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Maya Pogoda

Clarity: The Quality of Being Coherent and Intelligible.

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 Parker Inside 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 Diamond BarclayCard 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?

facts

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

Timeshare and Barlcaycard in the US

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.

https://www.loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/diamond-resorts-international-raises-the-bar-on-cu

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.

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

According to Maya,

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.

Marjorie Menacker’s experience is an example of this. To date, Diamond has denied her release.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond

We end with some member advocate comments as to why these upsold members are wary.

inspired advocates

Irene Allen

Jan 28 (5 days ago)   

 http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-news-across-atlantic/

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 ….

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Shacking hands

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.

getting together

If you have any comments on any article published or would like to contribute, Inside Timeshare welcomes you.

 

Consumer Protection Week USA

Consumer Protection in Europe is governed by the EU Commission, each country within the EU also has their own consumer protection laws in their own legislation. Much of this comes from directives laid down by the EU Commission, the same way as the EU Directives on Timeshare.

In the UK, the Trading Standards Institute has an annual National Consumer Week, this has been running since 1989. It is a consumer education campaign run by the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP) and is usually at the end of November to the beginning of December.

Each year it focuses on different themes from buying a car to the quality of goods and customer care. The main focus is to educate the public on their rights, how to deal with complaints and who to turn to for help.

There are also many other avenues where consumers can receive help and advice, one of the most notable is “Which”, they have for many years published a magazine giving advice on various goods and highlighting major recalls. They produce many other publications free of charge including very simple guides on using computers, lap tops etc.

The Citizens Advice Bureau is also another well known place for help and guidance. Most towns have one and they will cover many areas of concern from benefits, problems with employers to financial problems. They tend to be run mainly by volunteers, but have experts such as lawyers and financial advisors on call.

In the field of timeshare there is a great lack of real advice, it is unfortunate that the 2 main organisations that give consumer advice will send consumers to TATOC. As we have highlighted in the past, this organisation is funded by the industry and is virtually run by them. Take a complaint about your resort, you will be told to contact them, as they will not intervene. Not a very good way of giving advice, sending a complaint to the ones that are the cause of the complaint.

In the Article by Irene Parker today, she highlights servicemen who have fallen foul of the high pressure selling tactics. In the UK several years ago there was a company that was preying on servicemen and their families, they set up a vacation club or what we know as a discount members club. It cost upwards of £6000 to join, with many servicemen taking up the offer.

As with many of these clubs the servicemen did not get what they paid for, with the so-called discounts being far more expensive than what was available on the highstreet. Many complaints went to the MOD, and this company has not been heard from since. Luckily many of those who paid did so on their credit cards and were able to retrieve the payment from the card provider using the Credit Consumer Act.

It is a very sorry state, when servicemen who put their lives on the line in defence of their country are treated in such a way. The most annoying aspect of the above example was many of the sales reps were themselves ex-servicemen, using this as a tool to gain trust.

Inside Timeshare hopes the following article will be of help to those caught foul some of these unscrupulous tactics.

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/index_en.htm

https://www.tradingstandards.uk/practitioners/events/national-consumer-week
Consumer Protection Week March 5 -11

Who needs protecting? The elderly, the ill, the divorced, the unemployed, the Army and the Navy

man cash

By Irene Parker – March 6, 2017

Consumer Protection Week in the US is sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). More than 100 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations will participate in the 19th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), held March 5-11, 2017. NCPW is a nationally coordinated campaign to inform Americans of their consumer rights while providing them access to free consumer-related resources.

Do Timeshare consumers need protecting? One need only review the 15 page Department of Justice report on Timeshare scams to answer with an unequivocal “Yes!”

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare&op=Search&affiliate=justice

What questions should people ask before buying a Timeshare? Should you make a $20,000 or more decision the same day without comparison shopping? Should you believe a word a sales agent says? Should you finance your vacation plan?

Timeshare Tip – Take your eye off the finger pointing to the low monthly payment, raise your head and ask, “At what Interest Rate?”

It’s surprising how many we talk to who did not know the interest rate they were paying until they started paying. I was two hours into our sales presentation, mesmerized by the numbers, before I thought to ask.

Today we use the example of a family who failed to ask these questions and are now devastated by a vacation plan that has turned into a nightmare. I use Diamond Resorts as an example, but they should not be singled out. I am a Diamond member so in contact with other members. Many Timeshare companies have complaints.

We hear a lot about the elderly being targeted, but in one week I heard from four military families. One is a Veteran, one family has a son in the military, and two are on active duty. We’re hearing a lot in the US press these days about how Veterans have not been treated fairly so a story about a Navy family is timely.

As the family has been referred to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, and an outcome is yet to be determined, we will call this couple William and Mary. This newly formed Diamond Advocacy Department has reached out to many of our Facebook members helping owners resolve issues and better learn how to use DRI vacation Points.

William and Mary feel they have been victims of fraud or “bait and switch”. They are requesting a full refund. Let’s weigh in on whether this case meets this simple definition of fraud: Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.

William, age 47 is on active duty with the Navy, stationed at Norfolk, Virginia. An able bodied seaman, William is waiting on orders to be shipped overseas.  Mary, age 43, works for the Department of Agriculture. They have two children ages thirteen and eight.The summer of 2015 William and Mary booked a week at a Diamond Resort in Virginia by renting through RedWeek. They accepted an offer to attend a sales presentation. Mary does not remember the name of the sales agent (Vacation Counselor) in Virginia, but remembers he was a former Secret Service agent. The family purchased 15000 vacation Points for $63,232 or $4.22 per point. The current balance, financed at 14%, is approximately $43,395.

“Our original 50 minute presentation ended up to be 5 hours. We were told by the Virginia supervisor, a lady with a British accent, that we would have no problem getting a lower interest rate financed outside of Diamond since William was in the service.  All we would have to do is supply the lender with “duty orders” and it would go down to 1.5% as long as he was overseas,” Mary reported. The family later learned banks will not finance Timeshares, so that option was not available.

Anxious to try out their new vacation plan, the family booked a trip to stay at a Diamond Resort in Orlando. Now an existing owner, they were encouraged to attend an “owner’s update” which is always accompanied by an offer to buy more Points. The promised 55 minute update lasted three hours.

Orlando Sales Agent Joaquin told the family that since they now lived in Florida, they would be required to transfer the Points they purchased in Virginia to Florida.

The agent might have been alluding to a “Collection” as Diamond has a US, Hawaii, California and a few other Collections. There is no Florida Collection, but the family paid $4,898 as a down payment to transfer and buy more Points.

 “Joaquin promised to help resell our Points if we needed to. When we realized we could not afford the loan, I made a few calls and emailed Joaquin for assistance, but I was just ignored altogether,” reported Mary.

William was transferred to California. A Diamond Sampler package is ordinarily sold as a trial package, but on another trip to Orlando, the couple purchased a Sampler from Joaquin hoping William could stay at Diamond Resorts in California while stationed there. A loan of $1,100 financed by Diamond at 12.99% was obtained, but ultimately the three purchases were consolidated into one loan.

In William and Mary’s own words, here is why they feel they were misled:

“During the sales pitch we were told information that we discovered later was not true.”

  1. We were told the Timeshare is tax deductible and that we could later sell for a profit.
  2. We were told we could rent the Timeshare for additional income or help offset the Maintenance fees.
  3. We were told we would be able to refinance at a lower interest rate with any financial institution.
  4. We were told the sales agent would act on our behalf as a personal representative and help rent out our Timeshare.
  5. We were told that this Timeshare was an INVESTMENT!

By now, the family realized they had made a mistake and were deep in debt. December of 2016, while living in Jacksonville, FL the family was called and invited to a dinner of owners to discuss their account and give insight to how better to use Points. (Note: Buyers of Points don’t “own” anything as it is a right-to-use program similar to a country club)

William and Mary informed the Diamond caller they wanted to opt-out and were told a representative would be there to help start the process. However, when they went to the dinner, it turned out to be another high pressure sales tactic to get them to buy more Points with Apollo.

(Note: Apollo Global Management acquired Diamond in an all cash $2.2 billion deal September of 2016, as reported by Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times prior to the acquisition.)

As of July 13, Diamond’s top executives and directors beneficially owned almost 23 million shares in the form of options and company stock. If the transaction is completed, a filing stated, those 15 people “would be entitled to receive an aggregate amount of $624,131,129 in cash. The bulk of that will go to Stephen J. Cloobeck, Diamond’s founder, and Mr. Palmer, the chief executive. Mr. Cloobeck would be entitled to $384 million and Mr. Palmer would receive $173 million.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/business/accounting-error-may-not-derail-a-deal-but-ex-director-bails-early-anyway.html

Back to William and Mary:

navy

William and Mary told their hosts that they had a life change and could no longer afford their Maintenance fees or loan payments and wanted to relinquish their ownership (membership) per the buy- back program that they said they had.  At the meeting the account representative said Diamond did not have this program.

“Jose, the Supervisor, recommended we buy more Points as that would lower our Maintenance fees by taking back the Sampler. We were also financing the Sampler, so he said they could keep my monthly payment the same. After we left the presentation I reached out a few times to our original sales agent only to be told he no longer worked there. After we purchased the Sampler, we got called about 2 or 3 times a month by different account managers. At this point I could not even tell you the person’s name, but that was the last contact,” said Windy.

Where does the family go from here?

which way

“William has had a major loss in pay and we can’t afford the loan payments.”

Part II will provide a flow chart of options the family is facing.

Diamond is fond of boasting about how 70% of sales are sold to existing owners. William and Mary’s story is not unusual. I have reported our own personal Diamond story so many times, I dare not tell it again, but I have also heard from dozens of families telling the same story told over and over – existing Diamond owners told their Maintenance fees and availability issues would be resolved by buying more Points.

Again, Diamond is not alone. Based on my research, I have opinions on which Timeshare companies are the three worst offenders and which are the best, based on a census of online complaints, but that topic is for a future discussion.

Our Arizona Attorney General Assurance of Discontinuance article provides a blueprint for honesty and contains several items from William and Mary’s fraud checklist. Let us know if you think this family meets the definition of fraud.

Diamond has implemented a Clarity program in Arizona in response to the AOD.

http://insidetimeshare.com/arizona-attorney-generals-assurance-discontinuance/

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 objectives and thus are not currently part of the Diamond Clarity program,” according to DRI PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

Maya and I have had several healthy and interesting discussions about Clarity. I am concerned about the QA recording. In my opinion, I feel it will only strengthen Diamond’s position in court. As you can see from this article, the worn down member or prospect merely nods during the QA session checklist and none of the oral representations would be in that recording. I have learned recording without the other person’s knowledge is legal in Arizona as long as it is not wiretapping by phone.

http://wilcoxlegal.com/bugging-and-tape-recording-conversations-in-arizona-is-it-legal/

At least Members are having discussions with Diamond. I think it might be a first and I thank Maya and the staff of Consumer Advocacy for their involvement and support. Inside Timeshare wants to get it right!

Coffe time

stop pressOfficial DRI Response has just been received:

“The options for any timeshare member or owner struggling to keep up with loan payments financed at 12% to 19% and rising maintenance fees are:

Surrender, Resolution, Foreclosure, Refund

A Diamond representative spoke to the family today to gather facts”.

Inside Timeshare will walk with this family along the road to timeshare recovery.

An upcoming article will take a look at the four options, the likelihood of each option, the process of foreclosure and its impact on credit reporting comparing and contrasting European and American processes.

Some resorts have the option of resale. The seller would be fortunate to recover 10% of the initial amount invested, but at least owners with this option are not solely at the mercy of the timeshare company.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all those who contributed to Irene’s article, without your help we would not be able to highlight the problem or bring about much needed change.

On another note, news just in but not verified 100%, it would appear that Diamond Resorts Europe has now closed all sales decks which were run on a franchise basis. From reports this morning the only sales decks open and trading in Europe are those run and owned by Diamond.

With what has happened in the past few months with Diamond selling off their last concern in Mallorca, the question being posed now is are they getting ready for a major sell off?

When the news comes in we will be reporting it here, so stay tuned.

 

Pricing Points: Advocates Group try to Explain.

Irene Parker is once again ending our week with the following article, she asks the question that many owners have wondered, How are points valued?

We all know that most timeshares are well overpriced, many reps will tell you about the “stack and drop” method of selling, which was mentioned in the last article. In this article Irene, points out the use of leased aircraft by company executives, again another question is posed, who pays for them?

Would the inflated price per point pay or does it come from rising maintenance fees?

Mind you I’m sure most of us would love to have the use of private company jets, at least we wouldn’t be lumbered with the screaming kid or the semi drunken holiday maker.

In the second part of the article, we get the views of five of the advocates from the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy facebook group. This is a new forum for owners to air their views, ask questions, seek help and guidance on many issues and share in the latest news. These advocates will also intervene on your behalf in negotiations with the resorts.

In the short time this has been running there have been some very good results, as we say at Inside Timeshare, debate is better than confrontation.

How is a Timeshare Point Valued?

By Irene Parker – February 24, 2017

graph $

There were many responses to this week’s article, “Is This Timeshare Proposal merely Monopoly Money?”  We have summarized the comments in today’s follow-up article.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-proposal-merely-monopoly-money/

Old fashioned fixed weeks were real estate. Units were sold with a deed, meaning you could see, feel and touch what you bought. Points later developed claiming greater flexibility, but rising maintenance fees, problems with availability and the sinking feeling you get when checking in, knowing you must brace for the sales staff, has caused more than a few timeshare owners some discomfort.

Most of the original fixed week resorts did not maintain a fleet of aircraft. There is not enough information to know if a fleet of aircraft ends up in maintenance fees or in a point price. Here is one Timesharing Agreement concerning leased aircraft.

Relationship with the Company’s Executive Officers and Chairman of the Board

Time Sharing Agreements

Diamond Resorts Corporation (“DRC”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company, is a party to time sharing agreements with each of David F. Palmer, President, Chief Executive Officer and a director of the Company, and Howard S. Lanznar, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of the Company, in each case with respect to use of an aircraft leased by DRC. In each case, the time sharing agreement provides for the use by the individual of such DRC aircraft, together with use of DRC’s flight crew, and permits the relevant individual to reimburse the Company for specified costs related to such use. Stephen J. Cloobeck, the Company’s chairman of the board of directors, may also enter into one or more time sharing agreements with DRC with respect to his use of aircraft leased by the Company or DRC.

The Company and DRC have also agreed that the Company will not charge Mr. Cloobeck for use of Company-leased aircraft for non-business purposes for an aggregate number of flight hours with a value, based upon the relative costs of operating the Company-leased aircraft, equal to 50 flight hours on the most expensive to operate of the aircraft leased by the Company.

While leasing executive planes is not unusual for a corporation, it is disconcerting to many families struggling with rising maintenance fees and loans financed at 12% to 18%.

Diamond Resorts does not currently own or lease aircraft”. Clarified DRI PR spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

I would not be surprised if a company the size of Apollo has a lease fleet.

Back to Points

Critics accuse us of being dummies who don’t know how to use Diamond points.

Here are replies from a few of our Advocates.

Blackboard

Several members of our “think tank” and Diamond Owner’s Advocate Facebook expressed alarm over the $8.52 retail price. Today I learned the retail price is expected to increase 25% under Apollo’s guidance to $10.60 and then $12.25.

One of our Facebook members described this as “Anchoring” which is a way to make people think they are getting a bargain at $4 when the retail price is $8.52.

According to Wikipedia, and cognitive and behavioral economics, such a price creates a benchmark for perceived value.

Most people understand the MSRP sticker on the window of a car on a dealer’s lot is not the price the buyer will pay. The buyer understands the car will depreciate the moment the car is driven off the lot and they will in all likelihood sell the car for less due to depreciation. Consumers do have a reference point found in “The Blue Book” of automobile resale value.

We know there are people who will pay well above $3.00 a point for a Diamond point listed at $8.52. However, unlike a car, the selling side of the market doesn’t know what any specific buyer is willing to pay. Thus, they start with a high “opening offer” and then lower it until they discover the buyer’s willingness to pay. Economists call this price discrimination – selling the same product at different prices to different buyers. It is particularly effective when different buyers (or groups of buyers) have differing sensitivities to prices, often caused by differences in income and wealth.

A final observation is that when Diamond was publicly traded, they held quarterly earnings calls with Wall Street analysts. I listened to about 10 of these and was surprised that the price per point was never discussed. The CEO and CFO didn’t mention it in the prepared presentation and the analysts never asked about it. The focus was always the average price per transaction, which is the number of points times the price — something like $22,000. Even when an analyst asked: “what was driving the increase in the transaction price?” the answer was never price-per-point.

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

advocate 1

Our same advocate #1 offered a comparison of Diamond fees with other timeshare systems. The conversion factors are obtained from Diamond’s own Club Combinations valuations. Fees for the non-Diamond systems are trust fund fees (not deeds) for the respective systems.

Chart advocate

A second Advocate

The company determines the price per point.

I would imagine that the value is based upon the “cache” of the brand, the location, demand and the competition, much like any company would value their product.

Say a developer has a resort with 100 units that they sell 50 times/weeks = 5,000 units.  I would image that determines the profit they want to make, divide it by the number of units, and then turn that into points and pricing. How do they convert the value to other travel awards?  How much does the award cost the resort and what does it take to recoup the points they traded in?

I know the conversion from timeshare points (a day or a week) to hotel points is not equal. It cost more points to stay in hotels than resorts.

Advocate #3

I am concerned with the downturn in earnings announced coincidentally just after the Apollo acquisition announcement:

Diamond Resorts‘ second-quarter earnings release was delayed after the company’s independent registered public accounting firm BDO USA said that the company may not have correctly applied the relative sales value inventory valuation model when preparing its consolidated financial statements for 2014 and subsequent periods. Thus, even Diamond accountants did not answer the question accurately.

After the correction, the change resulted in a decrease in net income of $5.6 million for 2015 and a $1.3 million decrease for the first quarter, in each case from amounts originally reported, according to the second-quarter release.

Significantly, second-quarter net income decreased $10.1 million or 28.5% to $25.5 million year over year, compared with a first quarter increase of $8.4% or 32.6% to $34.4 million, prior to the restatement.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13702895/1/diamond-resorts-international-s-second-quarter-earnings-reversal-is-worrisome.html

Advocate #4 responded:

The issue is that the developer owns the inventory, even though the inventory is first returned to the HOA.

  • The HOA, where members sit, is a nonprofit, which takes financial responsibility for the ongoing operations of the club;
  • HOAs are standalone entities, but are often controlled by the developer, who writes the HOA instruments (using standard language – they are all very similar);
  • Developers give themselves board control, along with declarant control, and hire themselves as managers;
  • If a member defaults, the timeshare points/weeks are actually returned to the HOA, but the HOA rules give the developer the right to grab them;
  • Return points/weeks (inventory) flow through the front door of the HOA and out the back, into the developer’s hands;
  • Developers then get to sell the inventory all over again- and the cost of doing so is essentially only marketing / sales;
  • But they have to pay dues on those weeks/points, like everyone else.

The cost of carrying those points has to show up on the developer’s books, which includes the annual maintenance costs and the VALUE of the inventory (which is reported as a short-term asset).

Since the developer controls the inventory, they control the pricing. In my view, they are pricing it at that rate for two reasons:

1 – To try to fool consumers (as they always drop the price)

2 – For inventory management purposes within their own corporation (developers) (that is, for their own financial reporting purposes).

According to extracts from Wyndham and Hilton’s annual reports:

Wyndham’s 2016 10K

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1361658/000136165817000004/wyn-20161231x10k.htm

Following are descriptions of these inventory sources:

  1. Self-developed inventory: Under the traditional timeshare industry development model, we finance and develop inventory specifically for our timeshare sales. The process often begins with the purchase of raw land which we then develop. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, this process can take several years. Such inventory can include mixed-use inventory developed in conjunction with one of our hotel brands, where a portion of the property is devoted to the timeshare product.
  1. WAAM: In 2010, we introduced the first of our WAAM models, WAAM Fee-for Service (formerly known as WAAM 1.0). This timeshare sourcing model was designed to capitalize upon the large quantities of newly developed, nearly completed or recently finished condominium or hotel inventory in the real estate market without assuming the significant risk that accompanies property acquisition or new construction. This business model offers turn-key solutions for developers or banks in possession of newly developed inventory, which we sell for a fee through our extensive sales and marketing channels. WAAM Fee-for-Service enables us to expand our resort portfolio with little or no capital deployment, while providing additional channels for new owner acquisition and growth for our fee-for-service property management business.

In addition to the WAAM Fee-for-Service business model, we utilize our WAAM Just-in-Time (formerly known as WAAM 2.0) inventory acquisition model. This model enables us to acquire and own completed units close to the timing of their sale or to acquire completed inventory from a third party partner based upon a predetermined purchase schedule. This model significantly reduces the period between the deployment of capital to acquire inventory and the subsequent return on investment which occurs at the time of its sale to a timeshare purchaser. For the most part, inventory is recorded on our balance sheet at the time we are committed to purchase such inventory, which generally coincides with the time of registration.

  1. Consumer loan defaults: As discussed in the “Purchaser Financing” section, we offer financing to purchasers of VOIs. In the event of a default, we are able to recover the inventory and resell it at full current value. We are responsible for the payment of maintenance fees to the property owners’ associations until the product is sold. As of December 31, 2016, inventory on the Consolidated Balance Sheet included estimated recoveries of loan defaults in the amount of $256 million.
  1. Inventory reclaimed from owners’ associations or owners: We have entered into agreements with a majority of the property associations representing our developments where we may acquire from the association’s, properties related to owners who have defaulted on their maintenance fees, provided there is no outstanding debt on such properties. In addition, we frequently work with owners to acquire their properties, provided they have no outstanding debt on such properties, prior to those owners defaulting on their maintenance fees. This provides the owner with a graceful exit from a property that is no longer utilized due to lifestyle changes.

Hilton 10K

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1361658/000136165817000004/wyn-20161231x10k.htm

Inventories

Inventories include unsold, completed timeshare intervals, timeshare intervals under construction and land and infrastructure held for future timeshare interval development at our timeshare properties (collectively, timeshare inventory), as well as hotel inventories consisting of operating supplies that have a period of consumption of one year or less, guest room items and food and beverage items.

Timeshare inventory is carried at the lower of cost or estimated fair value less costs to sell, based on the relative sales value. Capital expenditures associated with our timeshare intervals are reflected as inventory until the timeshare intervals are sold. Consistent with industry practice, timeshare inventory is classified as a current asset despite an operating cycle that exceeds 12 months. The majority of sales and marketing costs incurred to sell timeshare intervals are expensed when incurred. Certain direct and incremental selling and marketing costs are deferred on a contract until revenue from the interval sale has been recognized.

In accordance with the accounting standards for costs and the initial rental operations of real estate projects, we use the relative sales value method of costing our timeshare sales and relieving inventory. In addition, we continually assess our timeshare inventory and, if necessary, impose pricing adjustments to modify sales pace. It is possible that any future changes in our development and sales strategies could have a material effect on the carrying value of our timeshare inventory and purchase commitments for timeshare inventory. We monitor our projects and inventory on an ongoing basis and complete an evaluation each reporting period to ensure that the inventory and purchase commitments for inventory are at the lower of cost or market.

Hotel inventories are generally valued at the lower of cost (using “first-in, first-out”, or FIFO) or net realizable value.

Advocate #5

It has been my experience that price per point representations were discretionary based on observations made in real time regarding the client’s perceived ability to pay. There appears to be a much more organized push to create acceptance of inflated price per point values by consumers. The timeline is consistent with Apollo’s takeover.

My recollection is that the most lucrative segment of DRI sales is up sell to existing owners. Given high incidence of owner re-tours it is no surprise that as they ramp up owner marketing to pursue this cash cow, consistency between properties regarding inflated costs creates a more effective sales tool.

When fictional upgrade options/letters are tied to an artificially high sales price per point a disciplined sales force will use this to their advantage.

The higher price is designed purely to strengthen and legitimize the subsequent price that will be offered. It was more random in the past. Since Apollo, it sounds like there is now some standardization regarding price point being offered. I would guess that final purchase price has become more uniform so as not to risk owners comparing prices while on property, and the fact that someone is paying attention, at least for now.

thinking pencil

All in all, more questions than answers.

Once again a very informative article from across the “Great Lake”, if you have any questions, views or news, Inside Timeshare would be pleased to hear from you. Having a problem with your timeshare, contact us and if we don’t know the answer, we can find someone who does.

friday-again

Have a good weekend.