Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week Eron Grant submits her open letter to ARDA (American Resorts Development Association), for those in Europe that is the RDO. She explains her experience at the hands of a sales agent and asks why does ARDA have a code of ethics if these agents and resorts ignore it? Very good point, the same can be said of the RDO.
First a roundup of this week. For August it has been quite a full week for Inside Timeshare considering that the courts are closed so no news on that front. We began with the ongoing story of the fake law firms in operating out of Tenerife, yes, that family called Litigious Abogados, bit of a sorry story this one.
Unfortunately, the gentleman in question didn’t find our previous story in time, he was totally taken in by the documents and smooth legal talking of this crowd. It began with the usual pitch, that his timeshare company had a case against them ready to go to court and he could be part of it. He duly paid the initial Procurador fees, then a few weeks later he got the great news that he won the case and the court had awarded him thousands in compensation, brilliant!
Now it was only a matter of paying 20% of the award to the tax man to release the money, this done he was told his cheque was on the way. The envelope arrived with the court papers, but no cheque, the envelope had been opened and the cheque missing. After contacting the “Law Firm”, another company contacted him saying the court had appointed them to investigate and get his money back, apparently this Romanian gang had stolen the cheque and cashed it. Don’t worry, we will get the money back from the bank. First you have to pay us 10% of the amount.
Then in what can only be described as a further insult to injury, he was told he owed the property tax on a property he owned in Spain, his NIE Number had expired plus he had outstanding fines for a traffic offence. But we can sort this out for you and get the money released, for a fee.
This has lost him thousands of pounds and has caused him great stress. So beware, it may sound good and look genuine, but it rarely is.
On Tuesday, we published the ongoing story of Tauro Beach, the flagship project from Anfi, this time it was a couple of independent research journalists, Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer. In their article, published in the UK paper The Guardian, they investigated the importation of the sand for this man made beach, brought in from the Western Sahara in breach of UN sanctions and European Court of Justice rulings.
This investigation is still underway by various authorities, the main one being SEPRONA, the Nature Protection Service of the Guardia Civil.
Wednesdays article was from Irene Parker on the Welk Resorts case against Timeshare Exit Team. It highlights the dire need for a proper secondary market and a fair exit strategy for those who do not wish to sell.
In this article we opened with news that the TATOC Help Line had closed, we also published a link to a very good in depth report on the importation of sand from Western Sahara and a little of the history from that region. This was written by Ed Timon Editor of The Canary News, an english language newspaper in Gran Canaria.
Yesterdays article was entitled, Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare, in this piece we showed that even old friends will attack each other for your money in this business. It told the story of a company owned by an ex manager of another company, who is now in the business of supposedly claiming compensation against his old employers. Unfortunately, his history and publicity is not as squeaky clean as he would like you to believe, we leave that to your judgement.
So on with this week’s letter.
Why does ARDA have a Code of Ethics?
Members are beginning to wonder
ARDA’s Answer from ARDA’s website
ARDA and its members are committed to the highest standards and ethical behavior in vacation ownership. To demonstrate that commitment, all ARDA members as a condition of membership must agree to comply with the ARDA Code of Ethics.
The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.
By Eron Grant
August 4, 2017
Part I – My letter to ARDA
Part II – ARDA’s Code of Ethics
Part III – List of Inside Timeshare member articles that question the Code
Mr. Clements, General Counsel and Lobbyist for ARDA,
My husband and I feel we have been deceived by Diamond Resorts International, and ask for your assistance in getting justice for our victimization.
In November of 2016 we stayed in one of DRI’s timeshare resorts in Sedona, AZ through our Interval International membership. While there we attended a DRI sales presentation. The hotel concierge gave our family of 4 a $150 gift card to a local restaurant for our thanksgiving meal, and in return we were to attend a 90-minute sales presentation. The presentation ended up lasting 6 hours, with our sales agent becoming agitated when we said we needed to leave due to my husband’s golf tee time. This violates ARDA’s Code of Ethics of “Information”.
The sales agent, Karen Calvano, empathized with us about our inability to stay in resorts unless located close to home which is in Houston, TX. She said she knew Interval International did not have many resorts in our area, but that DRI had many resorts, and we would certainly be able to find resorts in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana. As it turned out, DRI’s resorts in our area are owned by affiliate resorts rather than DRI and costs approximately more points than we were sold. This violates ARDA’s “Exchange Program” in which we were over promised on the likelihood to exchange for Diamond’s inventory in our area.
When I looked on the Diamond member website recently, Diamond’s Great Wolf Lodge affiliate property in Texas was available for 26,911 to 66,467 points. If we multiply 26,911 by 20 cents which is the typical cost of maintenance fees, it would cost $5,382 for a one week stay. Booking.com had the same Family Suite available for the same week for $1,700. This is not an unusual scenario. I have searched various times throughout the year.
We attended DRI’s “Event of a Lifetime” in January, 2017 which we were told was our member orientation. The “orientation” turned into a high pressure sales presentation quickly with misleading information regarding redeeming our points for 30 cents per point if we paid to upgrade our membership to platinum. When my husband, Dr. Mark Grant, asked to see the price per point in writing, the sales agent pointed to his own written notes to show us that it was legitimate. My husband pointed out the documented literature which showed the amount at 10 cents per point, and the salesman quickly dismissed us to the next sales agent.
According to the ARDA Code of Ethics, this sales agent violated the ethics standard of “Avoidance of False and Deceptive Statements”.
Mr. Clements, as you can tell from the brief account I have written, we are in a rough situation with devious minded people who have not followed ARDA’s Code of Ethics, and should therefore be forced to let us out of our contractual agreement.
We appreciate your consideration, and assistance!
Response from Diamond
I am responding to your concerns regarding availability in Texas and Louisiana. While Diamond Resorts does not own or manage any properties in these states, we do have affiliate agreements with several resorts. These properties offer us limited inventory each year to offer to our members to book with their points. Inventory is typically limited, and prices are set by the properties themselves, and not by Diamond Resorts. These properties are offered on a first come, first served basis in addition to the Diamond Resorts properties covered under your contract.
Diamond Resorts does offer a property in New Mexico, the Villas de Santa Fe. If you would like assistance booking at this property, please let me know and I will be happy to assist.
My concerns with Karen Calvano stating “DRI has several resorts in TX, LA, and NM” is that when we asked her to show us the properties she said, “Oh we can’t do that right now, but we can do that later.” After 6 hours of being with her, we were exhausted and never did see the properties.
We explained that we are owners with Marriott and members of Interval International already, so affiliate properties through DRI really don’t help us. Plus, the value of your affiliate properties is ridiculous. How does this help us?
I would like for Mr. Clements or someone at Diamond to explain to me why this does not meet the definition of White Collar Crime: Deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. In my opinion, there is no doubt what we were offered and what we received meets this definition and violates ARDA’s Code of Ethics.
Ethics Code of the American Resort Development Association
adopted by the Board of Directors April 7, 2014
- General Ethics Standards.
With respect to the sale, resale or marketing of a Vacation Interest, the Member shall:
- Provide fair, meaningful and effective disclosure to the consumer regarding the Vacation Interest and all material terms and conditions of the offer of a Vacation Interest.
- Provide fair, meaningful and effective disclosure to the consumer of all material terms and conditions of all other products offered contemporaneously with the Vacation Interest, including exchange programs, incidental benefits, financing, short-term products and exit programs.
The Full Code: http://www.arda.org/ethics/
Note from Irene Parker
Inside Timeshare has received complaints from many angry timeshare members, including Bluegreen members. Here are just a few of the many members who have contacted Inside Timeshare wanting their voices heard.
This is our DRI Advocacy Facebook page which respectable sales agents and corporate personnel are allowed to join. We hope the folks at Diamond, Bluegreen and ARDA will take the time to read member stories. We promise you will learn a lot.
We seek to provide Diamond Resort 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.
Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan
Alan and Debbie Callner
Detective Lela Renea a Bluegreen member
David Franks Chapter 2 (Chapter 4 upcoming)
Karen Garello Secret Shopper June 22, 2017
Romeo and Lily
Barclaycard and Member stories May 17 2917
Eron Grant May 12, 2017
Nancy Callahan April 24, 2017
Betty Burmeister and a Filipino Family April 13, 2017
Laurie Sabbagh Secret Shopper March 17, 2017 Clarity Review
A Military Family March 6, 2017
The Hurleys January 25, 2017
Irina Allen January 13, 2017
Kathie Old December 6, 2016
Wyndham Trish Williams $20 Million Whistleblower Jury Award December 5, 2017
The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles November 7, 2017
Sylvia Saldana and the Barclaycard October 25, 2016
Thank you Eron Grant and Irene for this weeks contribution, these are your stories, they are published so you know what is going on in this murky world called timeshare. If you have a story you would like to share or have any comments Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.
If you have any questions or even need to know if you are dealing with a possible “scam” company, get in touch with us. Even if we don’t know the answer straight away we know where to look and can point you in the right direction. Remember it is better to be safe than sorry, doing your homework is essential, even more so in today’s timeshare world.
So it only leaves us to say, it’s Friday, have great weekend.