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Friday’s Letter from America: Sales Agents a Hilton Member Experience

Welcome to this week’s edition of Letter from America, continuing our series on what “sales agents” tell you, and can you actually believe it, we today welcome another new contributor Ali El-Kerdi. His experience will be of great interest to our Diamond readers especially in the light of the Hilton purchase. So welcome to our pages Ali.

Can a Timeshare Buyer Believe Timeshare Sales Agents?

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/BMmzJbEUvkPWS59wNwSFua1PpaacgQM41NTbHm2AvQXrhlOU5Iw7GXp6UmFZ-PP1-P_DxdbYvBfkm2YuOe9gHAPIj3jayKcxaXDY0iLtOmgtZtI6Kb-bqk623TBMrFjpdpsYIpcX

By Ali El-Kerdi 

May 14, 2021

I have been reading about the “oral representation” clause that allows timeshare sales agents to say anything to make a sale. This protective blanket places the burden on the consumer to prove what the agent said or did not say. People buying new cars from a dealer or a house from a real estate agent rely on the ethics of the sales agent. You might be more wary if buying a used car. 

We thought we could trust the ethics of Hilton Grand Vacation sales agents. With Hilton, trust is often ingrained if the prospective Hilton timeshares buyer is already a loyal Hilton Honors member. I have joined efforts to warn potential first time buyers that you might as well not talk to a sales agent if you are interested in a timeshare. Check first with a licensed timeshare broker who charges nothing upfront. Their commission is paid at closing after a buyer is found, like any traditional real estate transaction. If buying a “used” timeshare, the purchaser must ask what restrictions accompany a timeshare bought on the secondary market.     

On October 17, 2018 we attended a Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV) sales presentation in Florida at Park Soleil Hilton Grand Resort in Orlando with Daniela O, another agent and a manager.  A 60 minute presentation ended up being over three hours. We had told them that we wouldn’t be able to stay long because we had young kids with us. We purchased a week at Ocean 22 in South Carolina which is equivalent to 4,800 bi-annual points should the owner wish to stay at another property other than their home resort.  

My wife and I are working professionals. We clearly understood the answers to questions we asked to address our concerns. We made it VERY clear to Daniela that we would not be able to use the timeshare for a long time due to the age of our children and our current work and school schedules. I am a professor working on my post-doc and my wife is an Internist. We can only able to take off from work for one or two nights stays at a time. It will be several years before we can take a week’s vacation. An ethical salesperson would have told us then and there that a timeshare is not an appropriate product for our family. However, Daniela assured us we could use Hilton’s timeshare points for one or two nights stays and bank points “in perpetuity” to function as a kind of a “vacation retirement plan” as we accumulated points over the years for future vacations. The manager and the other sales agent also confirmed points could be saved indefinitely. We learned points cannot be saved in perpetuity. Points can be “extended” for only two years (for a fee). The only way we can book one or two night stays is if we convert to RCI or Hilton Honors points, but that reduces the value of the points even more and requires a fee to do so. 

It seems obvious to us now that the manager who rushed in with another supervisor waving a print out with “properties that just came on the market” was to stage urgency, making this an opportunity good only for today! Daniela and the supervisor said the property would automatically have higher value because we were buying at a discount, and the value would increase over time like any real estate. They further mentioned we would be able to deduct interest expense. 

Additionally, we were also told that as Hilton Grand owners we would be able to use any Hilton Grand location’s amenities by simply proving that we are owners, without having reservations at said location. We were told that as Hilton Grand owners we would get significant discounts off regular Hilton hotel reservations/stays. I’ve stayed at Hilton properties before subsequent to our timeshare purchase from Hilton Grand Vacations. I spoke to several hotel managers about said discounts. One manager actually laughed and said he hears this all the time. When I texted Daniela to ask her, she asked who told me that. I told her she did in text messages!     

I wrote to Hilton on September 27, 2020 asking that the contract be cancelled. Their November 30, 2020 letter of denial addressed everything except the main deception that was the deciding factor for us to purchase points. In no way can we use these points. We are forced to consider default or pay for something we can’t use. We have always been fiscally responsible. To think that we have to go through a default because timeshare sales agents are rewarded for deception is alarming. Our purchase price was $14,300. The amount financed $12,870. During the process, we were told that the maintenance fee would be $750 every other year, but the maintenance fee is $1,500 every other year. I spoke with a licensed timeshare resale broker who explained that if I wanted to sell they would recommend a price of $2,500 to $3,000, minus a 25% commission, and that there could be no loan outstanding. We have not used any of the points purchased.

I wrote again to HGV on February 28, 2021 in response to their dismissal. They responded parroting the actual program without even addressing the deceptive statements.  

I am learning that the entire industry is tarnished. Timeshare sales are #7 on the Federal Trade Commission’s list of Top Ten Scams. Wyndham Vacation Ownership has almost 2,000 Better Business Bureau complaints and there is an alert posted warning consumers about them. 

https://www.bbb.org/us/fl/orlando/profile/vacation-timeshare/wyndham-vacation-ownership-inc-0733-20000283

This BBB Hilton complaint dated 2/27/20 is so similar to my complaint; it sounded like I wrote it, except that we fortunately did not buy a second time. Having read the complaint, I anticipated Hilton’s dismissal. There have been 876 HGV complaints over the last three years. 

https://www.bbb.org/us/fl/orlando/profile/vacation-timeshare/hilton-grand-vacations-inc-0733-1045054/complaints

BBB Complaint: Advertising/Sales Issues (edited for brevity)

Status: Answered

07/27/2020

Timeshare sold, represented was not as explained. When I tried to take advantage of the services as promised I was told this was not how it is done. I have been paying between $600 and $700 a month for this. When I purchased I was told many things that were not true. I explained my problems with vacationing and that I don’t have much free time. The sales team explained that I could save the points and use them at a different time. Which turned into not being true. The points you are buying expire…. They convinced me through their sales pitch and untruths that I should purchase this plan, I did. Shortly thereafter I purchased a second time because I still believed the stories and didn’t learn the pitfalls yet and I hadn’t used it yet. That is how hard it is for me to get away. Why was I there, I was on business. Then the next year I talked to another salesperson who was supposed to help me. He said that my points should be converted to Hilton Honors Points for hotels. Good idea but not a sound investment. Resort versus a stay at a Hampton Inn. So I’m stuck paying for something I can’t use and losing any investment…. Already paid about $30,000…..  I sent an email to the president of HGV. I had a call back from a salesperson. They were trying to explain how to use the program. I told them all I said above, she said there was nothing she could do…. She said she was there to help, but that the salesperson doesn’t know everything about the plans…. This needs to be looked into. When you buy anything in the form of a loan you own it. House, vehicle, Boat, clothes, food and more. Here you are buying points, they should be yours to use not expire. Promises should be kept. I apologize for not bringing an accountant and attorney to review all documents they quickly put in front of you. You hope you can believe the salesperson. 

Hilton Grand Vacations, Inc. Response

08/12/2020

Dear Mr. *****, We are sorry your experience with Hilton Grand Vacations has been less than satisfactory. As you have entered a legal and binding contract in perpetuity for the purpose of vacation enjoyment, we are unable to cancel your contract. The rescission period extended after the purchase allows the purchaser time to review the documents and cancel should you find the program unsuitable to your travel needs. In your case, the rescission period for your upgraded contract lasted five days from your purchase date. We see that you spoke with our Club Resolution team and they were able to clarify some of the questions you had. Should you need further assistance, as a part of your ownership, we offer to assist you with the help of seasoned Club Counselors who will guide you with optimization of your membership. The club member website, club.hiltongrandvacations.com, has a wealth of learning tools available as well. Regarding your Club Points, you are able to save them and use them other than the year in which they are allotted. Club Points can also be deposited into RCI for an additional 2 years of usage or converted into Hilton Honors points in which they never expire and may be used at any time. Mr. *****, while we are not able to accommodate your request for cancellation, we remain readily available to assist you with optimizing your ownership. Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback. Sincerely, Membership Support Hilton Grand Vacations

https://www.bbb.org/us/fl/orlando/profile/vacation-timeshare/hilton-grand-vacations-inc-0733-1045054/complaints

I filed a BBB review and I intend to file with the Florida Attorney. Our request for cancellation has already been determined, but I will file for the record. If enough people file official complaints, maybe someday a regulator may take notice.   

How can encouraging sales agents to make deceptive statements by blaming the buyer be a healthy business model? It is our word against Daniela’s word. I would like to know, if I had recorded our sales presentation, to be able to provide proof of deceit, would that have mattered?  Of course sales agents know they can say anything by Hilton’s dismissal. The offending agent moves onto the next sale, making the same deceptive claims like a hamster wheel. We’re the hamsters.  

I’ve been told Hilton is not as bad as other timeshare companies. I read they are buying Diamond Resorts. Based on my research, Diamond seems to have even more complaints!  

Why do timeshare companies not act in a way morally responsible? Our mistake was to trust the Hilton brand. We never imagined Hilton agents would deliberately deceive. We did not think we were interacting with the equivalent of a Nigerian Prince asking us to wire money. 

Thank you Ali and a big thank you to our team of volunteers who helped with the editing.

Have a great weekend.

Friday’s Letter from America: Open Letter to ARDA and Timeshare Crusader

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America. Over the years Inside Timeshare has been running this series of articles. We have heard from so many elderly people, veterans, and serving military personnel, all have told similar stories. These revolve around the lies and untruths members allege are told by sales agents employed by Diamond and other developers to sell their product. The initial response to complaints has always been the same, “We are not responsible for what the sales agents say” and “you signed the contract”.

Today’s article was not going to be published, but due to comments made on various social media platforms which Inside Timeshare posts, it was decided that this Open Letter was the only reply. It was one comment made by the Timeshare Crusader which really did spark this change, in the comment Lisa, who we do have a great deal of respect for, calling consumers “gullible”. Considering the horror stories we have published we felt this had to be addressed. Over-reliance on the oral representation sentence, buried in a lengthy contract, implies the consumer is at fault. Only a biased observer will hold deceptive agents blameless.

ARDA has never appeared to address this issue, and as a reminder about oral representations, we do believe that it is too little too late, a case of “closing the stable door after the horse has bolted”. They also do not go far enough to protect consumers from their ARDA members or sanction them when they allow sales agents to say what they like.

An Open Letter to ARDA and Timeshare Crusader Explaining Why the Victim should not be Blamed

https://memeguy.com/photos/images/hypocrisy--7178.jpg
  • Beth in Arkansas, on behalf of younger people buying timeshares, 
  • Tiffany, on behalf of her elderly parents, 
  • Adam, on behalf of veterans and active-duty military,
  • Bernadette, on behalf of those experiencing serious medical conditions,
  • A timeshare member from 2017 who holds a security clearance  

May 7, 2021

If you are considering buying a timeshare for the first time or you are an owner thinking about adding to your vacation ownership portfolio, ARDA-ROC and the Timeshare Crusader recommend that you consider, at a minimum, the following:

https://www.arda-roc.org/important-information-for-buying-timeshare?fbclid=IwAR0DfjCzkYz4VzvaHkASdv1NO8iBx5ETU7S9URkUjdqzty5Y81cP42mNTho

If ARDA and Timeshare Crusader would take the time to read our articles, they would learn why the victim should not be blamed. We are disappointed, but not surprised, that neither organization holds deceptive timeshare sales agents and managers accountable. On a short vacation, if promised the ability to sell points, rent points, access “equity” or refinance, no one is going to attempt to do that while on vacation. The rescission period is easily dodged. It is easy for those who have not experienced a predatory timeshare experience to judge. 

AARP staff writer Doug Shadel explains in his book Outsmarting the Scam Artists” why the victim should not be blamed. An excerpt from the chapter entitled Ether:

This inability to fully grasp how emotion or “affect” influences our decision-making is crucial to understanding why fraud occurs… Even victims who are interviewed after the fact, criticize themselves….This is because they are no longer inside the situation – no longer having their emotions manipulated and vulnerabilities exposed. The ether has worn off.

ARDA and Timeshare Crusader talk about how financing a timeshare is like financing a house. No, it’s not. Home mortgage rates in the U.S. are at 2.882%. Timeshares are financed at 12% to 19%. If a Barclay credit card is used, the interest rate after the grace period is over 20%. If you buy a house but then decide you don’t like the house, you can sell it. Timeshares are virtually worthless.   

Tiffany: My elderly parents were deceived in 2019. The security clearance holder who shares her similar experience below is not a senior, yet she fell for the same pitch that my parents fell for – you have to give up your deed and buy points. My parent’s “QA” agent kept them for 11 hours. My mother called me during the ordeal. I told her to leave. She said she couldn’t because they had their credit card and driver’s license. They attended because they were told if they didn’t attend, they would be charged for their stay. They were browbeaten into giving up the Gold Key deeds they had owned for years. There was nothing in the contract that would have addressed this falsehood, and after 11 hours without food, water, or necessary medication, they were defeated. Diamond’s response was they sounded just fine on the recorded “QA” closing. They lost the two Gold Key deeds that they had for years, and over $30,000 after being told they had to give up their deed and buy points. The full story:

Tiffany Renee’s parents kept for 11 hours:

https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-74/

Bernadette’s Change.org Petition to remove an offensive YouTube: https://www.change.org/Michael-Flaskey-MO-WA-AG-take-down-YouTube

https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-the-story-of-bernadette/

Adam Siler [email protected]

Why timeshare presentations should be off-limits to active duty military: 

https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-75/

Adam, Bernadette Tiffany: Why Buyers Need to Record the Sales Session https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-should-sales-presentations-be-recorded/

Beth in Arkansas: 

I worked as a Covid nurse during the height of the pandemic. My parents gave me 10,000 Liki Tiki points. At a presentation I attended in Tennessee, I was told I had to give the points up because they were so limited. The agent said I could get 5,000 additional points for $4,500. It wasn’t until later I learned I had a $45,000 loan. That’s more than my student loans. I would have never bought the points. Diamond Resorts blamed me. They said on the recorded closing I was informed of the total purchase price. I certainly did not hear that because I would have never signed. I wanted to listen to the recording but they said I could only do so by subpoena. They only provided a transcript in which the QA agent stated the purchase price. I have to trust that the transcript is accurate. I learned that to listen to the recorded closing, I had to get an attorney to send a subpoena, but to send a subpoena, you have to file an arbitration case. I’m 24 years old. It’s too much. I have no choice but to default. My mother is horrified. She thought giving me her Diamond points was a good thing.       

A November 30, 2018 article by a Diamond member with a security clearance:

https://insidetimeshare.com/2018/11/

Timeshare sales can pose a national security risk. For those of us with security clearances, our careers could be in jeopardy if we believe a timeshare sales agent and find ourselves forced to default on a timeshare loan. Since the timeshare sales agent knows they will suffer no negative consequences, if deceptive tactics are employed, they are given the green light to sell by any means, knowing the consumer will be blamed.  

Diamond should want the public to know this. 

At a December 17, 2017 meeting, we asked Davia H about selling our deeded Sunterra timeshare. We had no loan and had tried unsuccessfully to sell it. Davia said there was no way to sell our Sunterra timeshare because we did not have “Full Club Member” benefits. She encouraged us to become “Full Club Members” so we could easier sell the timeshare. Davia said our Sunterra timeshare was worthless. We needed to upgrade to “Full Club Member” benefits to receive “benefits that would increase the value of the timeshare to make it worth buying.” We feel not informing us that timeshare points are worthless was a material omission.  

She used asymmetric information. This is where one party has more or better information than the other.  

Davia advised us to wait six months before trying to sell (to avoid the rescission period) because the value of the timeshare would increase. She said she knew someone who helps people sell their timeshares and could give us her contact’s information. Repeated calls and texts to Davia went unanswered.

Diamond used the recording of the Quality Assurance signing session against us. Why would we ask the question of the ability to make money or sell points if we didn’t know Diamond points were worthless?  The recording of the QA was reported in a Diamond CLARITY press release to be for the purpose of enhanced training. In my opinion, the recorded closing is used as an entrapment.

I signed Bernadette’s petition. We are proof that if you do call Diamond, you will be told, “Sorry, you didn’t bring it up on the recorded closing.”  I sent our complaint to this list of contacts found on our advocacy Facebook page. They didn’t care.   

To: Michael Flaskey, CEO

Barclay’s President’s Office

DR PR Firm

ARDA

ARDA ROC

Association of Vacation Owners

Hospitality

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

This article has been written last weekend and has been set to publish automatically. Inside Timeshare may be back at some point in the next week or so, depending on recovery from surgery.

Have a great weekend.

Marriott Lose Case and Deposit Huge Payment with the Court

Following on from yesterday’s article on the constant appeals to the High Court by Anfi and their attempt to either avoid or delay court-ordered payments, we today bring you the news of one company that is doing the right thing. Once again the timeshare company involved is Marriott Vacation Club. As we have published on several occasions, Marriott does appear to be acting in a much more responsible manner compared to Anfi, Club la Costa and Diamond.

At the Court of First Instance, Number 4 of Marbella, a German client of Canarian Legal Alliance has won his case against MVCI Holidays SL and MVCI Europe Limited.

The client’s contract which contained several infractions of Spanish Timeshare Law which have also been confirmed by 130 rulings from Spain’s Supreme Court was declared illegal and therefore null and void.

The main infractions were:

  • The contract was in perpetuity, when the law enacted on 5 January 1999 clearly states that contracts after this date must not exceed 50 years in duration;
  • Points and floating weeks are illegal as they contain nothing of substance, just the right of use subject to availability;
  • Taking of any payment within the statutory cooling-off period, even by a third party.

In her judgment, the presiding Judge Maria Jesus Lopez Navarro has not only declared the contract null and void but also ordered Marriott to repay the client 108,895€ The Judge also ordered that 33,448€ be added to the payment in respect of illegally taken payments with the statutory cooling-off period, this is double the amount taken as confirmed by law and the Supreme Court. The judge also ordered the payment of legal interest.

Anticipating the right of Marriott to lodge an appeal with the High Court against the sentence, the CLA Lawyers immediately applied to the court for a “provisional execution of sentence order”. This order forces the company to deposit the required funds with the court, thereby securing payment for the client 100%, pending confirmation of sentence by the High Court.

In this case, Marriott complied immediately by lodging this money with the court, a move we have seen in virtually all Marriott cases.

There are several reasons for Marriott’s stance, first, this reduces the amount of money they have to pay in increased legal interest which the court applies to the awarded amount. By depositing the awarded amount to the court immediately, stops any further accumulation of further interest payments.

It also saves any further increase in the awarded amount as the High Court does have the ability to increase this especially if they find that the appeal was frivolous and designed to delay or avoid payment.

The other reason is one we have mentioned before, Marriott is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, as a result, they have a legal obligation to report everything to their shareholders in their annual reports. In the last two reports we have published, Marriott did inform shareholders of the increase in litigation costs and the fact they had been losing in the Spanish courts.

Below is a link to our last article on this subject from 30 March 2021, this article also includes links to both reports to shareholders and the Securities Exchange Commission.

https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-marriott-and-the-spanish-courts/

The case itself was prepared and presented by the CLA Lawyers  Oscar Salvador Santana Gonzalez and Christine Ihmann, with Claims Consultant Evi Richter assisting the client throughout the process.

Information has just been received of a massive victory for Canarian Legal Alliance and one of their Danish clients.

The High Court Number 5 of Las Palmas has confirmed the sentence of the Court of First Instance Number 2 of SBT against yet another appeal by Anfi.

Once again this court has dismissed the Anfi appeal and confirmed a massive award of 251,401€, this also included the payment of 38,925€ which is double the amount taken illegally as a deposit. Added to this will be legal interest and legal costs.

The illegal contract was also confirmed to be null and void in accordance with the original sentence.

The client’s case was prepared and conducted by CLA Lawyer Adrián Diaz Saavedra Morales with Claims Consultant Caroline Castro assisting the client.

It is quite clear the Courts of First Instance and the High Courts especially are following the law and rulings of the Supreme Court to the letter, it is just mind-boggling that these timeshare companies still believe the law is wrong and continue to appeal at every turn.

If you would like further information on this subject and whether you have a valid and viable case, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Translations

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