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Olivier Chavy

Friday’s Letter from America

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

Bluegreen offers new Pilot Program to Donate Points to Charities 

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

Bass Pro Lawsuit v Bluegreen

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

July 10, 2019

By Diane Smith

Introductory comments by Irene Parker

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

Christel DeHaan, Founder and Chairman of the Board

Co-Founded and sold RCI for $825 million

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

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

Olivier Chavy, President, RCI Exchanges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit

https://responsibleexit.com/

Diane’s Response to “Who’s the Fish?”

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

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

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

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

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

We experienced the following:

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

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

Bluegreen responded to our concerns as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charitable Giving Program – Donation Options 

Junior Achievement of South Florida (JA)

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

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

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

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

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

The NY Attorney General investigation into the Manhattan Club resulted in a $6.5 million settlement. https://www.amny.com/real-estate/the-manhattan-club-settlement-includes-6-5-million-in-restitution-ag-says-1.14048559

Colorado Attorney General sued Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices. https://businessden.com/2016/12/07/ag-sues-timeshare-firm-for-deceptive-tactics/

Missourians sometimes are targeted by real estate developers and resort communities to buy vacation timeshares. https://ago.mo.gov/civil-division/consumer/consumer-topics/vacation-timeshares

Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of complaints against Diamond Resorts, fined the company $800,000 and issued an Assurance of Discontinuance. https://azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Tennessee Attorney General announced a $3 million settlement with Festiva, a network of vacation and timeshare companies, for alleged violations of the federal Telemarketing Act, federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/2016/2/24/pr16-04.html

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen says his office received 58 timeshare complaints in 2018, including concerns about pressure sales tactics, exorbitant fees, and difficulty reselling. https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Timeshare-Troubles–What-To-Do-Before-You-Buy-and-Sell-504017151.html

A Florida Whistleblower lawsuit filed on behalf of ten former Wyndham employees, including eight former sales agents. Plaintiffs allege that they objected to and refused to participate in illegal timeshare sales practices.  https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-42/

Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams, a jury awarded an initial $20 million. https://dolanlawfirm.com/2016/11/wyndham-timeshare-whistleblower-lawsuit/

Candace Czarny v Hyatt and Kent and Allison Drysdale – Former Hyatt timeshare sales allege that they were instructed to make certain false statements and omit certain facts when communicating to Hyatt owners and potential clientele in order to make more sales. https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-57/

Petition to Reform Timeshare:

https://www.change.org/p/state-legislators-in-arizona-florida-and-nevada-demand-reform-of-the-timeshare-industry-s-unfair-and-deceptive-practices

We seek to provide timeshare members with a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market, and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

Free at Last Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/623703881470577/?ref=share

Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide

https://www.udprep.info/june

Bluegreen Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

Wyndham Facebook

New: https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/  

Sapphire Starpoint New: https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

Diamond Resort Facebook

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

Gold Key Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Inside Timeshare Facebook 

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

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

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