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Diamond Resorts

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot, today Patty Boyak reports on the trial highlighted in Friday’s Letter from America on 5 July between Candace Czarny and Hyatt. The case centres around the wrongful termination of Candace after being forced to use “unfair and deceptive sales practices”.  Branded a whistleblower she found it difficult to find new employment, but she has worked hard to rebuild her life and Inside Timeshare is proud to share her story, after all, that is what these pages are about, to give you the reader a glimpse into the world of timeshare and all that is dirty about it.

Part II Continuation of Whistleblower Wrongful Termination Trial

Candace Czarny v Hyatt and Kent and Allison Drysdale

Part I: The Trial

CASE NO.  CV2013-006230

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

By Patty Boyak

July 16, 2019

I learned a lot this week attending the jury trial of Candace Czarny v Hyatt and Kent and Allison Drysdale that began last week in Maricopa County, Arizona, Superior Court. An Arizona resident myself, I took this opportunity to observe the trial proceedings to better understand the inner workings of timeshare today.    

Candace worked for Hyatt in Sedona, Arizona from November 2011 to June of 2012. She previously worked at Diamond Resorts but left Diamond concerned about what she considered to be questionable business practices. Hired by Hyatt to sell timeshare, Candace alleges in her lawsuit that she was forced to employ unfair and deceptive sales practices or face termination. Hyatt did terminate Candace.

Sedona is a small town, so Candace had difficulty finding work after her termination. She moved to Phoenix. Candace had lived in Sedona for 25 years.

Hyatt’s attorney, Mr Kraig J. Marton, challenged the reasons why Candace had remained unemployed since her termination, insinuating that Candace had not tried very hard to get a job, even after moving to Phoenix.

I reached out to Candace outside of the trial. I had not attended Candace’s testimony in which she explained the difficulty she experienced when she sought employment. Candace said that potential employers were turned off because of her whistleblower stigma. Candace generated income from her rental property and worked on re-stablishing a business she had been involved with previously. She has been generating income from that business since 2017. Prior to that time, she had been paying off debt to re-establish her business.

Candace said in Phoenix, she has been living in a 10 x 10 rented room with a view of a block wall, after living in a beautiful home in Sedona with views of the Red Rocks. Candace said she mitigated her damages by scaling back, but she has not sat around idle since her termination.  

Mr Marton continued to examine Candace’s work history. Candace responded that the reason she did not apply for other timeshare positions is because she did not want to find herself put in another position in which she would be instructed to employ unfair and deceptive sales practices. She felt the obligation of anyone holding a real estate license is to uphold the principles of integrity that holders of a real estate license should abide by. 

Working under the conditions Candace described took an emotional toll. A witness for the Plaintiff, Jackie Garrick, who is an expert in Workplace Traumatic Stress and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), described psychological abuse as a “serious injury” justifying a diagnosis of PTSD. Ms Garrick explained that PTSD can be experienced by anyone, not just soldiers who witness harm against others and suffer a moral injury because it violates their sense of ethics. She compared whistleblower retaliation to domestic abuse in which one spouse manipulates, humiliates, isolates, and bullies another spouse. Defence attorney Mr Marton tried to minimize PTSD as if it only related to combat stress, ignoring all research on emotional abuse and identity disruption.      

Candace’s attorney, Joshua Carden, next called Larry Stokes as a witness for Candace. Mr Stokes is an economist. He testified as to Candace’s loss of income. He calculated her annual wages as follows: 

Loss wages from 8/2012 to 7/2019

$449,186 in back pay

$168,709 in loss front pay

$54,756 in interest on back pay

Grand Total:  $672,651  

Former Hyatt Sales Executive Mark Schmidt, also a witness for the Plaintiff, testified on July 9. Mark had worked as a timeshare sales agent for 15 years. Candace and Mark’s employment overlapped for a period of about two months, prior to Candace’s termination. On cross-examination, Mr Schmidt was asked about his relationship with Candace. He stated they were friendly coworkers. They were asked about emails they had exchanged as to the possibility of an age discrimination lawsuit against Hyatt

Mr Schmidt had also been terminated from Hyatt for being a “bad fit” and for poor performance. Mr Schmidt responded that he had worked three tenures at Hyatt and generated $130,000 in sales the last six working days of a March month. An “eligible for re-hire” letter was placed in his personnel file. Mark said the reason for his short work tenures was because he would leave the company if a bad sales manager was hired and wait it out until the sales manager was fired or left the company.  

Like Candace, Mr Schmidt testified that he had been terminated because he refused to give false statements to potential buyers. He stated that Kent Drysdale in 2012 instructed agents to sell “First Day Incentives” that were deceptive. Agents would threaten potential buyers, telling them that if they did not buy that day, in the future they would have to purchase a two-week timeshare vs only a one-week timeshare. It was not true that buyers could not buy a one-week timeshare in the future.

What Letter?

One fraudulent practice was that Mr Drysdale trained his sales agents to tell existing Hyatt clients that there was a letter sent to the existing member advising them of an advantageous price, but the letter, in fact, did not exist. According to Mr Schmidt, Mr Drysdale instructed the agents to tell the existing member that they would check their file to see if the letter was there. One of the jurors asked if they could see the letter. Hyatt’s attorney seemed to scramble to produce the letter. What was produced, Mr Schmidt said, was a completely unrelated document. It was an Upgrade Document Declaration. This document was discredited because it pertained to the surrendering of points after a member upgraded. Mr Schmidt added that if the letter existed, Hyatt would have produced it during discovery. 

Oh boy, have I heard this “Did you get the letter?” before. I am a member of a 3,300 timeshare member-sponsored Facebook. Many complaints begin, “They said we should have gotten a letter!” If the letter is fictitious, this is unfair and deceptive.    

Mr Schmidt stated that Mr Drysdale used to be the Director of Training for Diamond Resorts. He brought up the Assurance of Discontinuance (AOD) and the $800,000 fine issued by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich after their office received hundreds of complaints from Diamond members. Mr Drysdale had been employed by Diamond Resorts during the period in which the Arizona Attorney General’s office received so many complaints.

In addition to the Arizona complaints, I was aware of former Diamond top sales agent Mary Bowling’s allegations, describing how a deceptive price freeze was employed by Diamond sales agents in Hawaii:

Mary Bowling sued Diamond Resorts, not because of deceptive sales, but because she was terminated when no one else was. She applied for FMLA 2-12-16 and was terminated 2-15-16. 

Case 1:17-cv-00562-DKW-RLP filed in Hawaii District Court

Page 10 of complaint

#43 Owners Update is deceptive because it is to sell points.

#44 Customer is told the current “list price” but the agent has to see someone else.

#48 the sales agent has the customer sign a form indicating they were updated and the agent has to have the manager sign off.

#49 the sales manager has reviewed all prior customer contracts and the manager falsely states the customer was given a “price freeze” but none exists.

#50 because of the “price freeze” only today can the customer buy for the discounted price.

#51 the price given is the real price planned from the outset.

#52 the “price freeze” never existed because (a) The special deal available to this customer only is available to anyone and (b) Urgent to buy only for today

#54 this is lucky news for the customer – brand new information!

#55 the sales agent waits for the customer to “step in”

At one point, Candace had provided an example of an observed deceptive sale: “Say the property is $35,000, but the Director of Sales would say that there had been a default, so we got this new inventory we can get you for $29,500. However, $29,500 had been the intended price all along.” Mark Schmidt explained that the difference between a primary residence negotiation and timeshare, is anyone selling a primary residence doesn’t start with their bottom line price requirement, then issue threats and false consequences if the interested party doesn’t buy at the bottom price that day – or will not be able to buy the house the next day at the low price.

Mr Schmidt further testified that price sheet packages were manufactured by Mr Drysdale: a two weeks package and the standard one week package. Mr Schmidt stated that Mr Drysdale would change the prices at will.

Mr Schmidt was asked to describe Mr Drysdale as Director of Sales.  He said Mr Drysdale was aggressive and physical. He witnessed Mr Drysdale giving a body check to Joey, another sales agent. Mark stated he addressed his concerns with Human Resources regarding Kent’s behaviour that included CIA like intimidation tactics and deceptive practices. He said Mr Drysdale was enthusiastic about the practices and procedures described in the CIA Manual on Human Manipulation.

Next a witness for Hyatt, Theodore “Ted” was called. Ted was the former Director of Sales during Candace and Mark’s tenure. He had hired Candace and supervised Kent Drysdale. Ted said Candace had little sales experience but was hired anyway due to tough hiring times during the years 2010 to 2011. He described Candace as someone who didn’t want to listen and stated that her personality wasn’t “fun” or personable.  He claimed he tried to help her but concluded she was not “coachable” as she did not like to take his advice. He stated she had low performance. 

July 10

Candace returned to the witness stand. In earlier testimony, it was described how Hyatt employee Shelley instructed Candace to create a “First Visit Incentive” document. This document was reviewed by the potential buyer, but never given to a buyer.  

Candace testified that another agent, Scot Steward, did not have a real estate license on file, but was allowed to give tours and transact sales. Mr Steward had been hired by Shelley or Mr Drysdale. Candace took handwritten notes of observed sales and the line rotation, meaning who was up next to meet a potential client. Her notes showed that Mr Steward made a sale, but that Mr Drysdale had limited the number of tours Candace was given, a practice used against an agent who did not play by the rules. There are 3 types of tours: 1) An owner 2) Owns a timeshare other than Hyatt 3) Not a timeshare owner. Candace stated that AM tours always went to the agents on the top of the list (Top Selling Agents).

On Friday I will continue with what happened next. All in all, it was a fascinating experience, and I have a much better understanding of how easy it was to dupe our family. My husband and I experienced deceptive timeshare sales practices. We have joined forces with other timeshare buyers alarmed at the rise in such practices. Deceptive practices seem to be employed industry-wide by some sales agents and managers. That’s my opinion, but the only opinion that counts are the opinions of the nine members of the jury. Join a self-advocacy group if you would like to join our timeshare consumer protection efforts. 

Please sign our 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

Candace Czarny has joined our list of just a few of the recent Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits. We’re not making this up.

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 was 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 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 Executives alleged 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/

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 Group

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

Thank you, Patty, for taking the time to attend the trial and prepare this very interesting report, I am sure that all our readers are rooting for Candace, it is time that justice was done.

If you have any views or comments you would like to share please use our contact page and get in touch.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, today Irene Parker has a look at the Coalition to Reform Timeshare and the petition which needs your signatures. This has been a recurring theme on our pages, the timeshare industry needs to change how it works, it is in dire need of reform, yet it seems they are not listening to the hundreds of complaints which are hitting not just forums like Inside Timeshare but many other forums, websites and FB groups that you will find on the internet. Inside Timeshare has received hundreds of emails asking for help, yet that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The industry needs to change if it is to survive, it has created the problems yet it does not even acknowledge them or admits that there is a problem. It is responsible for the myriad of scam exit and resale companies that exist, all because it fails to police how its own sales force operates. The time for change is here, it is in your own interest to be part of this and sign this petition.

Timeshare Wars Continued

Has Diamond Resorts Offered a Compromise through Transitions?

A Petition and a Coalition to Reform Timeshare

By Irene Parker

June 14, 2019

A Coalition to Reform Timeshare (CRT) was launched to advocate for the rights of more than 9 million timeshare owners in the U.S. CRT is made up of individuals and organizations dedicated to reforming the timeshare industry.

Timeshare developers feel the industry is just fine and doesn’t need reforming. Where do you start when two sides are so opposed? How do you narrow the gap?

Our volunteer Supporters at Timeshare Accountability Group™ (TAG) feel both ends of the timeshare sale need some reform. The Change.org petition already received over 800 signatures.  Sign our petition today to show lawmakers and the Timeshare Industry at large that there is a need for change.

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

After signing the petition, a prompt appears asking for a donation. I questioned how donations are spent. One of our Supporters received this answer from Change.org:

Similar to boosted posts on Facebook or sponsored tweets on Twitter, promoted petitions let you pay to show any petition (including your own) to other potential supporters on Change.org or our distribution which supports our platform as well.

Has Diamond Resorts provided a bridge between members and exit providers?

I’ve heard timeshare exit service providers say, “If the developers would just take back the timeshare, there would be no need for timeshare lawyers or exit service providers!”

Well, Diamond Resorts is taking back timeshares at a record pace. One member reported that she had to wait on hold for five hours at year end. I can’t speak for the entire universe of Diamond Resorts members, but I can speak for the Diamond members on our over 3,000 member-sponsored Facebook page.  I can’t recall one post from a member who applied for Transitions and was not accepted. Many members who successfully exited their timeshare via Transitions remain on our Facebook to advise others.

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

I posted asking members to share their Transitions experience. Six members responded, all positive. Veteran family Cathy McDyer posted, “We applied & were accepted when the fee was only $250. We had points & a deeded week.” One member reminded me that points or weeks purchased on the secondary market are not eligible.  

Diamond Resorts launched their Transitions voluntary surrender program late 2017. Members with no outstanding loan and current on maintenance fees can deed back their timeshare by clicking “Transitions” on their member dashboard.

Inside Timeshare has received complaints from Diamond members who say they paid an exit company to get out of a fully paid Diamond timeshare. Not only did they pay more money than the $1,000 Diamond now charges, the process will likely take longer and some exit companies require the member continue to pay maintenance fees while they try to get you out. To make matters worse, the member is no longer eligible for Transitions if they contract with an exit provider.   

I contacted the Newton Group to ask if they would consider directing their fully paid Diamond member callers to our Facebook. The first representative hung up quickly when I asked. I called back and spoke with JoAnn, who also hung up on me as soon as I asked the question.

In 2018 Wyndham filed a lawsuit listing the Newton Group as one of the defendants. DC Capital Law is also listed as a defendant. DC Capital has filed a lawsuit against the timeshare developer ARC Americano.

https://dockets.justia.com/docket/florida/flsdce/9:2018cv81251/535273\https://insidetimeshare.com/tag/americano-beach-resort/

If Diamond is accepting their timeshare points and weeks back (at least according to our Facebook members), why are some exit providers charging $3,000 or more to get a member out of a fully paid Diamond timeshare rendering them ineligible for the program?

I’ve asked exit providers to test my proposition by referring a few callers to our Facebook page. They would not need to convince the member. It could be a suggestion after, “Have you reached out to the company?” If the member would be denied, it would strengthen the argument as to why timeshare exit service providers are needed. Can you imagine the good will that would ensue if this were to happen?  It would be one baby step to solve this nightmare without dueling lawsuits.

Signing our Change.org petition will also support the establishment of a Timeshare Bill of Rights. My comments are highlighted in red.

1) The right to a 24-hour cooling-off period prior to signing a timeshare contract to allow for the review of all sales and contract information including, but not limited to, other governing documents, public offering statements and covenants that run with the land.

Timeshare buyers also need time to recover after sales sessions that last more than six hours. There have been many reports of driver’s licenses and credit cards confiscated to prevent leaving a presentation, along with other creative techniques. I would add that the buyer could waive this offer if they wished.

In debates over timeshare bills proposed this year, the timeshare lobbyists for ARDA in Arizona strongly objected to allowing timeshare buyers 24 hours to review their decision to sign a perpetual timeshare contract, despite lobbying for a 24-hour cooling-off period in Florida and Nevada when it comes to signing a timeshare exit contract.

There is no other industry that would disintegrate if the buyer were allowed 24 hours to think about signing a contract. It’s because timeshare contracts are perpetual, accompanied by rising maintenance fees, and has no secondary market. Complaints about deceptive sales abound.

2) The right to receive complete disclosure of the true market value of the timeshare, prior to the timeshare being purchased.  

Some timeshare companies do disclose this, but the buyer doesn’t read the contract. The consumer does need to do their part by reading the contract.

A major concern is the lack of a secondary market. If the primary housing market placed restrictions on the ability to sell homes, think of the effect this would have on the housing market. Some timeshare companies list in their annual reports that a viable secondary market is a risk to investors. One private equity firm even described the lack of a secondary market as a reason to buy the stock!

In summary, customers experience a reasonable value proposition tempered by the lack of a secondary market. The secondary market has undoubtedly had its growth stunted because the absence of the market creates an opportunity for the imeshare companies.

Scott Miller, Founder of Greenhaven Road Capital, Latticework

3) The right to be free of any high-pressure sales techniques and verbal misrepresentations intended to circumvent the assessment period. For example, “Today Only” offers or the requirement of any form of advance payment to attend a timeshare presentation. Developers would be prohibited from collecting and withholding a credit card, driver’s license or other items before or during the timeshare presentation.

The verbal representation clause appears in many other contracts but widely reported to be abused and overused by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents.  Three against two tag-teams are skilled at holding attendees hostage. Is the gift worth this?

4) The right to record the entire sales presentation or to require the developer to record the entire sales presentation, including the closing of the sale, and to retain the recording for a period of 24 months with no waiver.

My biggest beef is timeshare companies that record the closing session, and then hold that recording against the member, but do not allow the member to record the sales session. Some states, like Nevada and Arizona, allow recording, but the consumer on vacation mode never thinks to do so. After all, they were told they were just required to hear about a new resort.

5) The right to full transparency during the sales presentation without any waiver of verbal representations during the closing of the sale. This right also prevents owners from being required to attend “update meetings” or similar meetings if a sales presentation is conducted during this meeting.

6) The right to full disclosure of the resort owners’ association financials, as well as disclosure of any and all HOA fees, including indirect resort costs imposed on owners which may increase maintenance fees and special assessments. This right also includes yearly owner roster notifications that disclose the number of weeks or points under developer control with the HOA, not excluding resale and rentals the HOA has control over.

7) The right to have the rescission period for a contract extended to one week after a person returns from their vacation to allow appropriate family and/or legal counsel review. The rescission date would be clearly noted in the contract based on input from the consumer on when they return home.

Unfortunately, even this extension doesn’t help when timeshare sales agents are skilled in dodging the rescission period as evidenced by Tuesday’s Inside Timeshare article in which the buyer was told to wait a few months until they had made a couple of months of loan payments before applying for an exit program. Many are told of maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist. They don’t discover they were lied to until they attempt to pay their maintenance fee invoice in December.  

https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-34/

8) The right to be free of sales calls from the timeshare developer before or after the sale and the right to be free of attempts by the timeshare developer to have a consumer re-activate a previously rescinded sales contract.

I think this provision is a stretch. Most companies, especially cell phone companies, have customer retention departments.

9) The right to full disclosure of the entire cost of timeshare ownership, including available interest rates, before a consumer signs a contract. This would include projected increases in maintenance fees based on the average maintenance fee increase for the past five years for an individual property.

I think the buyer has the total cost including interest as stated on the purchase agreement.

10) The right to have sales agents and timeshare companies subscribe to an industry code of ethics.

There is an industry code of ethics, but it is ignored, based on hundreds of complaints sent to ARDA ROC which they ignored. The board of ARDA consists of timeshare executives, so the complaining member is complaining to the chief wolf guarding the chicken coop. If the industry doesn’t respond to over 200 timeshare members reporting unfair and deceptive practices, what good is a code of ethics?

11) The right as a timeshare owner or vacation club member to have priority booking of reservations over the general public.

A good idea, but I think it would be hard to prove a member does not have priority.

12) The right to unilaterally terminate an unencumbered, non-deeded timeshare interest with written notice to the developer upon making the current “use year” maintenance fee payment.

To join the Coalition or share your story, go to ReformTimeshare.org. Inside Timeshare also welcomes member submissions. Speak up and speak out. Right now the only enforcement seems to be via the media and the media seems reluctant to take on the mega-money associated with the front end of the timeshare sale, so join our efforts to reach sympathetic lawmakers and members of the media not afraid of big money.    

Other member sponsored advocacy groups:

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/

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/

Thank you Irene, let us hope that this petition really does take off, the industry is in need of reform, either they do or the lawmakers have to step in and do it for them just like in Spain.

So that is all for this week in the murky world of timeshare, join us again on Monday with Part Four of our exclusive on the truth behind Silverpoint.

Friday’s Letter from America

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


From left: Anna, Cindy, Sheilah and Patty

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:

https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-11/

Diamond Sales Agent pencil pitch

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.

https://www.ademcetinkaya.com/2019/04/diamond-resorts-international-inc.html?fbclid=IwAR0N7Sc0Dld_LFlK8F2sv0-t4gIzAr-yd5HngEyWb6JLnVcW_OA0hfvSPPU

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.    


Grateful listeners

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:

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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/

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.


The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, today we welcome another new contribution from the Valdibieso Family, with their “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”. These features are becoming all too commonplace, so it does beg the question, When will the industry take note and change?

Our very own Irene Parker has reported that the Platinum Protestors, protesting out front of Diamond Resorts Cypress Pointe Resort in Orlando over the weekend, especially on Sunday, had a steady stream of horn honks, thumb’s up, and members who talked about their experiences, and many who asked questions about their concerns. On Friday, May 17, they protested outside the Florida Timeshare Division. One person who works inside the state facility, who asked not to be identified, suggested they protest every Friday. Unfortunately, since the protestors live in NY and AZ, it would be difficult to commute. All in all, it was a major success. A full report will be presented in Friday’s Letter From America.

Don’t Buy a Timeshare Without Checking Good and Bad Reviews

By the Valdibieso Family

May 21, 2019

Our nightmare began after we purchased a Sapphire Resort timeshare in Las Vegas in October 2017.  From the start, our timeshare experience has been one of anger and frustration.

We have joined efforts with Vanessa Hernandez who purchased a Sapphire timeshare the day of the Las Vegas mass murder. Her article is linked below. Vanessa was uncomfortable after signing her contract, so planned to review her contract that evening, but attended the concert that devastated her life. She could not even get out of bed for a long time due to the trauma. Even a horror like witnessing a mass murder did not move Starpoint Sapphire to cancel her contract, despite reported misrepresentations.  

I found 221 Starpoint Sapphire complaints on file with the Better Business Bureau, in addition to a host of complaints on other complaints sites. Starpoint has an A+ BBB rating. The BBB basically assigns a rating on how efficiently a company handles complaints. As you can see, Starpoint Sapphire is quick to respond that you signed a contract so you’re stuck.  

https://www.bbb.org/us/nv/las-vegas/profile/resort/starpoint-resort-group-inc-1086-66568/complaints#176983305

Vanessa and I have joined forces to get the word out to let others know the timeshare you buy is worthless if you need to sell it. Not only is it worthless, it is accompanied by rising maintenance fees. I know of no other product that holds the buyer hostage, making sure they stay vacationed or else.

This is the link to our Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

Join our consumer protection efforts. If you bought a timeshare and are happy with it, we understand. Not all sales agents are deceptive. We intend, like so many other timeshare buyers who feel they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, to build our Facebook group and start a RedWeek and Timeshare Users Group thread.

Until the timeshare industry wakes up to the fact that they are financially destroying family after family by allowing unfair and deceptive sales practices, and restricting the secondary market to the extent you can’t dispose of it, consumers will be harmed. Publicly traded timeshare companies even warn their stock investors that a secondary market is a risk to THEM. What about us?

Our Timeshare Nightmare

Our Sapphire sales presentation dragged on for hours. To seal the deal they offered us a free trip to Hawaii or Cancun but said we had to sign quickly because they were only giving one free trip to our group.

After we signed a contract, something didn’t feel right. We decided to cancel the contract. When we talked to them about cancelling, we asked how the timeshare could be transferred to someone else and – boom! That’s when we found out about maintenance fees and all the fees that would be needed if we wanted to sell the timeshare. They also informed us that if we could not sell it, we did not have the right to cancel. None of this was mentioned in the presentation. A company representative suggested we put it on Craigslist and hung up. We have tried to contact Sapphire, to no avail. They could care less about misrepresentations.

We were told we would be allotted 5,000 points annually that would allow us to go anywhere. This was not the case. The Sapphire points are not good everywhere. They can only be used at certain places and then only thru RCI. This was crazy because I did not even sign up for RCI. When we attempted to reserve a stay, we were informed that our points would expire on July 10, 2018. We could roll them over, but we could only roll them over one time. The points eventually expired.

All the locations listed in a book that was given to us required over 5000 points. We were also informed we could purchase trips for only $269. That was not the case, because again, we could only book through RCI and they have different rules. This had not been explained.

The free trip to Hawaii turned out not to be free. The sales agent failed to mention all the fees that we would have to pay, or that we would have to fly out from a specific airport, one we did not have easy access to. We would have to pay for plane tickets to the required airport and back. The free trip to Hawaii was what eventually sold us. If we knew about the costs associated with the “free” trip, we would not have signed the contract.

We have never used our timeshare.

This has literally been one of the worst experiences we have ever had in terms of deception and aggressive sales tactics that seem geared to wear you down. They brainwashed us and have caused our marriage to fall apart due to the stress of this purchase.

Only false promises accompanied our purchase.

Excerpt from Vanessa’s Starpoint Sapphire Resort article

October 30, 2018

To be honest, I don’t remember as much as I’d like about the purchase of our Starpoint timeshare October 1 of last year. That night Rogelio and I went to the concert that flipped Vegas upside down. We hid and ran for our lives, hoping to make it out alive. Thankfully we did. We cut our trip short, so I didn’t look over the paperwork as I told myself I would. I couldn’t get out of bed or eat for a month.

I remember feeling pressured and pushed into buying the timeshare, which was why I told myself I needed to look over the paperwork as soon as I got home. The reasons I felt uncomfortable with my decision:

  • They said the timeshare was prime real estate,
  • I was not aware the credit check was being run,
  • They told me to wait 30 days before booking,
  • They promised a free trip (which never materialized).

If you would like to join Mari and Vanessa’s Advocacy Facebook, contact Inside Timeshare and we will put you in touch with two more timeshare regret consumers dedicated to warning the public about the negatives of timeshare, to counterbalance timeshare developers and lobbyists insisting few regret their purchase.

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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/

New: https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/

https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

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

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

That’s all for today, thank you to our latest contributors for their story, if you have a story that you would like to share, whether it be a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” or a positive experience (which we would love to hear about just to make a change), use our contact page and get in touch.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of our Letter from America, this week we ask for your support to the protests planned for May 17th to 19th, this is another in a series of protest that disgruntled timeshare owners have staged. The protest centres on “Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices”, this is a subject of many of the complaints received and also of the many “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” articles we have published.

Following on from our Tuesday Slot and the lawsuit between Diamond & Aaronson here is an editorial by Timeshare Insider.

Irene Parker is not under the jurisdiction of the court over the lawsuit Diamond Resorts filed against attorney Austin Aaronson, so she is not obligated to keep terms of the settlement of Diamond Resorts v Austin Aaronson confidential, as requested by Diamond’s outside legal counsel, attorney Richard Epstein of Greenspoon Marder. However, Irene wishes to respect the wishes of Judge Dalton.

Suffice to say this is what Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey reported to the media:

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/diamond-resorts-pleased-to-announce-settlement-with-timeshare-exit-attorney-in-efforts-to-protect-customers-300846745.html

This is what eye-witness Irene Parker reported:

You decide

Inside Timeshare received Diamond Platinum member complaint #82 yesterday, yet another Diamond Platinum member alleging they were up-sold into insolvency, promising maintenance fee relief programs, or programs that would allow the ability to sell points, programs that do not exist.

Hence, Diamond Platinum Member 82 Protest in Orlando next Friday, May 17 to 19. You don’t have to be Platinum to join.

Save the Date! Our next Platinum 80 Protest is in Orlando

May 17 – 19 Two Locations:

Location 1: Friday May 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Florida Timeshare Share Division DBPR Office

400 West Robinson Street, Orlando

Location 2: Saturday Sunday May 18 and 19 – 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Near Disney World

535 S Apopka Vineland Road and Palm Parkway, Orlando

You don’t need to be Platinum to Join Us!

Protesting Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices

By Platinum Protest Organizers

Friday May 10, 2019

When we protested in March in Las Vegas, we protested on behalf of 70 Diamond Resorts Platinum members alleging that they had been intentionally targeted for their loyalty and deliberately up-sold into insolvency. Since then we have grown to 81 Platinum members, many similar if not identical complaints. We believed in programs to pay maintenance fees that do not exist. Others say they were told if they purchased additional points, they would be able to sell points.  

By their own admission, Florida’s Attorney General’s Office and the timeshare division, Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) will take no action unless a member can produce proof. Given Florida demands proof, Florida should change from a two-party state to a one-party state, meaning make it legal to record a timeshare sales presentation without the other person aware. Otherwise, how can there ever be proof? They don’t even let you take what sales agents scribble on paper.

There are many things that cannot be determined by reading a timeshare contract.  One member reported that he was shown at a Virginia sales centre a “Special Sales Double Platinum” booking site, but if he had given up his deed he would no longer be able to book the weeks he had owned for years at the Silver loyalty level. He would not have found this out until after the rescission period, as members report not being allowed onto the booking site until after this period to cancel has passed.

His online Diamond account is a “Special Sales Double Platinum Account” (a descriptive term as there is no such thing as a Double Platinum loyalty level). It shows everything in the system and probably quite a bit more, but did not display what we would have access to using the proposed 15,000 points (for two weeks).     

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. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”  

Diamond points sell for around $4 a point. Platinum members own a minimum of 50,000 points. By 2018 maintenance fees had increased to $8,631. Out of 81 Platinum complaints, 42 members report that they were told of maintenance fees relief programs that they later learned did not exist and 16 specifically report that they were told they could pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point.

Only Platinum loyalty level members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point. If a member turned in 50,000 points, redeemed at $.04 per point, it would mean they would be credited $2,000 towards a maintenance fee bill of $8,631 with no points left to travel. Members report that when they complain about being told they can turn in points to pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point, Diamond responds describing a legitimate 30/30 program that offers travel discounts. This program has nothing to do with paying maintenance fees at $.30 per point.

Platinum 81 Complaint Statistics:   

Seniors:  54 out of 81 member complaints are seniors, 65%

21 out of 81 are Veterans, Active Duty Service Members, Law Enforcement, 20%

Other Reports of Unfair and Deceptive Practices

  1. If you buy the additional points, you will be able to sell your points. Contact me when you want to sell points. When the member contacts the agent, the email or call goes to the VP who responds that there is no program to sell points.
  2. If you purchase these additional points, you will be part of the Legacy program and your heirs will not be liable for the points.    

We want consumers to Beware and Be Aware. Similar complaints have been directed against other timeshare developers and sales agents as well. Understand:

  • You may be browbeaten for hours by a tag team of three against two,
  • You can record in some states like Arizona and Nevada,
  • Most contracts are perpetual, and,
  • There is no secondary market.
  • Points may list a retail price of $9, but this does not mean points are worth $9. It has been widely reported timeshare points are worth nothing.
  • You don’t have to give up a deeded timeshare for any reason,
  • If you insist on 24 hours to review documents, you can still buy tomorrow.

Diamond members involved in the 2017 Arizona Attorney General’s investigation report that the Arizona AG’s office received over 900 complaints accusing Diamond of violating Arizona’s Consumer Protection laws. Diamond settled for $800,000 and was issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, essentially keeping Diamond under state supervision for six years.

We all actually liked Diamond Resorts and enjoyed using our points. We had built up trust over the years adding to our points. We feel 81 of a company’s highly loyal members, reporting similar to identical complaints, is proof. The fact that Diamond has dismissed us all as misunderstanding is telling. Bear in mind that we are only banding together as Platinum members. There are many similar to identical complaints reported by Silver, Gold, and lower level Valued members.

T-Shirts will be on Sale for $25 to help defray signage expenses.

Thank you Charles Thomas for being our Voice!

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/

If you are able to join them or are in the area, please go along and give them your support, for those of us unable to attend, we will be with you in Spirit. We also look forward to publishing your report on the protest.

That’s it for another week, the weekend is upon us and it is time to relax, have a great weekend and join us again next week.


The Tuesday Slot: Diamond v Aaronson Trial

Welcome to another edition of The Tuesday Slot, today Irene Parker reports on days 2 and 3 of the Diamond v Aaronson Law Firm trial, which ended 3 days earlier than expected with a settlement.

Yesterday Inside Timeshare published the article about the Modern Honolulu Hotel and the redundancy of workers, this has already prompted many comments from our readers. The one factor they all share is their disgust at the lack of compassion and sheer greed of Diamond Resorts. Well, this is a fact we are all too well aware of at Inside Timeshare, as our “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories have shown.

So now for Irene’s report on the trial that has kept our readers in suspense.

Diamond Resorts v Aaronson Law Firm Trial

Lawsuit Resolved by Settlement

Anatomy of a Timeshare Trial:  A Summary

By Irene Parker

May 7, 2019

Day 1: https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-48/

The lawsuit Diamond Resorts filed against Austin Aaronson resolved by settlement Thursday, May 2nd on day three of what had been anticipated to be a six-day trial.

The crux of the lawsuit seemed to focus on a man in a grey suit that appeared in a video on Austin Aaronson’s website alleging that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees. Diamond Resorts owns 10 to 15% of outstanding points. Currently, there are over a billion points outstanding. Members own approximately 85% of the outstanding points. Mr Charles Meltz, attorney for Mr Aaronson, presented the following figures:  

Member assessments budgeted: $141 million

Actual member assessments paid: $146 million

Developer assessments budgeted: $8.6 million

Actual developer assessments paid: $4.8 million

Plaintiff’s witnesses included Steven Wolf who testified that he conducted a forensic examination of 120 Diamond members who had stopped paying loans and maintenance fees. Diamond sells timeshare points as Collections. Diamond’s US Collection, Hawaii Collection and Diamond Resorts International Points were examined, in addition to an examination of maintenance fees and Club Fees that had not been collected.

Each group was broken down into three periods of time:

  • Period A consisted of the period of time from when a Diamond member had retained Austin Aaronson, going forward to July 31, 2018
  • Period B 30 days prior to retaining Mr Aaronson, and
  • Period C, the period of time beyond 30 days, prior to retaining Mr Aaronson.

For example, concerning the US Collection:

Period C beyond 30 days: $242,365,904 in uncollected funds

Period B 30 days prior to retaining Mr Aaronson: $295,455 in uncollected funds

Period A from the time Mr Aaronson was retained: $2,365,904

Total for the four groups in uncollected funds: $4,578,838

Judge Dalton asked if this amount had been reduced to summary judgment. It had not. He ruled that this amount was speculative.

Plaintiff’s witness Steven Wolf is with Capstone Advisory Group, LLC

http://www.mondaq.com/p/873000/Steven+Wolf/Capstone+Advisory+Group%2C+LLC

Mr Wolf’s firm was paid $250,000 for the forensic analysis and $475 per hour to observe the trial from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 30 and May 1 through his testimony that continued through Thursday morning May 2.

Three former Diamond members testified as witnesses for the Plaintiff.

Witness 1 testified that buying additional points did not improve availability. He had purchased a total of 26,500 points. Diamond had sued witness 1 for $170,000, which included arbitration fees. The judgement against witness 1 was wiped clean in exchange for his testimony. Witness 1 confirmed that he was aware of Mr Aaronson’s website that stated the firm had leverage over Diamond resorts due to misappropriated maintenance fees and a breach of fiduciary duty.

Witness 2 testified on behalf of his mother about his contacting Aaronson Law Firm and that he was told Aaronson Law Firm had leverage over Diamond because Diamond was not handling maintenance fees correctly.

Witness 3 was role played, reading a prior deposition. The wife had testified at an earlier deposition. Her husband was retired Army, 100% disabled, exposed to Agent Orange. He suffers from PTSD. She testified that they went to a Branson sales centre and purchased 3,000 points for $16,030.  They wanted to learn how to use the system but were told to come back within 90 days for an orientation. They attended an orientation in November 2015. At the orientation, they were told by Branson sales agent Kimberly that they had not purchased enough points. They ended up buying 27,000 additional points for $72,850 which they could not afford.

This brings to five, the number of Agent Orange disabled veterans harmed by their decision to purchase Diamond points:

  1. 70% Disabled Agent Orange exposed Army Veteran George Yamada who reported he purchased Diamond points as an investment. George is a pension administrator. https://www.opednews.com/articles/Let-s-Honor-our-Veterans–by-Irene-Parker-Fraud-180908-59.html
  2. A 100% disabled veteran, up-sold by a Diamond sales agent Inside Timeshare has received 21 complaints against. This veteran was issued a $170,000 1099 C after his loan was terminated. We pointed him in the right direction so his CPA could resolve the 1099.
  3. Leo Gomez was told he must switch from Premier Vacation Club to US Collection because his resort went bankrupt. Leo only had 30 days left to live when he contacted me, suffering from pancreatic cancer. He did not call to complain. He wanted to know what he could do about the loan. It was not true Leo needed to switch from PVC to US Collection. I own the same points. Leo was 100% Agent Orange disabled. His last words to me were, “I want my story told.” Leo earned two Purple Hearts. https://www.opednews.com/articles/A-Fourth-Agent-Orange-Vete-by-Irene-Parker-Fraud-180917-513.html
  4. A 100% disabled Agent Orange veteran earned a Purple Heart because he had been shot in Vietnam. His dispute has been resolved.

These veterans put their life on the line to protect me. I will do all I can to do my part to reform timeshare because of the 806 families who have contacted Inside Timeshare, 103 veterans and active duty service members. Five Agent Orange veterans so stressed because they purchased too many timeshare points are five Agent Orange disabled veterans too many.

Attorney Charles Meltz asked about the likelihood of someone age 88 meeting the obligations of a ten-year loan.

Diamond’s attorney Richard Epstein of Greenspoon Marder responded,

“Are old people allowed to take vacations?”

This comment follows recent publications describing how the Lusk family, nearly 90, were sold $150,000 worth of timeshare points, as reported by USA Today and Diane Burkhardt’s father sold $250,000 worth of Diamond points between the ages of 86 to 88, after Diamond refused to take back the timeshare that her father had purchased and paid for free and clear at age 85, reported by Consumer Affairs.

Inside Timeshare has heard from way too many seniors who purchased a timeshare from several developers. These seniors are stressed beyond words. Most have maintained a high credit score their entire life, now bracing for timeshare foreclosure. They signed off on high-interest rate loans and sometimes higher interest rate credit cards.

Seniors don’t need this.    

Lawsuit details:

Diamond Resorts International Inc, Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, Hawaii Collection Development LLC, and Diamond Resorts Management Inc, filed a lawsuit against Austin N. Aaronson and Aaronson, Austin, PA.

Case No. 6:17-1394-ORL-37-DCI

Attorneys Richard W. Epstein, Jeffrey A. Backman, and Olga M Vieira of Greenspoon Marder LLP are plaintiffs’ attorneys. Mr Aaronson is represented by Charles J. Meltz of Grower Ketcham, Eide, Telan & Meltz, P.A.

As reported by ABA Journal January 30, 2018:

Diamond Resorts had claimed Aaronson and his law firm solicited timeshare members in an advertising campaign that weaves a false narrative, causing timeshare members to stop contract payments and subjecting Diamond Resorts to baseless arbitration proceedings.

Aaronson had claimed his firm’s advertising was not false or misleading because it constituted opinion or puffery.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judges_refuse_to_toss_suits_claiming_law_firms_interfered_with_timeshare_co

Mr Meltz, attorney for Aaronson, reported how Diamond maintenance fees had more than doubled from 2007 to 2015 from $.07 per point to $.145 per point and that there is no secondary market for Diamond points.

After Thursday’s lunch break, Judge Dalton would not allow Diamond’s next witness to testify. After a consultation, attorney Richard Epstein announced that they had reached a settlement. He then asked Judge Dalton to instruct me not to report details of the settlement. Judge Dalton kindly said to me that I could report that the lawsuit was resolved by settlement.

Two additional Plaintiff witnesses had testified. The first was Kathleen Wheeler, who serves on several Diamond Resort Boards. She is one of four asset managers. The second was Lisa Levere, VP of Operations and Financial Services. Both testified as to the audited care and attention taken to ensure maintenance fees are not misappropriated. Due to the settlement reached, the defence did not have an opportunity to call any of their witnesses to support their allegations that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees. I was looking forward to hearing how witnesses called by the defence were to support their claims.

I was employed by CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in foster care. For three years I wrote court reports and edited our volunteers’ CASA reports. I attended all hearings and trials. I miss Family Court, so I have to admit I am a courthouse buff. Following are the trials remaining for the rest of 2019:

Westgate v. Mitchell Sussman, Esq. – 6:17-cv-1467 (MD FL)

July 1, 2019 trial before Judge Dalton (cross-MSJ’s pending)

OL v. RHA 17-cv-1542-Orl-31DCI (MD FL)

August 5, 2019 trial before Judge Presnell (cross-MSJ’s pending)

Wyn v. Totten Franqui Law Firm 9:18-cv-81055 (SD FL)

September 10, 2019 trial before Judge Middlebrooks

I will be there

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://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, Inside Timeshare and our readers really appreciate you giving up your valuable time to attend the hearing and covering this story. One thing is certain, Inside Timeshare will continue to report on Diamond Resorts and any other timeshare company, we do this in the interest of our readers and all consumers. We make no apology about it and do not really care if it upsets the industry!

If you have any comments on this or any article published, please use our contact page, we welcome and value them.

Have you had a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” if so, we would love to hear from you. If you would like your story to be shared with our readers lets us know and we will be happy to publish.

Start the Week: Hotel Employees to be Laid off in Hawaii

Welcome to the start of another week in the world of timeshare, unfortunately, we begin with bad news. It has been reported that around 78 employees have been given notice at the Modern Honolulu Hotel, a Diamond Resorts owned property.

Modern Honolulu

The Modern Honolulu is a full-service hotel, purchased by Diamond Resorts in April 2018, it is also one of the 21 hotels and timeshares in the network of Diamond Resorts managed or affiliated properties internationally.

Diamond has expressed an interest in either partially or fully converting the hotel into timeshare use. They have also planned on reducing guest services such as daily room service, banquets, meetings and catering. It has also been reported they have not yet received any timeshare registration approval from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs or any of the relevant permits required to build or renovate hotel rooms for timeshare use.

The layoffs will account for around 30% of the workforce, it will impact many departments such as housekeeping, banquets, pool, in-room dining, reservations and of course the bar, restaurant and kitchens. These workers are being represented by the trade union UNITE HERE Local 5.

According to Gemma Weinstein, President of Unite Here Local 5, “Timeshares have shown over and over again that they hurt Hawaii more than they help. They pay less than hotels, the work is harder, and they provide less jobs. They negatively affect the guests’ experience in Hawaii by charging exorbitant maintenance fees while cutting guest services. Companies like Diamond Resorts are bad for Hawaii.” She also pointed out that this is going to destroy the lives of 78 families.

One worker a housekeeper at the Modern Honolulu expressed her fears that this was going to hurt her family, she holds down three jobs to support them, but the job at the Modern is the only one that provides family medical coverage.

It is also noted that this decision comes very close after Diamond Resorts CEO Mike Flaskey informed Fox News that “his company is benefiting from the Trump administration’s tax cuts and deregulation.” It was also reported that Diamond Resorts in March “failed to issue paychecks to workers on time, resulting in workers incurring fees and penalties.”

Readers of Inside Timeshare are very familiar with the stories of the sales tactics of Diamond Resorts, with the incessant preying on the elderly and the many disabled service veterans we have highlighted. This is just another in the sorry tale of a company that seems to have no morals, just an insatiable appetite for money.

We will keep you updated as and when more information comes in, follow the links below for more on this story.

https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2019/05/03/dozens-employees-be-laid-off-waikiki-hotel-converts-timeshare/?fbclid=IwAR1pEMhF0qwr2FAe81n5c5xCUr-f_az49719GUkbvC0Q3F4FWzePHHVwTmY

Tomorrow we continue with the Diamond v Aaronson trial where Irene Parker reports on days 2 and 3 and the early ending of the trial. So join us again tomorrow.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Letter from America, this week Inside Timeshares Irene Parker reports on day 1 of the trial she attending in Orlando, Florida. This is a case between Diamond Resorts and Aaronson Law Firm, this is yet another law firm being taken to court by the timeshare industry.

So unlike our usual Friday editions, we will forego news from Europe and go straight to Irene’s report.

Diamond Resorts v Aaronson Law Firm Trial

Day 1 of 6: Jury Selection and Opening Arguments

Anatomy of a Timeshare Trial

By Irene Parker

May 3, 2019

Having recently experienced Part I of a deposition that lasted six hours against another law firm that provides timeshare exit assistance, I was motivated to attend a six-day timeshare trial in Orlando District Court that began Tuesday, April 30. The cost of a deposition or a six-day trial is staggering. Ultimately, the timeshare member pays. It’s too bad we can’t just sit down and talk to each other, but I guess attorneys have to make a living.

Diamond Resorts International Inc., Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, Hawaii Collection Development LLC, and Diamond Resorts Management Inc, filed a lawsuit against Austin N. Aaronson and Aaronson, Austin, PA.

Case No. 6:17-1394-ORL-37-DCI

Attorneys Richard W. Epstein, Jeffrey A. Backman, and Olga M Vieira of Greenspoon Marder LLP are plaintiffs’ attorneys. Mr Aaronson is represented by Charles J. Meltz of Grower Ketcham, Eide, Telan & Meltz, P.A.

As reported by ABA Journal January 30, 2018:

The Florida suit was filed against Orlando lawyer Austin Aaronson and his firm Aaronson, Austin. In a Jan. 26 ruling, U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton Jr. of Orlando tossed RICO and malicious prosecution claims by Diamond Resorts but allowed claims for false advertising under the Lanham Act, tortious interference with contract, trade libel and deceptive trade practices.

Diamond Resorts had claimed Aaronson and his law firm solicited timeshare members in an advertising campaign that weaves a false narrative, causing timeshare members to stop contract payments and subjecting Diamond Resorts to baseless arbitration proceedings.

Aaronson had claimed his firm’s advertising was not false or misleading because it constituted opinion or puffery.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judges_refuse_to_toss_suits_claiming_law_firms_interfered_with_timeshare_co

Opening day started with jury selection. Six of the eighteen potential jurors reported a negative timeshare experience:

  1. Lots of pressure from a timeshare presentation in the 80s,
  2. Purchased Marriott 30 years ago, lots of pressure,
  3. Westgate was difficult to exchange and was unsellable. An attorney was contacted. The attorney said Westgate is not sellable. Timeshare is a waste of money.
  4. Negative experience,
  5. Agents are pushy and don’t give up,
  6. An engineer said he had a negative bias.

Judge Dalton explained that Plaintiffs are required to convince the jury that Austin Aaronson is guilty by a preponderance of evidence. Criminal trials require a stricter standard – beyond a reasonable doubt.

The four claims against Austin Aaronson are:

  1. False advertising that harmed the reputation of Diamond Resorts and caused damages,
  2. Tortious interference,
  3. Intentionally publishing disparaging information on a website,
  4. Deceptive and unfair practices.

There are a total of 134 joint exhibits.

Mr Epstein, attorney for Diamond Resorts stated that there are few complaints against Diamond Resorts. He alleged Aaronson accused Diamond of wholesale unsavoury conduct.

Mr Meltz, attorney for Aaronson, reported how maintenance fees had more than doubled from 2007 to 2015 from $.07 per point to $.145 per point and that there is no secondary market for Diamond points. He explained how Diamond Resorts controlled Board of Directors hires Diamond Resorts managers to manage Diamond properties. As to the claim that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees, both sides will bring in accounting expert witnesses to prove or disprove how maintenance fees were misappropriated.

In a lighthearted moment, Judge Dalton asked one of the Plaintiff attorneys if she was chewing gum. She was. She was asked to leave the courtroom to dispose of her gum.

Judge Dalton instructed the jury not to read newspapers, Facebook posts or blogs about the case. He said in the old day’s reporters attended the trials, but these days they just talk to those who attended as they exit the courtroom. He said he was amazed that when he reads an article about one of his trials, how little of what was reported actually happened in the courtroom. I was proud that Inside Timeshare will be in attendance for the duration of the trial taking copious notes.

Inside Timeshare and our readers just want the timeshare industry to admit that unfair and deceptive sales practices exist on the front end of the sale. I have always said half a problem goes away when confronted, but I doubt this will happen.

I have contacted four timeshare exit providers. Two of the larger firms report receiving 3,000 calls a month from members desperately seeking release from a timeshare contract. These firms only accept 100 to 150 cases as they require a strong case of unfair and deceptive practices. This stay vacationed or else strategy has created a timeshare exit industry timeshare developers want to crush, but Social Media is not going to put this Pandora back in her box. The lack of a secondary market is financially devastating family after family.

Greenspoon Marder contends all is well because Diamond Resorts has 460,000 timeshare members with few complaints. I feel 6,000 families reaching out to just two timeshare exit providers monthly is a real problem. There is no other product that has spawned an entire industry devoted to responding to customers with nowhere to turn, desperately seeking release from unused and unwanted timeshares. Many report they learned they were duped just days or minutes past the rescission period.

In Florida, timeshare division reviewers received 1,600 complaints in 2017 and 1,600 complaints in 2018, mostly about the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors. The AG engaged 42, mostly about timeshare resales. That means 1,600 families annually feel they were duped by a timeshare, there is no secondary market, maintenance fees doubled in seven years for at least one timeshare company, and this is not a problem.

Yes, it is.   

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://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/

Than you Irene, we look forward to further reports on this trial and I’m sure that all Inside Timeshare readers are hoping that the outcome will be in Favour of Aaronson. One thing is certain, Diamond does not like criticism, but Inside Timeshare will continue to publish the “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories of our readers, be they Diamond or any other timeshare company.

In Spain, Diamond has lost in the courts for selling illegal contracts, along with other timeshare companies, many of them are the big players in Europe. Spanish timeshare law is based on the European Timeshare Directives but has been strengthened to protect consumers of unfair, misleading, predatory sales tactics and illegal contracts. It leads the way in Europe and we may see other countries following suit.

If you have any comments on this or any article or have a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” story of your own, then use our contact page and get in touch we look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.  


Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, but before we start the article, a quick update on A K Advisory Limited. As we have reported this is just one company contacting Eze Group clients, saying they can get their money back for a £725 upfront fee, one of our readers has informed us of the “ESCROW” account and the name of the recipient that it should be paid into, these are the details.

The BACS  account is a Lloyds TSB account, Number 37871668, Sort Code 77-13-11, Name of account holder Mr Connor Baker.

This company along with all the others is a fraud, do not pay them anything, you will not get your money back.

Now for todays Letter from America.

It is unlikely Arizona Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, quoted below, will bother to read the reports from some of the 80 Platinum members who have been financially devastated because they believed in timeshare programs they say did not exist. Today’s Inside Timeshare describes some of the members financially devastated. We hope timeshare members will recognize how ARDA ROC lobbyists spent some of members’ $5 million in annual $3 to $10 opt-out “donations” and recognize that this organization is not the voice of 1.8 million timeshare members. The comments below from lobbyists and pro-industry lawmakers are appalling.

At least the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Howard Fischer, a journalist for the Daily Courier, understand. What chance does the consumer have if ARDA and the developers will not even heed the advice of an Attorney General. As we have previously explained, there are many ways to dodge a rescission period. Tuesday’s Secret Shopper explained how easy it is to bait and switch the unsuspecting. Just how out of touch can those in authority be. Imagine how you would react if you learned minutes after the rescission period that you experienced fraud, reading,

“the timeshare industry’s top lobbyist told ConsumerAffairs in January, admitting that points have no resale value while claiming that consumers don’t mind this because the value comes from the experience.

From The Daily Courier

Lobbied by the industry, state lawmakers are not going to help those who bought timeshares get out from under what is often a lifetime obligation.

https://www.dcourier.com/news/2019/apr/16/opt-out-provisions-timeshare-bill-no-longer-table/?fbclid=IwAR2cs4PdvFFqQVlvUd_I5-DxOSOUl5U59w_KVEYs1jchViitMMLYzz6PRx0

“We’re disappointed that the timeshare industry killed a lot of the pro-consumer parts of this bill,” said Katie Connor, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office.

“They’ve got a lobbying presence here and around the country,” added Amanda Rusing who lobbies for the office. “It was very disappointing to have to remove all of the stronger, pro-consumer provisions.”

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said the legislation, which now awaits a roll-call vote, does include some additional requirements for what needs to be disclosed to prospective buyers.

“At some point, these are adults that come to a meeting of the minds and want to sign a contract,” Ugenti-Rita said, saying that buyers have some responsibility to know exactly what they are signing.

While the industry claims that “points” are no different than a deed, simply with more flexibility, consumers have noted that points appear to have no intrinsic value because they can’t be resold, making memberships that were purchased for hundreds of thousands of dollars essentially worthless on the resale market.

“Their value comes from using it,” the timeshare industry’s top lobbyist told ConsumerAffairs in January, admitting that points have no resale value while claiming that consumers don’t mind this because the value comes from the experience.

According to ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson:

But the bottom line said (ARDA lobbyist) Isaacson, is that the state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal.

“You read the documents,” said Isaacson. “And unless there is fraud, you are bound to that particular purchase.”

Anyway, Isaacson argued that too much is being made of the issue.

Timeshare Insider

Save the Date! Our next Platinum 80 Protest is May 17 – 20

Two Locations:

Friday, May 17 near the Florida DBPR Office

Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19 near Disney World

You don’t need to be Platinum to Join Us!

Protesting Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices

By Platinum Protest Organizers

Friday, April 19, 2019

When we protested in March in Las Vegas, where we represented 70 Diamond Resorts Platinum members alleging that we had been intentionally targeted for our loyalty and deliberately up-sold into insolvency. Since then we have grown to 80 Platinum members, many similar if not identical complaints. We believed in programs to pay maintenance fees that do not exist. Others say they were told if they purchased additional points, they would be able to sell points. According to Diamond, we are all confused. We are all educated professionals.

As reported at a legislative workshop in Tallahassee, Florida 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. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”  

Based on these numbers, a sales agent can say anything to sell points. At least let the consumer know they should not believe a word a sales agent says. Reading the contract doesn’t always help. Members are often not allowed onto a booking site until after the rescission period has passed.   

The status of 80 Platinum member complaints:

  • 26 Resolved their Diamond dispute so won’t be protesting. Resolved doesn’t mean people didn’t lose a lot of money,
  • 21 Unresolved,
  • 9 Foreclosed with one senior Navy veteran filing for bankruptcy,
  • 18 Unknown outcome because we don’t call to find out what happened,
  • 4 Relinquished which meant they lost everything.
  • 2 In litigation.

Diamond points sell for around $4 a point. Platinum members own a minimum of 50,000 points. In 2018 maintenance fees had increased to $8,631. Out of the 80 Platinum complaints, 42 members report that they were told of maintenance fees relief programs that they later learned did not exist and 16 specifically say they were told they could pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point.

Only Platinum loyalty members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per points so if a member turned in 50,000 points, redeemed at $.04 per point, it would mean they would be credited $2,000 towards a maintenance fee bill of $8,631 with no points left to travel. Members report that when they file a complaint, the hospitality agent responds describing a legitimate 30/30 program that offers travel discounts. This program has nothing to do with paying maintenance fees at $.30 per point.  

Inside Timeshare told us they do not link prior articles if the complaint has been resolved, but given Platinum complaints are increasing, they said they would allow us to link articles published by 14 of the 80 Platinum members even though some have resolved. They resolved, but not without endless rebuttals and regulatory filings. When you read our 130-page summary report – reports from educated professions who don’t know each other, all reporting similar to identical complaints, it’s unlikely a reader would conclude all our reports are falsehoods.  

We have added the Lusk family to our list of 81, even though they did not submit their complaint through Inside Timeshare. Their experience was published in USA Today. As reported by Rebekah L Sander for the Arizona Republic, Frank and Betty Lusk are retired Christian missionaries, nearly 90 years old. Annual maintenance fees are $19,000.

He told the Lusks buying another $150,000 timeshare with 10 per cent down was “life insurance” that would resolve any debts they had with the resort when they died, a promise they repeatedly questioned, Betty said. The timeshare contract they received is not life insurance and does not pay off debts upon death.

https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/3310015002

Following are 14 articles submitted by our Platinum 80 members:

Article 1 published April 12, 2019 Platinum member #80

The timeshare member is single, over 70 years old. From 2015 to 2018 the member was ping-ponged back and forth seven timeshare times told, “You should not have bought Hawaii points,” and then “You should not have bought US Mainland points,” until up-sold into insolvency. The member has lost their entire retirement savings that were worth almost $400,000. The member also suffered tax consequences due to liquidating a retirement asset.

Since we published the article, the family learned she was only switched back and forth five times over six transactions. These histories can be a nightmare to piece together, worse than your worst tax return.

Article 2 was published by Consumer Affairs March 29, 2019 Platinum #57/80

The FBI website is tricky. One of our three FBI helpers helped Diane through the intricacies of the FBI filing website IC3.gov. It starts off confusing asking if you want to report Terrorism, Missing child or Internet Crime.

Diane’s father had asked Diamond to take back a fully paid timeshare when he was 85 years old. They said no. He was sold five additional contracts between the ages of 85 to 88.

Diamond Resorts still can’t explain why it sold $250,000 worth of timeshare points to an 88-year-old

In late December, Diane Burkhart sent a complaint to the FBI describing how her 88-year-old father agreed to purchase $250,000 worth of timeshare points over the course of 18 months, from 2016 until late 2017. In 2018, he was diagnosed with dementia. He is now 89 and living in a nursing home, Burkhart says. His wife passed away last May.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/diamond-resorts-still-cant-explain-why-it-sold-250000-worth-of-timeshare-points-to-an-88-year-old-032919.html

Article 3 is by Platinum Protestor Patty Boyak Valentine’s Day 2019 #28/80

Patty’s Las Vegas sales agent was recorded defrauding a disabled veteran in 2017. That family was interviewed January 2018, at which time they provided to Inside Timeshare a copy of the highly disturbing recording. An interview Inside Timeshare conducted with the couple was sent to Diamond’s attorney. The dispute was swiftly resolved, but instead of firing this agent, Patty met him October 2018. He introduced himself as a Platinum Specialist. Patty purchased her last contract from him. Just recently Inside Timeshare has heard from a third member sold by the same agent, the husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and English is his wife’s second language. The family is financially devastated.

The very first complaint Inside Timeshare received in 2016 was about being told buying additional points would relive maintenance fees.  

At their last stay at a Diamond Resorts International resort in August 2015, Sylvia Saldana said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase another 10,000 points in order to achieve platinum level, which is 50,000 points (Remember they owned 30,000 points). The sales agent explained 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, Sylvia Saldana said.  https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-on-thursday/

Patty’s Miracle Mile Protest in March article (pictured above)

Article 4 was submitted by a 100% disabled Army veteran. He was issued a 1099C for $170,000. His is one of now 21 complaints directed against the same sales agent. At least following the advice we provided to his CPA, he successfully disputed the phantom income.

This former Diamond member says DRI sales agent Rick Casper, working out of Polo Towers in Las Vegas, told him to buy more Diamond vacation points to eliminate maintenance fees. He and his wife wanted to talk to someone at DRI because they were struggling to pay maintenance fees on the 50,000 DRI points they already owned. This member is a 100% disabled Vietnam veteran, having been exposed to Agent Orange. The former member did not contact us to complain about Diamond Resorts. He wanted to know if there was anything that could be done about 1099. I did ask why he purchased additional timeshare points from Rick Casper, given Inside Timeshare has received 11 identical complaints about the same Las Vegas sales agent over an 18 month period.   

In 2016 we went to Las Vegas and stayed at Diamond’s Cancun resort and met with Rick Casper. Mr Casper said if we upgraded, we would be able to cover maintenance fees. However, maintenance fees increased after the upgrade to $16,000 a year. After five hours, my blood sugar was at 400. I was recovering from congestive heart failure. Rick Casper said it would cost us $198,000, $2500 a month in payments for the next 10 years but after ten years we would have no maintenance fees and no loan payment. Rick Casper said, “Then the little people will be paying for your vacation.” He said it would take a year to a year and a half to set up but he would personally handle it. He said since we were only paying $3, he had a guy that could sell points for much more than that and the proceeds would pay for the maintenance fees. I ended up paying a company in Branson MO $1500 to get out of this, but now the IRS has issued us a 1099 which has to be claimed as income. It’s for around $170,000. I’m now 71 years old. I would have been better off foreclosing.

Article 5 is by Gad Liebmann and his wife Noreen. They have been protesting outside Daytona for a year. They have had to stop protesting because Noreen was injured in a fall. They are both Army veterans and have many foster children.


From left, Noreen, Irene, a good Samaritan holding sign for Gad and Don

One of the Diamond sales agents told them they should be greeters at Walmart to help pay maintenance fees. Their complaint is identical to Sheilah Brust’s complain. Sheilah and Gad were sold by the same agent. Sheilah attended a presentation as a Secret Shopper and was told this agent was a problem at Wyndham.

Article 6 is Sheilah’s article. The article is called “Sheilah’s Pencil Pitch”

Sheilah is in possession of her “Pencil Pitch” which clearly states $8,631 minus $8,631 = 0 on the first page. There is an arrow and “save” written on the paper. At first, DBPR dismissed Sheilah with, “We don’t know if you were given this paper or you took it.” Sheilah was astonished. The last Sheilah heard from the reviewer is that she didn’t understand the program either until Diamond’s attorney explained it. That alone should have been grounds for dismissal. Here’s the first page of the pencil pitch. Sheilah was impressed her agent could write this upside down.

Article 7 is by Angela Simmons Sandstede. Her dad is one of those switched back and forth between Hawaii and US Mainland programs like the single female described in Article 1.

Roy is a retired letter carrier and Navy veteran, up-sold to $2.700 a month in loan payments. He had been charging loan payments to credit cards. The family had to retain a bankruptcy attorney. They are in their 70s. They had maintained a  high credit score before this.

Roy’s YouTube and March 6, 2018 article:

Article 8 This PhD trained the sales force for Perkin Elmer.

They are caregivers for two grandchildren, one autistic, one Down’s syndrome. They relinquished, losing everything.

Article 9 Filipino seniors with a previous high credit score foreclosed.

Article 10 – An executive VP posted one rental ad on RedWeek, despite hundreds of ads to rent on RedWeek.

Their account was suspended and it was demanded she pay $2,400 a month in loan payments and a $23,000 annual maintenance fee while her account was suspended.

Article 11- These seniors are foreclosed, the husband has Bell’s palsy

We were told “We are real estate agents. You can write off the interest paid and closing costs on these contracts because it is like real estate.” They said the proof was because they have real estate licenses. They are licensed real estate agents, but what they told us was not true. Our accountant said we were not allowed to take any deductions. We were told we had to buy that day so we could not talk to our accountant.

Article 12 This family did not know until they returned home they had purchased $142,000 in timeshare points, $17,000 charged to a Barclaycard.

Their attorney gave up. They submitted this article for comment and resolved their dispute that day. He is a Gulf War veteran, on 25 meds. She has had two knee replacements and a double mastectomy.

Article 13 A 21 year Army veteran, taught biological, chemical and nuclear defence at colleges.

Today we thank Samuel Melendez who spent 21 years in the army training soldiers, working with colleges, teaching chemical, biological and nuclear defence. When a military family is forced into foreclosure because they were lied to about being able to sell back points or finance at a lower rate, they don’t just lose their money. This can jeopardize their security clearance and their job.  

Article 14, A Coast Guard veteran, relinquished so lost all.

Rick Casper told us we should contact him when we needed to sell points because he had people that would buy them. This was the only reason we upgraded from 30,000 points to 50,000 points. When we contacted Rick earlier this year, we learned from Dan Percy (Rick Casper’s immediate boss) that we could not have been told that and we might be able to sell them through a resale third party. We never heard a response from Rick Casper.”

“In addition, we asked Rick about combining our seven previous contracts into one contract covering all 50,000 points. Rick Casper (allegedly) advised us not to do so as it would be easier to sell smaller quantities of points and inferred he could do so easier having contracts in increments, as when someone wants to upgrade from Gold to Platinum requiring only 20,000 additional points.”

“The thought of being able to sell was a relief.”

These are only a few of the Platinum complaints. We have heard from exactly 700 families as of today. We wish there were only a few bad apples, but Inside Timeshare says they have received multiple repeat offender complaints.

St. Louis BBB report warning consumers about timeshare

Don’t Fall for Deception Pressure and Traps Disguised as Vacations

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

We hope you can join us on May 17 – 20! We will publish exact locations soon.

Our Mission Statement

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; 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/

That is it for this week, we look forward to hearing your report on the protests next month and for those who cannot attend we will be there in spirit.

Inside Timeshare would also like to share this little gem from Mahatma Gandhi, it is for Irene Parker, who as we know is under attack from the industry big guns, you have our support Irene.

Have a great Easter weekend and join us again next week for more news and views on the murky world of the timeshare industry.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another of our Secret Shopper Reports, coordinated by Pete Gibbes, these articles have proved to be very popular with our many readers. One thing they all comment on is how similar to their own experiences these reports show.

“Thank God It’s April 15 Day!”

For those in the US, the 15 April is the day when many members will receive a tax liability bill if a loan is cancelled. For us, in Europe, we find this very strange, especially for loans linked to timeshare purchases. At least our European members don’t get a tax bill when their loan is cancelled.

Inside Timeshare has directed many back to their CPA to dispute this tax bill for “phantom income” as the former has not been enriched by the cancellation of the loan as they have retained nothing of value.

Now before we go on with our Secret Shopper article, a little news on the legal front from the leading European law firm in timeshare litigation, Canarian Legal Alliance.

With the Easter Holidays now upon us, the lawyers at CLA are having a well-deserved break, especially after the past two weeks of court cases.

In the past five days alone, there have been 25 trial and 20 sentences issued, many of these were pre-trials, with the judges once again confirming that there was no need for the case to go to a full trial. The reason being, these cases are based on documentary proof, they are based on contracts which according to Spanish timeshare law contain illegalities. This is obviously very damaging for the timeshare companies but very good news for the clients.

So to recap, in the past 2 weeks, there has been a total of 26 victory sentences with 24 against Anfi del Mar, all heard in the Court of First Instance, San Bartelomé de Tirajana, Gran Canaria. With 2 High Court, Santa Cruz de Tenerife against Silverpoint. The total amount awarded is a staggering 931,229€ plus all contracts being declared null and void.

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

How do you define a “Bad Apple” Sales Agent?

It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

By Secret Shopper

Tuesday, April 16

We have all heard stories of outright deception and deceit employed by timeshare salespeople. Many complaints are from those who were convinced to give up their deeded timeshare week and convert to the points-based timeshare.

Fixed week timeshares may lack the flexibility of points, but if you like knowing what you own, a guaranteed stay may mean more to you than flexibility. With a points program, you can stay more or less than a week and book other resorts at other times of the year. However, many have complained that after giving up their deed, they were not able to access even the resort they had vacationed at for years.

Timeshare companies will say that salespeople who use scare tactics represent only a few “Bad Apples” so are not typical. Timeshare Accountability Group has heard from more than a few members that were frightened into giving up their deed, told their children will be burdened because of their parent’s decision to buy a timeshare. We’re not lawyers, so we defer to timeshare attorney Mike Finn to fill us in on what happens when you inherit an unwanted timeshare. It’s a topic many are interested in, especially as baby boomers age.

Some of the tactics sales agents use to coerce an “owner” to give up a deeded timeshare week to become a “member” are downright predatory and constitute practicing law without a license. This is what happened to Phyllis, age 67, in her own words (unedited):

I am a victim of fraud. I was asked to attend a breakfast to talk about upgrades on a timeshare I own. I was told it would last only 55 minutes. 4 highly pressured sales people took turns on me and held me for 7 hours, bouncing me into 3 different rooms. I told them I didn’t want it and that I already owned the timeshare over and over again. They said I have to buy into the new and I own my timeshare forever, and that I could never get out of it. They said my timeshare went bankrupt and I had to invest with them (the new company) or they would go after my children for payment. I had a panic stress disorder attack. I was tired and hungry.  I was tired. In order to get out of there, I signed under dearest. I am a senior citizen 5 feet tall women and he is a 6 feet tall man standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and he can help me then said to me “I am a friend I can tell you the best thing to do only if I signed”. He added the BARCLAYS BANK CREDIT CARD. I was misled to only use the card for shopping that my points would go up and maintenance fees would go down. I never received the card. I never used the card. Now I have a trial date May 8, 2018, to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. DRI sent a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure and I am out of the contract. Since the timeshare and the bank are together I should be out of paying the bank as well? I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please email me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.

(Submitted to Inside Timeshare)

Our Secret Shopper Experience        

In mid-summer 2018, we went on a “mandatory” update after attending a Diamond Resorts event in Virginia Beach. We are well versed in timeshare methods and had our “ears up” to catch any of the standard tactics they might use to persuade us to convert our two deeded weeks into points.

Despite being ready for the worst, I will openly admit that our salesperson never told us any OVERT lies during our two-hour presentation. He was friendly, polite, and had a long history with Diamond Resorts at various locations throughout the country. He told us where he lived in Virginia Beach (a very expensive waterfront area).  He did not lie to us.

That being said, his words were very carefully chosen, and of course, what he didn’t tell us was even more carefully chosen. At a minimum, his pitch was misleading, confusing, full of half-truths, and in my opinion quite diabolical.  When someone commits a “material omission” is it a lie? That sounds like a question for attorney Mike Finn.

Let’s see how the game is played

Our salesperson pushed two major discussion points:

1 – Vacation Options:

Our sales agent demonstrated what would happen if we gave up our deeded weeks and purchased 5,000 points. He showed us a world of amazing Diamond Resorts locations on his computer screen. He explained these resorts would be available to us with the 15,000 points in total we would have if we gave up both deeds.

He showed us availability on HIS computer. He said things like “Here, let me show you on MY account” and “the system shows ME availability for these vacations for only 3,000 points… look at all of them!” Yes, many were available on many different dates. Wow, the world would be our Oyster.

Now, all that is technically true, but he presented it in a manner to imply that if we converted to 15,000 non-deeded points, we would see the same availability and options we were shown… but he never actually said that. His online Diamond account is a “Special Sales Double Platinum Account” (a descriptive term as there is no such thing as a Double Platinum loyalty level). It shows everything in the system and probably quite a bit more, but did not display what we would have access to using the proposed 15,000 points (for two weeks).

If the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract has been executed, you would not see actual availability at your loyalty level until after the rescission period had passed.

If you knew what to listen for, the agent chose his words incredibly carefully to sidestep the issue. This would have misled us if we were not informed shoppers. In my opinion, it was a shameful sales tactic that almost anyone would likely fall for.

I know that none of the locations available under his sales account would be available to someone with only 15,000 points, especially summer weeks in Virginia Beach, which he was asking us to give up. He repeatedly showed us that Turtle Cay was only 6,500 points for a week vacation in July… which is accurate… if you are one of the handfuls of people in the US with status and connections to get access to that level of availability. It is unlikely at the Silver loyalty level we would ever be able to stay there again even if we were to convert to points. He didn’t mention that.

He also gave us pamphlets describing Diamond Dream Vacations (DDV), also known as Holiday Vacations, which we could take advantage of anytime for 3,000, 7,500, or 15,000 points. Each DDV included two airfares at top-notch accommodations. One package included four days at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes resort along with a five day Caribbean cruise for only 7,500 points.

For those not familiar with points, maintenance fees for Silver level are about $.20 per point so if the Dream Vacation requires 7,500 points, the trip would cost $1,500. Multiply 7,500 points times $.20. Always do your timeshare math. Four nights at Mystic Dunes, two airfares and a five day Caribbean cruise for two for $1,500 is a GREAT deal! It even included rental car discounts.

After submitting this article, Pete explained that these great deals really do exist. I thought they were completely bogus. He said that since these packages are for the purposes of selling points, they are available to anyone who purchases as a “sweetener” or to existing members in an effort to sell more points.  

Apparently, tremendous bargains are always promotions. Our sales agent never said Dream Holidays were promotions that would require a sales session. He said “These packages are available anytime” to use his exact wording. Again, he didn’t lie… he just didn’t present an important fact.

2 – Financial Justification:

He presented a very complex 10-year financial analysis showing how it would cost us far less over ten years if we converted to points, even though he wanted us to drop more than $75,000 for 15,000 points, which would have included giving up our two deeded summer weeks. He did not know that I used to be a financial analyst with IBM. I worked on billion-dollar transactions. His spreadsheet was malarkey, and even I couldn’t follow it. Once again, he was not lying; his analysis was just crappy… which is quite common as financials go. Of course, we were not given a copy of any of his figures. When we tried to take it, he whisked it away.

All told, I doubt other salespeople would consider our sales agent a “Bad Apple” as he didn’t tell any lies. He did not mention any bogus programs (e.g. “you can pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point”) or other false claims. In fact, our sales agent is probably a shining example held up for other salespeople to emulate: nice, amiable, well dressed, 6.5 feet tall with 12 extra teeth in his smile.

After we firmly said no and started to leave, we were sent to a manager to “check out.” This person was quite reprehensible. He showed us further discounts off the $75,000. He spoke about the “investment” we would be making, what our “Equity” would be out of the gate, and how our “Equity” would grow over time. Our “investment” would only go up in value.

I got quite angry and blew up at him at this point, calling him out directly on those misrepresentations. His eyes flew open wide as he backtracked, “When I say Equity I mean your equity in future vacation time and how your vacation time would become more valuable as you learn how to use the system wisely.”

He claimed he never said he was speaking about a financial investment and not to put words in his mouth but he actually said these things with no qualifiers until he was pressed to do so . My wife loudly told him off and we got up to walk out. He asked why she was being so rude. In a sick sort of way, it was funny, really.

As our experience shows, a “Bad Apple” is in the eye of the beholder.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a story to share. Our standard disclosure is that we know there are honest sales agents selling the product honestly. Deceptive agents harm honest sales agents too. Our concern is the number of agents “pitching heat” to sell points could lead to a decline in sales unless acknowledged and addressed.

Contact Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes through Inside Timeshare if you would like to become a Secret Shopper.

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://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 to our secret shopper and to Pete Gibbes the coordinator for this week’s report, these do help others to be aware and of what to expect when they attend any presentation. As the old saying goes,  “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

One thing is certain, purchasers of timeshare in Spain do have the full protection of the law, misrepresentation of the product is not tolerated. We also know that many other European countries are reviewing their own timeshare laws in accordance with EU Timeshare Directives designed to protect consumers, many are also looking to Spain and may just adopt their legislation. For too long the timeshare companies have had the upper hand, but the tide is turning.

If you have any comments or would like to share your experiences use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Do you have a problem with your timeshare membership, or need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found?

Again use our contact page and we will get back to you and point you in the right direction.