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Pete Gibbes

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of our regular Letter from America, today we welcome another contribution from our very own Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes. In his article, he explores and gives his insights into Apollo Global Management and the buyout of Diamond Resorts in 2016. Inside Timeshare ran a series of articles on this subject at the time but Pete has a better understanding of this and explains it in a very simple and easy manner.

A Tiger can Change his Diet – from Junk Bonds to Timeshares

A junk bond has some value, but Diamond points have no resale value 

New York-based Apollo was founded by veterans of junk-bond pioneer Drexel Burnham Lambert. The firm is known for its willingness to make aggressive, sometimes contrarian, bets. April 20, 2018

https://www.wsj.com/articles/apollo-plans-to-take-diamond-resorts-public-1524222000

By a Pete Gibbes, MBA, CFA

August 2, 2019

Over a year ago, I filed a complaint against a Diamond Resort sales agent. Buying Diamond points has caused our family considerable anguish. We have lost about $60,000 we can’t afford to lose. The public must be made aware that anything a timeshare sales agent says must be verified to be believed.

https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-23/

I have 20 years’ experience in the investment industry. I worked as a portfolio manager for a firm that caters to high net worth individuals, foundations, endowments and retirement plans. The firm I worked for currently has $2.9 billion under management. I have an MBA, a CFP (inactive) and a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst).

Thinking about how timeshare has evolved from a hard asset to ethereal points, I wondered why Apollo Global Management, the third-largest equity firm, would be so interested in timeshare. Venture capital is typically associated with fast-growing companies and start-ups, like high tech or biotechnology, rather than a mature industry like timeshare. Apollo acquired Diamond in 2016.

One need not look for the answer any further than Wikipedia. History provides the answer. Apollo’s predecessor company was Drexel Burnham Lambert. DBL filed for bankruptcy in the 80s after incurring a $650 million fine over a junk bond scandal that sent Michael Milken to jail for securities fraud. Apollo probably isn’t allowed to deal in junk bonds anymore.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Global_Management

Apollo simply reinvented their lending by switching to timeshare. Timeshares provide an even better return (to private equity and stock investors) due to the fact Diamond points are worth nothing on resale. A junk bond is a lower-rated bond, and, like a sub-prime mortgage, has some value. When Diamond takes points back, the turnaround to resell is quick since foreclosure is non-judicial. It takes less time to foreclose on points than it would on a hard asset like a house or a fixed week timeshare that is defined as real estate. Diamond points are not deeded.

After taking Diamond private in 2016, an Initial Public Offering was planned for 2018. For some reason, the IPO did not materialize. The IPO was expected to generate over a billion dollars of profit for Apollo.

From the Wall Street Journal:

By Maureen Farrell (from the article linked above)

Updated April 20, 2018 10:11 a.m. ET

Private-equity firm Apollo Global Management APO -0.58% LLC is preparing to take Diamond Resorts public in the coming months, according to people familiar with the process.

The timeshare resort company has filed confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission and is expected to start trading in June or July (2018), these people said. 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.

If Apollo moves forward with a listing this summer, it would come less than two years after the firm closed its $2.2 billion purchase of Diamond Resorts in September 2016. That would mark the latest quick move by Apollo to put one of its recently purchased companies back into public markets.

Our oral representations:

The only proof we have is the “S3” and “G2” our Virginia sales agent noted on the illustration below. We owned 11,500 Diamond points prior to our downfall. Mark said that if we became ‘Silver’ Loyalty members at 15,000 points, we would have the OPTION to SELL 15,000 points back to Diamond after three years (December 2019) for an estimated $108,000. If we increased our points up to ‘Gold’ loyalty level, we would be able to exercise this type of option after two years. Mark wrote $108,000 on a separate piece of paper.

Diamond’s Clarity™ Promise

While other companies make promises, we deliver. This is Diamond RESPECT:

Transparency

  • We will provide clear, concise and consistent information at our presentations so you can easily decide whether committing to vacation ownership is the right decision for you and your family.

I was sceptical when Mark presented this because I had not heard of a buy-back program. I asked Mark, “How in the world can Diamond offer to buy back our points for more than the total amount of all shares purchased? “Oh, it’s because Diamond makes a lot of profit on points sold to you, as well as maintenance fees over the years. Plus, they can recycle the points,” Mark explained. This made sense. Mark explained the program in astonishing detail.  

While we are stuck, both disabled, with points we bought to make a small profit, Apollo will rake in over $1 billion if the IPO comes to fruition.

In summary

A timeshare sales agent can earn over $2 million a year selling timeshare points that have no value on the secondary market. If deceived, a timeshare company can dismiss oral misrepresentations with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what sales agents say.” Some state regulators second the dismissal. This equates to no regulation. The buyer is stuck with a perpetual contract and no secondary market. A viable secondary market is mentioned as a risk to stock investors.  

What can we do? Continue to reach out to lawmakers, the media, regulators, hoping someone, someday, will shed light on the unfairness of the oral representation clause. 

Join our efforts to promote our clear, concise message.

A buyer cannot rely on a word a timeshare sales agent says

Without recording the sales presentation, you have no proof. This assures sales agents that they can continue without reprisal. 

Our Diamond self-advocacy Facebook, launched by an economics professor, has over 3,300 members.

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

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://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

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

Gold Key Facebook

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

Inside Timeshare Facebook

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

Related article:

“On June 26, 2016, the Diamond Resorts board voted in favor of the company’s sale to Apollo. But Cloobeck abstained from that vote. In not one, but two board meetings, Cloobeck said that he was abstaining because mismanagement of Diamond Resorts had negatively affected the sale price and it was therefore not the right time to sell the company.

Diamond failed to inform the stockholders of the reason for Cloobeck’s abstention:

https://www.diamondresortswatch.org/apolloreport/?fbclid=IwAR2KkrjqipLB2htnjo208yzsfyvwO6OrsB-r4AbB616IIhMhvbZoritZzeg

Highlight the link above right click and select go to.

Thank you Pete for all your hard work on behalf of all our US readers including the coordinating of the Secret Shopper program.

If you would like any information on becoming a Secret Shopper contact Inside Timeshare using our contact page and we will pas it on to Pete. This is a very important program as it helps to spread the word and warn others of what to be aware of and how to avoid the pitfalls of “UPDATE MEETING”.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week. 

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another of our Secret Shopper Reports, coordinated by Pete Gibbes, these articles have proved to be very popular with our many readers. One thing they all comment on is how similar to their own experiences these reports show.

“Thank God It’s April 15 Day!”

For those in the US, the 15 April is the day when many members will receive a tax liability bill if a loan is cancelled. For us, in Europe, we find this very strange, especially for loans linked to timeshare purchases. At least our European members don’t get a tax bill when their loan is cancelled.

Inside Timeshare has directed many back to their CPA to dispute this tax bill for “phantom income” as the former has not been enriched by the cancellation of the loan as they have retained nothing of value.

Now before we go on with our Secret Shopper article, a little news on the legal front from the leading European law firm in timeshare litigation, Canarian Legal Alliance.

With the Easter Holidays now upon us, the lawyers at CLA are having a well-deserved break, especially after the past two weeks of court cases.

In the past five days alone, there have been 25 trial and 20 sentences issued, many of these were pre-trials, with the judges once again confirming that there was no need for the case to go to a full trial. The reason being, these cases are based on documentary proof, they are based on contracts which according to Spanish timeshare law contain illegalities. This is obviously very damaging for the timeshare companies but very good news for the clients.

So to recap, in the past 2 weeks, there has been a total of 26 victory sentences with 24 against Anfi del Mar, all heard in the Court of First Instance, San Bartelomé de Tirajana, Gran Canaria. With 2 High Court, Santa Cruz de Tenerife against Silverpoint. The total amount awarded is a staggering 931,229€ plus all contracts being declared null and void.

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

How do you define a “Bad Apple” Sales Agent?

It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

By Secret Shopper

Tuesday, April 16

We have all heard stories of outright deception and deceit employed by timeshare salespeople. Many complaints are from those who were convinced to give up their deeded timeshare week and convert to the points-based timeshare.

Fixed week timeshares may lack the flexibility of points, but if you like knowing what you own, a guaranteed stay may mean more to you than flexibility. With a points program, you can stay more or less than a week and book other resorts at other times of the year. However, many have complained that after giving up their deed, they were not able to access even the resort they had vacationed at for years.

Timeshare companies will say that salespeople who use scare tactics represent only a few “Bad Apples” so are not typical. Timeshare Accountability Group has heard from more than a few members that were frightened into giving up their deed, told their children will be burdened because of their parent’s decision to buy a timeshare. We’re not lawyers, so we defer to timeshare attorney Mike Finn to fill us in on what happens when you inherit an unwanted timeshare. It’s a topic many are interested in, especially as baby boomers age.

Some of the tactics sales agents use to coerce an “owner” to give up a deeded timeshare week to become a “member” are downright predatory and constitute practicing law without a license. This is what happened to Phyllis, age 67, in her own words (unedited):

I am a victim of fraud. I was asked to attend a breakfast to talk about upgrades on a timeshare I own. I was told it would last only 55 minutes. 4 highly pressured sales people took turns on me and held me for 7 hours, bouncing me into 3 different rooms. I told them I didn’t want it and that I already owned the timeshare over and over again. They said I have to buy into the new and I own my timeshare forever, and that I could never get out of it. They said my timeshare went bankrupt and I had to invest with them (the new company) or they would go after my children for payment. I had a panic stress disorder attack. I was tired and hungry.  I was tired. In order to get out of there, I signed under dearest. I am a senior citizen 5 feet tall women and he is a 6 feet tall man standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and he can help me then said to me “I am a friend I can tell you the best thing to do only if I signed”. He added the BARCLAYS BANK CREDIT CARD. I was misled to only use the card for shopping that my points would go up and maintenance fees would go down. I never received the card. I never used the card. Now I have a trial date May 8, 2018, to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. DRI sent a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure and I am out of the contract. Since the timeshare and the bank are together I should be out of paying the bank as well? I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please email me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.

(Submitted to Inside Timeshare)

Our Secret Shopper Experience        

In mid-summer 2018, we went on a “mandatory” update after attending a Diamond Resorts event in Virginia Beach. We are well versed in timeshare methods and had our “ears up” to catch any of the standard tactics they might use to persuade us to convert our two deeded weeks into points.

Despite being ready for the worst, I will openly admit that our salesperson never told us any OVERT lies during our two-hour presentation. He was friendly, polite, and had a long history with Diamond Resorts at various locations throughout the country. He told us where he lived in Virginia Beach (a very expensive waterfront area).  He did not lie to us.

That being said, his words were very carefully chosen, and of course, what he didn’t tell us was even more carefully chosen. At a minimum, his pitch was misleading, confusing, full of half-truths, and in my opinion quite diabolical.  When someone commits a “material omission” is it a lie? That sounds like a question for attorney Mike Finn.

Let’s see how the game is played

Our salesperson pushed two major discussion points:

1 – Vacation Options:

Our sales agent demonstrated what would happen if we gave up our deeded weeks and purchased 5,000 points. He showed us a world of amazing Diamond Resorts locations on his computer screen. He explained these resorts would be available to us with the 15,000 points in total we would have if we gave up both deeds.

He showed us availability on HIS computer. He said things like “Here, let me show you on MY account” and “the system shows ME availability for these vacations for only 3,000 points… look at all of them!” Yes, many were available on many different dates. Wow, the world would be our Oyster.

Now, all that is technically true, but he presented it in a manner to imply that if we converted to 15,000 non-deeded points, we would see the same availability and options we were shown… but he never actually said that. His online Diamond account is a “Special Sales Double Platinum Account” (a descriptive term as there is no such thing as a Double Platinum loyalty level). It shows everything in the system and probably quite a bit more, but did not display what we would have access to using the proposed 15,000 points (for two weeks).

If the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract has been executed, you would not see actual availability at your loyalty level until after the rescission period had passed.

If you knew what to listen for, the agent chose his words incredibly carefully to sidestep the issue. This would have misled us if we were not informed shoppers. In my opinion, it was a shameful sales tactic that almost anyone would likely fall for.

I know that none of the locations available under his sales account would be available to someone with only 15,000 points, especially summer weeks in Virginia Beach, which he was asking us to give up. He repeatedly showed us that Turtle Cay was only 6,500 points for a week vacation in July… which is accurate… if you are one of the handfuls of people in the US with status and connections to get access to that level of availability. It is unlikely at the Silver loyalty level we would ever be able to stay there again even if we were to convert to points. He didn’t mention that.

He also gave us pamphlets describing Diamond Dream Vacations (DDV), also known as Holiday Vacations, which we could take advantage of anytime for 3,000, 7,500, or 15,000 points. Each DDV included two airfares at top-notch accommodations. One package included four days at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes resort along with a five day Caribbean cruise for only 7,500 points.

For those not familiar with points, maintenance fees for Silver level are about $.20 per point so if the Dream Vacation requires 7,500 points, the trip would cost $1,500. Multiply 7,500 points times $.20. Always do your timeshare math. Four nights at Mystic Dunes, two airfares and a five day Caribbean cruise for two for $1,500 is a GREAT deal! It even included rental car discounts.

After submitting this article, Pete explained that these great deals really do exist. I thought they were completely bogus. He said that since these packages are for the purposes of selling points, they are available to anyone who purchases as a “sweetener” or to existing members in an effort to sell more points.  

Apparently, tremendous bargains are always promotions. Our sales agent never said Dream Holidays were promotions that would require a sales session. He said “These packages are available anytime” to use his exact wording. Again, he didn’t lie… he just didn’t present an important fact.

2 – Financial Justification:

He presented a very complex 10-year financial analysis showing how it would cost us far less over ten years if we converted to points, even though he wanted us to drop more than $75,000 for 15,000 points, which would have included giving up our two deeded summer weeks. He did not know that I used to be a financial analyst with IBM. I worked on billion-dollar transactions. His spreadsheet was malarkey, and even I couldn’t follow it. Once again, he was not lying; his analysis was just crappy… which is quite common as financials go. Of course, we were not given a copy of any of his figures. When we tried to take it, he whisked it away.

All told, I doubt other salespeople would consider our sales agent a “Bad Apple” as he didn’t tell any lies. He did not mention any bogus programs (e.g. “you can pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point”) or other false claims. In fact, our sales agent is probably a shining example held up for other salespeople to emulate: nice, amiable, well dressed, 6.5 feet tall with 12 extra teeth in his smile.

After we firmly said no and started to leave, we were sent to a manager to “check out.” This person was quite reprehensible. He showed us further discounts off the $75,000. He spoke about the “investment” we would be making, what our “Equity” would be out of the gate, and how our “Equity” would grow over time. Our “investment” would only go up in value.

I got quite angry and blew up at him at this point, calling him out directly on those misrepresentations. His eyes flew open wide as he backtracked, “When I say Equity I mean your equity in future vacation time and how your vacation time would become more valuable as you learn how to use the system wisely.”

He claimed he never said he was speaking about a financial investment and not to put words in his mouth but he actually said these things with no qualifiers until he was pressed to do so . My wife loudly told him off and we got up to walk out. He asked why she was being so rude. In a sick sort of way, it was funny, really.

As our experience shows, a “Bad Apple” is in the eye of the beholder.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a story to share. Our standard disclosure is that we know there are honest sales agents selling the product honestly. Deceptive agents harm honest sales agents too. Our concern is the number of agents “pitching heat” to sell points could lead to a decline in sales unless acknowledged and addressed.

Contact Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes through Inside Timeshare if you would like to become a Secret Shopper.

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

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

Thank you to our secret shopper and to Pete Gibbes the coordinator for this week’s report, these do help others to be aware and of what to expect when they attend any presentation. As the old saying goes,  “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

One thing is certain, purchasers of timeshare in Spain do have the full protection of the law, misrepresentation of the product is not tolerated. We also know that many other European countries are reviewing their own timeshare laws in accordance with EU Timeshare Directives designed to protect consumers, many are also looking to Spain and may just adopt their legislation. For too long the timeshare companies have had the upper hand, but the tide is turning.

If you have any comments or would like to share your experiences use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Do you have a problem with your timeshare membership, or need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found?

Again use our contact page and we will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today we publish Part 2 of our Secret Shopper Questions, by Pete Gibbes, our Secret Shopper Coordinator.

First we have some rather sad news to share, Bob Massi, a Las vegas Attorney and host of the Fox TV show Property Man has sadly passed away at the age of 67, after a battle with cancer.

He was a great advocate for the underdog, even suing Diamond Resorts for Elder Abuse. He was also one of the law firms listed on the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy group on Facebook, which is reserved only for the most trusted of firms.

Inside Timeshare would like to extend our sincerest condolences to his family.

R.I.P. BOB MASSI

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/bob-massi-real-estate-attorney-fox-news-legal-analyst-dead?fbclid=IwAR2zqLDycKfIEMJDXv7PDYj6n711zWY01wblVCDqM1ySxm8eJbTNGOGT1Po

Secret Shopper Questions Part II

By Pete Gibbes, Secret Shopper Coordinator

 Friday February 8  2019

Many timeshare complaints begin with, “The sales agent said….” and are dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Due to this overused knee-jerk dismissal, timeshare buyers should record their sales presentation. You can legally do so without the other person aware in a one party state. This link allows you to select your state to determine if you can legally record.

http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/state-law-recording

If you are attending a presentation in a two party state, note taking may be the next best alternative. If the sales agent says you are not allowed to take notes, red flag. Walk out. No gift is worth being lied to. If you do stay and the sales agent scribbles a “Pencil Pitch” on a piece of paper, buyers should remember that paper, ask to see it during the signing process, and ask the agent or closer to show you in the contract where his or her promises appear in the contract. Ask to have the item added to your contract as an addendum. This is an actual response to a “The sales agent said” complaint:

“We must advise that it is specified clearly in the contract documentation that if you relied upon any verbal information given during the presentation you must ask for this to be put in writing. Likewise, if anything was said that was of particular importance to you, but which is not contained in the terms and conditions of the membership, this should have been requested to be implemented in the body of contract before documentation was signed.”

It’s a good idea to get to know the agent’s qualifications.

How long have you worked at this resort?

Have you worked at other resorts?

What did you do before you sold timeshare?

What’s your ID number?

Consumer Protection Questions

May I call my lawyer/accountant/son/daughter/mother/father to discuss your proposal? May I take the contract to my room so that I can have an adequate amount of time to review such a major purchase?

If the answer is no, ask why not? The reason they say no will be suspect. Contrary to what you will be told, trust me, you can still buy a timeshare tomorrow. The reason for this, “You have to buy today” strategy is because anyone who thinks over buying a timeshare in all likelihood will not buy if given a chance to think it over. You need to be in the driver’s seat, not the sales agent.

According to Highlands Resort sales manager Steve Abrahamson, named in a Colorado Attorney General’s investigation, “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.”

Are you a member? May we log onto your account so I can check actual availability and value? I am spending a significant amount of money on something I have not even attempted to use.  

There are many complaints about promised availability and limitations on trial timeshare products the buyer was not aware of.

Ask about Resale or Exit Programs

What happens if I can no longer use or afford the timeshare?

Who do I call? Can you give me a reference? Most timeshare companies will not allow their agents to assist in resale in any way, shape or form.

BEFORE you go on your sales presentation, contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge no money upfront to list a timeshare. The best part is they work with all timeshares, so you are not relying on the word of a sales agent that their program is the best program. Check the pros and cons of buying directly from the timeshare company compared to buying on the secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Maintenance Fees

Is there anything I can do to offset maintenance fees?

This is what we get the most complaints about – bogus programs that claim to offer maintenance fee relief. Watch out for scare tactics. For instance, beach erosion is one reason provided as a reason for special assessments, but an ocean engineer, one of our Supporters, said beach erosion is the responsibility of the state or federal government. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-17/

What is the cap on maintenance fee increases? Do you have a five year history of maintenance fee increases?  If not, don’t buy.

If I can use my points for maintenance fees, how much per point are they credited?

Where in the paperwork can I verify this information?

If I can offset maintenance fees with credit card purchases, how much of a $1 purchase (typically $.01 or $.02) will be credited toward maintenance fees? How much would I have to charge to pay off my entire annual maintenance fee? (It would cost $200,000 in annual purchases to pay a $2,000 maintenance fee at $.01 per dollar spent!)

Travel awards are often grossly misrepresented

If I can use my points for hotels, what is the actual value per point? Provide an example. If I can use my points for airline tickets, what is the value per point?

If I can use my points for a cruise, what is the value per point?

Can I rent my timeshare to pay maintenance fees? If the answer is yes, review the requirements in the contract. Some companies do not allow the member to use the internet to rent points.

Loans

Where in the paperwork does it state my loan interest rate?

How much will I pay for the timeshare if I carry the loan for the maximum term?

Is there anything I can do to reduce my interest rate? This is a set-up question because banks do not finance timeshares. Never transfer to a third party lender because then you are asking the timeshare for a refund instead of a loan cancellation.

If consumers must take out a loan to buy a timeshare, consider carefully the actual cost of financing a vacation at 12 to 18%. America is a buy now pay later society. I don’t think many financial planners would recommend financing a luxury item at 12 to 18%.

We hope Secret Shoppers create smart shoppers asking the right questions before plunging into a purchase so many of our readers have come to regret.

Our first Secret Shopper, Laurie Sabbagh, offered the first Secret Shopper report:

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have interest in becoming a Secret Shopper or would like to share a positive or negative timeshare shopping experience.

There are several member supported Facebooks and websites where members can reach out to other members to share experiences.

We seek to provide times 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/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

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

Thank you Pete for your contribution, also a big thank you once again to Irene Parker for your editing efforts, we know that you have been very very busy of late, so we appreciate you taking the time to carry on.

Well that is it for this week, remember if you are unsure about any company that has contacted you, or that you have found yourself on the internet or from an advert, then contact Inside Timeshare.

If you purchased your timeshare in Spain and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then Inside Timeshare can point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome Pete Gibbes, with another Secret Shopper report. Pete as Secret Shopper Coordinator, has revised the secret shopper questions, this is part 1.

But first a quick summary of some news from the Spanish Courts. Canarian Legal Alliance has reported that last week they received eleven (11) new sentences, these were against Anfi Del Mar, Silverpoint and Petchey Leisure. Once again the courts have declared the contracts null and void, plus ordering the return of substantial sums of money to the clients, with this week alone over 340,000€ having been awarded.

Over the next 30 days, CLA have informed Inside Timeshare of the number of trial and pre-trials they have in various courts around Spain, it is a staggering 101! That is certainly keeping the judicial system busy.

Their execution of sentence department headed by Cristina Batista and Judith Diaz Pascual, have filed “provisional executions”, with a total worth of over 6 million euros against all major timeshare resorts. The total value is over 6.000.000,00 € and is against all of mayor timeshare resorts.

These execution orders are made in the interests of the clients and ensure that the resorts payout what they have been ordered to.

Now for this weeks article.

Secret Shopper Questions Revised, the Backstory – Part I

Part II – Friday February 8, Secret Shopper Questions

By Pete Gibbes, Secret Shopper Coordinator

January 29, 2019

I previously wrote about a positive timeshare sales presentation I attended not long ago in Sedona, Arizona. I mentioned that my Diamond Resorts sales agent and manager expressed shock and dismay at the misrepresentations we told them we experienced at a November 18, 2016 Virginia sales presentation. The Sedona agents stated that they were appalled and determined they would go to bat for me by contacting headquarters. I was asked to write out my complaint. Wary but hopeful, I waited. As expected, nothing happened.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-29/

To recap what happened at the 2016 Virginia presentation, we attended a member update hoping to learn about how to get rid of 11,500 timeshare points we had previously purchased. After several hours our sales agent had an epiphany. He recalled a new program that would give us the option to sell ALL of our points back to Diamond Resorts! We listened to three more hours of this agent’s version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. After the sixth repetition, we became convinced this program existed. He told us, (and wrote down on a paper), a figure of $108,000 which was the amount he said we should be able to sell our points back for in three years. While I presently cannot locate the paper with $108,000 written on it, I do still have this agent’s “pencil pitch” indicating a “value” of $72k ($72,420 to be exact if you multiply the 8,500 points proposed times $8.52 per point). A formal proposal containing the exact numbers was presented, but that document is proprietary so we cannot present in this article. Diamond will argue that $8.52 per point represents “retail” not “resale” value, but I contend not disclosing Diamond points are virtually worthless is a material omission. Licensed timeshare brokers I contacted, who do not charge upfront money to list timeshare points, will not accept a listing for Diamond points.

Diamond Resorts has launched a program called CLARITY™ promising clear, concise, transparent and accountable information.  This is what I was provided:

At the bottom of this unclear pencil pitch, you see “G 2” and “S 3”, and below that ‘Loyalty 3 ys’. This meant that in 3 years we would have earned enough loyalty to sell the points back at a handsome profit. If we became Gold, we could sell back in two years. According to the sales agent, this new buyback policy was not available to mere Standard members like us who owned less than 15,000 points. We agreed to buy 4000 points for $15,500 to become coveted Silver members in order to qualify for the buyback program.

When I complained to Diamond I was told I did not have sufficient written evidence. I made up G2 and S3?

I remember asking the sales agent how Diamond could afford to offer a $108,000 buyback which could have exceeded our cumulative purchase price plus maintenance fees. He mentioned investment returns Diamond makes on sales. As an MBA and a CFP this made sense to me, as it made sense to George Yamada, a pension administrator who purchased Diamond points thinking he was making an investment. George is an Army veteran, Agent Orange disabled.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-5/

It appears I was not the only member excited about how this ingenious new buyback program was going to make their product more attractive to buyers. The sales agent, Mark Wilkerson, no longer works for Diamond, but he explained the program as a brand new Apollo related deal. Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, acquired Diamond Resorts.

Does Diamond think I would go to this much trouble if I was making this up? Under threat of perjury, I have filed a complaint with the Virginia Attorney General’s office that has been under review.

Unfortunately, I do not possess a video tape of the presentation. This has prompted me to volunteer to be our Secret Shopper Coordinator. I’m on a media binge to warn other timeshare buyers to RECORD THE SALES SESSION! This is legal in Virginia as Virginia, like some other states, is a one party state. I feel this is the only road to true clarity.

https://www.justanswer.com/law/4cemo-illegal-audio-record-someone-virginia-without.html

Not only did we pay $15,500 for nothing, we incurred additional ongoing maintenance fees and $2,250 in income taxes on a retirement distribution I had to make to pay for the purchase.

I asked for the contract to be cancelled and my down payment refunded. I am asking nothing for my permanent loss of faith in humanity. Like several members of our 2,400 member sponsored Diamond Facebook page, I am disabled. My sole source of income is my SSI disability income. I have learned from our Facebook other timeshare companies also respond to complaints with, “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” and “You signed a contract.” I received a certified letter from Diamond’s legal department (Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Officer) asking for written evidence. I provided the pencil pitch above, but even that does not break through the oral representation clause.   

Timeshare sales agents are not supposed to deviate from company approved sales strategies, but complaints from timeshare buyers continue to flood the internet, Attorneys General offices, the Better Business Bureau and other regulatory agencies. With little enforcement, we feel members need to take matters into their own hands by becoming Secret Shoppers so we can evaluate for other members how near or far a timeshare sales agent ventures from his or her script.

We have about a dozen Secret Shoppers. We arm our Secret Shoppers with intelligent questions timeshare buyers often forget to ask. It is our hope we can publish some positive Secret Shopper experiences. After compiling over 500 timeshare complaints, we have determined the most popular complaints involve:

  • Maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist,
  • The ability to sell points or weeks when there is no secondary market,
  • Misrepresenting the value of using a credit card to offset maintenance fees,

Having run on for many words describing what was supposed to be a brief introduction to our Secret Shopper questions; Friday, February 8 we will publish our revised Secret Shopper questions as a Part II to this article.

Contact me at Inside Timeshare if you would like to become a Secret Shopper.

We seek to provide timeshare 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/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

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

Thank you Pete, we look forward to part 2 next month.

If you have any questions or comments about this or any other article, contact Inside Timeshare, we welcome your input.

Do you have any questions regarding your timeshare, how can you get out or if you have a valid claim, then again use our contact page, we will try to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. Remember, not everything you will be told by many of these companies touting for business will be true, most will only be after your money, so do your homework and do your due diligence.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Today Timeshare Advocacy Group Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes describes a remarkable Diamond sales presentation. Inside Timeshare is always ready to publish a good report. Pete has not yet heard back from the sales agents and managers who said they would look into the complaint that prompted Pete to become more involved with advocacy efforts. Inside Timeshare will follow along and report in as soon as Pete hears back.

On 17 October Inside Timeshare published an article warning about another new “fake” law firm in Tenerife called,  ADN Alberto Dlendro Nabalez, Litigacionespaña SL, we have now had another reader send us information on the contact they have had with them. It seems that the Director of their timeshare resort The Harbour Club at Los Gigantes, Tenerife, has been charged with fraud. ADN have told our reader that many owners are getting together to cancel their membership, ADN would do this for them for 20% when the claim goes through.

Our reader then received another call informing them that a date has been set for a hearing on 20 November at 12.20pm. All they need to do is pay the “fake procurator” as soon as possible and they would be part of the case. This is very speedy indeed, but as we have said before this is all a FRAUD, there is no case, the director has not been charged with fraud and no trial date has been set. If you have had a similar call to this regardless of who you own with, then contact Inside Timeshare, your information is invaluable in helping others steer clear of this outfit.

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-warning-a-new-fake-law-firm-in-tenerife-part-of-the-litigious-abogados-family/

It has been a very busy week for the courts all over Spain, on Wednesday 7 November there were 15 cases being heard in various courts against a variety of timeshare companies and resorts.

In Tenerife another High Court has affirmed a First Court sentence and declared a Silverpoint contract null and void, with the return of their initial payments and double the deposit paid.

Continuing with Anfi, after yesterday’s article, it was announce that a further two sentences have been received from the Court of First Instance No 1 in Maspalomas, both contracts have been declared null and void with the return to both the clients of over 43,933€ and 47,582€ respectively.

Court Sentences PDF’s

Anfi Sentence a

Anfi Sentence b

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

Our Diamond Resorts Experience

A Not So Secret Shopper Reports

By Pete Gibbes, Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Secret Shopper Coordinator

November 9, 2018

We stayed at Diamond’s Los Abrigados Resort in Sedona Arizona October of this year. I was treated like royalty during a member update and sales presentation, neither of which would have lasted 15 minutes unless I had more concerns. Our sales promotion presenter, who said he had been with Diamond Resorts for 27 years, said that if we would like to buy more points we could talk about it. If not, was there anything else we wanted to ask? I asked if I was in an alternate universe.

They maintained that the company no longer employs hard sell because they found it to be counterproductive.

The internet is flooded with complaints that begin with, “The sales agent said….” only to be dismissed with, “You signed a contract” or, as we were told in 2016, “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” In my opinion, any company which does not take responsibility for their salesperson’s words and actions is implicitly incentivizing them to misrepresent the product in order to elicit a sale. When the sales agent is allowed to keep his or her commission, time after time, undisciplined or not terminated, that company is rewarding unfair and deceptive business practices.

To avoid being fleeced, I advise – don’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. “You signed a contract” is a fair response for simple buyer’s remorse.  If companies refuse to reverse transactions when allegations of misrepresentations are detailed and credible, sales will ultimately be affected.

I hope our experience at Los Abrigados is representative of future updates to come.   We received “Priority Check-in”, i.e., whisked to their VIP accelerated check-in which, according to the Diamond Resort’s website, is reserved for ‘Gold‘ and ‘Platinum’ loyalty owners, but I’m just a ‘lil old Silver member’.

During the update I was asked to document my previous purchase elicited, I believe, by deception. They actually wanted me to put it all down in writing because they wanted to directly bring my case to Diamond. They said to specifically use the word ‘misrepresentation’, because that has been the term which phony sales presentations have been scrutinized over. They also said to be sure to put that I was pursuing legal remedies, because Diamond took that seriously.

Two or three higher level people at the update were shocked and dismayed about how we had been treated in 2016. A senior manager appeared and commiserated with us. He sweetened the vouchers. They maintained that several years ago the abusive sales practices were addressed and things changed for the better. They were glad that I had let them know how I had been so shabbily treated before. They wanted to go to bat for me. (My account of what happened in 2016 follows this Secret Shopper report.)

At the sales presentation we were told that we could use our Diamond points to pay for nights at ANY 3 star rated hotel. I’d be reimbursed for 300 (or 400?) points per night. Now that’s not a bad deal, at least for many Diamond stays. At 400 points per night for 7 nights you’d be paying 2800 points for a very nice lodging, and it would be wherever you wanted to go, whether there was a Diamond resort available or not. I had not heard of such a benefit. This time around I will confirm if this is true. I have this sales agent’s contact information. He said to call him anytime about anything.

Also, there are supposed to be now 39 different ways for you to spend points, although he said points for flight miles wasn’t a very good use of points at $.07 to $.10 per point. It would take about $2,000 in maintenance dollars to book one domestic airline ticket. Typically, the best of use of points for any timeshare member is to use the points to stay at the resort’s properties. There are 39 different ways to use points? That may be a whopper.

I would like for someone familiar with alternative uses of points to refer me to where all these uses are detailed so we can calculate the actual value. I don’t see them listed on the Diamond website. Members need to do their timeshare math, as using the Barclaycard to pay maintenance fees is only at 1% per purchase, so it would take $200,000 charged in a year to pay a $2,000 maintenance fee bill. When members are told, “You can pay maintenance fees by charging purchases to a Barclaycard”, do the math to determine the actual value of this strategy.  

We were given all kinds of extra vouchers and discounts to attractions because I had had such a poor experience with the company. The concierge seemed amazed at the generosity of our discount/voucher amounts. He said he had never seen anything like it. Thought somebody must have made a mistake. This may have been a bit of luck, but our unit had what surely must have been the best view of the red rocks as anyone there.

The entire experience was far friendlier than I have ever experienced at a Diamond Resorts property. It was bizarre. Could they have been apprised that I am TAG’s Secret Shopper Coordinator? Or does Los Abrigados just happen to be a resort where members are treated particularly well? If my dispute over our 2016 purchase gets resolved, I will credit the sales team at Los Abrigados. I certainly would praise this particular resort, if my experience is typical, which I don’t know. I thought you would find my experience of interest. Maybe someone can even explain it to me.

All in all, I felt like Donald Trump must feel like when he stays at one of his properties. I do have to say that if the people I dealt with were ‘acting‘, they should be up for some awards, because even my highly tuned BS detector never flashed any warnings. Unfortunately it never did two years ago either. Proof is in the pudding, as they say.

It may be advisable to make all the people on our advocacy site Co-coordinator Secret Shoppers.

Here’s what happened to us at a Hyatt presentation in Charlottesville 11/18/2016.

My goal here goes well beyond getting this transaction reversed. I am hoping all those who feel that they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices will come forward and file regulatory complaints and warn prospective buyers to be EXTREMELY skeptical of anything a timeshare sales agent says. This is not fair to those selling the product honestly, but the liars are so good, it is impossible to tell the difference.

We originally purchased 11,500 points in 2007 at Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort. We were not unhappy with Diamond until the 2016 Virginia purchase.

We learned about six months after our purchase that a Diamond “buy-back” program described in great detail by our sales agent does not exist. The buy-back program was the only reason we purchased the additional 4000 points for $15,500.

We attended the member update only because we wanted to get out from under the Diamond points we had already purchased. It was then DRI sales agent Mark W offered us a “great new deal” whereby DRI members who bought enough points to become Silver loyalty members could sell back ALL Diamond points.

After multiple “no” responses to other reasons to buy additional points, Mark W brought up the non-existent program that was of great interest to us. He said that if we became Silver members, after three years, we would have the option to sell all our points back to Diamond for $108,000. He said Gold loyalty members would be able to sell points back in two years. He put this in writing (which I have), by writing down $108,000. He also wrote 2Y=G and 3Y=S.

I was extremely skeptical because I had never heard of a timeshare buying back points. However, after he repeated this ‘new deal’ about five times, we finally decided he must be telling the truth. We signed.

When we ultimately learned there was no buy-back program we repeatedly asked Diamond to cancel the contract. Diamond’s response inevitably was, “It doesn’t matter what the salesman said,” or even wrote down apparently. They said that we had signed the contract.

My oral and written requests to get our contract cancelled began around June 2017. When you buy additional points, obviously you are not thinking about selling. It is only until you inquire about selling you learn you were duped.

I am encouraged by the Sedona Diamond representatives and their willingness to look into our complaint. There is a lot more detail to our complaint, but no sense rehashing it here since the entire experience is well documented. I look forward to hearing what my new friends at Los Abrigados find out.   

Advocacy Facebook offer support groups for those who have had bad timeshare experiences like ours. Our Facebook has over 2,000 members.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

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


Contact us at Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy Groups if you or someone you know needs timeshare help.

Don’t forget the book by Wayne C Robinson, Everything About Timeshares, Before, During and After the Sale, with the forward by Irene Parker, you can obtain your copy from the link below.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

So that is all for this week, join us again next week for more news and views on the world of timeshare, have a great weekend.