Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today we publish the final report by Irene Parker on the Platinum Protest in Orlando which was held on 17 to 19 May. This report also includes their brief stories which helps to explain why they are protesting. In the case of Patty and her story, we have received many complaints which have named the same sales agent. Inside Timeshare has read these complaints and it is surprising that for people who have never met how close their stories are. This can only lead us to conclude there is something very wrong in what this sales agent is doing.
What Happened at the May Platinum Member Protest in Orlando
Save the Date for the next Platinum Protest in Arizona:
Veteran’s Weekend November 9 – 11
By Irene Parker
May 24, 2019
Many have expressed admiration for the efforts of four Diamond Resorts Platinum families protesting on behalf of 85 Platinum members who have reported that they were told to buy additional timeshare points for reasons they say do not exist. Of the 85, 43 reported that they were told they would be able to offset maintenance fees only if they purchased additional points. Others report they bought points told that they must buy additional points to be able to sell points.
What happened to Sheilah and Gad (a protestor not pictured), is why Friday’s location was at the Florida state building housing the Florida Attorney General’s timeshare division, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). Sheilah, Gad and a third buyer all bought from the same Daytona agent. They each have their “pencil pitch” which is what agents scribble as they talk. Near the top of Sheilah’s three-page pencil pitch appears:
8631 (Now) – 8631 (Save) = 0
What could be clearer?
1) (Now) (Save)
2) Redirect savings to help offset costs (to 0)
The complete explanation is in Sheilah’s article:
Diamond’s response, from the company promoting a CLARITY promise of “Clear, concise, accountable and transparent information” was, “We admit this was confusing, but it was not illegal,” according to Sheilah.
“Talking to the Florida Timeshare Division DBPR was the same as talking to Diamond Resorts,” Sheilah said. At first, I was dismissed with “We don’t know if you were given this evidence or if you took it.” Their point I believe was that evidence obtained illegally is not admissible. When I questioned the logic of this statement, the reviewer called back several days later reporting that she spoke with Diamond’s attorneys. “I didn’t understand the program either until I spoke with Diamond’s attorneys, but now I do,” she reported to Sheilah. It’s not difficult to understand why someone would be so angry they would fly 1,000 miles to protest.
Florida’s DBPR has dismissed all our readers’ complaints with, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.” While Arizona, New York, Tennessee and other states have launched timeshare investigations based on a volume and pattern of complaints, Florida will not. When Sheilah asked why, the DBPR supervisor responded, “How they do things in other states is not how we do things in Florida.” By their own admission, Florida dismisses timeshare complaints, despite a volume of complaints. The timeshare lobby ARDA has been quoted as saying, “Timeshare is a highly regulated product.” Apparently regulation means dismissing all complaints.
Florida’s dismal statistics:
As reported at a Florida legislative workshop in Tallahassee March 12:
Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation.
Ms Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale.
Nevada is another state that dismissed all our readers’ complaints with, “You have no proof.” At least in Nevada, you can record a conversation without the other person aware. Florida is a two-party state meaning it is illegal to record without the other person aware.
How in the world is a timeshare buyer expected to obtain proof?
Three of our protestors were able to speak at length with one individual inside the state building. In fear of retaliation, we will not identify this person, but their advice was to have the protestors protest every Friday. Logistics preclude this, but we appreciated their support and knowledge of unfair and deceptive practices.
Inside Timeshare has heard from 831 families describing unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. ARDA and Diamond’s CEO Michael Flaskey argue that the vast majority of timeshare buyers are happy with their timeshare.
Fair enough, so I checked facts and figures. I contacted law firms and timeshare exit companies throughout the United States. There are many. Two exit companies reported that each receives 3,000 to 3,500 calls per month. They accept less than 200 as clients. Just two of the many law firms and exit providers receive over 6,000 calls per month from families seeking timeshare release! An entire industry of law firms and timeshare exit providers has sprung up catering to timeshare members waking up to the realization that the timeshare they were told would be easy to sell, or sell if they bought additional points, has no secondary market.
I have to admit I was not looking forward to a weekend of sign holding, but the reward we felt by the number of horn honks, thumbs up and, especially on Sunday, a steady stream of members stopping by to express their concerns, made it all worthwhile. Here we met Platinum member #84.
I’m not a Platinum member, but wanted to support the Platinum Protestors’ efforts. Patty and Cindy have their stories. The second day of the protest I heard from a Diamond member who contacted me infuriated. She had bought points from the same agent Patty bought points from, becoming #43 of 85 Platinum members who say they were pitched maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist. This will make six complaints against Patty’s agent; the third complaint against this agent was from a couple ages 79 and 80, the husband diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We even have a recording of the agent provided by a veteran from over a year ago who experienced a similar up-sell.
Rather than show concern for 85 of their highest loyalty members who have reported unfair and deceptive practices, Diamond and the timeshare industry as a whole insists there are few complaints. There is not enough space in an article to list all the law firms, timeshare exit companies, lawsuits, including whistleblower lawsuits, and Attorneys General investigations concerning timeshare sales.
All protest participants had been timeshare owners and members for decades. They liked timeshare. The Platinum members had purchased points a number of times, so with the ensuing trust did not expect to be blindsided by programs that they say do not exist.
We’re not saying there are not honest timeshare sales agents trying to make a living selling timeshare points properly. But when top liars, who eventually get fired for pitching too much heat, are put up on a pedestal for new hires to emulate, the result fosters deceit.
Many have wondered if this industry could exist without deception. One timeshare insider reported that Diamond Resorts has the highest loan loss provision of all major timeshares. As reported by Wall Street:
Diamond Resorts International Inc. Downgraded To ‘CCC+’ On Very High Anticipated Leverage, Outlook Negative
The negative outlook on Diamond reflects our expectation for minimal cash flow generation and very high leverage in 2019. The outlook also incorporates our belief that the company is vulnerable to possible future operating missteps or an unexpected downturn in the economy over the next two years, which may render its capital structure unsustainable despite our assessment of adequate liquidity.
Many of the 85 Platinum members have resolved their dispute, but resolution required several rebuttals and regulatory filings. Some relinquished their points, meaning they walked away from all the money spent. Diamond points sell for around $4 per point so we’re talking about Platinum members with 50,000 points or more walking away from $200,000 or more. A recorded QA closing is routinely used in the dismissal, but recording the sales session is not allowed. As mentioned, recording without the other person aware is legal in some states, but not Florida.
Given a reluctant regulatory environment, the Courts of Public Opinion seem the only courts open. Holding up signs is not easy, but the rewards are great. A realtor stopped by clearly upset that he could not sell a Westgate timeshare for his client. I gave him my contact information. Within a few hours, his client called from Brazil. Out of about 60 licensed timeshare resale brokers, only one I am aware of will accept a Westgate listing. If there are no takers, I advised the member to speak Portuguese when the maintenance fees collectors call. He can no longer afford the timeshare. Fortunately, there is no loan outstanding. His relief at hearing straight answers was palpable, even from that far away.
Two new Facebooks have been launched by Wyndham and Starpoint Sapphire Inside Timeshare contributors. Through Social Media and grassroots protests we little by little are letting the consumer know timeshare sales can be a quagmire of debt and deceit. These are the support groups we feel are not industry influenced:
Diamond Resort Facebook
Gold Key Facebook
Thank you Irene and a very big thankyou to those who were able to make it to the protest, also thanks must go out to all those who showed support in whatever way they could. The next Platinum protest is scheduled for 9 to 11 November which is Veterans Weekend in the US and is being held in Arizona. If you are able to make it, you will be most welcome.
That is all for this week, use our contact page if you have any views or comments on any article published, or if you just need a little help or advice we are here to help.
Have a great weekend and join us again next week.