on hold for a long time while he called Branson. After completing his “investigation” he told me the reason I could not access Luxury benefits is because Branson reported me as a “NO SHOW”!!!

Had it not been for our Diamond Resorts member supported Advocacy Facebook, I probably would not have gotten the sales agent’s name, and I certainly would not have prepared a report.

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

Admitting deceit it seemed, the customer service agent said, according to the notes during the presentation (he initially said I had not attended), I had told the sales agent TK I had complained about the unauthorized charge to purchase the Sampler. I pointed out that I had used my American Express for all the charges I made at The Suites. Customer service said they will investigate further and get back to me.

Now onto my original article

buttons

Many timeshare companies already have Secret Shopper programs. Still, it doesn’t hurt for timesharing member Secret Shoppers to evaluate for other members how near or far a timeshare sales agent ventures from his or her script.

I guess I am not that secret of a Secret Shopper in that my name is on this article, so I hope the good experience I had at Diamond ResortsThe Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri wasn’t because they were aware of my Timeshare Advocacy Group™ position, Secret Shopper Coordinator. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.

My presenter was TK Armstrong. She used to work for Bluegreen but joined Diamond because she said they have more resorts. TK and I talked for about 45 minutes. I went over my Polo Towers experience. She seemed sincerely concerned. She showed me a description of CLARITY™ Diamond’s new Enhanced Quality Assurance program. She was supportive of the program and said she was going to abide by it. She went over the Sampler product I did not realize I purchased until I returned home from Polo Towers. At least I know what I bought now.

We have three new Secret Shoppers. We will not identify them because they are, well, secret. After compiling over 100 complaints from readers who have reached out to Inside Timeshare for assistance, we have determined the most popular complaints involve the following:

  • Maintenance Fee relief program that do not exist,
  • The ability to sell points or weeks when there is no secondary market,
  • The value of travel awards,
  • Misrepresenting the value of using a credit card to offset Maintenance Fees,
  • Stating a lower loan interest rate can be obtained from a bank or credit union in order to escape high timeshare loan interest rates,
  • Oversold availability

We arm our Secret Shoppers with intelligent questions that, maybe because of being on vacation brain, people forget to ask. These are questions of course that any timeshare consumer can ask, so we share them with our readers. Transparency, honesty and accuracy are rated on a scale from one to five with a five being the most honest. Results are tabulated quarterly and sent to our team for review. After we complete our pilot program, we hope to submit the data to the respective resort for review.

Suggested Questions

  • May I take notes?

Qualifications

  • How long have you worked at this resort?
  • Have you worked at other resorts?
  • What did you do before you sold timeshare?

Consumer Protections

  • May I call my lawyer 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?
  • 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.

Resale or Exit Program

  • What happens if I can no longer use or afford the timeshare?
  • If I can sell it, how can I sell it? Who do I call? Can you give me a reference?

Note: Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to ask about the benefits or lack of benefits buying on the resale market and to see if they will accept a listing for the timeshare you own.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Maintenance Fees

  • Please show me in the paperwork the cap on maintenance fee increases. How much does a maintenance fee go up on average annually? Does it go up every year?
  • Can you provide a five year history of Maintenance Fee increases?
  • Is there anything I can do to offset Maintenance Fees?
  • 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 offset Maintenance Fees with credit card purchases, please provide an example of the value of a $1 purchase and how many purchases it would take to pay off my annual maintenance Fee? (One member reported it would cost over $270,000 in annual purchases to pay a $2,700 Maintenance Fee!)
  • Can I rent my timeshare to pay Maintenance Fees?

Travel awards

  • If I can use my points for hotels, what is the value per point?
  • 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?

Loans

  • 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?
  • What is the interest and penalty if I miss a payment?

risk

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 without comparison shopping. Well over half of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received involve high interest rate financing.

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. Societal changes are influencing the wants and needs of today’s traveler. Are timeshares more flexible or less if you are locked into usage and maintenance fees increasing annually.

Our first Secret Shopper, Laurie Sabbagh, offered the first Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Secret Shopper report. She reported some good and not so good observations. Of merit is the warning to timeshare buyers to take the promise of travel awards a step farther and ask, “At what value?” In general consumers should buy a timeshare for its intended purpose which is to vacation at a resort. Here is Laurie’s report:

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

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. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ posts information from all sites. Our motto, courtesy of Jimi Hendrix, is –

knowledge speaks

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

Thanks to Karen for her Secret Shopper part II, also thanks to Irene as usual for the editing and coordination from the other side of the great lake. We have many more articles coming up in the next few weeks with part II of Hug Your Haters and a piece about the Castle Law Group lawsuit with Orange Lake. We will also be having another article from our Antipodean friends from the other side of the world.

So that’s it for this week, have a great weekend and we will be with you next week.

 

 friday dog

 

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