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Hilton Grand Vacations

Start the Week: Military Veterans Article Comments Begin & Latest Anfi Appeals Dismissed

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, on Friday we published the article A New Friday Letter From America: Veteran & Active Duty Service Member Outreach the replies and comments have already started. Today we publish a small example of the comments so far received. We also look at the latest from the High Court of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, once again this court is dismissing appeals lodged by Anfi after losing in the Court of First Instance. This does make you wonder what Anfi are playing at.

Although the article has been live for only 2 days, we are already receiving comments from veterans who have very similar stories, we have also received emails from members of Hilton Grand Vacations, (HGV) and Westgate who have had similar experiences as Diamond members.

The article is about Adam’s experience with Diamond, but we welcome and ask all Veterans to submit their stories regardless of which timeshare developer they have dealt with. This is not just a problem about Diamond, but one that needs to be addressed by the timeshare industry as a whole.

Below are just a few of the emails received so far, we have only published the content and not identified them by name:

HGV Veteran

I came across your article in a Diamond Resorts FB group.  My husband served twenty-eight years in the Army and retired in 2011.  Never in all our years would we think we would fall victim to the scam of a Hilton Timeshare salesperson. 

Diamond Veteran

I am three-quarters of the way out the door from just walking away from Diamond Resorts. I am extremely upset that they made no adjustment/refund of maintenance fees since Diamond vacations have been unavailable due to covid for a year now.

Since airlines shut down, the government ordered, and still has ordered us to stay home and stay healthy,  airlines shut down, Diamond shut down resorts, and travel was and is unsafe, I have asked Diamond to refund maintenance fees as the right thing to do.   It is “unjust enrichment” under consumer protection laws (UCC) to price gouge owners for full maintenance fees when Diamond could not provide the contracted vacations.  Other unscrupulous businesses have been fined and forced to repay overpricing during the covid pandemic.

I am a veteran and last year there was the latest bunch of lies from Diamond. I was promised that Diamond would announce during 2020 that they were going to buy back my points. But I had to buy 20,000 more points for $55,000 to provide Diamond money to be able to buy my points!  I guess they think I am stupid. I asked them to put it in writing, but they could not do that and I was also not to say anything about the buyback program in the QC or follow-ups as it “was a secret”.   More lies.

HGV Veteran

This issue isn’t simply with Diamond! HGV sales reps were incredibly aggressive and lied every step of the way to get us to sign. They were incredibly aggressive and deceptive.  Hilton encourages and rewards sales agents who lie, is alarming. It is my understanding that this isn’t exclusive to HGV. I am learning that the entire industry is tarnished and deceptive.

Westgate

This is absolutely appalling and I do not understand how this continues.  Why aren’t the sales reps held accountable for what they are telling people?  It is out of control and Westgate Resorts likes to stand behind “unfortunately it is not possible to validate verbal communications she may have had with the sales agent”.  Almost as if the sales team is not part of the company and they have no power over what sales are telling people. 

If the Timeshare Companies truly cared about their owners and were honest from the beginning the exit companies would not be feeding on countless unhappy owners. Yet the Timeshare companies are trying to look like heroes by taking those exit companies to court.  They are not fooling me, they need to spend that money on keeping the owners happy and informed of the truth.

It also appears that it is not just veterans that have serious issues with their timeshare sales, this next comment is from a Front-line Covid Nurse.

I am not a veteran. I am a front-line Covid nurse, but I think nurses need to do the same as Adam. I have contracted Covid and recovered. I was sick for almost two months. I recently got my taste and smell back. I am fully vaccinated but still have to maintain full protection because there is no guarantee that I cannot still contract Covid and give it to someone else. I still care for Covid patients.   

My mother gave me 10,000 Diamond points in 2019. I have never used the points. I attended an orientation at Hyatt Place Hendersonville near Nashville to learn how to use the points. As a result of attending the orientation, I am financially ruined. I was told that I could get 5000 more points for $4,500. I was shown on a tablet where I signed $4,500. The only paperwork I was given stated $4,500 which was the amount charged to a Barclaycard. I was 24 when I purchased the points. After I finish my graduate nursing program I will have about $75,000 or more in student loans. I asked about a hard copy of the contract. They said the contract was on the tablet but I never received the tablet that was used to sign the contract. The contract came about two weeks later, with no postmark date. Imagine my shock when I saw there was a $40,000 loan. NO WAY would I have bought $40,000 in vacation points. My credit has gone down 200 points. I cannot buy a house or car.

I reached out to Diamond as Flaskey suggests Diamond members do. Diamond records the closing/signing session. I asked if the contract was just for $4,500. They said yes. They said the actual contract would be mailed. Diamond denied my request to cancel the loan. I received a call from a Diamond representative. She suggested I talk to customer service or a Hospitality team. I did and I emailed the complaint below. In September of 2020, I spoke to Kathy in customer service. She suggested I request a mutual release by emailing Financial Services. I did that too. No one has responded.

I am writing to warn others about how something like buying timeshare points for a vacation can be the worst financial mistake of your life.

Just on these few comments alone, we can see there is a very serious problem with how timeshare developers allow their “sales agents” to behave. We all know the Diamond response, “We are not responsible for what sales agents say at presentations”. A very lame excuse if ever I heard one, it is just an excuse to deny any responsibility on behalf of Diamond.

If you have been victims of these practices no matter which timeshare developer, please contact us and Adam Siler at the following email:

[email protected]

We now move to the latest from the High Court of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

The High Court of Las Palmas Gran Canaria

News reached us last week of several appeals made by Anfi against rulings from the Court of First Instance, as we know Anfi appeals to the High Court on every ruling made by the lower courts. We also know that in each and every case the High Court dismisses the appeal and confirms the original sentence. The case is then returned to the Court of First Instance for execution of the sentence.

The full stories of these cases will be published in another article, but we do have to ask the question, why does Anfi persist in lodging these frivolous appeals?

As we have seen, on every occasion the High Court dismisses and rejects their appeal, we suspect that Anfi is just attempting to delay the inevitable and to cause as much stress to the clients as possible. 

We also know and it is no secret that the Anfi Group, under the control of the Cazorla Group is in serious financial difficulties, but they cannot avoid paying what the courts have demanded. Delaying these payments just costs them more, not just in paying the legal fees for the appeal and their own lawyers, but also in the increased amounts which the courts are subsequently imposing. This also includes the legal interest which is paid on the amount awarded by the court from the moment the case is accepted. So the longer they delay. The more they have to pay.

This tactic by Anfi is not just depleting their already serious financial difficulties, but it doesn’t do their already damaged reputation any good whatsoever.

When will Anfi see sense and just pay when the courts demand it, taking a leaf out of the book of Palm Oasis and Marriott.

Just from what we have published today, it is very clear the timeshare industry is one of the very worst for the way it is sold and also the way it treats its members. These members have paid huge amounts on the basis of lies made by sales agents, yet the companies involved do everything they can to ensure they do not pay or be held accountable.

In the case of Anfi that is being remedied by the authorities, The Provincial Prosecutors Office of Gran Canaria are currently involved with an investigation into Anfi, it involves the attempts to deny payments by the courts, the movement of funds from accounts to avoid embargoes among other things.

As for our friends in the US, they have a long way to go before they see anything like the protections consumers have in Spain.

If you have any comments on this or any other article or would like to know your own legal position with your timeshare, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you

For our US friends, if you are a Veteran or Serving Military and have had similar experience, please use [email protected].

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, this week we welcome another new contributor Diane Smith with an introduction by our very own Irene Parker. This article looks at Bluegreen and their suggestion that Diane donates her points to one of four selected charities. Have we not heard of a scheme like this before?

Bluegreen offers new Pilot Program to Donate Points to Charities 

Diane Smith Responds to “Who’s the Fish?”

Bass Pro Lawsuit v Bluegreen

https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-38/

July 10, 2019

By Diane Smith

Introductory comments by Irene Parker

I was alarmed when Diane reported that Bluegreen suggested she donate her 5,000 points to one of four select charities. Charities don’t need the liability of a perpetual contract and ongoing maintenance fees. After learning one of the charities was founded by the co-founder of RCI, and other timeshare executives are members of the 18 member Board of Directors, I reached out to industry insiders, puzzled.  

Christel DeHaan, Founder and Chairman of the Board

Co-Founded and sold RCI for $825 million

https://www.forbes.com/profile/christel-dehaan/?fbclid=IwAR3Qn-QE_uDsHYPVo0b9yuh3qb4Y4opDRT7zAiC0wk97D_n0H19_bD7re7k#6d7903079fd0

https://christelhouse.org/our-people/

Olivier Chavy, President, RCI Exchanges

Gordon S. Gurnik Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Hilton Grand Vacations

Don Harrill, Vice Chairman of Board of Directors, Orange Lake

According to an industry source, who wishes to remain anonymous, the charities will not be liable for maintenance fees or the perpetual contract. If Diane were to donate her 5,000 Bluegreen points, it would prompt a paper transaction known throughout the industry as a “Press and Clean” that will ultimately transfer the points back to Bluegreen. While transferring timeshares is perfectly legal, legal point laundering does not solve the problem when timeshare buyers experience unfair and deceptive sales practices.  

If my source is correct, in this scheme, Bluegreen controls who gets referred to the charity, so you can’t just call up one of the charities and ask them to take your Bluegreen points. Bluegreen benefits because they are not as bothered by calls from people wanting to get rid of their points, as they can refer the member to the charities if there is no loan outstanding.

It is ironic Christel House works with those in poverty, considering Inside Timeshare has heard from 894 timeshare members and more than a few driven into poverty because of unfair and deceptive sales practices that are accompanied by rising maintenance fees and no secondary market.

So why is being allowed to donate timeshare points to a charity, not a good idea? When sold by deceit, the charity becomes a link in the progression described by one former sales agent as a hamster wheel: deceive, force insolvency, take-back, resell – with the charity brokering the points back to the timeshare company.

We hope this isn’t the timeshare lobby ARDA’s idea of a Responsible Exit.

ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit

https://responsibleexit.com/

Diane’s Response to “Who’s the Fish?”

I read Inside Timeshare’s article about the lawsuit filed on behalf of nearly 36 Bluegreen plaintiffs against Bass Pro Shops and Bluegreen with great interest after I received Bluegreen’s response to my complaint. My reports of deception are similar to identical to those listed in the lawsuit complaint.

My concerns were not even addressed. Instead, I received an email suggesting I donate our points to a charity. Given an attorney I contacted was going to charge me $5,000 to get us out of this financial trap, I questioned why a nonprofit would want to accept timeshares.  

Bluegreen responded to my complaint saying that they have no provision to take back a timeshare (even when deceived?), but I could contact one of four selected charities to donate our 5,000 points. The four select charities are listed below. While I applaud any assistance is to a charity, I don’t feel this is appropriate. 

Our family purchased our points in 2011 after we had endured the Joplin, Missouri EF5 tornado that killed approximately 160 people. My father broke his back and ribs, his home was destroyed, and we endured over $40,000 in damages to our home. Shortly after the tornado, we took a trip to Branson to get away for a breather. At Bass Pro Shops we were approached by a Bluegreen representative. The resulting consequences I would describe as a financial tornado.

In the lawsuit Bass Pro Shops filed against Bluegreen, they were concerned about commissions they had not been paid. Bass Pro Shops will be rewarded $40 million, but there is little concern as to the deception described by Plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Bluegreen members. In the lawsuit complaint, Bass Pro Shops mentioned aggressive sales practices that were offensive to their customers, but I’m sure the reason for the lawsuit was to sue for commissions. It’s all about the money with timeshares – our money.

We experienced the following:

  1. The meeting promised to last no more than an hour, lasted for hours,
  2. They explained how we would save money on vacations by buying points. In actuality, most of the places we attempted to book were either not available when we were able to use them, or we couldn’t book them at the time we wanted to book (not in the booking window). We have never been able to vacation anywhere using Bluegreen points but Branson, except for one Florida trip.
  3. We were told we were not buying a timeshare! They provided us with a “deed” explaining that we were purchasing real estate.
  4.  We were told we could sell Bluegreen points at any time and that points would appreciate in value like our home. There is no resale value as evidenced by their suggestion we donate points to a charity.
  5. A credit card was opened to make the purchase and we were advised to transfer the purchase price to a home equity loan.
  6. They explained the benefit of being able to transfer the points to our heirs. We now know what is passed down is a financial liability.

The few trips we did take were a disappointment due to high-pressure sales tactics that made us feel like we could not leave unless we purchased additional points. We have no desire to stay at another Branson property due to our last stay when we experienced soft spots on the bathroom floors, roaches, and the same furniture as 2011. The pool looked nasty, cloudy and full of algae. 

Bluegreen responded to our concerns as follows:

We are sorry to hear that you wish to cancel your ownership. Unfortunately, there are no provisions for you to cancel your contract at this time.

However, we would like to offer you the opportunity to participate in a pilot program we have developed to assist owners like you who have no outstanding loan but would like to separate from the Bluegreen Vacation Club. The program is outlined below:

1.     Donate your timeshare interest benefiting a charitable organization. Please see the attached document regarding worthy organizations.

2.     You will be provided with a donation letter from the charity based on the current third party comparable selling price. With respect to your ownership, this is estimated to be $745. Please note that this letter does not represent proper documentation to support a deduction on your tax return nor is it a substitution for any third-party valuation that may be required by the IRS. We recommend that you consult with a tax advisor regarding requirements for claiming non-cash charitable donations.

3.     You will have the option to utilize one-year’s allotment of (5,000) Vacation Points for up to two years (at no cost to you).

4.     You will be released from any future obligations to the Bluegreen Vacation Club.

Charitable Giving Program – Donation Options 

Junior Achievement of South Florida (JA)

SOS Children’s Villages – Florida is a foster care neighbourhood in Coconut Creek.

Christel House Some things should be handed down from one generation to the next. A life of poverty isn’t one of them.

JDRF is the leading global research organization accelerating medical breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).

I imagine waves of baby boomers, with children and grandchildren, have experienced the same. We will teach the next generations to avoid timeshares and travel clubs. The existence of unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices is apparent. See the lawsuits and Attorneys General investigations below.  

Thank you to Diane for informing us of this remarkable timeshare development. Our readers are not just a disgruntled few:

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 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 timeshare 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 allege 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/

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

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 

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

Thank you Diane and Irene, this certainly looks like one of those schemes which only benefits the timeshare company, if you have any views, comments or questions on this article please use our contact page and get in touch.

That is all for this week, we hope that you all have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to another Tuesday Slot, this week we have a new contributor, the Walency family with their own “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this time it is Hilton Grand Vacations that are in the frame. It is just amazing that even a company with a prestigious reputation as Hilton allows their sales agents to mislead and lie to prospective clients in order to line their own pockets. As we have said before, the timeshare product is not a bad concept, it is the behaviour and underhand tactics of sales agents with the complicity of their managers that are bringing the industry into disrepute. The CEO’s of these companies must take full responsibility for this, they are after all in charge!

Our Eternal Hilton Vacation Nightmare

By the Walency Family

November 27, 2018

This article was sent to Hilton for comment November 5. There was no response and at the time of publishing no response has been received.  

We don’t understand how a huge company like Hilton Grand Vacations can allow their sales agents to say anything at a timeshare presentation and then lay claim to the contents of our wallet from now until we die. We have unchecked corporations picking on small fish while lawmakers and big government agencies sit back watching the show and timeshare sales agents and executives rake in millions at our expense.  

Something is very wrong when a product, so often sold as an asset, forces buyers no choice but to foreclose if they don’t want it. If you buy a house, and you have an outstanding loan, you can still sell it. Timeshare buyers like me have no choice but to foreclose, due to the lack of a secondary market, ruining our credit, and I’m sure the credit of thousands.  Change will only happen through the cumulative voices of everyday people who have had their financial lives wrecked by this timeshare industry. We need to keep shouting until we can’t be ignored. If Hilton won’t listen, we hope others timeshare companies will.

Consumers need to think twice about buying any timeshare, as you can find yourself held financial hostage buying something that cannot be sold and is accompanied by rising maintenance fees.  The timeshare industry is leaving buyers with ruined credit scores and the anguish that goes along with foreclosure.

We received our closing documents well after the rescission date which prevented us from cancelling the contract.  We feel we experienced deceptive sales, but the difference in what we bought and what Hilton sales agent Bruce K sold us did not become apparent until long after the rescission period. We feel we experienced a bait and switch.

We purchased the Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare in New York City, New York, 2016 for $13,390. We no longer intend to pay for this contract. Bruce K misled us about the total cost of the timeshare. He did not mention property taxes, increased maintenance fees, or yearly assessments. We have had to pay $150 in yearly club dues, $335 for club inventory activation fee and $690.52 for annual assessment fees that he did not mention at the presentation.

We have been trying to communicate with Hilton since June 2018. To date, we have received only one letter with a copy of our contract and little else. In other words, they got us because we signed a contract, despite what the sales agent told us to get us to sign.

Bruce K told us he wasn’t a salesman, just there to help timeshare owners find buyers. Two lies in one. He was a salesman. Hilton does not have a resale department. We have tried to find his real estate license number, unsuccessfully, and wonder whether he was licensed to sell us the timeshare in the first place.

Bruce K told us it would be a good investment because it was real estate that this would be great to pass on to my daughters. He said it already had equity. This was the third lie as timeshares are a liability to be passed on to your kids.

He said we could book wherever we wanted, easily. We wanted to book Florida on the east coast. We were told it was not available, but could be booked through the next year or so.

In this day and age of easy online booking, we have to wait a year?

We asked for Cape Canaveral and Panama City Beach Resorts and Galveston, but ended up in Vegas as a last resort. We were never able to book with the ease that Bruce K told us we would be able to book.

What we were told:

  1. Bruce K said the Hilton timeshare was just like any other property where you can claim the interest paid on your taxes each year and it would pay for itself by renting it out and that he would help us do that. When I called to see if I could rent out my week, I was told Hilton does not allow renting the timeshare.
  2. Bruce K said there was a market to sell the timeshare if we needed to sell. We entered that market and were scammed the same way Hilton scammed us. Hilton Grand Vacations doesn’t have a buyback program.
  3. Bruce K stated several times how this would change the way we took vacations for the rest of our lives and how we could get reduced prices on airfare and ground travel in Europe and be able to book exotic vacations anywhere in the world. Booking vacations during our week is impossible because it was never available during week 31 of our agreement.

The New York and Texas Attorney Generals were useless and provided no help whatsoever, but I understand the New York Attorney General was able to help The Manhattan Club timeshare members get back $6.5 million. I found this on the internet:

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

So is their hope for the rest of us?

Self-help groups:

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 the Walency family for their contribution, if you have had a similar experience with any timeshare company and would like to share this on our “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, use our contact page and we will get back to you.