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Secret Shopper

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another in our series of Secret Shopper reports, but first some news from the UK about ABC Lawyers, one of the Mark Rowe owned companies.

On 8 February 2019, an application to wind down the company ABC Layers Ltd was filed by Mark Rowe with Companies House. The appointed liquidator is David Meany of Quantuma LLP, The Old Town Hall, 71 Christchurch Road, Ringwood, Hampshire.

ABC Lawyers is just one of the companies under the umbrella of Advanced Business Consultants Legal SL,  (formerly registered as Jive Hippo SL), CC Fañabe Plaza 338, Avenida Bruselas, Costa Adeje, 38660, S/C de Tenerife, it is also known as ABC Legal/Other companies are Timeshare Compensation, Timeshare Lawyer, ValueMyTimeshare and Timeshare Advice, all owned by Mark Rowe.

Mark Rowe is also the owner of the following companies registered in the UK, TULOCA LTD (10748107), LANSDOWN FINANCIAL LTD (09742346), STAYCATION LODGES (SCOTLAND) LIMITED (SC549238), STAYCATION LODGES LIMITED (10332646), JIVE HIPPO LIMITED (09863488), MONSTER TEMPCO LIMITED (09855107) and GORLEY VALE FARM LIMITED (09669372). Although he resigned as Director in February 2019, leaving Nicola Helen Rowe as the sole director.

The question being posed now is what will happen to all those clients who have signed up with ABC Lawyers for “compensation claims” and “relinquishments”, are they going to have the work completed?

As we know, several of Marke Rowe’s companies are under police investigation, could this liquidation be a move to prevent yet another of his companies falling under that investigation? Only time will tell.

Now for today’s Secret Shopper Report.

Timeshare Wars!  Deeded Timeshare Owners Fight Back

What kind of business sells points by demanding that if you don’t buy our timeshare points, your children will have to be our customer?

A deeded owner

Marriott Vacation Club Fights Back

Not since the Book of Genesis [1:9-10] has the extraordinary feat of creating land from nothingness been chronicled … and Marriott “saw that it was good” for business. (Plaintiff’s response to motion to dismiss)  

By Another Deeded Week Secret Shopper from Out West

April 23, 2019

Some Vacation Clubs employ predatory and deceptive methods to convince deeded week timeshare “owners” to give up their deed to become a “member” of a points-based timeshare program. Owners are lured to “mandatory” updates designed to convince them why they should join their vacation club.

Last Tuesday a Secret Shopper shared his experience. Shopper owned two continuous deeded weeks at Virginia Beach. He determined that if he had agreed to forfeit his deeds for points, it is unlikely he would have access to the vacation location the family had enjoyed for years.

Some timeshare point members have no “beneficial interest” in actual real estate. Wyndham does sell a point-based deeded timeshare. The (intended pun) point is that just because points are used to identify one’s use interests, does not necessarily make the timeshare a users’ rights product.

In the case of non-deeded points, the point buyer buys points in a “right-to-use” program. Ownership rights are stripped away from the actual real estate. It’s more like buying a membership in a country club than buying a condo, except it’s a country club membership you can’t easily terminate unless the membership is free and clear. If there is no loan and maintenance fees are current, the resort MAY take the timeshare back in return for nothing more than the peace of mind knowing you are done with it.

Charging closing costs for a product that is not real estate was the basis of a class action lawsuit against Marriott Vacation Club.  In a recent ruling,

A Florida Judge has sustained central claims in the class action against Marriott and their points based system. “Consumer Deeds are invalid because they lack any cognizable legal description of a real property interest being conveyed as required by Florida law.”

https://www.nyrealestatelawblog.com/manhattan-litigation-blog/2019/april/florida-judge-sustains-central-claims-in-suit-ag/?fbclid=IwAR2wlVr8NIPBZj9Mcg8vVQI7_yHJvTHkIWTU4NdT9XEC8QANg0rfR9wmZrs#.XKZAISFvVH0.facebook

Our Secret Shopper Experience

Throughout our presentation, we were concerned about the sales agent using terms associated with real estate. Our sales agent said points are backed by real estate held in a trust. Agents used words and phrases like “opening escrow” and a 30 to 45 day closing period. One particularly deceptive use of real estate jargon was stating maintenance fees as HOA fees. They are not the same. It would take another article to explain why they are different. They would not disclose the terms of a loan unless we agreed to purchase.

My husband and I went after them from a financial angle. We said we were concerned about the company’s financial health. We felt the thousands of complaints that can be found about this company on the internet, over 1,000 Better Business Bureau Complaints, a government action, and numerous lawsuits would eventually catch up with them. That doesn’t mean all their sales agents are dishonest, but there are a disproportionate number of complaints compared to other timeshare companies.

What seemed to be the craziest comment came from an agent who came over to answer our questions about the budget report. We had asked:

“Is the Club solvent?” “Are they in debt?”

The agent shockingly responded, “Why would that matter to you?”

We asked for their California public report. We showed them that there was a deficit of $9.696 million. We asked why the public report does not show a reserve account. They said it’s typically not shown in a public report. This makes no sense as that is one of the first things to put in a public report to make the consumer feel more secure. The truth is – there is no reserve account based on documents we had analyzed.

Our sales agent seemed a bit dumbfounded. Our session ended without the usual downturn in attitude when a member says no and means no. We don’t think these agents are used to informed buyers. But Vacation Clubs don’t just try to take your deed. They try to take your Resort!

We are longtime owners at one of the resorts that have opposed the Vacation Club’s attempts to take control. Owners realized a few years ago that the Club was rapidly accumulating inventory. Some owners started reporting that they had been to presentations or updates where they had been informed that either the Club already ‘owned’ our resort, or used scare tactics to convince the owner that if they didn’t convert their deed to points, their deed would be worthless and would be subject to a special assessment. Often, especially seniors are falsely told that if they don’t give up their deed and convert to points their children will be required to be club members when the owner passes.

The Vacation Club business model dealing with “Legacy” resorts is well known. I call this model extortion. Here’s how it works:

  1. The acquiring company takes over management,
  2. Substantially higher fees are charged than the resort was currently paying,
  3. Deeded owners’ maintenance fees are raised substantially,
  4. The cost of club operations is shifted to the deeded owners,
  5. Excessive capital reserve projects are imposed in order to collect additional fees from deeded owners,
  6. Availability, especially for desirable weeks, is reduced for deeded owners.
  7. Desirable weeks are rented to the public to increase income to Club managers.
  8. Nuisance fees are added that are applicable to only deeded owners such as parking fee, split week fee.
  9. Benefits deeded owners enjoyed for many years are eliminated, such as day use and bonus time
  10. Information available to deeded owners is reduced in order to force them to attend high-pressure sales presentations or “updates” designed to wrestle the deed away from the owner.
  11. The value of deeded ownership is demeaned by emphasizing the negative aspects of deeded ownership.  Deeded owners are threatened with special assessments, higher maintenance fees, less availability.
  12. Exchange options become limited for deeded owners in order to coerce them to convert to club membership.

Our Club has used unscrupulous Florida title companies to purchase units from deeded owners under false pretext and transfer them to the Club. The Club has pressured management hired by the resort to enact policies beneficial to the Club.  The Club has brought frivolous legal action against the association and board members individually to intimidate vendors and board members so that the Club can gain control of the resort.

The intent of the Club has been to purchase voting power rather than quality ownership. They have done this by acquiring less than desirable units in less than desirable seasons. The units are not used by the Club for occupancy, yet they still pay the dues for these units. As a result, the Club is determined to take control of the resort so that they can better monetize this worthless inventory.

What can be done to keep our resort?

Our resort has taken advantage of social media to increase owner engagement and the free flow of information among owners and between owners, the board of directors and resort management.  The availability of timely information to the deeded owners has empowered our resort to resist the persistent pressure from the Club to take control of our resort.

Our owners and our board are passionate about our resort and determined to maintain the control that allows them to continue enjoying what they purchased. Deeded owners must unite and organize to hang on to what little real timeshare real estate is left. To think the timeshare world will be nothing but points is sad.

We seek to provide timeshare 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 Shoppers for their report, these do help others to be aware of what actually goes on at these presentations and helps them to be prepared.

If you have any views or comments on any article published, use our contact page, Inside Timeshare welcomes your insights.

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

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker gives us a report on the 3rd Quarter of Timeshare Advocacy Group.

We are also pleased to announce the publication of The book Everything About Timeshare, Before, During and After the Sale is just around the corner, plenty of time for the holiday shopping season. Our own Irene Parker wrote the Forward for Wayne C. Robinson‘s book. To stay updated on the release, subscribe to this link:

13 SHOCKING SECRETS http://eepurl.com/dxsZEb

We have also received the following from one of our very concerned Anfi members and readers, this was posted on the Anfi Contracts facebook page. It would appear that there is some grave concern as to where large amounts of money have gone and members are calling for an explanation.

Ahead of Monte’s general assembly in November, an important issue needs to be clarified. In the accounts published last year, Monte’s two main debtors were, at the end of 2016: Anfi Resorts (the operational company) with an accumulated debt of €1.897.858, and Anfi Sales (the sales company) with an accumulated debt of €1.854.918.

In the accounts presented this year, Resorts are listed with €0 in debt, whereas Sales’ debt has increased by €20.000 to €1.874.755. Meanwhile, a new post has appeared: post 12, called “present investments” (translated from Norwegian), with a total of €1.456.093 at the end of 2017.

These investments represent €441.765 less than Resorts’ accumulated debt at the end of 2016. At the general assembly, the club members should be entitled to an explanation as to the whereabouts of this money, and be informed about where the “present investments” have been invested.

Well all we can say is we will be watching this story as it unfolds with the November General Assembly.

Now for this week’s article.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ 3rd Quarter Report 2018

T Shirts are in! (T Shirts are blue)

  

By Irene Parker

October 12, 2018  

Timeshare Advocacy Group™  has heard from exactly 600 timeshare families as of September 30, 2018, since we began tracking complaints in 2017. We received a total of 267 reports from families for all of 2017, so 333 families for the first three quarters of 2018 is a dramatic increase.

2018 broken down by quarters:

1st quarter 126

2nd quarter 111

3rd quarter 96

We anticipate an upswing fourth quarter when maintenance fee invoices go out. We have already received 21 new complaints from October 1 to October 10.

Most families contacting us are angry, overwhelmed, and confused, all but a handful describing unfair and deceptive sales practices. They say they bought a timeshare for reasons that did not exist, based on false promises made by timeshare sales agents. The Brett Kavanaugh hearings have taught us about the importance of the burden of proof. While four FBI agents and several attorneys have told me it is not legal to use and abuse the oral representation clause, the ingrained mantra timeshare company response to the majority of complaints is “You signed a contract.”

Not one member who contacted us was aware of the inadequate secondary market until hit with a medical or financial crisis, like Ashley Muise our newest Inside Timeshare contributor. Ashley’s baby was born needing two open heart surgeries. Adding a timeshare loan foreclosure on top of that kind of stress has driven many families to despair. Most of our senior readers maintained an 800 plus credit score for 30 plus years, now forced to endure the demeaning timeshare foreclosure process. I would not make a good timeshare customer service representative because I am moved by their distress.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Section 5:

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

Our standard disclaimer is that we know there are millions who bought and use their timeshares with no complaints. Timeshare buyers blessed with an honest sales agent should not demean or judge those who say they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices.

“Don’t call a timeshare exit company!”

“We have your best interest at heart!”  

This the message one timeshare company sent to their members.

No they don’t have your best interest at heart. If the timeshare company had your best interest at heart, why do they almost always respond, “You signed a contract” when members complain about being lied to. They have their bottom line’s best interest at heart. The timeshare developer doesn’t want anyone to stand in the way of their “recaptured inventory” process. Timeshare company annual reports list a secondary market as a risk to shareholders.

The timeshare developer

The timeshare lobby

Lawmakers and some regulators

We are as much against timeshare exit companies as the developer, but given the “Hear no evil, see no evil” response from the industry as to the obvious deceit perpetrated by timeshare sales agents, it’s hard to feel sympathy for the timeshare developer plagued with “cease and desist” letters. They say their members are being “targeted” when in fact members are desperate and turn to internet key words for help.

The Florida Department of Business Practices and Regulation (DBPR) advises members to call a lawyer – referring them to what amounts to be a lawyer phone book of sorts. More than a few times the member ended up with a lawyer who doesn’t know what they are doing because they don’t have timeshare experience. The lawyers get paid, and then we end up helping the member for free.   

Members have reported back to us that The Nevada Real Estate Division has responded to all but a few complaints with “You have no proof.” It is legal to record a meeting without the other party aware in Nevada. In Nevada members need to record the sales presentation.

The Florida DBPR, responds, “Verbal representations are hard to prove,” but Florida is a two person state, meaning both parties need to be aware of the recording of an in-person meeting. Members are not allowed to take handwritten notes from the sales agent, so I don’t know what proof anyone could produce. Tell them you will record. If they say no, forget the gift and leave. If you will be charged something if you leave, painstakingly write down every word the sales agent utters.  

Only two out of 600 complaints have members recorded. The first to record had their contract cancelled in a heartbeat. The second, even with the recording, has had to fight tooth and nail. She has received a full refund from the credit card company, their entire purchase, but the timeshare company is still not releasing her from the contract!  

Timeshare members seek straight answers, which our advocates provide free of charge from England to Malaysia.

Our 44 advocates are professionals who bring their skills and life experiences to the table, volunteering their time to help answer members’ questions.

Pete Gibbs has volunteered to be our Secret Shopper coordinator, replacing Karen Garello. Thank you to Karen for her past service.

Karen’s Secret Shopper questions:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-16/

Advocate Sheilah Brust has her three page pencil pitch from Florida that shows:

$8631

-8631    

0   (Meaning buying additional points would result in no maintenance fees)

First, Sheilah was told the company didn’t know if she obtained the pencil pitch without the sales agent knowing. When she pointed out how preposterous this defense is – while the pencil pitch is incriminating, it is inadmissible if she took it on her own! The next defense, the Florida AG timeshare reviewer told her that she didn’t understand the pencil pitch either until she talked to the company’s attorney. So how, Sheilah asked, would anyone understand this convoluted, sleight-of-hand explanation of the ability to pay maintenance fees with points? No such program exists?

Frustrated, Sheilah designed a T Shirt that we hope to sell to raise money for a legal defense fund, as has been suggested. We have several 100% disabled veterans and members with grave medical decisions driven to financial disaster, some driven to the verge of bankruptcy.  We have a five member committee to account for receipt and disbursement of funds. As of now, we are in the preliminary proposal writing stage. We are working out the mechanics of a Go Fund Me account. We will suggest buyers contribute $5 from every T Shirt to the legal defense fund.

Many of those we have helped were on their way to the upfront “guaranteed to get you out of your timeshare” firms, some that prey on those already victimized. Not all exit companies are bad, but scams abound. From this perspective, the developer, the timeshare lobby ARDA, and TAG advocates are on the same side. This 15 page Department of Justice report listing timeshare fraud, jail terms and fines, says it all:  

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

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.

Thank you to all our Inside Timeshare contributors and upcoming new contributors. Contact Inside Timeshare if you, or someone you know, needs assistance or would like to share their timeshare story for the benefit of others.

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” Jimi Hendrix

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

That is all for this week, if you have any comments or would like to contribute an article use our contact page and we will get back to you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

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