The Radio 4 program You and Yours will not be broadcasting the MacDonald Resorts segment today as planned, this is due to MacDonald Resorts contacting our reader and making an offer of settlement. Hopefully we will be able to publish a successful conclusion in the future.
Back now to our Letter from America.
Welcome to the end of another week with Inside Timeshare, today’s Letter from America is from an old friend, Irene Parker. It needs no introduction apart from it is a subject that has sparked many conversations, the acquisition of Diamond Resorts by Hilton Grand Vacations. Here Irene explores what this means to Diamond Members.
What does Hilton Grand Vacations Acquisition of Diamond Resorts Means to Diamond Members?
How Private Equity has Influenced Timeshare
By Irene Parker
March 26, 2021
Several Diamond Resorts members have expressed bewilderment by the announcement this month that Hilton is acquiring Diamond Resorts. Former deeded owners of resorts purchased by Diamond – Monarch, Gold Key, Sunterra, ILX, Amber and others, were told that they had to give up their deed and convert to points. It is likely they will once again be told they must upgrade to have access to Hilton properties. Overall, Diamond members seem to feel Hilton’s acquisition is a welcome development. The transaction is expected to close by summer.
But when you think about the power of putting the Hilton brand on …. it will, number one, create a tremendous amount of credibility. It’ll allow us to attract customers, higher-quality customers than Diamond was able to attract.
We’re going to be– we’re launching a new brand called Hilton Vacation Club. And Hilton Vacation Club will be positioned just below Hilton Grand Vacation Club, which is an upper upscale brand. And Hilton Vacation Club will be an upscale brand. And the entry price points are significantly lower, about $20,000 lower to– to enter the system.
Accelerates launch of HGV-branded trust product offering: rebrand Diamond’s properties over time to drive revenue growth in a new customer segment
My Comment: Trust-based means properties are owned by a Trust, but that is of no benefit to timeshare members who don’t “own” anything. Buyers of non-deeded points purchase a right-to-use product. They have no beneficial interest in a Developer’s Trust any more than a member of a Country Club or gym club has a beneficial interest in their club’s brick and mortar buildings.
My question: Diamond’s properties are already in Diamond’s Trusts. Does Hilton plan to buy legacy (older) resorts, modeling Diamond’s business model?
Combining HGV’s points-based deeded product with Diamond’s points-based trust structure will allow the Company to cater to a wider audience, attract more new buyers and drive incremental growth in a capital-efficient manner.
HGV’s deeded product provides premium pricing, inventory sourcing flexibility, and the ability to pre-sell projects to support strong project-level cash flow, while giving buyers and owners the value of guaranteed availability.
My question: How is availability guaranteed? According to Hilton members I spoke with, availability is guaranteed by means of an advanced booking window. It’s not the same as owning a fixed week that is a true guarantee.
The introduction of a trust product allows for lower barriers to ownership, reduced inventory delivery volatility and inventory recycling, enabling smoother sales and upgrades while providing buyers and owners network and pricing flexibility.
The biggest question on the minds of many Diamond members is – will there finally be a resale value. Rules change, but at last check if you buy Diamond points on the secondary market, you must buy 50% of the number of points you bought on the secondary market, directly from Diamond to be eligible for The Club, to be able to exchange. Will Hilton be so restrictive?
Inventory delivery volatility reduction must be because points are of almost unlimited supply and eternal.
Inventory recycling means foreclosing or taking back points.
“Smoother sales and upgrades” is something Diamond members are very used to and many are wary of.
One Diamond member expressed Diamond’s pricing flexibility:
Kona 11/6/18 – Our agent tried to convince us to purchase Hawaii collection points for $11.40 per point, as opposed to $4.79 presented on Oahu the week before. Manager Brett asked us where the $4.79 came from. We shared the paperwork we had been given. He became rude and threatening saying, “it is illegal for you to have these papers.” The papers had been given to us.
Integrates Diamond’s innovative Events of a Lifetime® experiential sales and marketing platform that drives strong engagement and Volume Per Guest (VPG) premiums with HGV’s owner base
My Comment: It is hoped Hilton will do a better job of informing the person presented with an EOL that it is a solicitation.
Volume per Guest is a metric that is often used to show efficiency in sales. Total sales volume divided by the number of tours “guests” that each site has.
Ex. Site sells 200,000 on a day with 25 guests = 8,000 VPG – This is the expectation for existing owners. (Figures provided by an industry insider)
Many on our Diamond member-sponsored Facebook have questioned how this remarkably high VPG has been achieved.
In 2018 – Private-equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC is preparing to take Diamond Resorts public …. Apollo could seek a valuation for Diamond Resorts of around $4 billion and aim to raise in excess of $500 million in the offering, though price expectations are moving around, according to people familiar with the process.
HGV, spun out of Hilton Worldwide in 2017, will buy the Las Vegas-based Diamond Resorts (for $1.4 billion) from funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management Inc., Reverence Capital Partners and others in an all-stock deal.
Private equity funds more closely resemble venture capital firms in that they invest directly in companies, primarily by purchasing private companies, although they sometimes seek to acquire controlling interest in publicly traded companies through stock purchases. They frequently use leveraged buyouts to acquire financially distressed companies. Once they acquire or control interest in a company, private equity funds look to improve the company through management changes, streamlining operations or expansion, with the eventual goal of selling the company for a profit, either privately or through an initial public offering in a stock market.
History Repeats Itself
The first Diamond member to submit an article about their timeshare experience to Inside Timeshare was in 2016. A family of five, with their firstborn off to college, they alleged that they were told if they became Platinum they could offset maintenance fees. The most recent Inside Timeshare article is about a Diamond member who received a $95,678 judgement contesting a $3,995 Sampler trial product. He alleged that he was told he could offset maintenance fees at $.20 per point by charging purchases to a Diamond Barclaycard.
Many Diamond members have reported that they were told that if they did not give up their deed their heirs would be liable for the timeshare. There have been 157 Platinum members who have reported allegations that they were promised the ability to be relieved of maintenance fees, unlock equity, or be able to sell points if they became Platinum loyalty level or bought additional points.
Do your timeshare math when purchasing a timeshare or upgrading. Seniors especially need to amortize the buy-in price over their expected lifetime to determine if the outlay is worth the price.
Thank you, Irene, as usual, you have given us much to think about, let us hope the industry itself wakes up and take notes from what their own members are saying.
Join us again next week as we explore and report on the murky world of timeshare, have a great weekend.
More Breaking News
On Monday Inside Timeshare will be publishing the latest on the Cazorla Group, the majority shareholders of Anfi, it has been announced that the courts have declared the Cazorla Group bankrupt.
Today’s article is rather disturbing, it highlights how members of the armed services and veterans are being targeted by unscrupulous sales agents. For people who put their lives on the line, this behaviour is particularly obnoxious.
Samuel Melendez, our Advocacy group thanks you for your service to our country
By Irene Parker
Diamond and ARDA seek to destroy me. I know that sounds melodramatic, but sources tell me it’s true. I’m confident this will happen sooner rather than later. The industry and ARDA’s answer to our advocacy efforts is to behead the messengers rather than examine the business practices of top selling agents. I’m told one executive even commented, “They are victimizing the uneducated,” in regard to Timeshare Advocacy Group™ and our efforts.
Please read the American Resort Development Association’s (ARDA) Code of Ethics and Eron Grant’s article about the code before reading the following ten reader reports about their allegations of deceit.
Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen each give $1 million a year in the form of voluntary “opt out” donations to the timeshare lobby, a PAC, called ARDA ROC. Members are told it is a nonprofit that helps timeshare members. It is doubtful many members even know what the letters ARDA ROC stand for. Marriott’s contribution is an “opt in” donation. It took several calls to have my $7 removed from my account. When I called in November, I was told it was a delinquency. Having researched timeshare for over two years, I was able to determine the $7 was moved from one account to another. I suspect it was to have me forget about it as it mushed into the 2018 invoice.
In a span of ten days, Inside Timeshare has been contacted by seven active duty and retired military, describing how they say they were defrauded by predatory timeshare sales agents from four companies. A 100 page summary of 249 complaints against timeshare sales agents and companies is available upon request by regulatory authorities. Of the 249 complaints, 233 are against Diamond Resorts. I am a Diamond member. I did not choose to do business with Diamond. We were acquired in the ILX Arizona acquisition. If I were instead a Bluegreen member, 233 out of 249 complaints would be against Bluegreen. Bluegreen members have their own Advocacy group supporting members who want out of their Dream Vacation that can become a Nightmare when a life crisis occurs.
Today we thank Samuel Melendez who spent 21 years in the army training soldiers, working with colleges, teaching chemical, biological and nuclear defense. 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. Amanda Jones, featured in Tuesday’s article, has suggested individual base commanders be informed in the hope they will ban service members from attending timeshare presentations and events. “The Diamond sales agent that sold us points said he was a Marine. If he is not, that’s stolen valor. Base commanders need to be aware of the predatory nature of timeshare sales. My husband George and I, Navy computer technicians, feel we were victimized.”
If seven members of the military, describing how they say they were defrauded were not enough in a week, Gay and Ed Brewer called me yesterday. My husband and I owned a bioavailability pharmaceutical research laboratory, but I have heard more grave medical conditions in the last two years assisting timeshare members, than I did in ten years as president of our company.
Gay Brewer, 74 and Ed Brewer, 77
First, here is Diamond’s Rebuttal to my article written for Jim Cramer’s TheStreet about Apollo’s acquisition of Diamond dated June 30, 2016.
It is also incorrect to state that Diamond Resorts is “not interested” in liquidity in the resale market for timeshares because the company profits from “reclaiming” vacation ownership interests that are defaulted on by the customer. To the contrary, Diamond Resorts understands that customers experience life events that change the circumstances from when they originally purchased vacation ownership interests. That is why the company not only permits resales, but we also recently announced a new “Transitions Program” to launch soon, and will allow those in good standing to relinquish their points to the company in a simple, safe and respectful manner.
The snag is “in good standing” because almost all timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare say they were pressured into high interest rate loans. All timeshare companies can and do cancel loans. I’ve come to learn it is a matter of who wears down whom first.
According to Gay Brewer,
Ed’s heart stopped beating three times this past year. He has had a prior heart attack. He has had a Pacemaker defibrillator implanted which has fired three times. He cannot fly on an airplane or be exposed to high altitudes. He is monitored 24/7 by a Holter monitor. We had to evacuate our California home due to the Liberty fire. At present we are receiving 12 collection calls a day (six each) from Diamond’s collection agents.
Deneice Vargas, another Diamond member in foreclosure (her husband Louis is diagnosed with Bell’s palsy), told me “When DRI Consumer Advocates are not busy advocating for members by researching and providing the member’s initials on the fine print, in response to “the sales agent said”, they make collection calls.”The oral representation clause may make this legal robbery, but Social Media is eventually going to catch up. Several attorneys have told me the oral representation does not allow timeshare companies to get away with sale agents who lie, but there is virtually no enforcement. State enforcement is spotty at best.
The Brewers were Monarch owners. Like so many, they were told they had to give up their deeded week. This was not true. Four or five contracts later, after the last up-sell at Diamond’s Polo Towers Resort, they decided they regretted buying points due to disappointment in availability. While I find good value in Arizona and Orlando using points, limited availability is a major complaint voiced by Diamond and Bluegreen members. The Brewers have written to DRI Consumer Advocacy:
Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy
We are asking our loans be cancelled due to medical and financial hardship. We were told we would not be able to use our Monarch week unless we bought DRI points and that our Monarch week was worthless. We were never told of the option to deed back the week to DRI. Due to the burden of medical bills, we have not made payments since July and will not be able to make future payments.
We contacted Exit Timeshare as they guarantee timeshare release but they said they would charge us $28,000. I contacted Irene Parker. She told us to contact Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy instead. She said DRI Advocates have helped many in our situation. We were not aware there was a DRI Advocacy program.
Please contact us as soon as possible. It was never our intention not to meet this obligation, despite the fact that there was never adequate availability when we tried to book and we were never told of the option to deed back our Monarch week. We have learned that on TUGTimeshare Users Group, DRI is accepting more than 95% of requests, if in good standing.
Thank you for your consideration.
Samuel Melendez Response to DRI Advocate Ben from Irene Parker
Mr. Melendez, DRI Complaint #207/233, is the eighth Platinum member to contact Inside Timeshare alleging financial institution fraud, deceit and bait and switch by DRI agent Rick Casper. The depth of corruption and the degree of criminality is now over my head, based on Karen Varten’s and Samuel and Delores Melendez report preceded by 231 others. Mr. Melendez and Ms. Varten have both reported a negative outcome.
The Melendez family Edward Jones financial planner contacted me, so I am responding on the family’s behalf. I retired from Edward Jones Hawaii. Their EDJ financial planner had researched timeshare a little and found a law firm offering legal assistance for well over $10,000. He asked me if he should refer the family to this lawyer. I have nothing against the firm he mentioned, but I told the EDJ broker to hold off because I have referred seven other Rick Casper Platinum up-sells to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy and they have helped all of them. They reported a positive outcome, albeit one needed the assistance of the Arizona Attorney General. What did Mr. Melendez receive from their Diamond Consumer Advocate as a response? Basically, they received a reminder of the oral representation clause, and their initials on the fine print, despite seven other identical Rick Casper complaints from members who received positive outcomes.
I spent a good two hours on the phone Monday with the FBI. My new neighbor is a federal prosecutor on sabbatical from California. I asked him for advice, but he only knows about murders. After speaking with the FBI (for the fourth time), and a few lawyers, I am convinced the oral representation clause does not hold water when used to hide behind. The FBI explained what it’s going to take, so we are filing complaints first on the FBI website IC3.gov and then orally, on the FBI tip hotline, found on the FBI website. Rick Casper is not the only DRI sales agent pitching bogus resale and maintenance fee programs that don’t exist. We have recently received complaint about a Las Vegas sales agent by the name of Adam Mendenhall offering point upgrades that would allow paying maintenance fees at $.30 per point. This program does not exist. DRI sales agents that make $1 to $2 million a year in commission tend to get more attention.
One of our core advocates is a Tampa detective. She has advised us to file with the Nevada Real Estate Division. She was duped by Bluegreen. Like the detective, Scotty Black, DRI Complaint #164, works in law enforcement and has a MS in Criminal Justice. At least I have some help.
George and Amanda Jones, DRI Complaint #211, a married couple living in Virginia, are Navy computer technicians. Scotty, George and Amanda cannot afford their timeshare because of being told it would be easy to get their timeshare refinanced at a lower rate because the DRI sales agents told them there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares, among other allegations. Forced into foreclosure, they could lose their security clearance and their job.
Last week I was contacted by seven members of the armed forces, active duty and retired, four DRI complaints. Only the Air Force is not represented. Karen Varten, DRI Complaint #219, a Platinum up-sell, was contacted by DRI Marketing San Diego, hosted by Florida DRI sales agents in Virginia. Karen owned 57,000 points. She was told if she bought 25,000 additional points (totaling 82,000), if purchased today, she would have double points so 165,000 points to cover all maintenance fees and still have points left to travel. What was the response to her complaint? She was provided her initials on the contract.
Preying on the young and old is bad enough, but Mr. Melendez taught our young men and women in the army how to defend themselves against biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. He sent a lot of those young people to war, and some of them did not return, protecting (alleged) predators like Rick Casper and, as the reports below offer compelling and compounding evidence, Diamond Resorts as well. Circumstantial evidence is still evidence.
Mr. Melendez has filed complaints with the FBI and the BBB. In the unlikely event DRI will help this family, please contact him by Wednesday, before we publish this article. There would be nothing that would make me happier than to end the year with a happy outcome for someone who spent 21 years teaching soldiers how to be protected from biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, instead of forcing this family to fork over – more than $10,000 the family will need to pay an attorney to get them out of this mess if DRI does not help them. After the last Rick Casper up-sell, their monthly payment has escalated from $431 a month to $2200. They told me they told Mr. Casper they were worried about passing this burden on to their heirs.
All of the Platinum members listed below liked DRI, but now tell me they think this is the most crooked company in existence. I feel a little like Martin Luther, thinking the Catholic Church would appreciate his exposing corruption in the Catholic Church. ARDA has had the same reaction as the Pope did then. A copy of all reports is sent to ARDA’s General Council and CEO in the hoping they will read their Code of Ethic.
Seven other Rick Casper Platinum up-sells totaling $819,000 including Mr. Melendez $133,000.
1 CL $75,000
During our meeting we were told about all the new changes that had been discussed at the Dinner that would allow us to sell our points. My husband has Cancer so all that was going through his mind was trying to make a choice that would help me later on if the Chemo doesn’t work and when Rick Casper convinced him this was the answer that’s all my husband heard. When we were in that office he was Stage 4. He has Colo-rectal Cancer that has spread to his Liver and Lungs. Our Las Vegas trip was something we wanted to do before my husband started his treatment.
I don’t understand how the DRI finance team could even approve us for a $75,000 loan for Timeshare Points when we had been turned down from two different companies while trying to refinance our house just this past year. Both requests were for under $100,000.
Questionnaire sheet last two questions: Had you attended dinner? What is your exit strategy? Apollo had dinners informing members Cloobeck was leaving. Not everyone heard the presentation so Rick was talking to members Platinum about the Legacy program. He said DRI never allowed you to sell points. This will. He knows real estate people can get $5 on resale for DRI points. New members are paying $9 so if you buy at $4 it is easy to sell. He had contacts that he could set us up with. 12/29/2016
4 RB, age 66 $75,000
Mr. Casper said on at least four occasions I was eligible for a Pool Party Upgrade that would provide an exit strategy. He said the program was about to expire so I needed to write a sentence that said I wanted to do this and he would get the purchase approved. I never received a copy of the sentence. The purpose of the purchase, according to Mr. Casper, was to make my existing points more valuable. Mr. Casper went on to explain that this exit strategy would allow me to monitor and sell the points. He mentioned that he is a family man and does not want to pass his points and maintenance fees on to his kids.
5 JH, age 56 $132,000
“The main benefit that he presented was the ability to convert points directly into cash at $0.30 per point. If at any time during the year we had leftover points we could be reimbursed for those points in cash. All we had to do was contact Dan Percy and he would process the transaction and put the money on our reloadable Visa card.”
I continued to ask questions about each benefit so that I would be certain. I worded questions differently to see if I would get the same answer. I threw out this scenario; “If at the end of the year I have 30,000 points still sitting in my account, you’re telling me that I can get reimbursed cash for these points at $0.30 per point.” His response; “Absolutely – You contact Dan Percy and he will load $9,000 onto the Visa card.”We purchased 40,000 points to get us to the level of “Super Platinum”.
We purchased an additional 20,000 points on July 16, 2016 for $55,200 from Richard Casper, at Cancun Resort, Las Vegas. The reason we purchased these points is because Rick told us if we went from Gold, to Platinum status, he could sell the points if we needed to. In addition, he told us we could substantially reduce our maintenance fees by submitting receipts to him for goods and services. We have never seen a tangible way to reduce our current $8,685 maintenance fees.
We contacted Richard Casper by email on April 7, 2017 because we need to sell the 20,000 points. We received an autoreply stating to contact VP Dan Percy. We talked with Dan Percy on April 14, 2017. He stated that Diamond Resorts sales personnel don’t assist people who need to sell points and are not allowed to provide any company names that buy and sell timeshare.
In addition, during our sales presentation with Richard Casper July, 2016 we asked about combining our eight contracts. He advised that any free and clear points sold on the resale market will have the same benefits except loyalty level as long as no more than 20,000 points to one individual and it would be better not to combine the points. He stated that many Gold owners would be happy to buy 20,000 points at the lower price to become Platinum owners.
7 JM, age 61 $90,000
Rick Casper was introduced to me as a Platinum specialist. Mr. Casper said I made a big mistake buying Hawaii points and a bigger mistake transferring the 20,000 points I bought in Daytona, due to a class action lawsuit against DRI members causing exorbitant increases in maintenance fees because of storm related beach erosion.
Mr. Casper said I had to transfer back to US Collection and if I owned 100,000 points I would be unofficially known as a double platinum member and I would be able to sell any unused points in November and December each year back to Diamond at 30 cents per point, as DRI could sell those points annually to other members. Mr. Casper said this was closely regulated by the authorities. Mr. Casper said by selling these point back to DRI at 30 cents per points I could pay some or all of my maintenance fees for that year and any years to follow. Mr. Casper said this would allow my children not to have to pay maintenance fees.
“You are really passing your children a bill. We have a new program if you reach me in November to let me know what you did not use. Diamond will buy them back at $.30 for that year only to, ‘put them back in the kitty’. We need the points because we can sell them to other people who need them.”He illustrated the money we would be paid on a piece of paper. “What are you waiting for? This is a no brainer,” he said. Mr. Casper convinced me to return to the US Collection the 20,000 points I had transferred in Hawaii 2015 due to beach erosion. I purchased an additional 30,000 points. I now owned 115,000 points.
In November 2016 I called Rick Casper to inform him I had 80,000 points I wished to cash in so that I would receive $24,000 (at 30 cents per point) as Mr. Casper illustrated during our sales presentation. However, he denied any knowledge of any such arrangement. I explained I had a guest with me at the time, S L, who heard everything he said. .
Mr. Casper said the reason for the 30 cent per point program was due to the sale of Diamond to Apollo. Mr. Casper said Mr. Cloobeck wanted to do something for members who owned over 100,000 points to show his appreciation so he included the 30 cent per point program in the terms of the Apollo buyout. SL and I clearly remember this conversation
My current loan payment at the time of the presentation was $1,650 per month. Mr. Casper multiplied that by 12 totaling $19,800 in payments annually plus $14,000 per annum in maintenance fees or $33,880 for annual maintenance fees and loan payments combined. He divided this figure by 12 resulting in $2,816 per month. In the 50,000 additional points Mr. Casper offered, he stated it would only cost an additional $400 per month or $4,800 per year. If I sold back the additional 50,000 points at 30 cents per point I would receive a check back for $15,000.
As stated previously, when I contacted Rick Casper to sell back 80,000 points, he acted as if he did not know what I was talking about. I own a truck leasing business and S is a secondary school teacher. In no way did we misunderstand the figures above.
There was undue pressure to open a Barclaycard. I explained that I did not need an additional credit card. Rick Casper insisted I open a Barclaycard. I feel the Barclaycard is part of the strategy used to play out what I consider to be a con.
I then spoke with Dan Percy and then Seth Johnson. I thought Mr. Johnson and I were close to a resolution when he suddenly stopped responding to me.
At a meeting in Palm Springs, CA between Christmas and New Year’s 2016, we met with someone who seemed to be an ombudsman about the poor accommodation we had been assigned. During the course of our meeting I mentioned Rick Casper. She closed her book and said, “This meeting is over.” I asked several times why and she finally said Rick Casper was under investigation.
I want to return to the 50,500 points I originally owned prior to the deceitful sales. I was not unhappy with Diamond until the deception started.
8 The first Monarch complaint I read in 2015 back in the day when I thought the Cancun Resort was in Cancun.
Former DRI CEO David Palmer’s friend from ADW Capital, recommended Diamond’s stock because there is no secondary market. This is a mock interview I published after reading the above complaint, shortly before I received an executive perk agreement leaked to us about how Diamond founder and former CEO Stephen Cloobeck was allowed, as a perk, 50 hours use of the most expensive aircraft in the DRI fleet with the flight crew, for non-business use. Last time we checked, Mr. Cloobeck is running for Nevada Governor, lauded for donating $400,000 to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
Leon Black, founder of Apollo Global Management, is worth $6.5 billion, according to Bloomberg. David Palmer earned $19 million in two years, a small portion of the wealth generated for his family during his tenure as DRI CEO. As a former stockbroker and financial planner, I have nothing against generating great wealth, but not like this.
Diamond’s response to the six military who say they were defrauded: Free tickets for military members for their next event.
Yesterday Inside Timeshare highlighted the plight of owners at Los Claveles resort in Tenerife, our US readers have a similar problem with developers attempting to take over resorts. Their problem is the transfer of deeded weeks to points, rather than the heavy handed actions of the Ona Group. We have also seen this in Europe, where the likes of MacDonald Resorts with the tacit approval of the owners committees association TATOC, are attempting to change all fixed week owners to their ridiculous points system. A system which only allows a stay under one condition “SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY”.
Over the past few months Irene ParkerInside Timeshares partner from across The Great Lake, has been highlighting the problems that Diamond owners are having. One of the main themes has been the downright lies sales agents have been using to sell more and more points to people who obviously cannot afford it. The use of the DiamondBarclayCard is one tactic they have used, with promises that it reduces maintenance fees. Irene has in previous articles shown how this has devastated people’s lives.
Diamond sometime ago rolled out “Clarity”, supposedly to make everything transparent, today’s article from Irene poses the following question:
Is the Diamond Resorts Clarity Program Real?
By Irene Parker
May 23, 2017
My husband and I stayed over two weeks at Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links and Los Abrigados this past month. Anxious to hear more about Diamond’s Clarity Program, I asked if I could speak with a sales agent to learn more. Unfortunately, my requests at the concierge desk and emails went unheeded. Disappointed, I approached several existing members asking them for their feedback. I had hoped to hear positive stories.
Two of the families I spoke with did not want to go on record, but Faye and Mike Hanrahan from New Jersey shared their experience with me. I probably picked the wrong couple because they are former Monarch owners. Diamond has pursued former Monarch owners to give up their deeded timeshare week in exchange for non-deeded “right-to-use” points. In addition to Monarch, ILX, Intrawest and now Gold Key face the same battle in an attempt to hold onto their deeds.
Here’s what happened at Los Abrigados in Sedona according to Faye and Mike:
We had our sit down. We were told we have no way out of Monarch unless we spend approximately $10,000 for the equivalent of 6,000 Diamond vacation points with either a $1,400 maintenance fee or, if we signed a contract that same day, an $871maintenance fee. After we refused the first sales agent, we were introduced to an agent who said he was an original Monarch owner, but now worked for Apollo, although he had on a Diamond name tag. It was because he was with Apollo he could offer a half price on maintenance fee offer if we signed before leaving the room. Already familiar with timeshare, we knew there is no such opportunity for one owner to have half off the company’s maintenance fee. They offered to help by opening a Diamond Barclaycard for $3,995 put up by Barclays. The deal was to pay $39.95 month for 23 months to buy a “Club Combination for Life” program. After 23 months we were told we could use the $4,000 to buy into Diamond or Barclays will “zero out the debt” having paid a total of $918.85 at the end of 23 months. We of course could continue to use the credit card. Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of this timeshare?
Pressure to give up a deed is a frequent complaint. Once you give up your deed, the Diamond owner is no longer allowed to rent using a third party rental agency or website.
But back to Clarity, which is about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. In the spirit of fair and balanced reporting, here are some excerpts about Clarity provided by Maya Pogoda, PR spokesperson for Diamond resorts.
Before we begin, I should mention that Inside Timeshare has been hearing from Diamond members on almost a daily basis. The majority of complaints received have been about upsells to existing members, even Platinum members, as per the individuals who reported to us, for the following reasons:
The only way to sell Diamond points is to buy more points because only Platinum members can sell their points.
The only way your heirs don’t have to keep up with maintenance fees is to upgrade to the next loyalty level. One family bought more points for this reason only to be told by the next agent at a subsequent presentation this benefit is already available, as she pointed out in a guidebook.
You should not have bought US Collection points because you won’t be able to book Hawaii (if in Hawaii) or you should not have bought Hawaii points because Hawaii maintenance fees are going to increase dramatically (if on the US mainland).
The only way to be eligible for a $.30 maintenance fee reduction is to upgrade to the next loyalty level. Only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point.
You need to buy more points because you can’t do anything with the small number of points you purchased.
Member stories are listed in our Barclaycard article
Here is Diamond’s perspective on Clarity from PR spokesperson, Maya Pogoda. Her comments are from discussions we had in January and were previously reported.
“We have been piloting the various elements of the Diamond Clarity program for some time,” Pogoda explained. “Now that we gained the confidence that each of these pieces were effective, we were able to roll out this cohesive, national program that seeks to enhance the overall customer experience when purchasing and holding a vacation membership. Diamond Clarity will rewrite industry best practices by increasing transparency for the consumer and accountability for our team members.”
Pogoda noted that 70% of its sales are to existing members, however, Diamond Clarity “will improve the overall customer experience by increasing transparency for the consumer and accountability for our team members. At Diamond Resorts, we are always working to provide our members with the best possible vacation experiences. This focus on hospitality and creating lasting experiences has made Diamond Resorts an industry leader. We have always believed that customer satisfaction creates loyalty. So while the definition of customer loyalty has not changed, our commitment to finding new ways to drive customer satisfaction to create loyalty evolves constantly. Diamond Clarity is evidence of that.”
Creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel within the company’s corporate headquarters, to quickly address any issues or concerns members may have. This new platform will allow Diamond Resorts to maintain the highest standards of service in the industry.
No one doubts there are are Diamond members who are sold honestly and fairly, but over 250 Diamond member families have bonded together through our advocacy Facebook to support one another as we fight off endless up-sell attempts that have driven families further and further into debt.
To date our Advocacy group has received and assisted the following complaints.
Our Advocacy Efforts Statistics Update
75 Inquiries for assistance
55 Formal interventions complaints filed or assisted with
Reasons for 75 complaints as provided by the complainants
34 Sold by deception and bait and switch
09 Barclaycard upsell/predatory lending
02 30 cents to convert to MF relief (non-existent program)
06 Switch back from HI to US Collection or vice versa
06 Maintenance fees increases
02 Survivor benefit program (non-existent as already available)
08 Bought more points told it was the only way to exit the timeshare
08 Lack of Availability
We seek to provide Diamond Resort 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.
“Diamond Clarity is not limited to just one state, it’s a national program that includes four new operational initiatives. One of these initiatives is recording quality assurance sessions subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training. The company has invested in technology to ensure that these recordings can be archived and searchable. Recording sales presentations would not meet these objective and thus are not currently part of the Diamond Clarity Program.”
The recording of the QA session is the biggest sore point Diamond members have with Clarity. Many of our complaints include the sales agent advising the buyer not to say anything about an exciting new program because “The program is not public yet so I could lose my job if you tell anyone.” Arizona allows the recording of the sales session but few buyers will go to the trouble.
This new program by DRI is a very predictable step after the Arizona Attorney General’s action. If Clarity is about transparency, why does Maya not once reveal the only reason the company issued the program is because Diamond is essentially under state supervision in Arizona after the issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance” after over 400 complaints received claiming Diamond violated Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.
DRI is obligated to demonstrate cooperation and compliance to new disclosure requirements by the AZ AG, but the company will do nothing for existing owners because they purchased contracts during the “Murky Stage”…
“Clarity” does not have any provision of fixing the existing and growing problems which are flooding the courtrooms all over the world where DRI operates ….
Regarding recording the QA sessions by DRI, this should be only offered if attendees, who are, according to “Clarity“, 70% existing owners, be allowed to do the same in order to establish a level playing field. Otherwise it is a trap participating owners will end up in, because it will give DRI additional defense tool in the courtroom.
Regarding creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel. This Channel should have consumer rights attorneys and secret observers not employed by DRI in order to eliminate conflict of interest.
Regarding increase training to frontline personal. The frontline personnel had superb national training during the “Murky Stage”. How else can you explain the fact so many owners all over the world had exactly the same upsell by deceit and “bait and switch” during sales presentations? Many of our 250 Facebook member families claim sales representatives all over the world presented exactly the same falsified and misleading comments in order to entice owners to buy additional points. The name of the national sales training program should be: “101 ways how to deceive owners during sales presentation process and increase the volume of sales.”
Second member comment
I realize we are all skeptical about “promises” made by DRI, but this program has the potential of making a positive impact on our relationship with DRI.
Third member, a Diamond member and an attorney
Is the idea that none of these rules were previously in place? It appears to me these are designed as Diamond CYA’s going forward, “we have a recording” or “there as an observer” or “contact the consumer advocacy channel within __ days”. For Diamond to say the allegations we all experience did not happen.
What does this accomplish for the victims of the bad business practices from the past?
Recording Quality Assurance sessions, subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training.
Creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel within the company’s corporate headquarters, to quickly address any issues or concerns members may have. This new platform will allow Diamond Resorts to maintain the highest standards of service in the industry.
Increased training of frontline personnel. All sales and marketing personnel will take part in quarterly training exercises to reinforce their awareness, understanding, and compliance with all sales and marketing rules, principles, and practices.
Regularly placing “Consumer Engagement Observers” at sales presentations to continuously provide the sales organization with feedback necessary to achieve constant improvement.
I would suggest these are great improvements to the training and consumer friendly positions Diamond should have had all along. It does nothing to help people who have already suffered with no recourse from Diamond.
If their product was so great, Clarity would be evident within the first 6-12 months of an owner’s experience with the company. It would be clear that this is “everything they said and represented” or it is “nothing that I was promised” and the consumer would still have options to exit, sell or rescind on some compromised plan. The longer you wait the less you retain.
I am not impressed.
Fourth comment anonymous due to Litigation
Enforcement of DRI “PROMISE” is difficult, unlikely, and merely a smoke screen to generate a false sense of security regarding oversight. It is another set of unenforced regulatory promises which incidentally spawned the crisis currently engulfing Diamond owners. The paltry AG financial agreement and appurtenant agreements simply demonstrate that the AZ AG is taking steps to protect itself from accusations of inaction.
Their behavior is reminiscent of the legal machinations demonstrated by ADRE and California Department of Real Estate. Complainants with ADRE regarding fraudulent practices at Diamond are told that such a complaint is an employee/employer dispute.
When filing complaints with RE regulatory agencies, it must be understood that determinations that deflect the fraud accusations are made to avoid costly investigations. This embraces the policy of waiting for some catastrophic event to prompt unavoidable enforcement action. It does not eliminate the need to continue to create a public record of these complaints, and legitimate demands to be made whole from recovery funds. Misleading determinations by these agencies should be challenged in order to demonstrate the lack of responsible enforcement pertaining to regulatory obligations.
Fifth anonymous member
If we only hear one side of the story or information how are we truly being informed? That is what happened with the hard sales only hearing their side. Our Advocacy members and Diamond need to hear and listen to both sides instead of the constant media spin.
You can share.
Sixth anonymous member
I’m afraid I don’t have much hope that this “Diamond Promise” will change much. I purchased a Sampler package in Sedona in 2012 and annual points the next year in Las Vegas. As best as I can recall, the procedures enumerated in the “new” Diamond Promise existed then, and still I was misled on some important issues.
The Diamond Clarity program has no mechanism which commits the vacation counselors, sales managers, and quality assurance officers to the Promise. In other words, there is no effective enforcement mechanism. Such a mechanism must impose a cost on the seller when the promise is violated.
The economic analysis of warranties has shown that a product sold with a warranty creates an incentive for companies to improve product quality. Reductions in the level of quality – like the misleading sales information in the case of timeshares – leads to higher warranty costs and thereby penalizes such behavior. We have good reasons to believe that in the absence of warranties high quality products get driven out of the market, while low quality products are driven out when warranties are used.
This new program depends on the trust in and good will from Diamond managers. But this is the same group that is incentivized to increase sales and revenue for the organization.
Seventh anonymous member
Promises are only as good as the party providing the assurances. I too see no real means of enforcement, and if anything this could provide an excuse for relaxed oversight by regulators.
I have been pressing the AZ Dept. of RE for 3 years to take enforcement action against DRI’s brokers. It has been clearly demonstrated that they are negligent in discharging their responsibilities pursuant to RE statute.
I would recommend that owners look at filing a claim with ADRE as complaints are mounting regarding DRI behaviors.
Eighth anonymous member due to litigation
Clarity is definitely a meaningless program – except to bolster Diamond’s position in court. I can hear it now – our QA monitored sessions prove no widespread fraudulent practices.
Agents will know when they are being monitored or recorded so they will be on their best behavior.
Will there ever be a day when we can all get along by communicating and responding to voices of the concerned?
Once again thanks to Irene and all who contribute from the other side of The Great Lake, one thing is for certain, owners on both sides are starting to see that by joining together they can make a difference.
To those owners at Los Claveles, you do have support, we only need to bring it together.
If you have any comments on any article published or would like to contribute, Inside Timeshare welcomes you.