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TARDA

Friday’s Letter from America: Consumers being Blamed

Welcome to this week’s edition of Letter from America, since we first published on the subject of timeshare purchases and the consumer labeled as “gullible” and is to blame for their own woes, it has sparked quite a debate on various forums. Today we welcome another old contributor back to Inside Timeshare, Sheilah Brust, who is also a Tarda Board Member and her own take on this subject.

Why the Consumer Should not be Blamed

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By Sheilah Brust, a TARDA Board Member

May 28, 2021 

I have been following ARDA and the Timeshare Crusader’s comments about people like me being gullible, versus Inside Timeshare explaining why the consumer should not be blamed. I read about the non-reliance clause, sometimes called the oral representation clause. I won’t rehash what that’s all about, but being called gullible prompted me to share my experience to explain why my timeshare experience led me to join efforts to form the timeshare consumers’ voice in Washington D.C. 

One of the reasons why the timeshare exit industry is out of hand is because timeshare developers and timeshare industry lobbyists refuse to acknowledge the role that timeshare sales agents play that prompts thousands of timeshare members to contact exit companies or an attorney. My experience serves as a good example. 

I have personally communicated back and forth with Florida’s timeshare division, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and reached out to ARDA-ROC, along with hundreds of other members who feel they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices. I won’t go into all the reasons why my reviewer at DBPR, and even the DBPR supervisor blamed me, but I am encouraging the reviewers at DBPR and ARDA to read the book Not Today Buster! Author Vern Thornton, and founder of Senior Vs Crime, explains why the consumer should not be blamed.

Glendora Goodwin, known as “GG” to her friends, is pictured on the cover of Not Today Buster! GG was a “Super Sleuth” in that she worked undercover. She wrote a “Snooper” column for a Florida newspaper. One of her three primary warnings was, “Never buy on the same day an offer is presented.” If consumers followed that advice, it would stop a lot of timeshare complaints.  

I did not think my complaint would be dismissed because I had written proof of deception. Moreover, four others had the same “pencil pitch” in their possession. Only the numbers differed, depending on the points purchased. Note “8631 – 8631 = 0” is written on the left. That was the amount of maintenance fees for that year. The Florida sales agent, writing upside down, explained in great detail how I could be relieved of all maintenance fees.  

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Dismissed by the resort, and DBPR, and no response from ARDA-ROC, I reached out to Seniors Vs Crime (SVC), a Special Project of the Office of the Florida Attorney General. I learned that DBPR is not a consumer protection agency. They cannot mediate a dispute or compel a company to cancel a contract. In contrast, Seniors Vs Crime is a consumer protection agency, and can mediate a dispute. ARDA doesn’t mediate disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics that their members are supposed to abide by. The ROC in ARDA-ROC stands for Resort Owners Coalition, the timeshare members’ arm of the Political Action Committee (PAC). 

I reached out to Seniors Vs Crime and met with a “Senior Sleuth” volunteer at her Florida Delray office. They were understanding and so moved that they looked into other complaints I forwarded to them. They seemed shocked that there is nothing to stop deceptive statements, thanks to the non-reliance clause.  

TARDA stands for Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability, Inc. A few hundred of us are raising funds to engage a lobbyist organization so that real timeshare consumers can be the voice for timeshare consumers, who at present feel they have no voice. TARDA is an all-volunteer 501c4 nonprofit.  

But back to my being gullible, the purpose of this article. I was a Platinum timeshare member. That means that over the years my husband and I purchased points costing our family over $200,000. Having purchased a few times, and used to relying on the ethics of real estate agents, the sales agent’s written illustration convinced us our agent was being truthful. He provided plausible explanations why this new program to relieve us of maintenance fees had not yet been announced so would not be part of the contract. He said the website would be updated shortly. 

Had I recorded the presentation, which is not legal in Florida without the other party aware, I’m not sure if even that would have been enough to cancel our contract. The non-reliance clause gives a green light for sales agents to say anything to make a sale. Even with proof, that one sentence in a stack of documents that says I did not rely on oral statements, legalizes deception. 

Given no harm befell the agent – he is free to continue to promote the ability to be relieved of maintenance fees. The resort responded that while they could understand his explanation to be confusing, it was not illegal. They would take steps to make sure it would be better clarified in the future. Six months later a fifth member complained, providing the same pencil pitch and the same explanation. Their dispute was resolved. Maybe I paved the way.  

All the complaints sent to ARDA ROC that I am aware of were ignored. 

Thank you Sheilah and those who have helped to edit and proofread the article, it has certainly been a great help at the moment. Hopefully, Inside Timeshare will be back next week with a few more articles. In the meantime have a great weekend.

TARDA: Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability

Back in October 2019, Inside Timeshare published the following story of a new organisation for timeshare owners in the US. Due to the number of emails being received by many US timeshare owners, Inside Timeshare decided the time was right to republish for your information. This was one of the last articles to be published by Irene Parker for Inside Timeshare.

Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability, Inc.

https://tarda.org/

We are an organization servicing North America timeshare buyers, prospective buyers, or those interested in timeshare reform. North America includes Canada and several other countries

https://www.countries-ofthe-world.com/countries-of-north-america.html

October 15, 2019

By Irene Parker

Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability, Inc is a 501c4 nonprofit incorporated in Delaware and domiciled in Washington D.C. Our mission:

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.

If you are a timeshare member, owner, prospective buyer, or just someone interested in seeing an improvement in timeshare sales and marketing practices, join TARDA today to join your voice with ours. Your donation of $10 or more will automatically enroll you as a member of TARDA. A complete explanation of TARDA can be found on our website linked above.

The time has come to have the timeshare consumer’s voice speak for the timeshare consumer, as opposed to timeshare executives speaking to lawmakers on our behalf. We know there are millions who use and enjoy their timeshare weeks or points, but we also know thousands have reported how they have been harmed by unfair and deceptive timeshare sales and marketing practices.

Our initial legislative goal is twofold:

  • Allow the timeshare buyer 24 hours to consider their decision to buy a timeshare product 
  • If the signing session is recorded, allow the buyer the opportunity to record the sales session

By their own admission, in testimony provided at a Florida legislative workshop March 12, 2019, the Florida Attorney General’s timeshare division, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), acknowledged in their statistics that reports of verbal representations are dismissed.

Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation. Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale.   

What is a 501c4?

Nonprofit organizations typically classified under 501c4 include:

  • Volunteer fire departments
  • Civil leagues
  • And other groups that promote social well-being

Restrictions of a 501c4

Similar to a 501c3, no profits of the 501c4 can be used to directly benefit any of its individuals. The 501c4 organization cannot stand in support of or against any politician, whether done indirectly or directly.

However, the 501c4 is allowed to partake in minimal political activity, but those activities cannot become the focus of the organization. Also, when engaging in political activities, the 501c4 risks that any expenses incurred may be taxed.

Lobbying is allowed only for the sake of achieving its social well-being goal. If the 501c4 engages in lobbying, it may have to disclose how much of its members’ dues are going toward lobbying. https://www.upcounsel.com/501c3-vs-501c4

Hundreds of timeshare member complaints have been sent to the timeshare lobby ARDA and to ARDA-ROC, a political action committee. Complaints have been ignored. ARDA-ROC does not mediate disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics.     

Not one in over 1,000 timeshare members have been able to tell me what ARDA even stands for, yet ARDA ROC collects approximately $5 million a year in “voluntary” donations. At some resorts contributions are opt-out. When I attempted to opt-out my $7, the $7 was moved to another account and reported as delinquency. It took a while on hold until the matter could be researched and resolved. ARDA and ARDA ROC’s boards consist of timeshare executives with one exception. There are no timeshare owners on the board.   

https://www.arda.org/arda/government-affairs/default.aspx?id=1156&libID=1176

Why ARDA does not represent the voice of the timeshare consumer

  •  As described in the RedWeek article linked below, ARDA proposed and passed legislation in Florida in 2015 that makes it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts due to non-material errors.
  •  In Arizona ARDA vigorously argued against offering the timeshare buyer a 24 hour “cooling off” period before signing a perpetual contract that likely has no secondary market. Shorter-term products have been developed, but even a ten-year product can wreak financial havoc. Clearly, any organization arguing against a 24 hour cooling off period is not on the side of the consumer. 

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-roc-donation-in-maintenance-bill

ARDA’s position is that the problem of the lack of a secondary market has been solvedDaily I receive requests from timeshare buyers seeking release. They do not know where to turn. Many are seniors who would never find their way to ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit. Most have owned their timeshare for 10 to 30 years, rarely used it, and have been paying maintenance fees for decades. An out of touch quote from an ARDA lobbyist:

“Their value comes from using it,” the timeshare industry’s top lobbyist told ConsumerAffairs in January, admitting that points have no resale value while claiming that consumers don’t mind this because the value comes from the experience.

According to ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson:

But the bottom line said (ARDA lobbyist) Isaacson, is that the state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal.

According to an Arizona Senator who supported ARDA’s defeat of a pro-consumer bill that would have allowed 24 hours to consider a timeshare purchase:

“These people are adults. There was a meeting of the minds and they signed a contract. They should take responsibility.”

The first timeshare complaint I read on Tripadvisor in 2016 is reflective of the over 1,000 complaints received, one of the adults who “did not bother to understand the nature of the deal.” Since this complaint, I have heard from more than 1,000 others. 

I am at the Cancun resort in Las Vegas and went to a breakfast where they said they would simply update me about the changeover to Diamond. I was told that I should have been invited to a dinner where I would have been given options, decided by a judge in a legal ruling against Monarch due to their bankruptcy. They proceeded to show me a print out that said when my current term expires in August. I would have to pay $573 per quarter to Monarch. They said that due to the bankruptcy, I would have no equity. That was option one. Pay more, have nothing. The other option they said was to transfer into Diamond at a cost of $12,000 plus and pay a yearly maintenance fee of $1,700. Less than the $2,292 I would soon be giving Monarch. They also told me that I would then have an equity of $41,000 that I could sell. I was in tears. I do not have any extra money. In fact, I have been looking for ways to get out of Monarch for over a year now. They said that was not an option and that as an owner, I was now proportionally responsible for their debt. I felt trapped and signed all the papers to transfer, with no idea how I can pay. After reading the comments above I am even more scared. I am trying to start my own business and am already in severe debt. They claimed when they ran my credit though that it looked better than most and assured me I qualified for financing. I would have to pay off, basically transfer to credit cards, which I can barely make my payments on now before I could look to sell. One of the reps assured me that she would put me in touch with someone who could help me sell my points. She even gave me her cell phone number to call after the sale/transfer is finalized. I am really scared though. Please help! We have to do something. It seems as though they have no qualms about lying to and robbing people for their own benefit.

Member-sponsored timeshare resources: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 Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide

https://www.udprep.info/june

Bluegreen Facebook

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

Wyndham Facebook

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

Wyndham Carriage Resorts Facebook

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

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

Diamond Resort Facebook

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

Gold Key Facebook

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

Inside Timeshare Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/insidetimeshare/

Inside Timeshare Facebook Group

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

Thank you Irene, Inside Timeshare wishes TARDA all the best in their endeavours and hopes that the industry does take notice and change its ways. If they do not, then they will end up just like the dinosaurs,

EXTINCT!

Carriage Resorts Annual Meeting Report

Welcome to the last article for this week, as you know Irene Parker is now concentrating on her work with Tarda, so this slot will no longer be called Friday’s Letter from America as it was her one of her twice-weekly slots. Although Irene will continue to submit reports on the timeshare situation in the US when she is able to. For those wishing to follow Irene’s posts plus those from many timeshare owners’s/members, you can do so at the link below. Also please do join and donate to TARDA, they will be working in your interest and need your support.

www.TARDA.org

Carriage Resorts October 21 and 22 Annual Meetings

Will BDO Dunwoody Find Solutions to the Need for an Exit Strategy?

By Irene Parker

October 25, 2019

The Wyndham Carriage Hills annual meeting was almost held October 21 and the Carriage Ridge annual meeting was held October 22 in Ontario Canada. The Carriage Hills October 21 annual meeting was cancelled because the facility could only hold 500 while another 500 members waited outside. Owners were annoyed but felt the chaotic debacle was the best message they could have sent.

The reason for the robust attendance was because the Carriage Board of Directors had notified Owners that they had retained the strategic accounting firm BDO Dunwoody to study the two-fold problem of no responsible exit from the timeshare and the resulting and escalating bad debt. Owners, even those with severe medical and financial hardship, have not been allowed a release from their fully paid for timeshares. They are liable for ongoing annual maintenance fees, as well as their heirs – there has been no responsible exit.

At the Carriage Ridge Oct 22 annual meeting, not much new news was provided other than a statement concerning early-stage negotiations between the two Carriage Boards of Directors and BDO Dunwoody. Board President Marti Ginsherman reported that information as to actual proposals and desired outcomes would not be made available until first quarter 2020.

The U.S. timeshare lobby ARDA does have a Coalition for Responsible Exit. Owners in good standing need only to look for their resort on the ARDA website. If the resort is not found, it doesn’t mean there is no exit. The resort may have a program, but not be a part of ARDA’s program. Usually, there is a charge to voluntarily deed back the timeshare points or deed. Some U.S. resorts are still resistant to any form of exit except foreclosure.

https://responsibleexit.com/

The Canadian counterpart to ARDA is CVOA. They are aware of the dilemma Carriage owners face, responding that a solution will require time and considerable resources. Those considerable resources include the strategic accounting firm BDO Dunwoody which will work with a Transition Team to address problems and solutions.

At the October 22 Carriage Hills meeting, Carriage Ridge board secretary/treasurer Maureen Lee Ah Yen volunteered to head the Transition team and Carriage Ridge owners Lori Smith and Bruce Fleming volunteered to act as the liaison between owners and Transition Team board members.

The most glaring example of the need for a medical and hardship release concerns Stephanie’s grandparents, Gary, and his wife of 53 years Sandra. Gary resides in a nursing home and Sandra lives with her unemployed son. Gary’s entire pension must go towards his care. Sandra suffers from depression, and the worry over finances contributed towards a recent hospital stay.

Published marketing materials provided at the time of purchase stated:

  • Freeze costs of future vacations
  •  Equity $ position
  •  Worry-free vacations

 Maintenance fees have increased from $600 a year to $1,500 over the years. Owners feel they do not have worry-free vacations as the absence of an exit strategy has caused significant stress for many. In addition, thousands of dollars have been lost to timeshare exit providers and timeshare listing services.

Carriage Resorts were acquired by Shell Vacation Club and subsequently, Wyndham acquired Shell. No doubt the argument will be that current owners are not responsible for the original developer’s marketing claims. That does not change the unfairness of owners finding themselves held timeshare hostage.

On Monday Carriage Hills Owner Karen Levins will offer her comments on the current situation and hope for the future.

Thank you, Irene, from all the previous articles on these two resorts and now this report of the Annual Meeting, it is very clear there is a very serious problem for our Canadian friends. In all the years that Inside Timeshare has been running and we include the original incarnation, we have never had a series of stories such as these. They are truly a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.

That is all for this week, join us again on Monday with another story of why you need to be careful about who you do business with.

Have a great weekend.

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