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Tucola Ltd

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish Part II of Karen Garello’s Secret Shopper report, but as usual we look at what is happening in Europe.

During our daily searches of various timeshare websites and forums this particular article made us chuckle. It was published on the Travel & Leisure Group (timeshare resale) website under information and Timeshare Blog, it is an interview with Gavin Brown and his recent stay at Anfi, he is manager of the said company, obviously written by one of the employees who conducted the interview.

The piece starts out with Anfi Beach Club is known throughout the timeshare industry as a real gem”. It then goes on to describe the location, “Ideally located on a heart-shaped island in Gran Canaria”. Well straight away that brought everyone down laughing, the heart shaped island is a man made island which is situated between the beach and the marina. It does not have the room for the huge resort called Anfi! It does however have sunbeds, a cocktail bar and a restaurant. You can also hire the island for weddings, if you can afford the 12,000€ for the basic package.

heart shaped island Anfi
The heart shaped island at Anfi

It turns out that Mr Brown, who has been in the timeshare industry for years, has never owned a timeshare, (I wonder why?). Mr Brown stated that he always booked with online travel agents and package holidays, but due to sometimes being disappointed with room location and the standards of the hotels, he felt that timeshare resorts offered better standards.

Well, we can agree with that, so why did he choose Anfi? As he put it he has a great knowledge of Anfi, having sold so many resale weeks, so when “A fantastic week and apartment became available at a great price, and I couldn’t pass it up”. Although we couldn’t help wondering if he would have bought at the ridiculous prices direct from Anfi?

He then goes on with a wonderful sales pitch on how great the place is, the wonderful facilities and the great restaurants, with reasonable prices compared to other 5* resorts. Well sorry Mr Brown, but you can get even better food at even better prices by leaving the resort and heading to some of the local restaurants.

The article then ends with “If this has made you consider Anfi Beach Club, or any of the other Anfi resorts, why not call Gavin himself or one of his colleagues to discuss further”?

Could it be they have that many weeks on their books they need to do a sales drive to get rid of them?

The other point to remember is that when you buy resale you don’t get all the benefits as you would buying direct from Anfi. See the link to the previous article on Resale Vs Direct.

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=anfi+resale

It has also been announced that ABC Lawyers Ltd, another Mark Rowe company has bought Lansdown Financial Ltd, a claims company registered with the Ministry of Justice. This is another acquisition following that of Tucola Ltd and Justice4 Ltd, Mr Rowe is certainly expanding, the question is why?

After all, his past is not what you could call squeaky clean, there has been a lot in the press and on TV about some of his past enterprises, Monster Credits springs to mind. By purchasing a company already regulated by the MoJ it does save him the problem of applying to the MoJ for authorisation, then having to pass the competence and suitability assessment, which is not a simple task.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/481751/CMR_Applications_for_Authorisation_Guidance_WEB.pdf

Going back to Anfi, although the courts are closed during the month of August, some staff are still working and issuing sentence papers from cases heard previously, this particular case was heard on 6 July. The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas awarded the former Anfi member 42,625€, again the infringement of the timeshare law was the length of the contract, being over 50 years in duration. So Anfi, do you continue to deny that you are losing in the courts?

So on with this week’s Letter from America.

Link to Karen’s first report.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Secret Shopper Questions and a Secret Shopper Report

two meeting

By Karen Garello, Secret Shopper Coordinator

August 18, 2017

Inside Timeshare encourages its readers to submit positive articles about timeshare experiences, so I was relieved to have attended a positive sales presentation at The Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri. Unfortunately, the presentation was followed by a less than positive customer service experience.

My Diamond saga began when I purchased a trial Sampler program I had not realized I had purchased until I returned home and saw a $3,995 charge to a Barclaycard. Diamond would not reverse the charge.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I decided to attend a presentation as this is required when purchasing a Sampler. After I returned home from a Branson presentation, I attempted to access Luxury benefits but was denied access. Luxury benefits include luxury hotels, shopping and wine. When I contacted customer services at the Sampler department, asking why I was denied access, the customer service agent put me on hold for a long time while he called Branson. After completing his “investigation” he told me the reason I could not access Luxury benefits is because Branson reported me as a “NO SHOW”!!!

Had it not been for our Diamond Resorts member supported Advocacy Facebook, I probably would not have gotten the sales agent’s name, and I certainly would not have prepared a report.

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

Admitting deceit it seemed, the customer service agent said, according to the notes during the presentation (he initially said I had not attended), I had told the sales agent TK I had complained about the unauthorized charge to purchase the Sampler. I pointed out that I had used my American Express for all the charges I made at The Suites. Customer service said they will investigate further and get back to me.

Now onto my original article

buttons

Many timeshare companies already have Secret Shopper programs. Still, it doesn’t hurt for timesharing member Secret Shoppers to evaluate for other members how near or far a timeshare sales agent ventures from his or her script.

I guess I am not that secret of a Secret Shopper in that my name is on this article, so I hope the good experience I had at Diamond ResortsThe Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri wasn’t because they were aware of my Timeshare Advocacy Group™ position, Secret Shopper Coordinator. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.

My presenter was TK Armstrong. She used to work for Bluegreen but joined Diamond because she said they have more resorts. TK and I talked for about 45 minutes. I went over my Polo Towers experience. She seemed sincerely concerned. She showed me a description of CLARITY™ Diamond’s new Enhanced Quality Assurance program. She was supportive of the program and said she was going to abide by it. She went over the Sampler product I did not realize I purchased until I returned home from Polo Towers. At least I know what I bought now.

We have three new Secret Shoppers. We will not identify them because they are, well, secret. After compiling over 100 complaints from readers who have reached out to Inside Timeshare for assistance, we have determined the most popular complaints involve the following:

  • Maintenance Fee relief program that do not exist,
  • The ability to sell points or weeks when there is no secondary market,
  • The value of travel awards,
  • Misrepresenting the value of using a credit card to offset Maintenance Fees,
  • Stating a lower loan interest rate can be obtained from a bank or credit union in order to escape high timeshare loan interest rates,
  • Oversold availability

We arm our Secret Shoppers with intelligent questions that, maybe because of being on vacation brain, people forget to ask. These are questions of course that any timeshare consumer can ask, so we share them with our readers. Transparency, honesty and accuracy are rated on a scale from one to five with a five being the most honest. Results are tabulated quarterly and sent to our team for review. After we complete our pilot program, we hope to submit the data to the respective resort for review.

Suggested Questions

  • May I take notes?

Qualifications

  • How long have you worked at this resort?
  • Have you worked at other resorts?
  • What did you do before you sold timeshare?

Consumer Protections

  • May I call my lawyer to discuss your proposal?
  • May I take the contract to my room so that I can have an adequate amount of time to review such a major purchase?
  • Are you a member? May we log onto your account so I can check actual availability and value? I am spending a significant amount of money on something I have not even attempted to use.

Resale or Exit Program

  • What happens if I can no longer use or afford the timeshare?
  • If I can sell it, how can I sell it? Who do I call? Can you give me a reference?

Note: Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to ask about the benefits or lack of benefits buying on the resale market and to see if they will accept a listing for the timeshare you own.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Maintenance Fees

  • Please show me in the paperwork the cap on maintenance fee increases. How much does a maintenance fee go up on average annually? Does it go up every year?
  • Can you provide a five year history of Maintenance Fee increases?
  • Is there anything I can do to offset Maintenance Fees?
  • If I can use my points for maintenance fees, how much per point are they credited?
  • Where in the paperwork can I verify this information?
  • If I offset Maintenance Fees with credit card purchases, please provide an example of the value of a $1 purchase and how many purchases it would take to pay off my annual maintenance Fee? (One member reported it would cost over $270,000 in annual purchases to pay a $2,700 Maintenance Fee!)
  • Can I rent my timeshare to pay Maintenance Fees?

Travel awards

  • If I can use my points for hotels, what is the value per point?
  • If I can use my points for airline tickets, what is the value per point?
  • If I can use my points for a cruise, what is the value per point?

Loans

  • Where in the paperwork does it state my loan interest rate?
  • How much will I pay for the timeshare if I carry the loan for the maximum term?
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce my interest rate?
  • What is the interest and penalty if I miss a payment?

risk

If consumers must take out a loan to buy a timeshare, consider carefully the actual cost of financing a vacation at 12 to 18%. America is a buy now pay later society. I don’t think many financial planners would recommend financing a luxury item without comparison shopping. Well over half of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received involve high interest rate financing.

We hope Secret Shoppers create smart shoppers asking the right questions before plunging into a purchase so many of our readers have come to regret. Societal changes are influencing the wants and needs of today’s traveler. Are timeshares more flexible or less if you are locked into usage and maintenance fees increasing annually.

Our first Secret Shopper, Laurie Sabbagh, offered the first Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Secret Shopper report. She reported some good and not so good observations. Of merit is the warning to timeshare buyers to take the promise of travel awards a step farther and ask, “At what value?” In general consumers should buy a timeshare for its intended purpose which is to vacation at a resort. Here is Laurie’s report:

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have interest in becoming a Secret Shopper or would like to share a positive or negative timeshare shopping experience. There are several member supported Facebooks and websites where members can reach out to other members to share experiences. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ posts information from all sites. Our motto, courtesy of Jimi Hendrix, is –

knowledge speaks

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

Thanks to Karen for her Secret Shopper part II, also thanks to Irene as usual for the editing and coordination from the other side of the great lake. We have many more articles coming up in the next few weeks with part II of Hug Your Haters and a piece about the Castle Law Group lawsuit with Orange Lake. We will also be having another article from our Antipodean friends from the other side of the world.

So that’s it for this week, have a great weekend and we will be with you next week.

 

 friday dog

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we continue with another chapter from our traveling writer David Franks, this week it is entitled Miami Vise, edited by Irene Parker. But as usual we begin with some news from Europe.

eu news

Back in May Inside Timeshare reported on some very nasty events in Tenerife, this involved the former Wimpy resort Los Claveles, which was subject to a management buyout by Ivan Pengelly in 1998. Over the years the resorts operated by Wimpen (Wimpy Pengelly) had very good relationships with the owners and the owners committee, this all changed when Pengelly sold out to the Ona Group. (see previous articles).

But there may just be a glimmer of hope on the horizon, it was announced this week that the arbitration process has completed and a judgement has been made. It is in total favour of the owners committee, that the Ona Group, Wimpen and the FNTC, are all in the wrong. The owners committee is legally constituted and has all the rights to run the resort. This means everything must be handed over to the committee, that Wimpen (Ona Group) have no right to collect or demand maintenance fees.

It now just needs to be seen if these companies comply with the Arbitrator, if not the committee will then have to resort to the Spanish Courts to enforce the judgement. We wish them all the very best and hope that this sorry tale will be over very soon. More on this as and when new information comes in.

http://insidetimeshare.com/los-claveles-return-bad-days-timeshare-tenerife/

http://insidetimeshare.com/los-claveles-battle-goes/

http://insidetimeshare.com/horror-weekend-los-claveles/

Now for some news which is proving to be rather disturbing.

Justice4 the claims company owned by Lee Roy Pallister, which went bust recently but re-emerged as Hello Consulting and Tucola Ltd, with his wife as named director, has been taken over. Could this be good news for all those clients who paid Justice4?

Unfortunately that may not be the case, the take over is by ABC Lawyers, yes, you did read that correctly. Mark Rowe of Monster credits, Hollywood Marketing and Jive Hippo fame is now owner of the former Justice4!

http://insidetimeshare.com/monster-credits-associated-companies-summary/

Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare

The TCA (Timeshare Consumers Association) whole heartedly endorse this, not surprising considering the TCA is also owned by Mark Rowe.

What also has to be remembered is Mark Rowe was at one time a senior sales manager for Resort Properties / Silverpoint , now look at the history of that company! Also Lee Roy Pallister is another ex-timeshare salesman. We leave it up to you the reader to decide what the implications of this will be. We think we already know what they are likely to be!

Yesterday Inside Timeshare published an article about Anfi, just after publication, news came in of a sentence which had been issued by the court, it would seem that even though it is August some people are still working.

Another loss for Anfi, at the moment we do not know the infringements ruled upon, but it is more than likely the usual, either perpetuity, floating weeks or points. In this case the ex-member has been awarded 37,224€ plus the legal fees and the court also awarded back all maintenance fees that had been paid.

Do you still believe what Anfi say, that they are not losing any court cases?

Now on with this week’s Letter from America

Our DRI Misadventures

Chapter Four: Miami Vise

miami

By David Franks

August 11, 2017

For background, you might wish to read the first three chapters:

Chapter 1: Vegas, Baby! — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-5/

Chapter 2: Missouri Loves Company — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-10/

Chapter 3: Stand Back. These People are Professionals  —http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-12/

(You might not. The annoyance is epical.)

April 2016 arrived. Never mind the showers; my lovely wife and I were going on a Diamond Resorts International Dream Holiday to Miami, Florida and the western Caribbean!

We started the adventure on Tuesday, April 5. I shall note at the outset that it was road and bridge construction, not DRI that turned the drive to the airport into a slightly mobile parking lot.  XNA in Bentonville, Arkansas is a lovely little airport.  It is expensive to fly in and out of XNA, but the cost was covered in the Dream Vacation package.  Score two for DRI.  Keeping their intervention to a minimum works wonders.

We arrived in Miami without incident, unless changing planes at the Houston airport is an incident. We made our way to the Penguin Hotel in Miami Beach, a nice old place on Ocean Drive in the historic South Beach Art Deco District. We had selected the hotel because of its age, and because it was possible (though not easy – see Chapter Three) to get an ocean-view room.

We arrived at the hotel to find that we did not have a room there. Somebody from DRI had decided to “upgrade” us to a brand-new room in the President Villa, a newly-remodeled building. We talked to a couple of hotel managers, met a couple more concierges, and confirmed that our reservation for an ocean-view room was in underlined capital letters in their reservation book.  Having been made aware of their faux pas, the helpful DRI people attempted to mollify us with a $100 certificate for dinner at a rather nice little bistro (double the regular value of $50). We were not mollified, but we accepted the certificate.

Unfortunately, we would not be able to have the favor of their “upgrade” corrected immediately, as there were no rooms available in the Penguin until the next day. So, guided by a helpful DRI minion, we excursed from the Penguin along a dismal alley route to the President Villa, a former office building next to the President Hotel on Collins Avenue. The conversion to residential use was not impressive. Our room was so awkwardly designed as to be uncomfortable; the bathroom would not have been even adequate for a modern resort guest. The ocean view I had struggled to get was of course not available, and the slight smell of fresh paint was no compensation. When we compared the President Villa to the Crescent Resort – and even to the dinged-up but charming Penguin – we felt that we were being treated as second-class guests.

On the other hand, the President Villa – despite its lack of accoutrements consistent with a nice hotel – did offer, under the same roof, exotic car rentals and the services of a psychic/fortuneteller.

gypsy

While we were unable to see the ocean, we were able to see from our window an endless stream of people taking selfies standing next to or sitting in Ferraris and Lamborghinis, presumably with permission.  We declined the opportunity to have a tarot reading, as we already suspected that our future with DRI was not becoming less bleak.

We trundled back over to the Penguin the next morning and took possession of our ocean-view room in time to attend a luncheon provided by DRI prior to a mandatory “buyer update” meeting that afternoon.  The luncheon, set up in the lobby of the Penguin, was actually rather pleasant (DRI managed to not interfere), and we met a few Diamond Resorts members who made a good show of not seeming like victims.

We eight or so members then went next door to the Crescent Resort and up to the penthouse, where over the course of a couple of hours we were told a couple of things that started out interesting but have since turned out to not be true: that, as Gold and Platinum members, we would be receiving a tablet computer preloaded with DRI-related software, which would enhance our owner experience; and that DRI was looking at adjusting maintenance fees based on actual resort usage, which would reduce some members’ fees (“Like ours?” I asked. “Like yours,” they said) because there’s no need to pay so much to maintain facilities one doesn’t use. Oddly enough, they didn’t try to get us to buy more membership, but they did make us stand around on the roof deck for quite some time for no apparent reason.  Particularly given the lack of veracity of the “buyer update”, we would have been better off using the afternoon thus occupied for sightseeing instead.

[Note from Irene: Maybe they read Chapters 1, 2 and 3?]

Our only interaction with a DRI concierge as such was an attempt to find the nearest Walgreens where we could get a prescription filled. He didn’t know, and he guessed wrong.

We had a good time during the remainder of our stay in Miami Beach. We had a nice bus tour, visited Calle Ocho, and enjoyed the meal at the bistro, which ended up costing a little over $100. The Penguin is a perfectly good hotel if your expectations are in line with what an old hotel has to offer. The room was fine – its ocean view was just as good as from a newer hotel – and its cafe provided a good breakfast. As it turned out, we were not charged for the upgrade to an ocean-view room. I hope the Penguin didn’t end up eating a loss caused by DRI’s interference.

group

Important points this week:

  • Although I will not attribute the change in our room reservation to malice or perversity (but what’s left?), I will note that I had explained at some length our interest in the Penguin as a historic hotel as well as our interest in an ocean-view room to everybody I talked to, and our reservation had been emphatically logged.  Calling the change an “upgrade” was a little perverse, however.
  • The Crescent Resort is a DRI property. The Penguin Hotel and the President Hotel are “Club Affiliated” properties.  DRI does not mention the President Villa at all; apparently they prefer to surprise unsuspecting guests with it.
  • Renovation tip: never hire DRI to oversee or approve of a building makeover.
  • Except for the meddling in Miami – which was the only real opportunity DRI had to screw things up –  the Dream Holiday, once underway, went well, despite the fact that it involved a seven-day Carnival cruise (which, apparently amazingly, came with an ocean-view stateroom).  My lovely wife and I thought the Dream Holiday was a good value at 7,500 points, and we saw no need for DRI to misrepresent the potential retail value of the hotel room.
  • Subsequent mentions of the tablet computers and the purported maintenance-fee adjustment to DRI customer service indicated that DRI had never discussed them with the front people at all.  Upon escalating the issues, it turned out that the tablets were supposedly an inducement for brand-new members, rather than an amenity for existing members.  One of the people I talked to said it sounded like I should get a tablet, and he would check into the matter and get back to me. (He never did.)  Based on several reactions at escalated levels of customer service, the supposed maintenance-fee adjustment was a total fabrication.
  • More concierges!  (DRI seems to be a tad lenient in bestowing the title of “concierge”, if my understanding of the office is correct.)

plane

Well, there you have it. David Franks, our intrepid travel writer, is safely back home no doubt planning his next Diamond adventure. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to share your Airbnb, Diamond, Bluegreen or Wyndham travel experiences. Canadian postings tell us Diamond is allowing some users to use their Diamond points to book AirBnb. As they say, if you can’t lick them, join them. More on that as we investigate further.

Contact Inside Timeshare or Diamond and Bluegreen member supported Facebooks if you would like to become an Inside Timeshare contributor.

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

This Bluegreen Facebook page of 1,670 members, Sales Team Reviews & Update/Sales Presentation Experience, is for the benefit of the members, corporate Bluegreen personnel and sales agents working towards a more honest and transparent sales process.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1718664518412381/

This Bluegreen Facebook page seems to be a sort of self-help Facebook for members helping members.

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

So there it is, the end to another week, Inside Timeshare again thanks all contributors to the articles, we also thank those who have sent in details on their dealings with some of the companies that have featured. Without that information it would be difficult to give you the facts.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week for more news and truthful facts on the murky world of timeshare.

weekend02