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Trish Williams

The Tuesday Slot

Today on The Tuesday Slot we welcome another new contributor Laura Crow with her very own “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, with an introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker. These stories are now becoming all too familiar on our pages, with new “Nightmares” being received on an almost daily basis. It seems that not a single day goes by without another email pleading for help, many of these are from seniors and veterans. We do have to ask when will the industry change the way it works?

It is now only a few days to go before the start of the Platinum Protests in Orlando, the dates are 17 to 19 May, see the link at the end of Laura’s article.

We are timeshare trapped!

By Laura Crow

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

Laura Crow was told the California Attorney General only acts when it is in the interest of the public? Why then, have Arizona, New York, Tennessee, Missouri and Wisconsin AGs, to name a few, launched investigations and negotiated settlements when they received a volume and pattern of timeshare complaints?

Timeshares rank second on the list of complaints to the state in Connecticut in 2018, according to the state Office of the Attorney General

Do you have a story idea? We want to hear from you! Fill out the complaint form on the NBC CT Responds page or call 844-303-RESP, (844) 303-7377. More #NBCCT Responds archive here.

https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Timeshare-Troubles–What-To-Do-Before-You-Buy-and-Sell-504017151.html

Each state has a different protocol for filing a timeshare complaint. In California and Nevada, timeshare complaints must be filed with the state’s real estate division against a particular agent. Filers should also file a complaint against the principal broker over all the brokers in the state.

Those who feel they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices should also file complaints with the FTC and the FBI at IC3.gov. Inside Timeshare has received reports of unfair and deceptive sales practices from over 800 families. Many members report being financially and emotionally devastated, having believed false claims told to them by timeshare sales agents, like the common complaints voiced today by Laura Crow. Seniors suffer physical harm as many report loss of sleep, weight loss, and symptoms of, or a recurrence of, cardiac and blood pressure problems over the stress of their timeshare nightmare.

There has been no federal enforcement. Attorneys General who have launched investigations and negotiated settlements are appreciated, but investigations and settlements have been mere speed bumps along an enormous revenue stream.

Please reach out to the FTC and FBI if you experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices:  https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-47/

One of the Wyndhamtestimonials by current and former employees Laura discovered:

“Liars liars pants on fire”

Former Employee – Timeshare Sales in Daytona Beach, FL

Doesn’t Recommend

Neutral Outlook

CEO

I worked at Wyndham Destinations full-time (More than a year)

Pros

Free coffee, nice view, some friendly co-workers, company parties were fun, decent discounts

Cons

The timeshare sales department is filled with a bunch of liars. New hires have to sit through specific training on what is and is not allowed to tell customers. You are in no way allowed to tell customers that the timeshares are a good investment, that points can be used to pay the management fees, or that the timeshares can be rented out during peak periods to give them a return on their money. ALL THESE THINGS ARE NOT ALLOWED, BUT TOP SALES PEOPLE SAY ALL THESE LINES AND EVEN MORE LIES TO MAKE SALES. The top sales team are all a bunch of vultures lying to people to make a living. Customers get beaten down during the process. I’ve seen documents forged and old terms given to customers to secure their signature. If you have a conscience, do not work there. If you like lying to people to make money and can obtain a real estate license and have a clean background, lying to people during a timeshare presentation is much more lucrative than lying to people on the phone. If this is the type of scummy person you choose to be, then Wyndham is a great fit. If you are a salesperson who grows a conscience, there are other jobs at Wyndham you can do, so you don’t need to just quit. Just try to transfer to a different department.

Laura Crow’s Nightmare on Timeshare Street

I am a California resident and have found other California residents online in the same leaky timeshare boat as me. We have all filed a complaint with the California Attorney General and were all told that the Attorney General can’t intervene on behalf of individuals. They only act when it is in the interest of the public. Well, how many members of the public does it take to get some kind of action?

After attending a Wyndham WorldMark presentation four years ago, we left believing we could travel anywhere, any time. Europe was the big selling point. The selling point for my husband was that we could make good money by renting out our timeshare. The timeshare would pay for itself! As many have reported, timeshares are worthless. In no way should timeshares be pitched as an income producing investment. I would advise you to run the other way if you ever encounter sales agents spouting such falsehoods.

We are trapped in a contract that has not delivered the financial gains or freedom our sales representatives assured us it would. Instead, it has turned into a financial burden. We are left with the constant stress of this hanging over us, waiting for the next hit to our credit report.

Wyndham and WorldMark could care less. I will send them a draft of this article, but safe to say they will say something like it didn’t matter what our sales agents said. That’s why the public needs to know a timeshare sales agent can get away with saying anything to make a sale. What product would you buy for $25,000 to $100,000 or more that becomes worthless a second after your contract rescission period ended, should you need to dispose of the product?   

Our experiences with Wyndham are the same as so many other timeshare buyers, irrespective of the company. Instead of boring you with our Wyndham narrative, I will draw your attention to the lethargy and inaction on the part of regulatory authorities, authorities who are supposed to have our best interests at heart.

I understand that the BBB is not a government agency and has no power to enforce the law or compel a business to act ethically, but I wonder how it is possible for Wyndham to have such a volume of complaints (over 2000) and bad reviews, yet still maintain a C+ rating. About the time when I filed my BBB complaint, there was a warning from the BBB about a pattern of complaints concerning sales practices. That warning has mysteriously been taken down. How did that happen? My next step is to contact Alexis Castro at the Nevada BBB to find out.

It was the same story with the CDRE (California Division of Real Estate). Mr Aiu of the compliance division has been good enough to communicate with me but told me cases are judged on an individual basis, so no point mobilizing a group to achieve strength in numbers.

Hmm, where have we heard that before? The Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and #metoo comes to mind. This dismissal plays right into the hands of Wyndham. My complaint basically comes down to ‘he said, she said’ but ‘we said, he said’ is needed. Someone, somewhere, a regulator, a lawmaker, a media outlet; something needs to happen. If women followed Mr Aiu’s advice, we would still not be allowed to vote.

ARDA, The American Resort Development Association has been quoted as saying; “Timeshares are a highly regulated product.” Big timeshare paints a portrait of happy timeshare campers idling on the beach, but there are thousands of complaints to be found on the internet. Comments from current and former Wyndham employees, like the comment above and additional comments below, support my allegations. If you would like to test my thesis, compare the number and nature of complaints about a hotel brand, contrasted with the number of complaints directed against that same company’s timeshare brand.   

There are state and federal laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive sales tactics, yet the timeshare industry is going strong. I read about lawsuits and AG cases against Wyndham, like the $20 million a jury awarded to former Wyndham sales agent and whistleblower Trish Williams. Even that has done little to stop unfair and deceptive sales. Wyndham and other companies pay out some money, toss in some media window-dressing dollars, and carry on like nothing happened.

I am in it to win it. I will be reaching out to the media, starting with NBC. I will continue to search out agencies that may intervene or advocate on my and other owners’ behalf. Until the FTC, the FBI, or more state AGs act, public awareness is our only safeguard. That is why I am writing this article. It is not acceptable for timeshare sales agents to lie, deceive, misrepresent and withhold information about their product in order to make a sale.

Here are more Glassdoor.com anonymous reviews by current and former Wyndham sales agents rating the company. Their comments support our allegations of deceptive sales practices.

https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-Wyndham-Destinations-RVW3171503.htm

Here are some reviews by salespeople at Wyndham. You are enabling this behaviour by

Helpful (4)

“If you have integrity – don’t even think to work here”

Cons

You are 100% on commission. The only way to sell is lying to customers, the quota is very high and management is very unprofessional. On an everyday basis, you will hear from current owners how disappointed they are with timeshare product – it makes very hard to sell a product that does not do any good for people.

“In House Sales”

The way to making real $ is if you are okay with lying to people, otherwise, you can make an average living 40K or so. The biggest issue is that upper management acts like they have blinders on, making employees sign statements that they will not say certain things, while direct managers teach the sales techniques that encourage embellishments! Really?

Nov 7, 2018

Helpful (1)

“Sales Rep”

Current Employee – Outside Sales Representative in New Orleans, LA

Recommends

Positive Outlook

CEO

I have been working at Wyndham Destinations full-time (Less than a year)

Pros

I can’t even think of one

Cons

Wyndham Destinations over promises and vastly under delivers on potential income – the possibility for large income prospects are there though minutely small. The fact is it’s very hard to even make a living wage. It’s timeshare sales so very very few leads are actually even viable. Additionally, management regularly and actively encourages sales reps to oversell what clients are actually buying, to mislead, misdirect and ultimately be dishonest with prospects and do anything to get the sale.

Aug 21, 2018

Helpful (1)

“Vacation Ownership Sales”

Former Employee – Inside Sales Representative in Atlantic City, NJ

Doesn’t Recommend

Negative Outlook

CEO

I worked at Wyndham Destinations full-time (More than 3 years)

Pros

Some of the people that work there are nice.

Cons

Being trained to lie to clients to sell them points to travel. If you don’t lie, there is no way to make money. Taking advantage of older people and ripping off their retirement funds is not my idea of how to make a living. The worst thing is that management rewards the biggest liars by sending them off on a beautiful vacation and calls it “President’s Club”. If you ever meet a President’s Club sales rep, RUN! There is nothing they are about to tell you that is remotely close to being true.

Jun 30, 2018

Helpful (1)

May 11, 2018

“Vacation Ownership Sales”

Former Employee – Sales Associate in Clearwater, FL

Neutral Outlook

CEO

I worked at Wyndham Destinations full-time (Less than a year)

Pros

Can make great friends among certain Co-workers, free meals, beautiful office space, earning potential is attainable if you possess the skill sets.

Cons

Favouritism from management, unethical sales process, you should not have to lie about what you’re selling if the product is as good as you say it is. Draw sucks

“Front Line Sales – Not for everyone”

Former Employee – Front Line Sales Representative in New Orleans, LA

Doesn’t Recommend

Neutral Outlook

CEO

I worked at Wyndham Destinations full-time

Pros

I genuinely liked most of the people I worked with.

Cons

Marketing can bring in some completely unqualified tours so when you work on straight commission, it can be extremely frustrating. Management’s take on it is complete oblivion if that marketer meets (and exceeds) their numbers. This job can be emotionally draining – especially when you talk to people about vacationing all day and then get little wiggle room to take your own time off (again, management will bend over … if you are selling). I never sacrificed my morals to make a sale but, unfortunately, I saw many people that did.

“Scam”

Former Employee – Vacation Sales Consultant in Clermont, FL

Doesn’t Recommend

Negative Outlook

CEO

I worked at Wyndham Destinations (Less than a year)

Pros

Work life balance. nothing else is good about this job.

Cons

If you are heartless and enjoy lying to people including elders and single moms, then maybe you can do very well here.

Save the Date!

The Platinum Protest is this weekend May 17-19 in Orlando. Contact Inside Timeshare for more information. On May 17 protesters will meet outside the Florida timeshare division office.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to join Laura Crow’s efforts. Here are some self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced. There are honest sales agents and many who use and enjoy their timeshare. That doesn’t mean sales agents who deliberately mislead should be allowed to continue unchecked, report after report confirms, especially in Florida and Nevada. Thank you, Laura Crow, as we welcome our newest active advocate for change.

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/

Well that’s it for today, if you have any comments or would like to share your views with others, then use our contact page, Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Inside Timeshares Irene Parker reports on a Lawsuit filed on behalf of 10 former Wyndham employees. This suit was filed under the Florida Private Whistleblowers Act in the Judicial District of Pinellas County, Florida Civil Division. This follows on from a previous article first published in 1 December 2016, where Whistleblowers exposed timeshare sales tactics, it was also where we reported on Trish Williams being awarded $20 million by a San Francisco jury for unfair dismissal after she exposed Wyndhams tactics. But first the latest news from the Spanish Courts.

For one British family they are nearing the end of a long road in their fight against Anfi Resorts, the Court of First Instance Number 4, in Maspalomas Gran Canaria has declared their contract null and void. The basis of this decision is the contract did not follow that stated under Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98.

The Hope family are now timeshare free and will soon be able to enjoy the money awarded, as the law firm Canarian Legal Alliance has already begun proceedings to enforce the sentence and have the money paid out as quickly as possible.

Mr & Mrs Hope

On the subject of enforcing sentence, one Norwegian family have now been awarded 49,226€ with their contract with Anfi Resorts being declared null and void, on the grounds that it did not include any tangibility and was detrimental to the consumer.

After enforcement of sentence proceeding by their lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, this money is now safely in the clients own bank account.

So contrary to many posts on various forums and claims by timeshare companies, clients are receiving payment, so congratulations to both families.

Now for today’s article.

A Lawsuit Filed on behalf of 10 Former Wyndham Employees

Filing #82214691 filed 12/17/18

Timeshare Exit Team Responds to Manifesto

Arizona Timeshare Bill to Safeguard Timeshare Buyers Opposed by Timeshare Lobbyists and Developers

By Irene Parker

February 22, 2019

A lawsuit was filed under the Florida Private Whistleblower Act (Florida Statute 448102(3)) on behalf of ten former Wyndham employees in the Judicial District of Pinellas County, Florida Civil Division against Wyndham Vacation Club. Plaintiffs include eight former sales agents. Plaintiffs allege that they objected to and refused to participate in illegal timeshare sales practices. This lawsuit parallels the former Wyndham California sales agent Trish William’s lawsuit in which a jury awarded Ms. Williams $20 million November 2016.

According to the Florida statute, “An employer may not take any retaliatory personnel action against an employee because the employee has….Objected to, or refused to participate in any activity, policy, or practice of the employer which is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation.”

Florida House Bill 435, introduced by Freshman Representative Wyman Duggan seeks to protect timeshare members from unfair and deceptive sales practices perpetrated by timeshare exit companies.

The timeshare industry lobbyists and developers lump legitimate law firms and lawyers in with lawyers employing questionable business practices, with a goal to prevent members from seeking any legal counsel if they feel they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

Timeshare Accountability Group™ maintains a member need not retain a law firm or an exit company. Our Supporters answer questions about regulatory filings as the process can be daunting. However, some members do not have the time or temperament to withstand our process, which we admit is arduous.

In Manifesto Part I the author compared third party exit companies to Ponzi Schemes. This prompted a response from Timeshare Exit Team:  

“For the past seven years, as Timeshare Exit Team has grown from a local, Seattle-based company to a national brand, we have remained focused on honesty, integrity, and transparency. We exit burdened timeshare owners legitimately by facilitating transfers, voluntary deed-backs to resorts, or using attorneys to litigate against timeshare developers when necessary, and offer a 100% money-back guarantee. To date, we have successfully exited 16,000 timeshare owners. Our goal is not just to provide a valid exit for owners who find themselves with no realistic solution to get out of their timeshare, but also to transform the industry. For that reason, we are proud to be a founding member of The Coalition to Reform Timeshare. In solidarity with our Coalition partners, we are pushing for a Consumer’s Bill of Rights for timeshare owners–and would-be owners–that seeks to create a 24-hour cooling-off period prior to signing a timeshare contract, to  lengthen rescission periods to 14 days, to force full disclosure in timeshare presentations, and to give timeshare owners booking rights over the general public. Our passion is to be able to serve every single one of our clients AND to support those who wish to keep their timeshare, but just want a level playing field with the developers.”

Given Timeshare Accountability Group™ recommends not paying anyone to get out of a timeshare, we find ourselves an unlikely ally with Timeshare Exit Team as we are also a founding member of The Coalition to Reform Timeshare.

There are many timeshare exit scams, but there are also many scam timeshare sales agents. Inside Timeshare has heard from 705 families reporting allegations our ten Wyndham former employees say they were forced to employ or be “starved out” of their jobs.

In the Wyndham lawsuit, plaintiffs were employed by Wyndham’s Florida Clearwater Beach Resort which opened in 2017. Plaintiffs include eight former sales agents, a business operations coordinator and a community marketing agent. Plaintiffs say they were enticed by a supposed once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the opening sales team where they were promised yearly profits in excess of $500,000.

The allegations described in this December 2018 class action read like a broken record to Charles Thomas and me. We hear on a daily basis, identical complaints from timeshare buyers from a variety of timeshare companies. Many were existing members who trusted the company, buying more points in order to be eligible for programs that did not exist, like the ability to sell back points to the company. Timeshares have virtually no secondary market.

We also have received many complaints from timeshare buyers who said they did not realize a credit card had been opened or charged. They report being told to “fill this out so we can determine if you are eligible” when in actuality a credit card was opened and charged. Electronic signing doesn’t help as initials are stored and then, tap, tap, tapped to completion.

According to the Wyndham December 2018 complaint, allegations (edited for brevity) in violation of Florida statutes, include:  

18. Plaintiffs allege supervisors regularly instructed them to intentionally confuse and mislead buyers or “wear them down” so they would buy property.

19. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to misrepresent the price of the timeshare through the use of point charts, specifically Wyndham’s “Clearwater Beach Resort Points Chart” fraudulently showing buyers the “RCI Points Chart” which depicts substantially cheaper points – in many cases less than half the actual cost.

20. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise buyers that the timeshare was an investment.

21. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise buyers that the property was not a timeshare.

22. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently misrepresent to buyers the effect of completing a credit application. Plaintiffs were instructed to advise buyers that the credit application would only be a “soft hit” or that it was not a credit application at all.

23. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently alter the buyers’ income level on their credit application, if needed, for them to be approved for credit financing.

24. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise buyers that Wyndham would buy back their property if they were not satisfied with it.

25. Supervisors intentionally preyed upon the elderly in the use of unethical and illegal sales tactics.

26. Out-of-state residents not eligible to purchase Clearwater Beach Resort properties directed plaintiffs to fraudulently advise such buyers to purchase “Club Wyndham Access” that would give them access to other Wyndham properties, and that they could transfer their interest to Clearwater Beach Resort, even providing a form letter explaining this, knowing it was not true.                                                   

27. Potential buyers were told the property was not a timeshare, but a “vacation ownership.”

28. Supervisors routinely overstated availability due to Wyndham renting out rooms, reducing availability.

29. Supervisors directed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise timeshare owners on their refinancing options advising existing owners that they could keep making the same monthly payments and pay off their loan by the same time, when in actuality repayment terms were simply extended.

30. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to do “whatever they have to do” to close deals, even if it was unlawful or unethical.

The suit also alleges unlicensed real estate agents engaged in the unlicensed practice of real estate by selling properties to buyers.  

Plaintiffs say they complained numerous times to supervisors, Human Resources, and eventually to corporate attorneys and investigators. Plaintiffs stated at least one supervisor stated he would “starve out” Plaintiffs that objected and/or complained if they did not do what he told them to do, or would fire them. Plaintiffs were constructively terminated. According to the complaint, one supervisor advised Plaintiffs to “forget everything (they) just learned” as they would never make a sale that way.

According to attorney Tom Roebig of Florin Roebig trial attorneys, representing the Plaintiffs,

“All too often corporations think that an employee who reports wrongdoing is trying to start trouble, when they’re really just trying to protect the company and other innocent victims. Unfortunately, as we can see here, all too often the employee is punished for doing the right thing.”    

Allegations from the Trish Williams lawsuit:

In the Trish Williams lawsuit, the elderly were also targeted. Allegations in the Trish Williams lawsuit include:   

1.     The effect or even existence of a credit card application;

2.     That current owners could increase their points at no cost;

3.     That Wyndham would buy back points or property in certain circumstances;

4.     That monthly payments would be reduced when they were simply being extended;

5.     That current owners were making smaller payments than they were, in an effort to persuade them to purchase more points;

Michael Brown, President and CEO of Wyndham Destinations made this statement about unscrupulous timeshare exit companies’ sales practices:

“We are committed to protecting our owners to ensure they aren’t taken advantage of.”

Having heard from 705 timeshare families, 98 active duty service members or veterans, alleging unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, we contend both sides of the timeshare sales and exits are problematic.

Arizona has proposed a bill (linked above) to safeguard timeshare buyers against practices alleged in the Wyndham lawsuit, numerous Attorneys General investigations, Better Business Bureau complaints, and other lawsuits. We will be reporting on this bill in an upcoming article.  

Thank you to the bravery and courage it takes for employees and former employees to “Hold the Powerful Accountable” and as I can personally attest – it’s not easy!  I look to Whistleblowers of America (WoA) for support because you can’t do it alone. WoA is a nonprofit that seeks justice for veterans, active duty service personnel and government workers. A veteran introduced me to WoA.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/h

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a positive or negative timeshare experience to share. We know there are honest agents who refuse to buy into the “pitching of heat” which means telling consumers anything they can think of to get a potential buyer to sign on the electronic line. They too are harmed by the actions of sales agents with questionable business practices.

Thank you Irene and to all other contributors this week, with your help we are able to give others a glimpse of what is happening in the world of timeshare.

Please use our contact page if you have any comment or questions on any of the subjects covered on Inside Timeshare.

Have a great weekend.


Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today we welcome a new contributor David Althage with his Nightmare on Timeshare Street”  story. David is another in the long list of veterans who have experienced problems at the hands of timeshare sales agents. Once again a big thanks to Irene Parker for her introduction.

A Wyndham Timeshare Buyer, a Marine Veteran, Shares his Timeshare Experience

January 11, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

Marine Veteran David Althage is one of 90 veterans and active duty service members who feel they have been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare. Many of the veterans are disabled. By publishing member accounts, we hope others will be made aware of the financial hardship that can result when a perpetual contract is signed, a contract accompanied by annual maintenance fees, with little to no secondary market.

We understand there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. Many may have not been made aware of the difficulties that can arise when there is little to no secondary market.

A draft of today’s article was sent to Wyndham but the dispute was not resolved. We feel there should be better disclosure as to the lack of a viable secondary market. Timeshare companies list in their 10k annual reports a viable secondary market is a risk to their investors.   

By David Althage

I would like to share my Wyndham experience, hoping others will take the time to think about a decision that can easily become a financial albatross. I deeply regret our decision to buy the timeshare. They pressured us to a huge extent, but we didn’t realize this until much later. I feel we experienced elder abuse.

I am a veteran of the Marines. I served from 1964 to 1968 and ended up as a Corporal E4. I spent most of 1965 and 1966 in Vietnam and my specialty was machine gunner which I did on the ground and also as the door gunner on helicopters. I was wounded twice and I have also suffered from skin cancer, possible from Agent Orange. All of that seems a lifetime away as my wife and I have been settled for many years in Missouri. These days I repair mobile homes for work, and I keep going at this even though I am now 73. I do not have retirement or a pension. I only have social security.

My wife and I were in a Branson, Missouri mall when a woman at a kiosk told us she had some things to give away, but we would need to attend a 90 minute presentation. The 90 minute Wyndham presentation lasted over five hours. Over 5 hours!

The sales reps kept talking, stalling and feeding us more information. They talked so fast it was difficult to take it all in. There was a lot of paper. We started at 8:30 a.m. They did not tell us how much the timeshare would cost until about 12:30 p.m. We were tired, hungry. We kept asking how much longer it would take. The reps did not offer lunch nor would they allow us to leave to get lunch. Due to our medical issues, our heads were spinning, and my wife’s blood sugar was really dropping. She felt unwell. I suffer from macular degeneration and glaucoma, and I also need cataract surgery. I don’t see well. It was impossible to properly examine all the paperwork. And by the way, the original agent at the kiosk promised us show tickets on the Branson Belle, but it was sold out.

We are shocked at how hard this program is to use. Early in November 2017 we wanted to book a suite in Branson after Christmas in order to see a special show. We were surprised and totally disappointed when the booking center told us that we would have to book at least nine to ten months in advance. They had nothing available at any of their six Branson resorts. We don’t know our schedule that far ahead due to health issues and doctors’ appointments, etc. They did not tell us about having to book so far in advance at the sales meeting. We received a letter from Wyndham which stated,

“As part of an ongoing commitment to enable more owners to vacation where they want, when they want and how they want, in May we introduced updates to the CLUB WYNDHAM Plus Program Guidelines. These updates, made by the FairShare Vacation Owners Association Board, were introduced to help you own your vacation experience and get more out of your vacation.”

We really resent that Wyndham said we could vacation wherever and whenever we wanted. They didn’t give us the straight facts on how hard it is to book. I can only conclude that this statement was a lie.

We found out later that when you book a room and you have to cancel, you have to do it 17 days in advance of your reservation or you lose your points. This is an egregious way to treat anyone, let alone senior citizens! As a result of all this, the timeshare is not of much benefit, especially considering the price we pay.

Another point we wish to make is that the sales reps told us that by taking out visa cards through Barclays, and by making all our payments through these cards, the timeshare would “pay for itself” by generating income from points on purchases. They claimed that these points would then pay for our maintenance fees and our payments to Barclays as well. This is absolute nonsense! You can only pay for about 1% of the maintenance fee by charging, so a $2000 maintenance fee purchase would require $200,000 a year in charges!

One of the reps told us that if we decided we did not want the timeshare, we could easily sell it with no problem. By saying we could do this “with no problem” we took it that it would at least hold its value. Checking online, we were shocked to find out that these timeshares have almost no value at all. He misled us.

Sales agent Landon Anderson gave us his phone number and said to call him any time. He said, “If you ever have any problems, we will work with you.” We said we were going to Branson after Christmas to which he replied that he would take us out to dinner. We called and called, but there was no answer. We believe this number was a burner phone in a drawer somewhere.

Finally, the reps never gave us a hard copy of the contract. We specifically asked for this, but instead handed us a tablet saying that these days everything was electronic. As a result, we could not read the contract so I don’t even know if we could have rescinded in time. I called Wyndham and insisted that they send me a hard copy by mail. It took a long time to arrive. We have been unable to make the electronic device work, so for the longest time we had no idea what was on there.

It felt like they were only interested in making a sale.

This is my sorry Wyndham experience.

From Florida Trends

The world’s largest timeshare developer, Wyndham Destinations, got off to a promising start this summer as a standalone company. The Orlando-based business, established when Wyndham Worldwide split its hotel and timeshare divisions, announced in August that timeshare sales increased by 7% and earnings exceeded Wall Street expectations during its first quarter on its own. “It was an outstanding quarter,” Michael Brown, Wyndham Destinations’ president and CEO, said on the company’s earnings call with analysts.

There was a cloud over the results, however. During the call, Wyndham also revealed that the number of owners defaulting on their timeshare mortgages climbed during the second quarter, extending what has become a multiyear increase in defaults. The company says the rate of increase in its provision for loan losses has slowed to “under 5%” in the second half of 2018, but in the earnings call Brown said defaults remain “higher than we would like,” seconded by CFO Michael Hug, who added that “loan loss remains a central area of focus.”

Of the company’s nearly 900,000 owners, only 200,000 have loans. However, the company expects to set aside 21% of its gross sales to cover losses in 2018 — meaning it expects not to collect $21 of every $100 it’s loaned.

Wyndham blames much of the problem on secondary companies in the timeshare market — firms that resell timeshares, arrange for the transfer of ownership or help purchasers get out of their timeshare contracts.

https://www.floridatrend.com/article/25726/timeshare-tussle

We are no fans of exit companies, but the industry as a whole seems to show undue finger pointing at exit companies, rather than even consider there might be a problem in-house.   

Former Wyndham sales agent and whistleblower Trish Williams was awarded $20 million:

Wyndham’s sales goals for employees were impossible to meet if representatives adhered to the company’s policies and regulations governing timeshare sales, Robert Parker, a former sales executive, testified in depositions. When sales at the Canterbury lagged, he explained, something known as “TAFT days” came into play.

“TAFT is the acronym for ‘tell them any frigging thing,’” Mr. Parker testified. “In other words, it didn’t matter what you said. We need business. Today’s your day. Just tell them whatever you got to tell them. That’s what TAFT is.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

It may be a lofty goal, but we are hoping that by hearing the consumer’s side, a better relationship, and better corporate margins can be achieved, by addressing the problems rather than pretend the problems don’t exist. Inside Timeshare has listened to 659 mainly infuriated timeshare members.

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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 David for sharing his story, if you find after reading these articles that you have similar experiences and would like to share them with other, then use our contact page. We will then be in touch and welcome your contributions. It is only through your stories and “Nightmares on Timeshare Street” that the industry might, just might take notice, then we may see changes for the better.

Following on from the many articles that Inside Timeshare publishes about bogus law firms, claims companies, resale and exit companies, if you have been contacted or even been taken in by them, again use our contact page to get in touch. Your information can then be published to warn others, it is only through you the readers that these scam merchants can be outed and others prevented from falling victim.

As always do your homework before engaging with any company that has contacted you or that you have found either on the net or through adverts in various publications. Just because you see an advert in a prestigious paper or magazine, does not mean they are legitimate. Remember, the advertising department is there to sell advertising space, they make no checks on whether the company is genuine.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, today in her article Irene Parker continues to address a very serious problem that of timeshare foreclosure, especially for seniors. Inside Timeshare has been highlighting this problem for some time and we will continue to do so.

Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders

When and Why Some Timeshare Buyers Have No Choice

The Heartbreak of Senior Timeshare Foreclosure

We had to do a reverse mortgage on our home as a result of these timeshare purchases because our social security income was too low to cover the total charged on both Barclay cards. A reverse mortgage was the only way we saw to deal with the financial distress.  My credit score was 817 the day we met with the timeshare sales agent but it has gone down considerably after that purchase.

A former Army Captain, Vietnam

By Irene Parker

December 18, 2018

Over the past year I have received calls from mortgage brokers calling on behalf of former timeshare members trying to buy a house, battling the decline in their credit score due to timeshare foreclosure. When I explain to the lender that consumers are often left with no choice but to foreclose, due to no secondary market and the contract perpetual, the call has always ended with the mortgage broker convinced.

Six grown children, alarmed and astonished at the deceit their parents described at the hands of timeshare sales agents, have connected to bring to light unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Their parents are being driven, or were driven, into timeshare foreclosure. They possessed credit scores over 800 until they were up-sold into insolvency, now trying to understand how our country could leave senior after senior financially devastated. Two of the six families have previously published articles. On Friday we publish an article submitted by a third family, her parents financially and physically devastated because they believed a series of timeshare sales agents. We have received 20 complaints directed against their sales agent. He earned $2.4 million selling timeshare points in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017. The complaints are similar or identical.

If you buy a house, car, or boat, and there is loan outstanding, you can still sell the asset. Timeshare companies themselves don’t want the timeshare back because, when no longer wanted or needed, a timeshare is a liability. What would happen to the primary housing market if we suddenly learned there was no secondary market? Damages suffered by senior timeshare members, often accumulating points over several purchases, are commonly $100,000 to $300,000 or more, easily the cost of a home. Often the  report of deceit happens at the last one or two purchases, because a level of trust developed over the years until they purchased for reasons that did not exist – programs that would relieve them of maintenance fees or allow them to sell points. Members reaching out to us all report that they were told at purchase the timeshare would be easy to sell, it is real estate, an investment.

When the buyer has experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, the result exacerbates the financial disaster, as has been reported by many of the 626 families that have reached out to us angry, overwhelmed and desperate. Some have learned within 24 hours after the rescission period, what they bought was a far cry from what was described.   

Such deceptive practices are known within the industry as “pitching heat” and the answer to complaints are routinely dismissed with, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” In Nevada, all complaints we have received that were submitted to the Nevada Real Estate Division quickly received a “You have no proof” denial. In Florida, the response has been, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”

Fine, but why not let the consumer know a timeshare sales agent can say anything to make a sale. Let the consumer know they can’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. That would at least be transparent. Florida is a two party state, so consumers are not even allowed to record. How is proof even possible?

At the end of this article I list several Attorneys General settlements and lawsuits supporting my claim that the finger needs to be pointed also in-house, instead of solely at timeshare exit companies. The timeshare developer created this timeshare exit scam nightmare. Timeshare companies list in their annual reports that a viable resale market is a risk to their (stock) investors. Not all exit companies are scams, but many are. An FTC report on exit and transfer scams:

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

I liken million dollar deceptive timeshare producers to a baseball player like Jose Canseco, breaking the performance enhancing drug rules to earn millions, while other teammates earn far less because they did not break the rules. Honest timeshare sales agents are harmed by the actions of the dishonest too.    

According to GustonCho Associates, “Many consumers purchased timeshares in the 2000’s when the real estate market was hot.”

  • After the 2008 Real Estate And Mortgage Meltdown bankruptcies and foreclosures soared to historical highs
  • Among foreclosures were consumers who purchased timeshares and could no longer liquidate the timeshares and had to go through timeshare foreclosures
  • I get many calls by home buyers who were told by banks and mortgage lenders that they do not qualify for a FHA Loan because they have a timeshare foreclosure
  • Timeshare owners were told that there are mandatory waiting period after timeshare foreclosure to qualify for a FHA Loan
  • This is not true and unfortunately, these loan officers who are telling home buyers that there is a waiting period after timeshare foreclosure to qualify for a FHA Loan do not know what they are talking about
  • There is no waiting period to qualify for a FHA Loan with a prior timeshare foreclosure
  • Timeshares are not considered real estate loans
  • Timeshare loans are considered consumer installment loans under HUD FHA Guidelines

Read more https://gustancho.com/fha-loan-with-timeshare-foreclosure

We have also received requests for help from the millennial generation. Seniors often tell me that at their age, they don’t care what happens to their credit score, but for the younger buyer, a timeshare foreclosure at a young age can also be financially devastating.

Not one member who has contacted Inside Timeshare realized their contract was perpetual or that there was little to no secondary market.    

The Foreclosure process is gruesome. There will be threatening calls and the hit on the credit score. Timeshare today is broken. When sales agents can lie and laugh about it, at the expense of the young and the old, financially devastated by their vacation plan, something is very wrong. Too many families have been financially harmed by an industry run amuck. Rising loan loss provisions are just a number on an annual report to Wall Street and the developers. To us, they are broken families.   

Lawmakers, heavily influenced by the industry, don’t seem to care because timeshare buyers don’t typically buy a timeshare in the state they live in. Attorneys General try to protect the public, but the settlements achieved so far have been mere speed bumps in extraordinary revenue streams.  

A few of the Attorneys General investigations and settlement and lawsuits:

New York Attorney General reaches $6.5 million Manhattan Club Settlement

https://nypost.com/2017/08/17/new-york-ag-reaches-6-5m-settlement-with-manhattan-club/

A jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams $20 million

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Attorneys General on the side of timeshare owners:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, as reported by Business Den reporter Amy DiPierro, concerning Highlands Resorts in Colorado and Sedona Pines in Arizona:

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III settled with Festiva timeshare for $3 million:

https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/38312

Alongside AGs, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau conducts an ongoing investigation of Westgate timeshare as reported by Matthew Zeitlin at BuzzFeed:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.dwoQKVw3QQ#.doJ0ka1K00

Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster today announced that Welk Resort Sales, Inc., a California corporation that sells timeshares in Branson, has entered into an agreement to pay $18,000 in restitution to Missouri consumers who purchased timeshares from Welk.

https://themissouritimes.com/21184/release-attorney-general-koster-obtains-restitution-for-consumer-victims-of-timeshare-sales-company/

HARRISBURG – The Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has reached a settlement with Florida – based BlueGreen Corporation that addresses complaints about the company’s alleged use of deceptive “contests,” misleading sales presentations and improper contracts in the marketing and sale of timeshare vacation packages in Pennsylvania.

http://www.pacast.com/press_releases/1272_OAG_BlueGreen_feed.pdf

Arizona AG issues an $800,000 fine and an Assurance of Discontinuance against Diamond Resorts

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Bluegreen stock downgrade August 17, 2018

Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Shaun Kelley downgraded Bluegreen Vacations from Buy to Underperform and decreased the price target from $26 to $19.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/bluegreen-vacations-interrupted-sell-side-190725946.html

Self-help support groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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/

Where are you?

Thank you Irene, as usual you have highlighted very well a severe problem and explained it in a very simple manner. In this Friday’s Letter from America, another new contributor Brenda Santos, highlights the “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” of her elderly parents at the hands of an unscrupulous sales agent. We think this will make your blood boil, so join us for our last Letter from America this year.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, today we publish “How to File a Complaint Form” with the Federal Trade Commision, by Irene Parker.

The Federal Trade Commission’s How to File a Complaint Form

ANSWER: BUY MORE POINTS! TO QUESTIONS:

The availability is not as promised?

Buy more points! “I can’t believe that sales agent sold you so few!!!”

How can I get help paying maintenance fees?

Buy more points!

How can I sell my timeshare points?

Buy more points!

I don’t have enough points for a family of five?

Buy more points! “I can’t believe that sales agent sold you so few!!!”

By Irene Parker

Election Day in America, Tuesday, November 6

The first family to contact me was a Hispanic family in 2016.

Families already struggling with maintenance fees are often advised to buy more points to achieve the next loyalty level that will allow them to pay maintenance fees or be able to sell points. Unfortunately, the programs as described do not exist. A similar program does exist, so when the complaint is made, the company representative responds with the actual program that has nothing to do with paying maintenance fees or tells the member, “We don’t assist in selling points.”

Sylvia contacted me the summer of 2016.  Here it is 2018 and not a week goes by without more complaints, just like Sylvia’s 2016 complaint:   

Sylvia and her husband were persuaded to give up a deeded week that did have a limited secondary market, in exchange for timeshare points with virtually no secondary market. During a series of five sales presentations over a five-year period, the family accumulated enough points to elevate them to the next loyalty level in 2013. But maintenance fees increased to the point where they could no longer afford to own their points. The family soon found that they had to charge maintenance fees to their credit card in order to pay them.

Sylvia had already taken out a $33,000 home equity loan from their credit union to reduce the high timeshare loan interest rate, typically 14% to 18%. Never transfer a timeshare loan balance to a third party lender.

At their last resort stay in August 2015, Sylvia said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase more points in order to achieve the highest loyalty level.  The sales agent explained that this would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only the highest loyalty members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees. However, even at the highest loyalty level, turning in all points would only contribute $2,000 towards an $8,000 maintenance fee.

Sylvia relinquished $60,000 worth of points. She is probably still paying off her home equity loan and has no vacation points. One child graduated high school that year and was starting college.

Fortunately, Sylvia did not fall for the falsehood that would have driven her deeper into debt. We have received 63 almost identical complaints from highest loyalty members. They are infuriated.

Today is November 6, Election Day in America. Lobbyists are hard at work, making sure pro-industry candidates get elected. Lawmakers have a, “They signed a contract” answer to families alleging unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. We have heard from 571 families, many financially devastated because they believed a timeshare sales agent. As always, our disclaimer is that we know there are honest timeshare sales agents harmed as well by the actions of dishonest sales agents.

Timeshare buyers who feel they experienced unfair and deceptive trade practices should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the timeshare company dismisses them with “You signed a contract.” Members should also file with the Attorney General of the state where they signed a contract. Most, if not all states have incorporated a portion of the FTC Section 5 Code that describes unfair and deceptive business practices.

Unfortunately, the FTC doesn’t make it easy to file a timeshare complaint. The timeshare tab is buried. It took me a year to find it after a timeshare member explained how he found it. It’s almost like they don’t want you to find it. This is the link to file an FTC complaint and my step-by-step instructions directing you to the timeshare tab. We probably need about 10,000 members to file before the FTC raises an eyebrow.

 https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc

Step 1 Go to the link above: Submit a Consumer Complaint

Step 2 Bottom of the form, click FTC Complaint Assistant

Step 3 Click “Other”

Step 4 Click “For more options”

Step 5 Click “Travel Vacation or Timeshare”

Step 6 Click Other

Step 7 Click Timeshare

It was announced at an industry conference that $50 million has been set aside to put timeshare exit companies out of business, as well as honest lawyers and lawyers with questionable business practices. Timeshare exit is a problem the industry created by not allowing a secondary market. They admit this in annual reports to shareholders, listing a viable secondary market as a risk to their shareholders. Meanwhile, we are inundated with timeshare buyers contacting us describing how they have experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices.  

A jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent and whistle blower Trish Williams $20 million. Ms. Williams said Wyndham had TAFT days on slow sales days. (Tell them any #$%* thing). A former timeshare sales agent told me TAFT is a real person.

As private equity takes over timeshare, seeking venture capital returns, I believe this is only going to get worse. Timeshare is not the next Microsoft, disrupting a typewriter industry, prompting explosive growth. Upselling existing members into insolvency in an effort to generate 30% or better returns for investors is not the answer. The complaints never stop.   

We want more honesty. It’s a lot to ask, but we will keep asking.

Our complaint form: http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-11/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a timeshare concern or a story to share. These are self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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 Irene, as usual you have explained it all for our readers, if you have any questions, comments or need help with this or any other matter relating to timeshare, use our contact page and get in touch, please explain where you are located, (US or Europe), so we can pass you to the relevant team.

Breaking News:

La Provincia has just published an article with the following head lines:

El director de Anfi declara en un pleito entre los hermanos Santana Cazorla

La familia se enfrenta por un delito de administración desleal de fondos de la sociedad

Translation:

The director of Anfi declares in a lawsuit between the Santana Cazorla brothers

The family faces for a crime of unfair administration of funds of the society

Inside Timeshare will bring you more on this tomorrow.

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

 

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot with Irene, as you will see from her article this week there is certainly a lot going on across the Great Lake. For our US readers there is some very interesting information, it would seem that Inside Timeshare is certainly making an impact on timeshare consumers in the US.

On the European front, yesterday’s article regarding Anfi members complaints regarding availability, the article had a plethora of hits and likes on the associated Facebook page within the first hour. It also seems as though this topic hit home with our US readers as there were many from across the pond.

Yesterday we also had the first court ruling of the week, the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Puerto Calma, declaring the contract null and void. The client in this case will be returned 16,000€ which is the purchase price, along with 3,600€ as double the deposit paid within the mandatory cooling off period. The court also awarded legal interest.

We will be keeping an eye on any latest rulings that come in and report them here, but now on with this weeks article by Irene Parker.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Proposed Committees and Support Groups

Volunt

January 23, 2018

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare is approaching 300 timeshare reader responses, responding to members asking for assistance with their timeshare concerns since we began counting late 2016. There is a need to scale up Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as we now have 44 core advocates dedicated to improving the timeshare sales process by working together as teams. We hope timeshare developers will acknowledge there are problems and work with us, to not only stop predatory backend “get you out of your timeshare” scams, but address the problem on the front end of the sale as well. Numerous calls to the FBI have been made, and they have encouraged timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, to contact their local FBI Field Office public access line to file orally, in addition to filing online at IC3.gov.

Diamond Resorts has taken the lead by launching a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department dedicated to helping timeshare members from day one if a member has any concerns about their membership or their purchase. They have also introduced CLARITY, a program designed to enhance accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

https://www.loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/diamond-resorts-international-raises-the-bar-on-cu

Inside Timeshare has received complaints directed against four major timeshare companies. If timeshare developers and ARDA would take the time to read the following Better Business Bureau notations of “Government Action” and “Pattern of Complaints”, it is unreasonable to keep the blinders on by claiming there are no problems with the secondary market because sales centers are forever sales centers, and members should not expect value back for their timeshare because it is a “right to use” program. That would be fine were it not for the perpetual contract, often sold by false promises made by sales agents who know there is little chance of enforcement, as there is no federal enforcement, and state Attorneys General are limited in scope.

BBB warnings for Wyndham, Diamond Resorts, Bluegreen, and Vacation Village

Wyndham

Although the government action has been resolved from 2015, we included the warning to illustrate the tenure of the complaints.

Government Action

The following describes a government action that has been resolved by either a settlement or a decision by a court or administrative agency. If the matter is being appealed, it will be noted below.

Wisconsin – May 27, 2015 Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc. entered into a Consent Judgment with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (Case No. 15CX5). The Consent Judgment to settle allegations that Wyndham engaged in the following acts or practices in the State of Wisconsin:

 

  1. Delivering a timeshare disclosure statement that fails to include all statements required by Wisconsin Statute Sec. in a format that can be immediately read and retained by the purchaser.
  2. Representing that incentives are only available to the prospective purchaser for the remainder of the day in which the incentive was offered.
  3. Misrepresenting the resale value of a timeshare.
  4. Representing a timeshare as a financial investment.
  5. Making representations which are inconsistent with the purchase contract.
  6. Misrepresenting the reasonable estimated length of a sales presentation.
  7. Failing to clearly disclose that time shares were being offered at the initial contact with a prospective purchaser.
  8. Sending mail or coupon promotions to Wisconsin consumers that fail to comply with the prize notice requirements.
  9. Failing to inform the individual of the prize that has been awarded him or her, and then giving the individual the prize or another selected item, before beginning a sales presentation.

Wyndham consented to the Stipulation and Consent Judgment to facilitate a settlement and avoid the additional expense, delay and uncertainty of litigation. Wyndham does not admit that it has violated any laws of the state of Wisconsin.

Pattern of Complaints

BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.

This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent was awarded $20 million by a jury alleging predatory practices.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Bluegreen has this posted on their Better Business Bureau Report

Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers alleging difficulties canceling vacation packages booked through Bluegreen Corporation. Consumers claim, although Bluegreen Corporation has a cancel within 30 days policy, their requests for refunds for canceled trips are denied. Other consumers feel they are victims of deceptive sales practices. Consumers claim resorts are never available when they contact Bluegreen Corporation. While yet other consumers claim the “free” vacation Bluegreen Corporation offers is not free and involve fees they were not made aware of.

Diamond Resorts:

On December 23, 2016, the Arizona Attorney General announced that the State of Arizona entered into a settlement agreement with Diamond Resorts. The Assurance of Discontinuance requires the company to pay the State of Arizona a total of $800,000, of which $650,000 is for consumer restitution and $150,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs. The assurance also includes a Relinquishment Remedy Program, which requires the company to allow qualifying consumers to return their timeshares with no further obligations.

Many of the hundreds of complaints received by the State of Arizona claim the company used deceptive sales practices and made numerous oral misrepresentations during their presentations. Some of the misrepresentations regard:

  • Annual increases in maintenance fees;
  • Membership resale and buy-back programs;
  • Timeshare membership resale market;
  • Ability to rent timeshare vacations; and
  • Discounts on other travel needs.

The Attorney General’s Office alleged that the company employees’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F

BBB files contain a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding sales practices issues. Specifically, several complainants have alleged that information provided during sales presentations does not match the terms and conditions in the written contracts that they are asked to enter if they agree to make a purchase following a timeshare presentation.

On March 23, 2017 BBB sent correspondence to Village Resorts requesting their voluntary cooperation in providing steps it will implement to eliminate the pattern of customer complaints.

As of May 12, 2017 BBB has not received a response from Village Resorts BBB will continue to monitor the complaints for Village Resorts and update the review as needed

So where do we go from here?

TIMESHARE TIPPING POINT proposed plan

January 21, 2018

#timesharemetoo

Time to Take Back our Vacations

Vacation

We are grateful to our Inside Timeshare readers and timeshare members who have reported their allegations of predatory and criminal timeshare sales and marketing. Due to the volume of timeshare complaints received, there is a need for Timeshare Advocacy Groups™ to restructure, as we are experiencing normal and expected growing pains.  

Three important goals proposed by Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates:

  1. Reach out to sympathetic lawmakers, Attorneys General and regulators,
  2. Change timeshare developer practices to allow those alleging they were defrauded to be made whole again, by not hiding behind the fine print, but to listen and learn. The enemy is not your customer. The enemy is your predatory sales agent.
  3. Reach out to military Facebook pages and websites to warn members of the military and law enforcement, due to the alarming number of complaints from law enforcement officers and all branches of the armed forces, alleging they were white-collar crime victims.  One Marine lost his air unit command and three are worried about losing their security clearance.

Anthony and Ashley Davis recorded their predatory sales presentation, which has been provided to law enforcement and regulatory authorities. This is our January 13, 2018 interview with Anthony and Ashley.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUjnrIG3bI    

Timeshare Advocacy Group needs sub committees or teams that work independently, coordinating with a central committee. Listed below are nine proposed teams and team leaders, based on their expertise and past willingness to serve.

Please let us know if you are willing to be become involved. Those alleging they have been victimized include doctors, lawyers, professors, law enforcement, the military, even a member who worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison, and many others.    

Proposed Teams

44 Core Advocates

Our Core Advocates are members or former members of Wyndham, Hyatt, Bluegreen, Diamond, Vacation Village  

Reporting: Irene (4 members)

Media/Social Media: Gay Hart-Brewer (22)

State Real Estate Divisions: (anonymous) (5)

Legislative Efforts: Anonymous (8)

Secret Shopper: (anonymous) (5)

Military outreach and awareness: Jeff Diehl (20)

Timeshare Exit Scams: Karen Krokosh (7)

Foreclosure Support Group: Anonymous (3)

California Team: Ken Sylvia (7)

Member supported U. S. Timeshare Advocacy Facebooks

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Advocacy team

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member of a member supported, not industry influenced, Facebook or website.

Thank you Irene and all those who helped in this article, especially the legals who ensure that they are legally accurate.

If you require any further information on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.

 

Friday’s Letter from America: End of Year Review

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.

Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.

Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.

It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare.

This was a great blow to the RDO, as Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?

tribunal supremo

Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.

Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.

February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s “Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.

Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the AnfiTauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.

This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.

Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.

Another story we have been following is that of Los Claveles in Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.

There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.

In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.

This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.

This same month also saw a very big shake up in timeshare, TATOC, (The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees). This was run by one Harry Taylor, who was very much a mouthpiece for the industry rather than those who his organisation purported to represent.

image1 (1)
Howard C. Nusbaum, ARDA President and Chief Executive Officer Handing the cheque to Harry Taylor for $30,000 Published May 2017

After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!

There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.

But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.

On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.

There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.

CLA Logo

Now for the year from a US perspective.

What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what

I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016

2018

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

By Irene Parker

December 29, 2017

Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.  

Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.  

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

Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.

We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.

April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.

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

I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.

Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates

Timeshare Lawsuits 2017

By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016

2017

Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:

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

The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and  solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.

Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?

conference

 Westgate Update 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegel was seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.  

trump

Here is King David’s house

https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2017/03/09/the-queen-of-versailles-jackie-siegel-i-may-want-a.html

But back in 2016

“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.pbyQ8MPbx#.pmA2BeVyM

Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman is investigating Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Wyndham $20 Million

Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.   

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Hyatt

Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt timeshare agents would like to see the industry improved. They are in year five of a class action alleging deceptive practice.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneiderman managed to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.  

Back in 2016  

Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.

“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point.  The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed.  But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016

http://www.reuters.com/article/manhattan-club-ruling-idUSL1N18U0DL

 Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.  

“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.” Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.  

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

Diamond Resorts Update: A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.  

A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/348667-diamond-resorts-class-action-high-pressure-timeshare-sales-deceptive/

Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

holI don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,

People are listening!

Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:

⦁ A legitimate secondary market

⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling

⦁ Less predatory lending

Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.

Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.

Friday’s Letter from America

Another week over and another Friday’s Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a very quick look at two cases announced this week.

Silverpoint have once again been on the receiving end of another Supreme Court verdict. They have declared the client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £43,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

In this verdict the court stated that the contract lacked specific information required by law, such as a specific apartment number, date and location. It is quite clear that the Supreme Court has on more than one occasion clarified the law.

In another case heard at the Court of First Instance in Palma de Mallorca, Altres Vacances have been ordered to repay the client over 58,000€  plus legal fees and interest, with the contract being declared null and void.

This court has followed the Supreme Court rulings on the length of the contract, the law is very clear on this point, the contract must be no longer than 50 years. They must also contain specific information as required by law.

abogados-ag-250

Please Note: This “FAKE” law firm uses names that are known in the industry to enhance their own credibility. 

Once again, we have to warn about the “fake” law firms operating out of Tenerife, part of the Litigious Abogados family, another reader has been in contact with the new firm Abogados AG, with Armando González Areca named as the main “lawyer”.

Now according to this “law firm” they will be lodging the case against Diamond Resorts International Sl and Mr X (The Director) on the 7th November 2017, this will heard on Tuesday 21st November, very quick indeed, they must be very well in with the judges!

They state that following a “groundbreaking ruling on “Tuesday 19 March 2015” (very precise date), against Diamond Resorts International SL, one of the the directors, who we will call Mr X has pleaded guilty to the indictment of the Spanish Civil Code. They also state that the High Court of Santa Cruz de Tenerife have declared 28 of their clients contracts null and void, seizing all the personal assets of Mr X in Spain and the Canary islands.

 

In the case of our reader, they no longer own any timeshare with Diamond, they got rid of that years ago, so there is no basis for any claim. Beware the claims that you have a case, if you no longer own you don’t, even if you do own you may not have a valid claim. Before engaging with any company that states you do have a claim, check and check again.

So now on with this week’s letter.

Another Bluegreen Member Alleges a “Bait and Switch”

Sometimes Called “Pitching Heat”

cross fingers

By Irene Parker

November 3  

Back in July, Inside Timeshare published an article by Lela Renea, a detective who alleged she was deceived by a Bluegreen timeshare sales agent. Camyell Pratt, another Bluegreen purchaser, alleges she and her husband were also deceived.

The FBI definition of White Collar Crime, Financial Institution Fraud, is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Inside Timeshare has received 179 complaints from readers, of which 164 allege they were victims of a timeshare bait and switch. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

Lela Renea is a detective. Camyell understands bad debt. She assists in collecting back taxes for a Virginia County government office and understands the repercussions when someone does not pay what they owe. But what if the contract agreed to was purchased under conditions of fraud?

In timeshare, that doesn’t matter thanks to the clause that appears in every timeshare contract – “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” In other words, any complaint that begins with “The salesman says” can be conveniently dismissed.

Bluegreen is certainly not the only timeshare company Inside Timeshare has reported on concerning questionable sales tactics by some agents:

A jury awarded Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent, $20 million. Ms. Williams described TAFT days – tell them any blank thing on slow sales days.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against Diamond Resorts accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against The Manhattan Club. Of note, The Manhattan Club admitted wrongdoing, unusual in corporate America.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a $6.5 million settlement with the owners and operators of the Manhattan Club, a timeshare in Midtown Manhattan, over the sponsor’s repeated false promises to potential and current share owners.

The settlement is the largest in recent history for the Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau. Under the terms of the settlement, the operators of the Manhattan Club, acknowledge that they repeatedly misled shareowners about the club’s reservation process, their ability to sell back their shares, and the details of the club’s state-approved offering plan.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

Colorado, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Missouri Attorneys General took action against other timeshare companies.

As we’ve said before, the abnormal becomes normal, whether it be predatory timeshare sales or sex abuse in the Catholic Church or Hollywood. Victims are messengers to be beheaded or silenced and isolated through non-disclosure clauses. To my knowledge, except for The Manhattan Club, timeshare developers have not even acknowledged deceit on the front of the timeshare sale, despite thousands of internet complaints and lawsuits too numerous to mention.

Current and former timeshare sales agents and managers are also speaking out. As one manager explained:

I watched every day, agents selling for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them.  The maintenance fees statement about buying more and using that to pay your maintenance fees was a practice that was encouraged but be careful.  Some of the agents would sell the program for $98k when it was only in the 50k range.  One of the guests came back to cancel but the agent said no worries I have it packed 40k but I’ll give then 15 off and still make a killing!   It made me sick because these particular guests were in their late 70′ early 80’s.  I asked the agent if he had a conscience and he just laughed…if you can get them to pay more you’re a hero!!  They have the money!!  Deception actually goes back further than that.  We were told to pack the price for a trade in and imply that it was what they got back for their TS… we sold it for the regular price….they got nothing for their TS!

Some companies are trying to do the right thing. Bluegreen has been listening and taking appropriate action in some cases. Diamond Resorts has opened a Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department that pledges to help members from day one and has launched a program called CLARITY which promotes accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

Instead of beheading the customer’s, legitimate attorneys, volunteer advocates and journalists, why won’t the timeshare developer not identify and drain the swamp of predatory sales agents? After receiving 179 complaints from our readers, at times we can guess the agent by the con.         

cartoon fraud

Camyel and Jayson Pratt

Camyell and her husband Jayson endured an eight hour Bluegreen timeshare sales presentation at Harbor Light in South Carolina. They were promised:

4000 points plus 6000 points plus two RCI weeks

Availability to a variety of resorts

What was delivered?

For 4000 points, according to one of our Advocates, also a Bluegreen member, the member can book a studio in winter on the wrong side of the weather report.

After filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Bluegreen did offer to credit Camyell the additional 6000 points promised. Camyell declined, deciding she did not want to have anything to do with a company that would resort to such tactics. Nevertheless, Bluegreen credited the family 6000 points anyway.

Camyell said they were given no paperwork after they signed the contract, told the contract needed to be processed. They were given a booklet about Bluegreen and the timeshare exchange company RCI.

Let’s see how Camyell’s complaint compares to Lela Renea:

  • Lela was told if she purchased more points her maintenance fees would stay the same. The maintenance fees have increased from $560 a year in 2015 to about $700 a year for 2017.
  • Lela was told she would receive a free cruise, but after all the fees and charges it cost as much as if she had booked it herself.
  • Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
  • Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
  • Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
  • Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
  • Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Timeshare members have had enough. Timeshare has been employing tactics former timeshare sales agents call “Pitching Heat” or “No Heat No Eat” for too long.

Like so many of our readers have complained, Camyell was not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract rescission period. When she did finally gain access, she was informed she was not within the booking window and did not have enough points to book the stay she desired and says she had been promised.

Here is our advice for those not knowing where to turn:   

  • Prepare a written complaint and request for resolution. Submit to the resort.
  • If the resort denies the request, file first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed a contract, where you live, and where the timeshare is domiciled. Some Attorneys General are influenced by lobby dollars, so don’t be discouraged if your complaint is denied. There is still merit filing “for the record” because the Attorney General’s lack of concern can be quantified and reported. Some states refer you to a different department.
  • File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent (ID #) if you feel the sales agent is at fault.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission because every state has incorporated some part of the FTC Consumer Fraud Act into their respective state consumer protection act.
  • Report your grievance to ARDA http://www.arda.org/ethics/ – this organization is the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA ROC does not resolve individual member disputes, but they do have a code of ethics that should be enforced. When the needs of the member and the developer diverge, lobby dollars go to the side of the developer, so think twice about the “voluntary” opt in or opt out donation to an organization that may not always be targeting your best interest.    
  • The FBI definition of White Collar Crime – Financial Institution Fraud – is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. File a complaint with IC3.gov if this is the case. IC stands for Internet Crime, but your complaint does not have to involve the internet. That’s just the FBI portal for complaints. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although this agency has been vastly diminished due to the rollback of the Dodd Frank Act. According to a banker I spoke with recently, they are still the regulators. File with this agency only if a credit card played a part or there is a loan outstanding.
  • Reach out to local and national media. This is by far the most important and effective tool. Typically, timeshare buyers don’t buy a timeshare in their state of residence, so state lawmakers have expressed little interest and can also be influenced by lobby dollars. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.html
  • Become an Advocate for change by assisting other members with the process outlined above. Encourage others to act.
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The ⦁ BBB does not resolve complaints. They merely report how efficiently a company responds to complaints so ratings can be misleading.

None of the above agencies will act on behalf of a specific individual, but a volume of complaints can prompt an investigation.  

chat

If you or anyone you know has a timeshare story to share, or needs help with a timeshare issue, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the following self-help Facebooks:

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

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

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

 

There we have it, Friday is here, the weekend is about to begin, have fun and don’t forget, do your homework before you deal with any company. If you are in any doubt, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

friday cat

A Customer Service Message

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees

“who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest”.

Today we publish another article by Irene Parker, this is entitled Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message. It is a look at Jay Baer’s book of the same title, which will be available at most airport bookstores through September. Irene already has her copy, Forbes has an article reviewing the book written by Shep Hyken:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/shephyken/2016/02/20/love-your-customers-hug-your-haters/#6c2d2bfa1573

But first some other news.

It has been announced that RCI the timeshare exchange company,which is part of part of Wyndham Worldwide, is set to take over the Australian exchange company DAE, Dial An Exchange. This has been an independent exchange program for many years, it is popular for one simple reason, there are no annual membership fees. Owners only pay when they make an exchange, which does seem to be the fairest method, as you may pay a membership fee and never actually use it every year.

Obviously with the link to RCI, it may be that will benefit those who use DAE, as it should increase the number of resorts available to them. Many owners in the UK like the DAE system as they were rather disappointed with RCI and the annual fees on top of their ever increasing maintenance charges.

According to RCI, DAE will still be a stand alone company, with no interference from RCI, the questions is for how long?

Since the article Truth, What is Truth , was published last Thursday, Inside Timeshare has been receiving many more enquiries from confused Anfi members. It would appear that Anfi has stepped up its campaign to spread the falsehood that they are not losing cases at the Lower Courts or the Supreme Court, by contacting members and laying the seeds of doubt. What must be remembered is the simple fact these cases are public record and can easily be verified. Somehow Inside Timeshare gets the feeling that not is all well at Anfi, from our sources there may just be a rather important announcement about to be made. We will keep you informed as and when news becomes available.

Truth, What is Truth?

Next week in our Tuesday article we will be looking at the flurry of lawsuits being brought against timeshare attorneys in the US, Irene again gives the US, along with her own view on this subject. It does look as though the timeshare industry on both sides of the great lake are on the offensive.

So now to Irene’s latest contribution.

Hug Your Haters! A Customer Service Message

A timely message and a needed customer service handbook

catdog

http://www.jaybaer.com/hug-your-haters/

By Irene Parker

August 15, 2017

Hug Your Haters was written before the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia over this past weekend. The event was planned by white supremacy demonstrators. I was trained by a financial planner from Trinidad. He shared with me this story about knocking on the door of a white man. When the man opened the door he took a hard look at my mentor and said, “I shoot black people.” My mentor responded, “I’m not black. I’m from Trinidad.” After a second hard look this white supremacist laughed and said, “You want a beer?”

No matter the color of skin, the amount of wealth you possess, or your determination to make a sale, people are people. Even kings interacted with peasants. Jay Baer’s book could not be timelier. Communication is the key, author Jay Baer asserts. Inside Timeshare agrees.

New York Times bestselling author Jay Baer is to be the keynote speaker at the Interval International Shared Ownership Conference to be held at the Miami Beach Eden Roc Hotel October 23 – 25. Mr. Baer has advised more than 700 companies including The United Nations and 32 Fortune 500 companies.

https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1951406

The title of Mr. Baer’s book, Hug Your Haters, is also the title of his keynote speech that he will deliver to developers, investment bankers, private equity firms and other capital investment firms.

Our Timeshare Advocates are hopeful, as the only response our 400 plus member supported Diamond Resort Advocacy Facebook group has ever received from Diamond was from one brave sales agent who joined the group. Basically, his conclusion was that we are irresponsible whiners unwilling to fulfill our obligations. He ultimately had to be removed for driving away already financially shattered members.

In preparation for Mr. Baer’s keynote address, I have invited him to join our Facebook hoping he may be our bridge to communication. He would at least be provided a microcosm of timeshare comments and complaints to study. I don’t know if I would call us Haters. I think seekers of accountability and transparency describe us better.

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.

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

We are not alone. DRIP is a website launched by over 1,000 British members trying to find a way out of their timeshare contracts.

http://drip.enjin.com/

A Club Intrawest Owners Group Facebook has over 3,400 members

https://www.facebook.com/Club-Intrawest-Owners-Group-921012087982547/

A recently launched Gold Key Diamond acquired resort Facebook

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

Acquired resorts are on a campaign to reach out to other members in an effort to convince owners not to give up their deed in exchange for non-deeded right to use points.

Eight hundred Bluegreen members call this Facebook Bluegreen Class Action

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

Wyndham lost a whistleblower lawsuit when a jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams $20 million. Ms. Williams mentions TAFT days – tell them any fxxx thing to sell points on slow sales days.

https://dolanlawfirm.com/2016/11/wyndham-vacation-whistleblower-verdict/

hater

I could go on, but clearly Mr. Baer has his work cut out for him.

The timeshare lobby organization ARDA will be quick to point out that 83% of 9,000,000 timeshare owners are happy with their timeshare. Mr. Baer I’m sure will be quick to point out that the 1.15 million who responded they are not happy with their timeshare should not be ignored, even on social media sites. Mr. Baer’s primary thesis is:

Haters are not your problem…..

Ignoring them is.

In his book, Mr. Baer goes on to say that choosing to stay silent speaks volumes. Not responding is a response that says “I don’t care about you.” He talks about how it is psychologically difficult to engage with Haters, especially when they shine a giant spotlight on their perception of your shortcomings.

It’s not all gloom and doom though, at least not for Disney owners. We published this article analyzing why Disney has so few Haters.

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

As far as us chalking us up as disgruntled grumblers that don’t know how to use our points properly, here is one of our Advocates offering his analysis, previously published as a stand-alone article, why the timeshare industry has so many Haters;

It appears the industry has long depended on “self-regulation”. It has not done a great job of that but there have always been just enough companies that seem to try and deliver a quality product and quality customer experience at the same time they balance trying to make a healthy profit.

I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost. Also while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience. I am sure there are other good examples.

In the past, the actions of the bad eggs of the industry (the industry’s worst examples), the negative impact was always minimal and able to be managed before it metastasized. But the potential problem as I see it is that in the last decade it appears what may be described as large predatory financial engineering companies almost “posing” as timeshare companies have risen and aggressively worked every loophole and non-regulation to their own advantage and now are probably guilty of gross violations of their fiduciary responsibility to their customers / owners. These companies have created vast fortunes for a very small network of individuals at the top of the pyramid.

Ironically though, and looking at historical examples from other industries, it is these very companies likely to bring the whole industry into the national spotlight and to its knees eventually. Some of these appear to have walked to the edge of doing that already.

As these quasi financial engineering / timesharing companies become increasingly more brazen in chasing profits by any means possible, raising fees rapidly at the same time they are reducing owner benefits, due to their increased sheer size the public outcry will likely increase and just the odds of random probability suggests there will be a “Gotcha” moment or event that will bring increased scrutiny and increased legislation.

If the good timeshare companies try to ignore what the bad ones are doing, they may find someday that their systems and profits and share prices are negatively impacted by the future regulations forced on the industry from the egregious actions of the bad actors in their industry.

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We will continue our discussion in a Part II Hug Your Haters article examining two of the eleven points Mr. Baer said customer service professionals will learn by reading Hug Your Haters.  

The two types of Haters and what they want from you when they complain.

Why you need to answer every complaint, in every channel, every time.

Finally, why am I so critical?

It all started when my husband and I attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation, lied to in order to get us to attend. We had not been happy with availability so in no way were we going to purchase more vacation points. We make due but, like many others, we feel we were oversold on availability.

Next, I learned when we tried to sell our points, because our contract said we could, not one member of the 64 member Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will accept a Diamond Resort listing, although they will accept virtually all major competitor listings.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

As I started publishing articles for TheStreet, Jim Cramer’s Mad Money Investment News Service and then Inside Timeshare, I began to hear from timeshare Haters the world over, including the Philippines and Australia. Families allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. To date I have heard from 114 families of which 101 would fall into the Hater category. The others were simply seeking how to go about relinquishing their timeshare.

You can Hug Your Haters all day long but if a timeshare company violates their trust and respect by siding with the sales agent over the customer when the customer knows what they were promised and what was not delivered, Hugs won’t help. Change will.

As our online information site Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ states,

Knowledge Speaks, Wisdom Listens (Jimi Hendrix)

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

This certainly looks a very interesting book and I personally will be looking out for a copy, thanks again to Irene for her insight into this subject, with part two being published next week. Maybe, just maybe, the industry will take note of this.

Over the next few weeks we have some very interesting articles in the pipeline, with one article giving the results of our Timeshare Advocacy Group and the results achieved so far.

If you have any comments on any article published or need any help and advice on any timeshare related matter, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction. Inside Timeshare is committed to giving you the facts and not fake news.

Working Together Across The Ocean.

In today’s article, Irene Parker explains the work of the Advocacy Group and how it can help you the timeshare owner. Since this project has been going it has achieved some fantastic results, some that we are unable to publish, others have been and there are some to come.

This project has brought people together, ensuring that no one feels that they are alone. There is always somebody to help, even if it just to listen to your concerns. So enough from em and on with Irene’s article.

The Timeshare Advocacy Group ™

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“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” Jimi Hendrix

By Irene Parker

June 5, 2017

What is the Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ and who are they?

More importantly, why are they necessary?

Timeshare Advocates, advocating on behalf of those who have fallen victim to what they consider to be deceitful sales practices, go beyond helpful Facebook posts to walk with the timeshare member until a resolution, relinquishment refund, or foreclosure takes place.

Timeshare members can contact Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ if they:

  • Can’t get out of their timeshare
  • Feel they were deceived or lied to by a timeshare sales agent
  • Don’t know where to start
  • Don’t know who to call
  • Cannot afford an attorney
  • Cannot afford maintenance fees

For too long timeshare developers have relied on the use and abuse of the oral representation clause. Of course there are timeshare companies and timeshare sales agents selling timeshares without deceit, trying to survive in a timeshare world where top producers are all too often encouraged to sell by “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch” meeting the FBI definition of White Collar Crime. Financial Institution Fraud is added to the mix when credit card lending crosses over to predatory lending.

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When timeshare buyers begin their complaint with – “The salesman said” – company representatives are quick to ask for proof of the allegation, a word I have come to detest. In most cases there is no proof, but some regulators are listening. After all, it’s not that unusual for someone who has committed a crime to say, “I didn’t do it.”

More and more, surprised timeshare members who feel they are victims of deceit or “bait and switch”, realizing they have signed a perpetual contract with little or no secondary market, are digging in for the long haul, filing complaints with the FBI when deceived and Attorneys General sympathetic to the cause. Not all are.

Inside Timeshare previously published “Chicken Soup for Timeshare’s Soul” simplifying timeshare attorney Mike Finn’s white paper.

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

The Florida Timeshare Division acted on only 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints between April 2012 and April 2014.

Contrast this with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office acting on approximately 400 complaints filed against Diamond Resorts resulting in an $800,000 settlement and an issuance of an “Assurance of Discontinuance”.

The Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ works with print and broadcast media to take timeshare issues before the court of public opinion.

When Timeshare Advocate and former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts salesperson Candace Czarny learned of a May 2017 Arizona AG filing deadline for Diamond restitution eligibility, she wrote and distributed a press release to numerous Arizona publications and news networks. An Advocate who has a complaint in process was told by her reviewer that because of the publication of several articles, the AG office has received an additional 500 complaints. They wanted filers to know they need to be patient.

Hence, we answered the question, “What can one person do to make a difference.”

The Arizona Republic, part of the USA Today Network

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2017/05/18/timeshare-holders-released-contracts-following-deceptive-sales-practices/329107001/

The Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ is a group led by the following individuals who feel the time has come to take back our vacations.

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

Leading these efforts:

  • Irene Allen, TAG administrator
  • Charles Thomas, Inside Timeshare
  • Irene Parker, Inside Timeshare
  • Patrice Johnson, Advocate coordinator
  • Lisa Ann Schreier, media consultant
  • Candace Czarny, timeshare consultant
  • Diamond Resorts Member Sponsored Facebook administrators
  • Club Intrawest Owners Facebook administrators
  • Gold Key Resorts Owners Forum administrators
  • Monarch website administrators
  • Over 100 timeshare owners and members turned Advocates
  • 15 attorneys involved with various timeshare legal actions

This is where we are going. But how did we get here?

It all started with DRIP

http://drip.enjin.com/home/m/1894207/article/4099328

DRIP was launched by over 1000 British owners seeking release from Diamond Resorts timeshare contracts.

To my knowledge, Diamond Resorts has never admitted wrongdoing, but the company has introduced a program called CLARITY™ in response to the Arizona Attorney General’s actions. Is it enough? Members are wary but hope to work with Diamond to improve customer relations.

Monarch (DRI acquired) timeshare owners launched a website

http://www.monarchowner.com/p/opt-out.html

At a 2016 annual meeting, it was announced 30% of the remaining 40,000 Monarch owners have not paid their 2016 dues.

Wyndham Whistleblowers

A jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams $20 million when she exposed practices she said took place at Wyndham. According to Ms. Williams, Wyndham had TAFT days on slow sales days – Tell them any blank thing to close the deal.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Two additional Wyndham Whistleblowers, reported by Scott Brinkmann

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-wyndham-whistleblower-lawsuit-20170209-story.html

A former Diamond sales agent introduced me to Charles Thomas, publishing investigative timeshare reports for Inside Timeshare based in Spain. This began a lifelong collaborative effort working together towards timeshare reform.

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Group was launched February 2017

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.

advocate 1

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

Club Intrawest Owners member sponsored Facebook 3,000 members

https://www.facebook.com/pg/Club-Intrawest-Owners-Group-921012087982547/about/

Gold Key Resorts Owners Forum member sponsored Facebook

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

The following companies should be thinking about implementing their own version of DRI’s CLARITY™  based on these Consumer Affairs ratings.

The Bluegreen Corporation 1.5 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/bluegreen.html

Westgate Resorts 1 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/westgate.html

RCI 1.3 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/rci.html

Shell Vacation Club 1.3 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/shell_vacation_club.html

Hilton Grand Vacations 1.5 out of 5 stars

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/hilton_grand_vacations.html

customer service

Many of the families our Advocates have worked with have been financially devastated by tricks of the timeshare trade. The word we hear most often is “embarrassed” and “ashamed”.

All victims of crimes are silenced, whether child abuse, rape or timeshare – isolated and silenced by perpetrators. The timeshare developers and lobbyist efforts have made it difficult to be released from contracts and difficult to contact other owners. Lawmakers turn a deaf ear to members with eyes wide shut. There is virtually no member representation in the industry.

We want you to know that our Advocates and Inside Timeshare are here for you. Join our efforts and expand our network.

Line up

Timeshare companies are starting to take notice, Inside Timeshare has had reports that many are wondering when we will start to highlight them, they are right to be concerned, because by coming together your voice gets louder. When it gets louder, it gets stronger, once it gets stronger the more you can all achieve.

Irene and myself thank all who contribute to these articles, either by writing or just reading the drafts and pointing out anything that has been missed.

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