This Letter from America was originally scheduled for publication in August, it follows the revelations published here about a crucial decision from Scotland’s Court of Sessions, by Lord Sanderson. It is a US perspective of Mr Trump and his relationship with certain timeshare moguls, just like the story of his involvement in Scotland, it does not paint a very good picture. This article also briefly shows the efforts and role of the “Regulators” in the U.S. So it ties in with another article published this week. For those of you who are not familiar with the “Timeshare Mogul” named, click on the YouTube link and watch the “Queen of Versailles”, you will then ask yourself the question, “Is this where my money has gone?”
U.S. names like Trump and Biden are not mentioned in polite company without jeopardizing relationships with friends and family. There are many reasons to like or dislike both named politicians, but those on the side of consumer timeshare protection have reason to question former President Trump’s biased stance on timeshare sales and marketing practices.
Charles reported earlier this week on questionable lending as pertaining to the Trump Organization’s acquisition of the Turnberry Resort and golf course in Scotland. A look back to what happened in 2016 provides some political timeshare history.
Pictured above is candidate Trump in 2016 on the stump. Westgate owner David Siegel of Queen of Versailles fame is seated to Mr Trump‘s right. The Queen of Versailles documentary describes the couple’s 90,000 square foot Orlando home that includes Mrs Siegle’s 5,500 square foot clothes closet. The documentary took Best Director at Sundance some years back.
I have no objection to great wealth, but a number of Westgate owners have reached out to me or our volunteers, unable to exit their timeshare. Some have debilitating and chronic health conditions. One couple, the husband, age 90, was forced to default on their timeshare week because Westgate objected to their paying their broker his $800 commission after the broker had found a buyer offering $500. I know of no honest timeshare resale broker (those who charge no upfront money to list a timeshare for sale) that will accept a listing for Westgate units because it is written into the contract that Westgate is entitled to 50% of the commission.
Westgate underwent a two-year investigation concerning sales and marketing practices. According to Buzzfeed News, Diamond Resorts was the next likely candidate to come under CFPB scrutiny. Not only was the Westgate investigation dropped almost immediately after the 2016 presidential election, the CFPB was all but dismantled.
REGULATORS ARE LOOKING INTO AMERICA’S LARGEST TIMESHARE SELLER March 18, 2016
According to the CFPB’s civil investigative demand (CID), the Westgate investigation looked into possible violations by salespeople involved in “the sale and financing of timeshares engaged in, or are engaging in, acts or practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act, the Fair Debt Collection Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act and the Fair Credit Billing Act.”
Where is the CFPB today?
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today issued a report highlighting legal violations identified by the Bureau’s examinations in 2020. The report also highlights prior CFPB supervisory findings that led to public enforcement actions in 2020 resulting in more than $124 million in consumer remediation and civil money penalties. June 29, 2021
Anyone who is unable to resolve their dispute, after reaching out to their timeshare company, and feels they experienced unfair and deceptive practices, should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the state Attorney General where the contract was signed, and the Better Business Bureau. It is only because of a volume of complaints that Timeshare Sales appeared at #7 on the FTC’s list of Top Ten Scams at $17.4 million and Timeshare Resales (We have a buyer for your timeshare scams) #10 at $12.5 million.
Inside Timeshare will say this again, there is nothing wrong with the concept of timeshare, for some, it is a good option and suits their vacation needs, but as always it is the way it is sold and managed. The consumer is just the proverbial “Cash Cow” to be milked of their cash by the greed of the industry.
Inside Timeshare welcomes your views on this subject, Inside Timeshare can see many similarities in what is happening in the timeshare world, not just in Europe but in the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. Eventually what happens in one place will happen elsewhere, it is an international problem, so we invite you to use our contact page or just leave a comment. Have a great weekend.
Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, we publish another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” article this week which focuses on Westgate, we welcome our new contributor who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. But first a quick look at the timeshare news from Europe.
Another Judge at the Courts of First Instance Number 2 in Maspalomas has joined other Judges in deciding on a case at the pre-trial stage rather than sending it for a full trial, that now makes Courts numbers 1, 2, 3 and four all following the same route.
Usually the pre-trial stage is used to allow a last minute out of court settlement and deciding if the case warrants a full trial. These courts have now decided that it is a waste of valuable court time to set dates and hold the full trial, the reasoning is that it is a matter of the contracts, they violate the timeshare laws and are cut and dried cases. This will be good news for many clients who are waiting to go to court as it will now speed up the process considerably.
According to the caller, the courts have seized sizable amounts of money from Timelinx and DWVC (Designer Way Vacation Club) which we know are no longer in existence, Litigation Services SL will help you to claim the money you paid. Obviously they need a fee to process this. The thing is there are no funds waiting at court to be claimed, we also know that in the past this company has had links with the likes of Greenges, Fuengirola Servicios 2000 and our old friends Ramirez and Ramirez.
It would also seem that not only those who had dealings with DWVC are being targeted, but Club Class Concierge clients are being contacted. The story is that there is a court case against them in the Spanish Courts, The company is called Key Legal Claims and they will represent you in court and obtain the money you paid Club Class.
The caller is Emily Carter with the phone number 01212852941. Emily will require a release fee to get the money from the courts, as we have seen in the past this is not the case, there is no money being held by the courts for either of these “Clubs”.
Now on with our Letter from America
My Westgate Timeshare is Up in Smoke!
By a Westgate buyer
October 5, 2018
The peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles revisited,
Their lavish pad is nine times larger than other houses in the area (90,000 square feet) and has a $20 million mortgage, which is 100 times the size of the average mortgage in Central Florida, according to theOrlando Sentinel.
By a Westgate owner who wishes to remain anonymous. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to contact the author.
Wealth Achieved at What Price?
Up in Smoke
I own a Westgate timeshare. I purchased the timeshare in Gatlinburg, Tennessee a while ago. In November 2016 the resort caught fire and my unit was burned to the ground. They are rebuilding, but the new units are totally different from the units being replaced. I am being asked to pay for a unit that has not been built, and given less options for the same money. I don’t see how this can be fair, but given the way in which we have been treated, I don’t think ‘fair’ is anything Westgate cares about.
The manner in which I was induced to sign the original contract attests to this:
The timeshare would be a great investment because it is real estate,
I could sell it,
I could rent it to make my money back,
I could get a tax break, the same as a homeowner,
I could get a loan to pay off my loan because it was an investment.
Westgate sales agent Zak told us it was best to buy low because in years to come the value of the property would increase. He provided an example of one of the original owners that purchased paying only $3000, and then showed me what the property is worth today. I now know timeshares are a liability, almost impossible to sell for even pennies on the dollar. The salesman misrepresented pretty much everything to make the sale.
Timeshares are not the same as real estate, and with little to no secondary market, not an investment. Many timeshares, including Westgate, can be bought online for $1. The market is flooded with timeshares and it is almost impossible to rent them out. Tax deductions are not allowed.
I relied on what the sales agent said. Now I am left with payments for something that is not what was described. Based on my experience, the poorly regulated timeshare product benefits only the sales agent, in the form of commissions, and the timeshare company, who apparently has amassed a fortune at our expense.
Our timeshare sale began with deception. A mandatory update, which is not mandatory, stated it would last 30 minutes, but it was a sales presentation that lasted 4 hours. They didn’t care about my sightseeing tour plans ruined. There has never been a time when staying at a Westgate vacation resort that I have not been pressured by employees trying to sell or upgrade me to a pricier unit. Despite making loan payments every month plus maintenance fees, before you can even use the week, you have to undergo the pressure imposed by a Westgate employee, taking up one of your vacation days, trying to sell you something that you don’t want or need.
When I think about my Westgate experience these last five years, listening to sales agents making promises unfulfilled, having spent thousands of dollars, what I have is worth nothing. This has been a nightmare.
I have tried to contact Westgate to talk about my concerns. They strung me along for months and months saying they’d get back to me. Eventually, their paralegal wrote a generic cut and paste letter stating that I had signed a contract so that was that. This is the level of care Westgate shows its owners?
Their home is 90,000 Square feet?
Thank you to this Westgate owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, but has provided their contact information should others wish to contact them through Inside Timeshare. These are member accounts hoping to warn others to know that what they bought is probably worth nothing. The timeshare developer is always welcome to present their side of the argument.
My question to timeshare developers is, how much is enough? Inside Timeshare has heard from 609 timeshare members and owners, many families financially devastated, alleging unfair and deceptive sales practices. Most signed off on high interest loans.
We thank timeshare members for submitting their experiences in the hope of warning those thinking about buying a timeshare, to be aware the purchase they are about to make can have devastating financial consequences.
What house, condo, boat or car would you buy that could not be resold? What would happen to the residential home market if buyers learned after their purchase, the “asset” they bought had no secondary market? It is not uncommon for Inside Timeshare to hear from timeshare buyers who paid $100,000 or more for a timeshare, easily the cost of a condo or home. Timeshares are hard enough to sell, but almost impossible with a loan attached. You can sell a house or a car with a loan, but not a timeshare.
You can rent the documentary “The Queen of Versailles” from Netflix, about the 90,000 square foot home being built in Orlando by Westgate owners David and Jackie Siegel. The documentary took Best Director at Sundance some years ago.
I have heard from Carolyn Willis, a third Westgate buyer, whose timeshare went “Up in Smoke” also, angry beyond words.
The Siegel’s 90,000 square foot house led to my timeshare advocacy efforts. I attended a pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation July 2015. When I returned to our unit, I turned on the television and happened to tune into Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi’s FOX show Property Man, featuring the Siegel house. Disgusted with what I had just experienced, I wrote to Mr. Massi. About a month later the FOX producer called me and said they had received a flood of timeshare complaints. The producer said the segment was not even about timeshare, but about the Siegel’s palatial home. She said Mr. Massi is a friend of the Siegels. I was the only respondent invited to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. She said I was selected because I was the only respondent who said I wanted to talk about the positives of timeshare and not just the negatives.
My house in Venice 1,770 square feet
Sometimes it takes a peasant revolt.
I described my timeshare presentation experience in fairytale format. My husband and I were in between homes, moving from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Venice, Florida. The comparison was irresistible, so I christened myself the peasant of Venice, as my LinkedIn profile describes.
Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a timeshare experience to share. We know there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. They may not be aware that timeshares often have virtually no secondary market. Many reaching out to us only learned this when life circumstances prompted them to look into selling their timeshare. Timeshare companies list the lack of a secondary market as a risk to shareholders in their annual reports. There is little empathy for the timeshare buyer who has spent thousands of dollars only to learn their timeshare is, by design, worth nothing. Greenhaven Capital Management touted the lack of a secondary market as a benefit for private equity investors. In a moment of anger, I wrote this mock interview after reading about Greenhaven, touting the timeshare stock BECAUSE of no secondary market. I find this shameful.
My apologies to British comedians Bird and Fortune
That’s it for this week, remember if you have been contacted by any company with a story that your timeshare company or club has been taken to court and there is money waiting for you, it will be a scam. If you need any help in checking the validity of any company that contacts you or one that you have found on the internet or advert, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.
As usual the industry attacks those that highlight their failings, this time it is the turn of our main writer and colleague Irene Parker.
In today’s article Irene’s husband Don, who knows her better than anyone else comes to her defense, like the knight in shining armour. Inside Timeshare has seen these sort of tactics many times in the past, the industry trying to discredit those who are doing some good, letting you know what they upto.
If the industry and the industry trade bodies, not just ARDA in the US but the RDO in Europe, focused on the failings of their own members instead of attacking and making snide comments about others, then maybe, just maybe we would have an industry that we could believe in.
For too long the industry has been riding roughshod over you the consumers, allowing their sales agents to lie to you just to get the sale, continually upgrading when you don’t actually need it. Collecting maintenance fees yet giving you nothing in return.
Then comes along someone like Irene, who gives all and expects nothing in return, take a leaf out of her book. She is known as the Peasant of Venice, as opposed to the Queen of Versailles (madam Westgate). Irene is an inspiration to many, she has pulled together many others who volunteer their time to help others all for no personal gain other than satisfaction that they have helped and made a difference.
On more than one occasion, my wife Irene told me there are those at ARDA and at Diamond Resorts convinced Irene is receiving compensation from timeshare members who contact her asking for assistance after they explain how they feel they were victims of deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.
While I understand it might be difficult for those earning high salaries to comprehend why someone would forfeit their retirement opting to spend 40 to 50 hours per week advocating for others, people that know Irene and have worked side by side with her in previous advocacy efforts will vouch for her credibility.
Irene and I have been together for 35 years. Here are a few examples of Irene’s past efforts:
In New Jersey Irene ended up at the Drop-In Center for Aids patients in Newark. One Sunday we heard about an Aids Awareness Day at a Catholic Church in New Jersey where we lived at the time. Diocese wide, 90 volunteers were recruited. The problem was the Diocese did not expect that level of interest. They had no program. Having sent the Diocese a letter presenting her volunteer experience, the Bishop requested an interview with her. He sent Irene to meet Brother Joe McAlister at the Newark Aids Drop-in Center. When Irene told Brother Joe the Bishop recruited 90 volunteers to help with the 8,000 cases of Aids in New Jersey, Brother Joe replied, “We don’t need any fxxxing Florence Nightingale’s here.” After a staring contest, Irene asked Brother Joe, “Do you need money?” He wavered. Irene reached into her purse, took out her checkbook and wrote a check for $35 to buy a coffee maker for one patron and an iron for a Hispanic man who liked to iron his shirts. After that Brother Joe, the Drop-In Center patrons and Irene became the best of friends. I helped out too and have to say I learned a lot from those brave souls. That was about 30 hours per week unpaid.
In Hawaii Irene worked with the Salvation Army and was a founding mother of the Waimea Salvation Army Board on the Big Island. She worked about 10 volunteer hours a week helping the Army find appreciable assets for their Charitable Remainder Trust program. Hawaii has a high tax rate and Irene had several clients who could use the tax benefits provided by a Charitable Remainder Trust. She and their development director also gave presentations around the islands.
Irene came home from work one day with a Korean baby and mom. Irene had learned dad was alcoholic and addicted to heroin. He was a Harvard graduate and fellow Rotarian. Before I knew it we were at the Korean Embassy in Honolulu arranging to fly mom and baby back to South Korea so they could get out of Dodge before the baby was placed in foster care. Mom was here illegally since Dad never married her. Salvation Army Major Ganot advised us on how to handle this situation which led to Irene’s Salvation Army involvement. Major Ganot could be a major in anyone’s army. She worked 26 years in Haiti.
Irene got really mad in Michigan. By now she had retired from the brokerage business and had been hired as a pipe organist and Music Director for a Catholic church. One day there appeared in the paper an article about how a few bad apple nuns sexually abused 120 Indian boys from the 1st to the 7th grade back in the 60s and 70s. Just like timeshare, our Priest said there is no evidence this happened, despite a four part article with the surviving victims interviewed by an Indian working on her Ph.D.
Before long, Irene and I were at the tribal headquarters meeting with the Chippewa Peacemaker (judge) and about a month later we were with Peacemaker Paul at the Diocese meeting with the Bishop demanding an apology. That’s all they wanted. But, just like timeshare, an apology is a tall order as it really is an admission of guilt. This was a good Bishop who listened and did offer an apology to a group of people and in print media. Irene calls them Indians because the root of the word means In-Dios, in God, and American means Amerigo Vespucci who contributed to the destruction of their land and people.
Kentucky was another state where Irene worked full time for free as a CASA volunteer, advocates on behalf of children in foster care. After about a year, Irene raised enough money to fund a “Fostering Futures” program assisting teens aging out of foster care, who had agreed to extend their commitment for educational purposes. This population of youth “aging out” is probably the highest risk population in the country. Since Kentucky was the last state we lived in, there are many at CASA who will vouch for Irene’s efforts like Debbie Harwood and Andrew Wollin who wrote a grant in order to hire Irene to be a full time paid CASA Supervisor writing and editing court reports for children in foster care. CASAs also attend all hearings and trials.
Debbie can also vouch for the effort Irene put into selling ads for the Ombudsman program housed at legal aid. Ombudsmen advocate on behalf of nursing home patients. Irene put in about 20 volunteer hours per week on that one for several months.
Last, but not least, Irene became a Volunteer Enactus Advisor at Western Kentucky University helping Burmese Karenni refugee women, not literate in their own language, sell beautifully woven scarves and bags at the Farmer’s Market and was able to introduce them to a few stores. Irene convinced me I should teach a few of the Burmese how to drive (on our car). Enactus is a worldwide organization partnering major corporations with universities worldwide to improve impoverished populations. She completed a WKU graduate course on “Teaching English as a Second Language” concentrating on pre-literate learners. The Burmese speak over five languages. They are not dialects.
That brings us to Florida where we live now. While we were in between houses, waiting for our home in Venice to be built, we attended a predatory timeshare presentation at Diamond’s Grand Beach Resort in Orlando. The reason I say it was predatory is because I was 77 years old at the time. The last thing I needed was vacation points. I remember Irene asking three times if we would be paired with a commissioned sales agent as we were only interested in long term care plans at this stage of our life. Told no because there had been so many complaints, we were held for over three hours by bad and worse cops that left Irene so angry she wrote to Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi of Fox Business Property Man. Out of all the viewers who responded to a show about Westgate Timeshare called “The Queen of Versailles”, Irene and I were selected for an interview because the producer told her she was the only respondent who wanted to talk about the positives in addition to the negatives concerning timeshare. Irene has called herself “The Peasant of Venice” ever since.
I hope this answers the question, “Does Irene get paid to assist timeshare members who are angry, confused, overwhelmed and desperate?”
Instead of worrying about whether Irene gets paid or not, I hope ARDA, Diamond and Bluegreen will think about the harm being done to so many consumers. Instead of attacking my wife, I think they should track down the sales agents using unscrupulous tactics and drain the swamp of them, instead of always saying the sales agent didn’t say that.
I am the first person to read Irene’s articles and the articles submitted to her written by other timeshare members. I’ve heard and learned a lot about timeshare. Not all presentations are predatory. We are actually not unhappy with our Diamond points. I don’t know that I would use the word happy, but our first two sales presentations before 2015 were professional. It seems the escalation in aggression has really ramped up over the last two or three years.
When Irene and the member run into a dead end with the timeshare company, she does refer to a variety of lawyers. She receives no compensation from any attorney unless you consider the time a few of them give for legal editing.
By now, if you are still reading, you might be asking why Irene is so determined to find and assist victims. When Irene was 24 years old her best friend, Jayme Simmons, asked if she could live with her because she was afraid of her husband. Jayme and her two year old daughter left after two months. A week later her husband John Moore shot her in the face three times in front of her daughter. He served only seven years in a California prison. That kind of an event can have a lasting effect. You could say Irene has channeled that anger into advocacy.
I hope others volunteer to help write timeshare reports because there has been an increasing number of callers and emailers. We hope someday, somewhere, a lawmaker or regulator or AARP will either stop the predatory behavior or enough public exposure alerts the public to buyer beware. Irene knows there are also a lot of Wyndham members who complain, but they have not been calling – yet.
Contact Inside Timeshare or Irene if you have a concern about your timeshare purchase, but I kindly ask that you call between the hours of 1 to 5 PM Eastern Standard Time as that is a good time to call. Irene writes reports and articles in the mornings.
There you have it, that is what it means to be a VOLUNTEER, something these businesses fail to understand. It is not all about money, it is about doing what is right.
In Spain we are seeing the industry on the run, their failure to abide by the laws because they believed they were above the law, is now starting to bite them back. Millions of Euros are being awarded back to consumers by the courts. Other European countries are looking at Spain to see how they can protect the consumer from these timeshare giants.
The industry needs to take note, carry on running it like you do, then there will not be an industry left. Consumers are getting wise to your tactics, Inside Timeshare will publish what you do wrong, but we will also publish when you get it right. We would love to publish more positive articles, timeshare could be a good product, but your greed has destroyed what was once loved by many.