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NY Attorney General

The Secret World of Timeshare Sales.

Following on from the many articles on timeshare in the US, Inside Timeshare today publishes the story of a former sales agent with Hyatt and Diamond Resorts. Her story is one that will resonate very clearly with many people who attended timeshare sales presentations, not just in the US but also in Europe, although in Europe it must be said, most of the industry especially Diamond have cleaned up their act. Much of this is down to the adverse publicity in the press and the ongoing litigation in the Spanish courts.

The many sales reps that I personally know and have known through the years are decent and honest people, the problem came in the way the industry was run during the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000. It was and still is with some companies, on a commission basis only, you don’t sell, you don’t eat. For many they were also tied into company apartments, so if they did not reach their targets and were fired, they also ended up homeless.

For those who did get a “basic wage”, it was usually twinned with “On Target Earnings”. Again if targets were not met your basic was reduced or not paid. Another factor which is well known in the European model was the so-called “drip feeding”, this was a method by which companies held on to staff who did deal. Basically, the company would tell the rep that the client had not completed, then that pay would be held back, this forced the rep to stay, knowing that if they left they would never get paid.

It was also not uncommon for some unscrupulous companies to claim that the client had cancelled, when in fact they had completed. For some this meant a “claw back” of the pay they had received from the commission and the “spiff” they received for dealing, (the spiff is an incentive payment, paid in cash at the morning meeting the following day).

So it is not difficult to see how normal decent folk would say anything to close the deal. That being said, yes there were and are some who are just out and out “blaggers”, having no sense of conscience or morals. Many companies loved these type of reps, as they would do whatever the managers tell them.

So now to the story of Candace, where she explains her time and experiences as a timeshare sales agent.

Former Timeshare Sales Agents Strike a Blow against Timeshare

By Candace Czarny – February 9, 2017

ethics

Several current and former timeshare sales agents, management and employees have joined forces with timeshare owners to take a stand against timeshare companies, including Hyatt Corp, Westgate, Wyndham, The Manhattan Club, Marriott, Highland Resorts, Sedona Pines and Diamond Resorts.

It’s a modern day David & Goliath story. Timeshare companies employ armies of attorneys in their effort to suppress the seedy side of timeshare. While many owners use and enjoy their timeshare year after year, others fall into deceptive and fraudulent sales presentations ending up with a vacation dream that sometimes turns into a nightmare. Others have called it a timeshare trap.

Now we are beginning to see a powerhouse of attorneys and regulatory agencies on the side of the timeshare consumer in an effort to expose selling strategies that incorporate psychological manipulation, omissions, deceptions, and fraud.

I am a former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts sales agent. While at Hyatt I was advised by management to order a copy of the CIA Guide to Interrogation and Human Manipulation. Some timeshare companies employ these strategies, designed to intimidate and confuse hardworking consumers worldwide, in order to generate profits and earn wildly inflated executive compensation. Honest sales agents, previously able to earn a good living with reputable timeshare companies, find themselves subtly maneuvered out of this new more sinister timeshare business.

Don’t get me wrong, I went to work in the timeshare industry because my family owned one and used it every year.  Our family created unforgettable memories every year using this property.

It was only after working in the industry as a sales agent that I came to see and understand the complicated strategy of greed from the inside.  Like Trish Williams, awarded $20 million in a recent Wyndham Whistleblower case, I am one of the single individuals not willing to be a pawn perpetuating a scam against hard working people trying to create a happy life for their families. Three former Hyatt sales agents are year five into our Whistleblower case.

At some resorts, dramatically rising maintenance fees turn a family’s vacation into a money pit with no way out. Voluntary surrenders are not guaranteed, so owners not able to keep up with annual fees and assessments fall victim to listing and transfer agents. Many owners with loans, not eligible for a “voluntary surrender” are forced into default or must obtain legal help in order to have their timeshare loan cancelled. This just adds to their existing financial burden.

This complex and convoluted strategy for wealth and power is like a hamster wheel. The timeshare company generates profits from selling the same timeshare over and over and over again. To arrive at a solution one must arrive at the cause and in the case of timeshare, the cause begins with corporate greed at the expense of the individual employee and the consumer.

Timeshare companies hide behind carefully and strategically worded contracts intended to shield them from responsibility and litigation. This leaves the owner feeling hopeless and angry with no recourse. Timeshare companies rely on the burdened owner not being able to withstand a costly and lengthy legal battle.

A new age is dawning where individual owners, in partnership with regulatory agencies and lawyers, are banding together to fight back against timeshare corruption.

huddle

The Arizona Attorney General has put a stake in the ground and alleged that Diamond employee’s’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Diamond Resorts Corporation has settled with the Arizona Attorney General for $800,000 in a case involving allegations of customer deception and was issued an “Assurance of Discontinuance” (linked below).  This is just one of an avalanche of lawsuits and investigations exposing a minefield of corruption, fraud and deceit perpetuated at the highest levels of corporate timeshare.

While New York, Colorado, Tennessee and Arizona Attorneys General are making some progress, more needs to be done. There has been a notable lack of concern from many state and federal regulatory agencies. Lawmakers have demonstrated a “Well, they signed a contract” attitude. Such lawmakers have no concept of the depth of deception some timeshare companies go to in order to “close the deal”.

Based on ARDA’s estimates there are over 9,500,000 timeshare units in the United States.  To give you an idea of how profound this corporate culture of greed is and how the courage and bravery of single individuals are making a difference in the name of what is right, listed below are just some of the settlements, judgements and lawsuits against these timeshare giants.

  • Hyatt Corp is sued by three former Hyatt timeshare agents alleging deceit and fraud. They are in year five of a Whistleblower case alleging deceptive practice.
  • Tennessee Attorney General announced a $3 million settlement with Festiva, a network of vacation and timeshare companies, for alleged violations of the federal Telemarketing Act, federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
  • Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
  • Colorado Attorney General  is suing Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.
  • Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices in a Whistleblower case.
  • The NY Attorney General investigation into the Manhattan Club is proceeding. The motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to March 31, 2017 because the sponsor appears to have engaged new counsel, Gibson Dunn – the third set of sponsor attorneys in this matter. This motion is for request to release monies previously frozen by court order to pay the sponsor’s attorney’s fees.
  • The Marriott racketeering lawsuit as of February 7, 2017 is still waiting for a decision on motions to dismiss and is engaged in discovery, according to attorney Jeffrey Norton.
  • In Spain there are approximately 800 live cases in various courts and over 2000 clients. The total claim value is around 80 million Euros, These cases are being brought by Canarian Legal Alliance.
  • A billion dollar lawsuit has been filed against Diamond Resorts International.
  • Arizona Attorney General´s $800,000 settlement with Diamond Resorts International.  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is working on the front end to stop outrageous oral representations.

If you feel you are a victim of deceitful timeshare sales or are an employee whose livelihood has been threatened by refusing to participate in deceptive and fraudulent tactics, I encourage you to tell your story. Alone we perish under the weight of power and greed. Together we can overcome and thrive.

Diamond timeshare owners worldwide, who purchased a timeshare in Arizona since 2009, have until the end of April 2017 to file a claim of relief with the Arizona Attorney General’s office.

Instructions on how to file a complaint are included in this press release:

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Thank you Candace for writing this article, Inside Timeshare welcomes articles from anyone with a similar story, or even from those who have been on the receiving end of the sales presentation. It through these article we might just see a change in the industry that will benefit not just the consumer but the industry as well.

For information about pending litigation or questions on how to file a complaint, contact Inside Timeshare either through email, by posting a comment, or finding us on Facebook. Please state if it is a US or European timeshare. We’re here to help.

https://www.facebook.com/insidetimeshare/

3 men

 

2016 End of Year Review

So here we are at the end of another year and what a year it has been, it started with the relaunch of Inside Timeshare, bringing you truthful information and news you would otherwise not get.

One of our first articles explained what fly buys are, the fact you would get a cheap holiday but be subject to attending a presentation. At this you would be pitched a holiday product of some sort, be it a holiday club or timeshare. The article also warned of the pitfalls of not attending the presentation, either being charged the full accommodation price and in many cases being removed from the resort.

We also highlighted many “scams” that timeshare owners have been subjected to over the years including many new ones. The latest being the article on Litigious Abogados (see links). We also showed how some of the so-called resale companies operate, giving you the reader the information to make an informed choice.

http://insidetimeshare.com/1059-2/

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-update/

http://insidetimeshare.com/litigious-abogados-latest-information/

CLA Logo

Another theme Inside Timeshare published was the on-going woes of Anfi, the first article titled: “The Great ANFI Battle of the Partners”, explained the story of the two partners in the Anfi empire, the Lyngs and the Cazorlas. We then published the story of legal history being made with the very first Supreme Court ruling, this was the case of the Norwegian lady, Mrs Tove Grimsbo and her battle with Anfi. The case was brought on her behalf by Canarian Legal Alliance.

Since that auspicious occasion, Canarian Legal Alliance has gone from strength to strength, securing 36 rulings from the Highest Court in Spain, 29 of these have been against Anfi. Others have been against TasolanPalm Oasis and Holiday Club Puerto Calma, with the ruling against Puerto Calma confirming the Fractional did indeed come under Timeshare Laws. This resulted in around 243,000 Euros being returned to a British client.

There have also been 24 High Court and 21 Local Court rulings against various timeshare companies including Resort Properties / Silverpoint and Club La Costa. Some of these Courts have been in Maspalomas, Arona, Barcelona and Fuengirola. There are approximately 800 live cases in various courts and over 2000 clients. The total claim value is around 80 million Euro, with 117.208.00 Euros reclaimed per month, there are on average 2 to 3 cases per week being heard.

(These figures are what we have on file, there have obviously been more cases, but we have yet to receive an update).

This is certainly an impressive achievement by this law firm, who has in the past suffered from some very negative press instigated by the industry itself. Inside Timeshare congratulates the whole team at Canarian Legal Alliance, including the clients who in some cases have waited years for these results.

Another series of articles have been about MacDonald Resorts and the ongoing battle of Mrs B, now known as Mrs Price. It is a case that has riled us at Inside Timeshare, who are fighting on her behalf. The story revolves around MacDonald Resorts refusal to accept that she no longer owns a timeshare at Dona Lola in Spain, continuing to harass this 87 year old via a debt collecting agency Network Credit Services. This harassment has included threats of court action to recover a debt that is not owed, this case has been referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Inside Timeshare will continue to highlight this case until MacDonald Resorts abandon the chase for money. It must also be noted that the RDO, which is the industry trade body has also washed their hands of this company.

In the April article “The Resurrected” a warning was issued about an old company from Fuengirola had come back to life. It is the story of Ramirez and Ramirez, who several years ago were very active in deceiving many timeshare and holiday club members out of thousands for bogus claims. It must be said that very little has been heard of them since.

Mark of excellence

We have also had a few light hearted moments, although they did come with a serious message. In the spoof article “A New Member to EGTBW”, it explained about the trade bodies for the timeshare industry operate. This was extremely fun to write and gave many people a good laugh, the only problem was that it was actually based on fact.

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-member-egtbw/

Back in July we started to publish the ongoing story of the Tauro Beach Project, the fact that irregularities had been uncovered and an investigation had been started by the Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA). As the story unfolded the Head of The Canarian Coastal Authority had been dismissed and is now awaiting trial for wrong doing in public office and forgery of official documents. Then in August we published the story of the local inhabitants and their homes being flooded, this instigated further investigations which also include the local mayor. The story continues. (search Tauro Beach for further information).

We also teamed up with Irene Parker in the United States, she has provided some valuable information and interesting articles on the world of timeshare across the Great Lake. Below is her latest article.

What Timeshare Owners Can Look forward to:

Timeshare Lawsuits 2017

By Irene Parker,  December 26, 2016

2017

Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:

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

The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys general:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and  solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.

Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?

round-table

Westgate

Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.pbyQ8MPbx#.pmA2BeVyM

Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman is suing Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

Another US Attorney General Exposes Deceptive Tactics.

Wyndham $20 Million

Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Hyatt

Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt timeshare agents would like to see the industry improved. They are in year five of a class action alleging deceptive practice.

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

The Manhattan Club

Attorney Douglass Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.

“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point.  The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed.  But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016

http://www.reuters.com/article/manhattan-club-ruling-idUSL1N18U0DL

Marriott Racketeering

“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.” Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.

 http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

Diamond Resorts

A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/348667-diamond-resorts-class-action-high-pressure-timeshare-sales-deceptive/

Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

holidays-are-hereI don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,

People are listening!

Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:

  • A legitimate secondary market
  • Less aggressive and deceptive selling
  • Less predatory lending

Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Human leverage and a clearinghouse of information exchange is the answer.

inside final small

So that is the end of 2016, we hope you will join us in 2017 and also help us to get the news out to others. Without your information many of the articles, particularly on possible scam or bogus companies will not be published. So from the Charles and Irene, we wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year.

happy-new-year

Another US Attorney General Exposes Deceptive Tactics.

Timeshare is not having a good time right now, in Europe and especially Spain the industry is reeling from very costly litigation. This is costing resorts and developers a fortune in returning money for purchases made which have gone against the laws put in place to protect consumers.

In the United States the industry is also under fire, most recently a former sales agent has been awarded $20 million for unfair dismissal by Wyndham. She had been branded a “troublemaker” after she complained about unfair and dubious sales tactics being employed.

We have also seen the NY Attorney General close down the sales operation at The Manhattan Club, due to allegedly fraudulent sales practices involving a “bait and switch” scheme. Manhattan Club buyers learned there was a lack of availability for those who purchased memberships, while the general public could easily book online. A court battle that began in 2014 continues today.

The following article by Irene Parker explains the most recent news coming in from across the Great Lake.

Colorado Attorney General Scores a Goal for Timeshare Reform

By Irene Parker

December 12, 2016

keep-calm

All timeshare owners and buyers want is honesty and a fair price for their timeshare, along with reasonable maintenance fees and a legitimate secondary market. Now a third US Attorney General scores a goal for timeshare reform by exposing deceptive timeshare business practices.


There is something flawed if a product cannot be sold, if it is not sold same day. Even car shoppers are allowed to think about it, and many timeshare purchases cost as much or more than a luxury car. There are first day pricing incentives and consumers are told they cannot buy in the future.


According to Highlands Resorts’ sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in the lawsuit, “In the eighteen months he worked for Highlands Resorts, not a single consumer returned after their sales presentation to make a purchase. In his fifteen years in the timeshare industry, Abrahamson never saw a consumer purchase a timeshare after leaving a sales presentation.”


http://www.businessden.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/5B3AF6808EF5C.pdf


Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman has sued Highlands Resorts at Christie Lodge in Avon, Colorado for deceptive trade practices in Denver County Court. The state is also suing sales manager Greg Penrod and twelve other defendants. Several were outbound telemarketers.


Sedona Pines Resort in Arizona was also named in the lawsuit. I spoke to a former Diamond sales agent. Diamond agents cannot disclose any company policies or procedures due to a “CNDA” sales agent agreement they are required to sign. It stands for “confidential non-disclosure agreement” discouraging Whistleblowers. Not all agents are dishonest, so the sales agent who realizes something very wrong and harmful is being done to consumers, wants to tell their story.

In this case, the former sales agent said Diamond Resort owners, desperate to be released from rising maintenance fees, went to presentations at nearby resorts hoping for alternatives. Some Pines brokers would inflate the price of the Pines program to make Diamond owners think they were getting something for their Diamond points or weeks as a trade-in. A dollar amount would be added onto the purchase price as a “trade-in” if the consumer purchased a Sedona Pines program.

The Colorado lawsuit provided an example of fake pricing. “A fake price sheet itemized costs totaling $25,224, which included $6,995 in RCI upgrade points. If the buyer purchased today, Highlands promised to pay the $6,995.  However, Highland did not pay the $6,995. They only paid $179 in RCI dues instead of the $6,995 for RCI points.”


Amy DiPierro is a reporter for BusinessDen. She writes:


According to the state, “Highlands Resorts and its owner, Telluride resident Todd Herrick, “intentionally deceived, misled, and financially injured consumers” using high pressure selling tactics. Highlands Resorts is one of a larger group of timeshare companies controlled by a resort called Sedona Pines in Arizona. On its website, Highlands Resorts says it operates one resort in Durango and two resorts in Arizona.   


The state, which is represented by the office of Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, is seeking payments of $325,000 from those four defendants and a permanent injunction that would stop them from, among other things, advertising timeshares without displaying fees and conditions. A spokesperson did not respond to a message seeking comment.

http://www.businessden.com/2016/12/07/ag-sues-timeshare-firm-for-deceptive-tactics/


Similar deceptive and misleading sales and marketing tactics are outlined in other lawsuits. Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt sales agents filed a class action Whistleblower lawsuit against Hyatt timeshare. Candace is seeking Hyatt owners who feel they have been deceived by misleading and deceptive tactics.


http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/


A jury awarded former Wyndham timeshare sales agent Trish Williams a $20 million Whistleblower award. Wyndham issued a statement saying the tactics used are not representative of their company policy, according to the NY Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=1


The Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III recovered $3 million for Festiva timeshare victims.  


https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/38312


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in the second year of a Westgate timeshare investigation.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-probe-westgate-resorts-tactics-20160318-story.html

It’s getting harder to believe these practices are not representative of timeshare.

 

whos-next  Who’s Next?

 

 


Part II of this article will examine the fourteen defendants charged with violating the “Do Not Call” list to offer vacation incentives they proclaim are valued at $1,900. The lawsuit claims these certificates cost the developer $40.

I personally received a call from Fort Lauderdale yesterday. When I mentioned I was on the DNC list, he apologized and proceeded with his pitch. This is outbound telemarketing, so there is no way to contact the person or company that called.

We’re up to three Attorney Generals who have sued the timeshare companies. Timeshare developers figure in the cost of owner lawsuits as part of their annual budget. They do not figure in the cost of an Attorney General suing the company.

In the case of Christie Lodge, the resort is open but the sales program is not operational.

get-involved

So the question that must be asked is when will the industry wake up and change how it operates, not just in the USA, but in Europe and the rest of the world?

Inside Timeshare once again thanks Irene for her contribution, without her efforts we would not be able to bring you the news from across the water, bringing consumers together in a cause that affects all timeshare owners. Honesty, integrity and fairness are the elements that are missing in this industry, it must be said that not all are guilty of this, there are some who do work by these principles, but it is those who don´t that give it a bad name and reputation.

If you have any questions or comment about this or any other article published, use the comment section to send us a message. If you have a story or information that you would like to share, Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you.

  weekend