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The Tuesday Slot: Manifesto Part 1

After we published our interpretation of Florida HB 435, Inside Timeshare received the following Manifesto written by an Industry Insider. Part I examines the history of exit companies. Of note is the mention of the role private equity plays in today’s timeshare industry. Private equity firms played a major role in the junk bond debacle of the 80s and the subprime mortgage crisis of the 90s, so it is of no surprise to find private equity firms directing timeshare today. A junk bond or a subprime mortgage had some value for the borrower, but a timeshare contract, often adding up to $100,000 or more, is worth next to nothing should the borrower need to sell.

We look forward to Part II in which today’s author hopes to, “draw public comment for a new Business Proposal to remedy and resolve the issues.”

Florida HB 435 addresses timeshare exit services

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

MANIFESTO

Timeshare Exit Companies and the Future of Timeshare

WHAT DO THIRD PARTY TIMESHARE EXIT COMPANIES (“TPE”) TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE TIMESHARE INDUSTRY?

Part 1.

By Anonymous.

Our Questions;

 

  • Are Third Party Exit (“TPE”) companies selling a product that is largely undeliverable?
  • If the product is undeliverable are all remaining TPE’s simply exhausted Ponzi schemes awaiting implosion and bankruptcy?
  • How many Customers in the last 12-48 months have paid thousands of dollars for services yet remain unresolved, un-exited, un-refunded, and are still on the hook for their timeshares?
  • How large is this Exodus?

 

In this manifesto we shall attempt to break down into layman’s terms the causes and effects on the Timeshare Industry at the hands of the so-called third-party timeshare exit companies or “TPE’s” and eventually in Part Two, draw public comment for a new business proposal to remedy and resolve some of the issues.

We shall also reminisce at some of the more notable examples of earlier ill-fated timeshare exit businesses, all of whom reveal the starkest of similarities. In doing so, we will also be commenting on the chest-beater from the Industry in the form of a Sept 17th 2018 public release. Sadly, we shall also be debating the unconventional elephant that still sits in the room.

  • Why is there such resistance to owners exiting a Timeshare?  
  • Why is there no organized, unionized, “brand supported” exit & secondary market offering that satisfies the disposal needs of owners who are aged, retired, unwanted beneficiaries of, no longer travel or are on Federal poverty levels?  

 “On Sept 17th 2108 the Timeshare industry, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) and ARDA Resort Owners’ Coalition (ARDA-ROC), have united to stop the misconduct of those deceiving timeshare owners into paying for illusory timeshare exit services through fraudulent means”.

I applaud the Industry on the use of the word “illusory’ as defined as: based on illusion; not real.” In what appears to be a long overdue case of karma, the timeshare industry is altruistically defending its long suffering, desperate “exiting and cancelling” owners from paying for illusory exit & cancellation services.  

(We don’t know who is more naïve; the Resorts for expecting that no one can ever get out of a Timeshare, or the deluge of Owners who paid upfront to try to get out!)

We speculate that in the last 36 months a crescendo aggregating to millions of owners had the audacity to want to end their Timeshare experience and as a result many hired Lawyers and Advocates and spent tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to get rid of their timeshares. Most of these fees were paid upfront, and most were promised that fees were 100% refundable if the exit contract expires and one still owns one’s timeshare assuming the Lawyer or Advocate is actually still in business!

Customers are asked to pay $7500 or more ‘upfront’ to be represented or advocated. Most marketers claim that there are magical back passages into resorts that take back the timeshares quietly in a forbidden black market open to only the special few. Marketers support this notion by suggesting that if the resorts were to publicly announce that they take back timeshares there would be an immense exodus of cancellations. No present evidence supports this tall tale.  

The Timeshare Industry is familiar with the exiting, canceling or generally getting out of a timeshare scam. As we can see Timeshares are complex and very sticky to get rid of. The Industry continues putting TPE lawyers and advocates out of business and into bankruptcy, yet the Industry cannot find a solution to the real problem – an evident immense Exodus.

Nothing, other than Moses leaving Egypt could be compared to the TPE Companies assault on popular branded timeshare owners in 2015 – 2018. All the major brands had rolled out vacation club programs with all types of new generation upsells and exchanges. Publicly traded companies in the hotel, recreation, leisure and timeshare industries had begun curiously separating their timeshare divisions into new public companies. Yet at conventions, the Resort Owners, Lawyers and Administrators all reported that their biggest headaches were the Exit firms. Their disruptive activities caused added administration issues, defaults, millions in lost revenues, angry customers all dealing with these flimsy cancellation letters from dozens of Lawyers and hundreds of Advocates interrupting contractual obligations and communication with the customers. They all knew where this would end…owners were paying thousands upfront for services that weren’t going to happen. Owners were routinely signing and notarizing Powers of Attorney to exit companies like they were signing Christmas cards! This wasn’t a cottage industry any more. It was an epidemic that had to be eliminated.

Apollo Global Management, owner of privatized Diamond Resorts (who as Merchant Bankers were possibly the first well-known brand to recognize the sudden disparity in results and the probable cause), began aggressively suing TPE Lawyers & Advocate Company’s in 2015. Apollo has made it known that they are preparing to re-IPO Diamond Resorts

  • The cause; The Timeshare Developer/Owner HOA true concerns are the financial effect that an immense Exodus of Owners and the sudden loss of payment of residual annual fees would have on the bottom line.
  • The effect; The Timeshare Industry has adopted a widely “illiquid” stance based on the capture of customers annual fees. The Timeshare industry survives in a very large part from customers annual maintenance fees.

Where did this idea of how to bilk the Timeshare Industry come from?  

In 2004, Uri Fried, an Israeli businessman and so-called inventor of the Third-Party Exit (TPE) business sent millions of postcards to timeshare owners inviting them to get rid of their timeshares for an upfront fee. Uri had formed over 50 straw buyers LLCs and began transferring thousands of unwanted timeshares per month into his LLCs. For several years Uri’s activity went relatively unnoticed by developers and resorts. Along the way Uri sold timeshares on eBay for $1 thus cementing the perceived market value of second-hand timeshare at one-dollar. None of Uri’s LLC’s ever paid a cent in maintenance to any resorts. Uri ended up serving a couple of years for $1.9m tax evasion.

In 2017 Uri settled all misrepresentation charges with the State of Wisconsin for $132,000 and received a lifelong ban from ever handling timeshares again. None of Uri’s ill-gotten gains were ever recovered.

Uri Fried woke the Industry up to the vulnerability of the Viking Ship LLC exit scam. The Resorts & HOAs were so fragmented. Collectively, they had no clue what Uri was up to. Uri’s customers owned everything and anything. Uri knew he was never going to pay a penny in dues or maintenance, so he stuffed them all into his defaulting LLCs. If the Resorts grew suspicious of the LLC name(s) Uri would simply create new ones.

Eventually the resorts smartened up and unilaterally responded by refusing to honor or acknowledge transfers to certain suspicious names and eventually certain transfer companies. The Developers had falsely believed that some level of organic secondary market had been occurring. As the industry is so hugely fragmented the major developers were fooled for a while.

As we shall see, the Viking Ship LLC model grinds slowly to a halt when the resorts block or refuses customer re-registrations and transfers. However, the TPE’s marketing machines continue “in almost every case” to sell new Customers on getting rid of their timeshares, in order to continue to collect thousands in what surely become ill-gotten fees, thus becoming a Ponzi scheme; whereby new monies pay off older refunds.

After the failure of Uri Fried’s business, an alternative Viking ship business became strongly marketed; Attorneys claiming to ‘cancel’ a timeshare.

On behalf of Owners who retained the firm, Castle Law (and others similar) wrote to the HOA’s and Resorts and in some cases Lenders, a series of scalding, lawyerly stamped, heavily embossed, important looking letters accusing and maligning the Resorts with allegations of much malfeasance, misrepresentation and fraud in the inducement.  

Owners were claiming any or all of the following:

  • Told that this offer is good for today only.  
  • Told that timeshare is in hot demand
  • Told that timeshare is a great investment
  • Told that timeshare – like all real estate will appreciate over time.  
  • Told the timeshare presentation is only going to be 90 minutes.
  • Told the timeshare is in such demand it could always be RENTED for a profit.
  • Told that you are buying pre-construction and this timeshare can be SOLD for a profit after the next “phase.”  
  • Told that this week/resort is such a valuable week to all of the exchange companies that you can trade for “anytime, anywhere.”  
  • Told that this maintenance fee will not increase over time
  • Told you will be attending an “update” to discuss questions (also called a policy change, owners update, etc.… – later it was actually a sales presentation).  
  • Told that this is not timeshare but Vacation Ownership or Vacation Property.  
  • (You) were subjected to high pressure sales tactics or felt that you could not leave the presentation without purchasing timeshare.
  • The timeshare sales agents plied you with champagne (or other alcohol or drugs).
  • The timeshare sales agents assured you, you could cancel if we had second thoughts/buyer’s remorse.  

Attorneys and Advocates, armed with Limited Power of Attorney, filed cease and desists on behalf of owners. Attorneys were demanding that the Resort have no communication with the aggrieved customer (s). Simultaneously, customers were instructed not to communicate with their resort, and to forward any communication from the resort to the attorney or advocate.

It wasn’t long before far less scholarly ‘advocates’ caught on to the jolly wheeze and suddenly millions of timeshare data records were for sale and hundreds of thousands of robo dialed calls an hour were being made to every timeshare owner looking for people who wanted to get out of their timeshares.

Unbelievably, millions of owners wanted out.

In the words of ReedHein dba Timeshare Exit Team CEO & timeshare exit Advocate Brandon Reed;

The reality behind the recent litigation is that resorts are leaving millions of consumers with no other options. Timeshare Exit Team exists because the resorts have created a problem without providing a solution. We hear countless stories from customers who were unable to even give back their ownership. Others have found that their timeshare investment was actually worthless when  they tried to resell it. Owners must have a way to safely and legally end their ownership when it no longer fits their lifestyle. Until that happens, we want to make it clear that we will not be dissuaded from continuing to advocate for consumers.”

Reed Hein are the guys advertising on TV. Estimates show that ReedHein is now the largest timeshare cancellation firm in the USA. We wonder what ReedHein is doing differently from Uri Fried, The Macmillan’s, ACC and other notable predecessors.       

Ok, why isn’t there a secondary market for Timeshare?

The Timeshare Industry publicly abhors any notion of a secondary market almost as much as the Wicked Witch of the West abhors water.

Why? …It’s so simple.

Let’s say you buy a Westgate ‘second hand’ at 90% off current Westgate prices from eBay.

  1. Westgate gets no new dollars from that exchange, Westgate gets a new Customer, the perception of “secondary market” timeshare true value is realized,
  2. Westgate takes on the risk that you will or won’t pay its annual fee’s.

Unlike the auto business, the timeshare core product is the same in “both Primary & Secondary Markets,” the most glaring disparity is price.

All the frontloaded exorbitant sales commissions, fees, marketing expenses and popping champagne are in the primary market versus a vast global array of venue choices at huge discounts available in the Secondary Market.

Sadly, developers use punitive measures to hamper and deter secondary market purchases of Points based/Club, Right to Use contracts by restricting further points accumulation (s), restricting booking access or exchange, restricting access to deed back and contract back programs, voiding visiting guest rental certificates and other contractual privileges. Certain developers’ restrictions have been described as downright draconian!   

The Industry publicly states in countless SEC filings that a Secondary Market would cut deeply into the Industries profitability. We can see why they would be worried.

In SEC filings:

  • “…the resale market for VOI’s (vacation ownership interests) could adversely affect our business” (Bluegreen)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market could negatively impact our sales” (Wyndham)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market by existing owners could cause our sales revenues and profits to decline” (Starwood)

Source – EDGAR.

In loosely translated SEC language that means the entire industry agrees with the notion that a secondary market should not exist, and they will stamp on the windpipe of any attempt to conjure a secondary market.  

This cannibalistic, illusory industry has a bone through its nose! As the industry makes sweeping, ubiquitous, cannibalizing, business decisions we urge serious consideration to the real threat to the future bottom line. As the Industry has discovered, there is a serious flaw to timeshare. Having built these lavish, illusory, granulated palaces, one must continue to sell to new mug punters who are still naive enough to sit through a bruising several hours long presentation and then when sufficiently punch drunk, pick up a pen and sign complex contracts that one has never read nor had the opportunity to do so, nor to many if read would actually comprehend. This is the sales model of the Primary Timeshare market? Is this the best they’ve got?

Possibly that’s the reason behind the aforementioned public company players in timeshare creating new public companies for their Timeshare only assets. Maybe they also see the writing on the wall of this woeful sales channel and are protecting their other core assets from devaluation.

After all, how many mug-punters could there possibly be?   

In a 2017 Orlando Sentinel News story, Mr. & Mrs. Morrison stated they are horrified by what they did on their last vacation to a Wyndham Resort in Orlando. They paid $25,000 to buy a timeshare, after a four-hour sales pitch that wore down the couple’s resistance and skepticism. Now they’re being hounded by people promising to get them out of the contract — if they pay an up-front fee. They don’t want to pay out any more money and aren’t sure who to trust. “We can’t afford this,” said Morrison, 69, who lives near Ottawa, Ontario. She says Wyndham offered to put them in a program that will eventually allow them to sell their timeshare, but they aren’t sure how long it will take. “Why won’t someone help us and put a stop to this?” she said. Wyndham didn’t respond to questions about the Morrisons’ case.

As if the Industry abandoning its aged, non-using, beneficiary owned and generally unwanted/unaffordable owners wasn’t bad enough, the Industry thwarts every attempt to stop an immense Exodus creating a need for Lawyers, Advocates and evidently miscreants and swindlers.

If Timeshare is an investment in making memories in people’s lives then shouldn’t it know when it has outstayed its welcome?

This of course is all karmically comical as the Timeshare Industry has cut its teeth on brutally sharp practices of high-pressure selling techniques, flogging its wares in well documented grueling four or five hour long “90” minute information breakfasts.

The Industry is undeniably infamous for pitching heat. Sales offices manned with trained professionals are often well trained in manipulative sales techniques. These timeshare hit-men pitch to the giddy, all too often inebriated, vacation-minded unaware prospects. It has been alleged that commission driven sales people often misrepresent overly complex customers contracts, agreements, loan documents, mortgage addendums all of which are tragically packaged by Closers, TO’s (Take Overs), Hail Mary’s and Managers at a table somewhere in a Timeshare sales room. Their only compensation is the commission from a sale.

Can you hear the champagne popping corks now?

The Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred attorney Judson Wheeler Phillips, founder of the Castle Law Group, on a myriad of charges relating to consumer fraud complaints. In the past few weeks, Castle Law Group has ceased business operations following federal lawsuits brought by developers against Castle Law Group and those acting in concert with the firm.

Wyndham’s pursuit of American Consumer Credit (“ACC”), ACC’s principal, Dana Micaleff and attorney, Michael Saracco, resulted in ACC filing bankruptcy on September 7, 2018. Attorney Michael Sarocco, stated that Canadian entrepreneur Micallef always had “good intentions”, however things fell apart when developers and resorts wouldn’t allow ACC’s clients to break their contracts.

Castle Law & Judson Phillips were among the pioneers of the timeshare law firm and the cancellation business. Castle law had dozens of tertiary businesses who were marketing Castle Law services. These marketing firms fed Castle Law with thousands of desperate owners who were willing to pay $7500 or more “upfront” to exit their contracts.

In order to understand the scale of timeshare in the USA, the Timeshare Industry does about a $9billion a year in gross revenue. About 9.4million ownerships exist. There are approximately 1600 resorts. Average maintenance is approximately $900 a year. The Industry aggregates approximately $8.5billion from maintenance annually.

A typical single resort’s simple deed math would look like this:

  •         Typical Timeshare Resort – Individual Condo Units Per Resort: 500 units
  •         Weeks for Sale Per Unit: 50 weeks 500 x 50 = 25,000 Weeks for Sale
  •         Average sales price per week: $ 25,000
  •         25,000 weeks’ x $25,000 = $ 625,000,000 developer receipts
  •         Plus 25,000 weeks x $900 maintenance p/a = $22,500,000 per year.

In a new improved version of Uri Fried’s Viking LLC scheme; David and Cindy Macmillan sent millions of solicitation postcards and letters to Timeshare owners enticing them to attend informational meetings that led to “exiting their timeshare with 100% money back guarantee.”

The MacMillans ran a bunch of Viking Ship LLCs and their own transfer company in a timeshare transfer operation that resort owners alleged was bilking the industry out of hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of about nine years.

In 2008, spurred on by a failing economy and the USA housing crisis, the MacMillans operated over 65 straw buyer LLCs claiming that in exchange for several thousand dollars upfront, owners could be released from any timeshare contract. The MacMillan’s prize-winning company based in Torrance, California held sales meetings for owners by the bus load. Hundreds would cram in waving their credit cards in readiness. The MacMillan’s charged $6000 or more and allegedly mishandled over 120,000 timeshare contracts before becoming the target of the Attorney General of California. RICO allegations from Plaintiff Wyndham Hotel & Resorts proved undefendable. The MacMillans were banned from the business. They didn’t pay a single cent to the resorts in maintenance. Most of MacMillan’s eager customers found they were still on the hook for their timeshares. David MacMillan filed bankruptcy in 2016. Once again millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains went unrecovered. In a karmic twist of fate, Macmillan’s own transfer agent transferred thousands of the Macmillan’s Viking LLCs timeshares back into the original owners’ names before leaving the scene of the crime and left the Macmillans to take the fall.          

By 2014 Timeshare Exit marketing companies had mushroomed up all over central and south Florida, Tennessee and Missouri. Most of the new crops were marketing firms owned and run by seasoned telemarketing recidivists or by ex-timeshare sales people, some of whom had access to valuable owner data. The marketers, mostly acting as advocates, fed a variety of attorneys and both shared in the customer fees.  

In call center parlance this new business represented a new ‘data’ vertical. Call centers that had previously run ‘data’ looking for mortgage consolidation or debt relief were suitably adaptable for Timeshare Exit marketing. The busted timeshare Resale/Rental telephone scams that had left many recently unemployed in south and central Florida simply redeployed themselves. Some sales people told sad stories of repenting for all the lies they had told while selling Timeshare.    

In Phillips’ case, the Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Phillips after reviewing upwards of 18 client complaints, many of which made similar allegations of fraud, highlighting a pattern and practice of misconduct. In its ruling, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that Phillips “poses a threat of substantial harm to the public.” Central to the series of complaints were allegations that Phillips and his business partners misled and/or defrauded consumers by taking exorbitant fees from timeshare owners for purported timeshare exit or cancellation services based upon fraudulent and misleading representations.

The ACC case is based on various legal theories, some of which are founded in Federal law, known as the “Lanham Act of False Advertising”. The case remains pending against Micaleff, individually, and Saracco, individually, although an automatic stay has been issued relative to ACC in the U.S. District Court action as a result of the bankruptcy filing. That, however, has not deterred the prosecution of the case. As of today, there is a motion pending against Micaleff and Saracco to punish them for, among other things, failing to appear for a deposition.

The Industries press release further commented;

“The constant pressure that our member companies, owners and federal and state agencies are putting on disreputable timeshare exit companies has again produced a positive result for the consumer,” said Robert Clements, ARDA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs.

“We are committed to protecting our owners to ensure they aren’t taken advantage of,” said Michael Brown, President and CEO of Wyndham Destinations.”

Diamond Resorts implemented an aggressive litigation strategy in pursuit of third-party exit companies for their nefarious and unlawful conduct in an effort to protect the interest of their members who were promised outcomes that could not be legally accomplished.

The number of customers who “wish to exit” an owned, fully paid up timeshare is an immense Exodus. Far higher than was ever imagined or projected by the industry. The elephant in the room is that there is still no safe exit from unwanted timeshares and no robust market with which to capture and reposition the unwanted timeshares.

In light of the recently filed Florida House Bill 435, one must question the fates of the remaining exit and cancellation firms including; Resort Release LLC, The Newton Group & Reed Hein AKA Timeshare Exit Team amongst others.   

It is obvious by the recent advertising budgets expended on TV, Radio and all other assorted media, along with the number of employees and general expenses to run these TPE’s that there are probably millions of Owners who have already paid Fees to exit or dispose of a timeshare in the last 12-36 months that are as-yet unresolved and may begin actions suing for refunds. The Term of a TPE’s contract generally offered is 12-18 months. We are sure many contracts have now been extended far beyond their legal limits. All the previously named TPE’s and Law firms offered a 100% refund upon eventual nonperformance, assuming they were still in business.

By monitoring the largest TPEs on social media and by paying particular attention to present and past customers reviews, it is evident that satisfaction is extremely low and that refunds are aggressively being sought. How many hundreds of complaints like these does it take before another AG steps in or another exit company gets driven to bankruptcy by an aggrieved resort or the FTC?

Here’s what we know.

Exit firms can’t get rid of your timeshare unless the resort ‘wants them back.’ Most Timeshares are indeed worthless. All timeshares come with some form of annual cost. In light of 2018’s vacationing and travelling popular habits, the notion of paying an annual fee is not popular or appears economically attractive.  

It may well be true to say that all TPEs charge upfront fees for truly illusionary services because they now know within a moral certainty that their customers will get nothing for their money.

One would have imagined that Timeshare Developers, being an enterprising bunch, would have figured out how to ‘selectively take in’ enough exits & cancels to quell this Exodus problem. This sensible move would have made the TPEs redundant and quickly ended the third party exit business by allowing worthwhile and fitting exits for owners, for a small fee.  

This, however, further highlights the possible size of the immense Exodus problem.

Thank you to our new contributor, at some point he will reveal himself, but we look forward to Part Two of the Manifesto.

Remember if you are unsure about any company that has contacted you, or that you have found yourself on the internet or from an advert, then contact Inside Timeshare.

If you purchased your timeshare in Spain or upgraded after 5 January 1999 and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then Inside Timeshare can point you in the right direction.

 

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome another new contributor, known only as “Industry Observer” as he wishes to remain anonymous. The introduction is once again by our very own Irene Parker, who was very excited to have this published, as it is from someone who has watched the industry for many years even though he has never purchased. It is certainly a very welcome independent insight into the timeshare industry and sales presentations.

Firstly a little news provided by Canarian Legal Alliance, they are certainly going to be keeping the courts busy over the next month.

At present they have in various courts around Spain 75 pre-trial scheduled, the three main timeshare companies are Anfi on Gran Canaria, Silverpoint on Tenerife and Club la Costa who have resorts on mainland Spain and the Canary Islands. Pre-trials are basically a formality and a last chance for a settlement to be reached before the case goes to a full trial. At the Courts in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, 4 judges have been dealing with cases at this stage and issuing sentences without the need to go to a full trial. They have sat on so many cases now that they feel it is a waste of the courts time to set full trials. This has certainly speeded up the process for many clients.

Along with the pre-trials, the are 26 trials to he heard against the same timeshare resorts, again at various courts around Spain. We hope to bring you news of the conclusions as and when the cases are concluded and the judges issue their judgements.

One of the many complaints that Inside Timeshare receives from readers about their timeshares is the number of resorts that are advertising on the internet and the various booking websites.

This was sent to Inside Timeshare from one very angry reader, (see link below), it is for Select Marina Park, Mijas, Costa Del Sol. This is a Club la Costa Resort, which as we know is not a cheap timeshare to buy. It also uses the points system, which has been deemed illegal by the Supreme Court on many occasions, the reason is that it lacks any substance.

What that means is that you do not actually have any guarantee of booking your holiday accommodation, it is subject to availability. Yet this resort is being advertised on hotels.com for a fraction of the cost of the exorbitant maintenance fees that owners / members are required to pay annually, on top of the original extremely high purchase price. Is it any wonder that so many timeshare purchasers want out of their contracts!

https://uk.hotels.com/ho278895/?q-check-out=2019-02-24&tab=description&q-room-0-adults=2&YGF=14&q-check-in=2019-02-17&MGT=7&WOE=7&WOD=7&ZSX=0&SYE=3&q-room-0-children=0&fbclid=IwAR1grWTKZjEyb8FbVqjn5cSw_7EABpY-akPpfUEq9Z51wfQ_LSmrzDgiTVs

Now for our Tuesday article.

Why at Age 70 I Have Never Attended a Timeshare Presentation

Introduction by Irene Parker

Timeshare members are always grateful when a member who has been through the complaint or foreclosure process, thinks beyond their own Nightmare on Timeshare Street to support others. There is nothing more frustrating than groveling before timeshare customer service representatives who dismiss complaints of unfair and deceptive sales practices with, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Our deepest gratitude to the author of today’s article who has been keeping Charles and me informed of industry developments over the past two years so we can in turn pass that information on to our readers. He has never owned a timeshare.  

By an Industry Observer

January 22, 2019

I have been a timeshare industry observer since 1985. I have concluded that timeshare is not for me. I shun contracts (especially perpetual ones) and I don’t plan very well in advance. For those with disposable income and the ability to plan, timeshare may be a rewarding experience. However, I would advise looking to the resale market for the best bargains. And, I would study the industry before dipping my feet in the resort pool.

In 1985 my wife and I were at North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on our first beach vacation. Upon leaving the supermarket, I noticed a flyer underneath our car’s windshield. Similar flyers were under all the out-of-state car windshields. The flyer offered a $40 gift to preview a new resort in North Myrtle Beach. Husband and wife were required to attend. A minimum income of $30,000 was required, as well as a driver’s license and credit card. Military couples with a certain minimum grade level were also welcome. I thought, “Why do they have to pay people to go see something for sale?”  People don’t get paid to look at houses or condos, and condos were quite the rage in Myrtle Beach in 1985.

I filed this experience in the back of my mind. It would reemerge numerous times in the future. On subsequent vacations to Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, Charleston, Orlando, Branson, and of course, Las Vegas, I would become more than aware of the smiling faces of OPCs who wanted to be my friend to get me to attend a tour, open house, remodel, new resort – whatever. Each approached us at a boardwalk or a booth, often a hyped-up boy or girl who had something special to share with me for only a few minutes of my time (90 minutes). I always reacted poorly to these solicitations since #1: I was on vacation and #2: I am not a real estate guy.

Fast forward to 2012 – I was in the midst of closing a company that I had run for 24 years. The economy had been unkind to the printing industry. I had to close the doors to my tiny empire and move to an early retirement. Fortunately, I could afford to do so. In 2013, finding myself with time on my hands, I decided to study the timeshare industry which had been in the shadows of my vacations. Three of my friends owned timeshare in different systems. I had quizzed them on their experiences. One loved his relationship.  The other two had mixed feelings about whether the process was worth it.

I began to google the names of timeshare operators along with keywords – problems, complaints, regrets, and lawsuits. Come to find out, there were a lot of people who bought timeshares that either didn’t want them or felt they had been duped into buying them. As mentioned, many are satisfied with their purchase, but it appeared many families had been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare.

I have spent five plus years spending an hour or two a day on sites like TUG, RedWeek, Inside Timeshare, Inside the Gate, YouTube, and complaint sites. I developed a theory as to how the timeshare companies succeed in plying their trade.

Here are my simple conclusions:

First:  It starts with a bribe. It may be money, food, gambling, discounts, shows, or trips. Prospects are offered something of value by an OPC (outside person contact) for attending a presentation.  David Siegel, Jr. of Westgate timeshare fame, has termed prospects “mooches.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_gFaO11sNY

Second:  It is seldom the promised 90 minutes. The goal is to play a game of attrition. The longer the interview, the better the chance of capitulation – the customers will buy SOMETHING even when there may be an agreed upon pact not to buy. There is a good possibility that the prospects will break down and sign just to get their gifts and get out the door.

Third:  There will be more than one presenter. First is the “greeter” who will become your friend. They need to see your driver’s license and credit card. The driver’s license is to verify the family relationship and the credit card is to run a credit check. The credit check may be an unwanted surprise. The first sales agent will extol all the virtues of membership. If there is no bite, he/she will get approval to lower the price. After the initial sales agent, comes the manager or “closer.” He/she is out to make sure a sale happens. The friendliness will have worn thin. Prices will be reviewed and maybe lowered again. The sale needs to be made. If no sale has ensues, then comes the “survey person.”  He/she will review the presentation, the offers, and reasons for not buying. He/she will try one last attempt to sell an exit package. It may be a “discovery” “trial” or “sample” package. This will allow the prospects the chance to check out the resorts in the system, but requires another presentation. Trial packages are limited in scope and availability.

Fourth:  The whole job of the sales team is to make a SALE and that sale needs to be made TODAY. They know no one comes back later to purchase a timeshare. The sales team is on commission. They don’t eat if they don’t sell.

Fifth:  Truth may take a back door to the need for a sale. There is a clause in most, if not all timeshare contracts, that says the prospect did not rely on verbal representations to make their purchase. How many of us have relied on the ethics of the salesperson sitting across from us when buying a car, boat, condo or house? In Florida timeshare sales agents are licensed sales agents but they are exempted from the ethics requirement! It’s pretty scary if you can’t rely on ethics.

The terms of the contract are in the contract – not in the words of the salesman. The salesman may say that the company will buy back your timeshare. They won’t. He/she may say that the timeshare will go up in value. It will not.  He/she may say that you can go anywhere at any time. Complaints about availability abound. Attorney Mike Finn called this verbal representation clause a “license to lie,” and the beleaguered buyer unwittingly signs voluminous documents containing this one toxic sentence timeshare companies over-rely on.

Sixth:  Most timeshare contracts are perpetual. Once the three to ten day state contract rescission period is up, the buyer may have no other option but to pay the mortgage and maintenance fees if they cannot convince the timeshare company to break the agreement. It can be sold or given away, but the marketplace is almost non-existent. A default can have dramatic consequences on one’s credit score.

Seventh:  Sales people will make sure that no hand-written notes leave the room. False promises are not in the contract. The contract is long and initialed in many places. There are three things to be especially aware of.

  1. There is often a clause that says the company can change the terms and conditions of the contract whenever they want. Why even have contracts when benefits can be changed at any time?
  2. Accommodations are subject to availability. There are many complaints about lack of availability. Actual availability often cannot be verified until the buyer has access to the booking site, conveniently after the rescission period has expired.    
  3. These days contracts are often signed electronically, meaning your initials are stored and then tapped, tapped, tapped on a cheap tablet even tech savvy buyers find hard to read.

Eighth:  Timeshare contracts have a rescission period, which varies by state. It may be three to ten days. There are creative ways sales agents and their company can dodge the rescission period. A new program to be relieved of maintenance fees (that doesn’t exist) won’t be available until after the first of the year. While on vacation, sometimes with the kids, reviewing complex contracts can be a difficult chore. Sadly, even reading the contract doesn’t always disclose some of the pitfalls, like availability.

Ninth:  Roughly 50% of the cost of a timeshare purchase is the marketing, promotion, and commission costs. Think about it. If you list your house for sale, you pay 6% or 7% commission. What would happen to your home price if you had to pay a 50% commission to buy? Add that to the false promise that your timeshare is easy sell and you have a disaster waiting to happen. Sellers are lucky to get 10% of their initial investment back, thanks to the lack of an adequate secondary market. Timeshare developers don’t even want the timeshare back. You may even have to pay the developer a fee to take the timeshare back.

Ten:  Timeshares can be purchased on the resale market for pennies on the dollar. Sites like Tug2.net, Ebay, and Redweek have real people selling real timeshares for bargain prices. You can check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare has a secondary market value. They can explain the pros and cons of buying from the secondary market compared to buying directly from a timeshare sales center. Plus LTRBA members have knowledge of all timeshares.

Don’t jump. Don’t believe you have to buy TODAY. Research the company. Research the industry. Social Media is here to stay. Chances are there is a member Facebook page out there for the timeshare you are considering, with members reporting positive and negative experiences you can evaluate. Do your timeshare math to calculate the purchase price, borrowing costs, and annual fees, not to mention special assessments. Check the resale market.

Vacation Smart!

Thank you to our Industry Observer for his observations. Here are a few member sponsored sites to check with to determine if you are jumping into your vacation dream so that you don’t end up one of our Nightmare on Timeshare Street authors:

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene for the introduction and a very big thank you to our industry observer for this article and all your information over the past two years.

If you have any comments on this or any other article, please use our contact page, we welcome your insights.

If you need any information about any company that has contacted you, that you have found on the internet or from an advert in a publication, then again use our contact page and we will help you do your credibility checks. Remember, doing your homework is one of the most important ways of saving you from losing your hard earned cash.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, the original article which was going to be published today has been replaced, this is due to the timeshare company reaching out to the members. As always, Inside Timeshare sends a draft copy to the timeshare company for comment, we do not always get a response, but on this occasion the company did respond. It may have been at the eleventh hour, but we congratulate the timeshare company concerned for their reaching out and we hope that they are able to resolve the matter.

As a last minute replacement we publish a revised version of The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles, by Irene Parker, originally published in November 2016.

This week has been a rather quiet one as far as the courts are concerned, there have been many cases going before the judges, but the sentences are unlikely to be announced until the New Year. Although we did get news of two sentences issued this week.

The first was from the Court of First Instance No4 in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, the judge in this case declared the contract with Anfi null and void. The reason was the length of the contract which exceeded that allowed by Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, which states that perpetuity contracts or contracts with no end date and exceed the 50 years maximum are illegal. The client in this case has been refunded over 61,000€ plus legal Interest.

At the High Court No4 in Tenerife, Silverpoint was on the receiving end. The contract was declared null and void as it did not include any tangible product. Again under Law 42/98, a timeshare must include specific information such as a set apartment or an exact time of year. The client in this case has been refunded over 10,000€ plus legal interest.

Once again these cases were brought on behalf of the clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, contrary to what some forums run by some very dubious characters will tell you, these are genuine cases and are a matter of public record.

     

Now for this week’s replacement article.

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles Revisited

    Jackie Siegel, Queen of Versailles  

By Irene Parker

December 14, 2018

“The Peasant of Venice and Queen of Versailles” article was first published November 6, 2016. I wrote the article because I wanted to explain how I went from being a 30 plus year timeshare owner without a timeshare complaint, question or post, to a full time volunteer whistleblower.

In July of 2015 I experienced a pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation in Florida. We had previously purchased points in Virginia because the company said they were adding New York properties, only to learn it would take about $10,000 in equivalent maintenance fee dollars to stay at the same hotel, same week that could be booked online for $1,000 plus tax. When I checked December 1, 2018, it would have cost $12,000 using our timeshare points. I don’t blame the sales agent. He may not have known about the poor value. It was the response from the company to the Attorney General listing all the times we had used our points prior to that purchase that bothered me. Eventually I was offered our money back for that purchase, but could not bring myself to sign the non-disclosure agreement.       

Rosa Parks said, “I was just trying to get home from work.” In my case, we were trying to get to our new home, moving from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Venice, Florida. It was my intention to return to my first love – teaching piano lessons. That all changed after the revolting timeshare presentation we experienced in Florida.  Disgusted, I returned to our unit, turned on the television and witnessed the jaw dropping house pictured above, being built by Westgate timeshare owners Jackie and David Siegel. I could not resist.

It was a hot July summer day in Orlando when my retirement turned upside down.

We entered the hospitality area where we were invited to attend a 55 minute “information only” presentation for existing owners. “Will we be paired with a commissioned sales agent?” I asked three times. “No”, Julie replied, “Only if you have questions in the last ten minutes. I attended and I learned a lot! We have group presentations now because we had so many complaints about high pressure aggressive sales sessions.” We did not sign the form agreeing to the 55 minute meeting because the fine print said we would be robo-called if we did. We were robo-called anyway. There was no form to be signed for the three hours that followed the 55 minutes.

A Diamond Resorts member recently sent me this comment from a former Diamond concierge describing an unfair and deceptive practice:

Concierge (Former Employee) – Virginia Beach, VA 23451 – December 3, 2018

A typical day of work consisted of misleading current owners and their guests in order to persuade and entice them to attend a timeshare meeting that could last well over what was initially disclosed….The hardest part of this job was knowing I was intentionally misleading owners/guests of the length of time for their timeshare meeting, as well as not disclosing it as a timeshare meeting as instead it was mandatory we refer to it as simply an “update on their current status” or “ways you can stay here and affiliated businesses in the future”. The most enjoyable part of this job was the interaction with varying people and the connections I gained therein.

https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Diamond-Resorts-International/reviews

Our Nightmare on Timeshare Street begins:

The next day we entered the reception area to be greeted by an attractive young lady. “Hello,” Donna greeted us. “Are you a commissioned agent?” I asked.  Puzzled, she took us by the arm and escorted us to the 55 minute presentation, retrieved us immediately after, and led us to her den.

I told Donna, “My husband is 77 years old. We do not want to invest in vacation plans because we need to investigate long term care plans.” “Why, we have many in their 90’s who come and enjoy our resorts!” she cried. “But we are in the middle of building a house and have no permanent residence at this time,” I countered. Kneeling and looking up, she gazed into my eyes and confessed she was a single mother and had to resort to her Diamond points when she divorced. “I know you didn’t put all your money in that house though,” she added. I kept saying over and over, “We don’t want to travel. We like our new house.” Frustrated, the manager ended by advising me to go to the website if I want to find out what’s new. Three hours and three sales agents and managers later, we returned to our unit.

I checked my email and learned the 4,500 points we had been promised for our Port Elsewhere Ozark timeshare deposit was credited only 3,000 points. Sure enough, I learned later the 4,500 points promised could be changed at any time for any reason. It’s all in the fine print.

I then decided to take my mind off this disturbing revelation by watching television. I turned on the FOX news show Property Man show hosted by Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, and there she was – The Queen! The King and Queen of Westgate timeshare were building a 90,000 square foot home that defied the imagination. Jackie’s clothes closet is 5,500 square feet!

http://www.realtor.com/news/trends/queen-of-versailles-q-and-a/

Thinking about the pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation we were deceived into attending, and the worthless points specifically purchased to stay in New York City, I wrote to Mr. Massi at Property Man never dreaming I would earn a response. Copying the letter to Diamond customer service, they credited the correct amount promised for our Port Elsewhere week.

A few months later a FOX producer called. I was asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. The producer told me the Queen of Versailles show wasn’t even about timeshares. It was about their house, but FOX had been flooded with timeshare complaints. She said I was the only viewer they asked to interview because I was the only respondent who said I wanted to talk about the positives in addition to the negatives of timeshare. I told her I was sorry, but I had just accepted a position as interim music director for a large church and could not participate, but I offered to research timeshare to help them with their talking points.

I started digging. The deeper I dug, the more alarmed I became. Wyndham, Westgate, Bluegreen and Diamond seemed to have the most complaints, with Disney, Hilton and Marriott far fewer. I submitted my research to FOX and returned to the choir. Six months later, after arranging a flight to Phoenix to stay at  a Diamond resort in Sedona, I received a call from the FOX producer, asking if we would agree to be interviewed by Mr. Massi in Phoenix as they had interviews scheduled that weekend. Some things are meant to happen.

The FOX producer told me David Cortese of Magical Realty had also been interviewed by Mr. Massi about timeshare resales. David is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association (LTRBA). After viewing David’s segment, I contacted him to see if he would sell our Diamond points. I was told their company would not accept a listing to sell Diamond points. I surveyed all 64 LTRBA members and 22 responded also saying they felt Diamond points were worthless on the secondary market. “We feel Diamond has placed too many restrictions on the use of secondary points to be of any value to a buyer,” they sadly explained.

One of the LTRBA members asked if I would speak with a Hispanic family. Since this first October 2016 complaint, the calls and emails have not stopped. I have heard from 646 timeshare members.

Timeshare members want straight answers but straight answers are in short supply at some timeshare customer service desks. Callers or emailers explain how a sales agent lied to them, but when they contacted the timeshare company they were told, “You signed a contract.” Some described how the rescission period was dodged. Some things, like over promised availability, can’t be determined by reading the contract. I feel I was deceived by reading the contract which stated, “You can sell your points but we will not assist you.” They left out the part about no buyers.

From the October 2016 article describing what happened to the Hispanic family:

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. The family had already taken out a $33,000 home equity loan from their credit union to reduce the high loan interest rate, typically 14% to 18%.

In August 2015, when they complained about maintenance fees, they said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase another 10,000 points in order to achieve Platinum level. He said that by being Platinum, it would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only Platinum members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees. Then and now Platinum members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point, so if all 50,000 points were tendered, it would pay $2,000 towards a 2018 $8,631 maintenance fee bill.

If the family had agreed to the additional 10,000 points, they would have gone further into debt with little recourse. Based on hundreds of reported responses, if they had purchased the points, they would have been told, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” They have a daughter who just graduated from high school and has started college.

I spoke to the family not long ago. They relinquished their $60,000 worth of points that they had accumulated. They are still paying off the home equity loan.

Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare has resale value.

Property Man was preempted due to the 2016 election coverage, so our segment aired April of 2017. The Florida DBPR timeshare division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014, so ignore Pam Bondi.  Bob Massi and his advice on timeshare resales:

https://www.facebook.com/RealBobMassi/videos/1041694629230338/

From FOX I stumbled onto Jim Cramer of Mad Money’s investment news service TheStreet, where remarkable editors, possessing the patience of Job, provided a crash course in editing.

https://www.thestreet.com/author/1684637/irene-parker/all.html

A member who submitted an article to Inside Timeshare introduced me to Whistleblowers of America https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/. Accepting an invitation to attend a Whistleblowers Summit in Washington DC this year, I was introduced to OpEd News:

https://www.opednews.com/articles/Witness-to-Las-Vegas-Octo-by-Irene-Parker-America-181030-359.html

And of course, there’s Charles Thomas at Inside Timeshare in Spain and Wayne Robinson in Malaysia and Wayne’s book.  I was honored to edit and write the Forward. Everything About Timeshare, Before. During and After the Sale

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

So all in all, I’m getting great value from my timeshare points measured in the people I’ve met, readers who read my articles, and the gratitude from members who are grateful for straight answers. We especially appreciate our Facebook administrators and our growing team of members helping other members. I do believe we are a disruptor and hope our efforts will benefit sales agents who sell the product honestly, as well as forestalling new buyers and existing members from making a decision that has financially devastated more than a few families. When sold honestly, timeshare provides years of fun for friends and family.

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene for getting this article out to us so quickly, it is difficult to replace an article at such short notice, but at least the timeshare company did respond and for that Inside Timeshare was happy to replace the original one.

That’s it for this week, join us again next week our last one before Christmas.

To all our readers have a great weekend and remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that contacts you or that you have found on the internet.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today we publish another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this is the experience of the Cameron family and their dealing with Westgate. But as usual we bring you some news from Europe.

We start with the headlines in La Provincia published on 18 October 2018

Grupo Anfi denuncia a Santiago Santana Cazorla por “apropiarse” de un barco

La compañía acusa al empresario de sustraer la embarcación y llevársela a Marruecos

Translation:

Grupo Anfi denounces Santiago Santana Cazorla for “appropriating” a ship

The company accuses the businessman of stealing the boat and taking it to Morocco

Santiago Sanatna Cazorla at Court

It centers around Santiago Santana Cazorla “appropriating” a boat which the Anfi Group claims belongs to the company, of which Cazorla owns 50%, as the boat was included in the register of assets of the company until around 1 year ago, when Cazorla decided to transfer it to his name.

The Court of Instruction No1 of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, heard in testimony from Cazorla (17 October 2018), that he purchased the boat in 2012, he transferred the ownership of the vessel to Anfi Group “as part of the payment to forgive a debt”, however, he changed his mind and about the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, began procedures to transfer the vessel back to his name.

In his testimony Cazorla assured the court that the vessel was his, something Anfi Group does not agree with, no agreement was reached.

One thing is for sure, we are never short of a story with Anfi!

Following on from Wednesdays article about the fake Tenerife law firm  ADN Alberto Dlendro Nabalez, Litigacionespaña SL, which is part of the Litigious Abogados family, mindtimeshare yesterday published details of another fake “Procurador”, which is more than likely to be one the fake lawyers will be using.

The name of this “Procurator” is Marco Gravinal with the address

Calle Las Calbas 36, Edificio Bala, Oficina 418, Santa Cruz, Tenerife

Which does not even show up on Google maps, so is obviously a fake address.

The website

http://marco-gravinal.com/

Was registered on 31 January 2018 and is due to expire on 31 January 2019, so a short term setup to get as much money from unsuspecting timeshare owners as possible.

The email address is [email protected] which is not linked to the website but is again a free email address provider.

Now for this weeks article.

Our Westgate Purchase was a Recipe for Disaster

Jackie Siegel, wife of Westgate owner David Siegel

By the Cameron family

Friday, October 19

Seeing other Westgate owners talk about their experiences has prompted me to do the same, in the hope that more people will come forward to put pressure on timeshare companies and regulators to take a closer look at timeshare sales practices we feel are unfair and deceptive.

Up in Smoke!

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-24/

The Dashiell’s article

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-7/

It is obvious that Westgate, and I believe timeshare in general, has a recipe for success, designed to keep their money rolling in and my money rolling out.

I think I have figured out the secret ingredients!

Step 1: Over promise features and benefits. Add copious amounts of salt with one or two grains of truth.

Step 2: Make them your BFF. Then tenderize customer by forcefully kneading them with one sales pitch after another until they are flattened and easy to manipulate.

Step 3: Quickly gloss over the contract with a nice coating of sugar. Make sure to cover up the actual details of what the customer is buying so that they remain in the dark until much too late for them to cancel their contract. They call this the rescission period and it is quite easy for timeshare sales agents to dodge.

Step 4: Serve on a dirty plate with a fork. I call this plate foreclosure when the buyer finds out you bought something you can’t sell. What product is out there you can’t get rid of?

Step 3: When the customer realizes they have been served a steaming pile of something or other, pretend to be very concerned and run back to the kitchen and hide for months and months. The customer can listen to commercials about why you are happy to have invested in their timeshare while they wait on hold.

Step 5: Finally, when the customer is starting to cause a scene, have the monosyllabic thugs, Greenspoon Marder, eject them from the premises.

The Tennessee AG will be sitting at the next table, pretending like nothing happened while he tucks into his gourmet meal, although I did research and found out the TN AG helped Festiva victims recover $3.5 million.

https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/2016/2/24/pr16-04.html

I understand that the consumer needs to take charge here. If there are not enough complaints, as must be the case with Westgate, nothing will happen. I also learned the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigated Westgate for two years but dropped the investigation shortly after the presidential election.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times

That’s Westgate owner David Siegel, King of Versailles next to candidate Trump.

Here’s what happened to us

Salesmen, Jonathan Smith, and Mario Pineda (Manager) sold us a timeshare in July 2016 and convinced us that we were making a good, sound financial decision.

They said we were buying something that would:

  • Financially benefit us,
  • Allow us to make money renting our weeks and that they would help with this free of charge,
  • They said we would never have to pay the HOA fees because the rentals would pay for that,
  • They said we would hold a deed to the property and would own this property (Bldg 2041, Villa 302H and 302I).  They left out the part that if you want to sell it nobody wants it,
  • It would be a great tax write off,
  • The equity would keep increasing.

Given all these benefits we signed the contract in good faith, thinking that we would get everything Westgate told us we would get and we would see some return on our “investment” which turned out to be anything but an investment. The reality is that we have not made a penny on this investment. None of the reasons for which we bought this timeshare exist.

While they may define this as real estate, what kind of real estate is worth nothing, except in disaster stricken zones? It is certainly not a tax write-off, it does not gain in value and it would therefore be stupid to pass it on to our family. We would only be passing on a liability.  

On top of all this, our experiences at Westgate locations have been awful. We went to a Westgate property to enjoy time together as a family and wind down. Instead we were pressured to buy more and had our precious vacation time stolen.

The first time we went to Gatlinburg we booked a 3-day trip. We were invited to a presentation. They said it would last 90 minutes but we were held hostage for seven hours! This totally ruined our vacation, plus the loss of what little time we had was the cause of much stress.

All this stress came right back when we had our first full week stay and they tried to do and say anything to get us to upgrade to a more expensive unit and more weeks. They held us again for four hours. The stress of this again completely ruined my vacation.

It was after this last stay I started to have heart pain. When I went to the doctor he said it was stress related. This is when it really hit me that I can’t keep going through the stress of Westgate’s high pressure to buy more and more Westgate. My wife and I work very hard. We don’t get to take many vacations together, so do not enjoy spending our vacation in a bad mood after it feels like we underwent CIA manipulation techniques. Plus, we can’t afford to go through this again.

What Westgate is serving up is no good. We suggest you dine elsewhere.

The Queen of Versailles wants to be Florida’s Governor?

http://floridanationalnews.com/blog/jackie-siegel-for-florida-governor/

Jackie Siegel for Florida Governor?

December 6, 2016

  Well, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry, I suppose

Thank you to the Camerons for sharing their timeshare story. It is our hope that timeshare companies will read some of these accounts and think about ways to improve customer relations. We encourage members to submit articles, good or bad experiences, but the satisfied customer is less likely to reach out. They are having too much fun vacationing with a product they bought explained properly, compared to the family who feels they were duped.

These self-help websites and Facebooks are resources and provide a way for members to reach out to help other members.

We seek to provide 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/

 

  So that is another week over and the start of the weekend, join us again next week and remember to do your homework before engaging with any company. If you are not sure then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, we publish another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” article this week which focuses on Westgate, we welcome our new contributor who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. But first a quick look at the timeshare news from Europe.

Another Judge at the Courts of First Instance Number 2 in Maspalomas has joined other Judges in deciding on a case at the pre-trial stage rather than sending it for a full trial, that now makes Courts numbers 1, 2, 3 and four all following the same route.

Usually the pre-trial stage is used to allow a last minute out of court settlement and deciding if the case warrants a full trial. These courts have now decided that it is a waste of valuable court time to set dates and hold the full trial, the reasoning is that it is a matter of the contracts, they violate the timeshare laws and are cut and dried cases. This will be good news for many clients who are waiting to go to court as it will now speed up the process considerably.

We have heard from another reader who informed us of a company called Litigation Services SL with the company registration number B93268936, they give the address C/ CORONEL RIPOLLET, EDF SANTOS REIN S/N FUENGIROLA (this is a rather seedy street).

The director is listed as CALLE GUDEN DANIEL ERNESTO Appointment: 15/10/2014, but another very old familiar name is also listed although he was dismissed on the above date, SHARIFI DADVAR MAHMOUD REZA.

According to the caller, the courts have seized sizable amounts of money from Timelinx and DWVC (Designer Way Vacation Club) which we know are no longer in existence, Litigation Services SL will help you to claim the money you paid. Obviously they need a fee to process this. The thing is there are no funds waiting at court to be claimed, we also know that in the past this company has had links with the likes of Greenges, Fuengirola Servicios 2000 and our old friends Ramirez and Ramirez.

It would also seem that not only those who had dealings with DWVC are being targeted, but Club Class Concierge clients are being contacted. The story is that there is a court case against them in the Spanish Courts, The company is called Key Legal Claims and they will represent you in court and obtain the money you paid Club Class.

The caller is Emily Carter with the phone number 01212852941. Emily will require a release fee to get the money from the courts, as we have seen in the past this is not the case, there is no money being held by the courts for either of these “Clubs”.

Now on with our Letter from America

My Westgate Timeshare is Up in Smoke!

By a Westgate buyer

October 5, 2018

The peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles revisited,

Comments from Irene

The Siegel’s “Queen of Versailles” Florida home

Their lavish pad is nine times larger than other houses in the area (90,000 square feet) and has a $20 million mortgage, which is 100 times the size of the average mortgage in Central Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2310067/Construction-FINALLY-restarts-vast-Queen-Versailles-mansion-recession-hit-owners-raise-30m-needed-complete-it.html     

By a Westgate owner who wishes to remain anonymous. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to contact the author.  

Wealth Achieved at What Price?

Up in Smoke

I own a Westgate timeshare. I purchased the timeshare in Gatlinburg, Tennessee a while ago. In November 2016 the resort caught fire and my unit was burned to the ground. They are rebuilding, but the new units are totally different from the units being replaced.  I am being asked to pay for a unit that has not been built, and given less options for the same money. I don’t see how this can be fair, but given the way in which we have been treated, I don’t think ‘fair’ is anything Westgate cares about.

The manner in which I was induced to sign the original contract attests to this:

The timeshare would be a great investment because it is real estate,

  • I could sell it,
  • I could rent it to make my money back,
  • I could get a tax break, the same as a homeowner,
  • I could get a loan to pay off my loan because it was an investment.

Westgate sales agent Zak told us it was best to buy low because in years to come the value of the property would increase.  He provided an example of one of the original owners that purchased paying only $3000, and then showed me what the property is worth today. I now know timeshares are a liability, almost impossible to sell for even pennies on the dollar. The salesman misrepresented pretty much everything to make the sale.

Timeshares are not the same as real estate, and with little to no secondary market, not an investment. Many timeshares, including Westgate, can be bought online for $1. The market is flooded with timeshares and it is almost impossible to rent them out. Tax deductions are not allowed.

I relied on what the sales agent said. Now I am left with payments for something that is not what was described. Based on my experience, the poorly regulated timeshare product benefits only the sales agent, in the form of commissions, and the timeshare company, who apparently has amassed a fortune at our expense.  

Our timeshare sale began with deception. A mandatory update, which is not mandatory, stated it would last 30 minutes, but it was a sales presentation that lasted 4 hours. They didn’t care about my sightseeing tour plans ruined. There has never been a time when staying at a Westgate vacation resort that I have not been pressured by employees trying to sell or upgrade me to a pricier unit. Despite making loan payments every month plus maintenance fees, before you can even use the week, you have to undergo the pressure imposed by a Westgate employee, taking up one of your vacation days, trying to sell you something that you don’t want or need.

When I think about my Westgate experience these last five years, listening to sales agents making promises unfulfilled, having spent thousands of dollars, what I have is worth nothing. This has been a nightmare.

I have tried to contact Westgate to talk about my concerns. They strung me along for months and months saying they’d get back to me. Eventually, their paralegal wrote a generic cut and paste letter stating that I had signed a contract so that was that. This is the level of care Westgate shows its owners?

Their home is 90,000 Square feet?

Thank you to this Westgate owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, but has provided their contact information should others wish to contact them through Inside Timeshare. These are member accounts hoping to warn others to know that what they bought is probably worth nothing. The timeshare developer is always welcome to present their side of the argument.  

My question to timeshare developers is, how much is enough? Inside Timeshare has heard from 609 timeshare members and owners, many families financially devastated, alleging unfair and deceptive sales practices. Most signed off on high interest loans.

We thank timeshare members for submitting their experiences in the hope of warning those thinking about buying a timeshare, to be aware the purchase they are about to make can have devastating financial consequences.

What house, condo, boat or car would you buy that could not be resold? What would happen to the residential home market if buyers learned after their purchase, the “asset” they bought had no secondary market? It is not uncommon for Inside Timeshare to hear from timeshare buyers who paid $100,000 or more for a timeshare, easily the cost of a condo or home. Timeshares are hard enough to sell, but almost impossible with a loan attached. You can sell a house or a car with a loan, but not a timeshare.

You can rent the documentary “The Queen of Versailles” from Netflix, about the 90,000 square foot home being built in Orlando by Westgate owners David and Jackie Siegel. The documentary took Best Director at Sundance some years ago.

https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/the-queen-of-versailles#

As a former stockbroker, I have no objection to great wealth, but given the Dashiell’s articles submitted last week and today’s article by a Westgate owner, I ask, “Wealth at what price?”

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-7/

I have heard from Carolyn Willis, a third Westgate buyer, whose timeshare went “Up in Smoke” also, angry beyond words.

 The Siegel’s 90,000 square foot house led to my timeshare advocacy efforts. I attended a pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation July 2015. When I returned to our unit, I turned on the television and happened to tune into Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi’s FOX show Property Man, featuring the Siegel house.  Disgusted with what I had just experienced, I wrote to Mr. Massi. About a month later the FOX producer called me and said they had received a flood of timeshare complaints. The producer said the segment was not even about timeshare, but about the Siegel’s palatial home. She said Mr. Massi is a friend of the Siegels. I was the only respondent invited to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. She said I was selected because I was the only respondent who said I wanted to talk about the positives of timeshare and not just the negatives.

 My house in Venice 1,770 square feet

Sometimes it takes a peasant revolt.

I described my timeshare presentation experience in fairytale format. My husband and I were in between homes, moving from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Venice, Florida. The comparison was irresistible, so I christened myself the peasant of Venice, as my LinkedIn profile describes.

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a timeshare experience to share. We know there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. They may not be aware that timeshares often have virtually no secondary market. Many reaching out to us only learned this when life circumstances prompted them to look into selling their timeshare.  Timeshare companies list the lack of a secondary market as a risk to shareholders in their annual reports. There is little empathy for the timeshare buyer who has spent thousands of dollars only to learn their timeshare is, by design, worth nothing. Greenhaven Capital Management touted the lack of a secondary market as a benefit for private equity investors. In a moment of anger, I wrote this mock interview after reading about Greenhaven, touting the timeshare stock BECAUSE of no secondary market. I find this shameful.  

My apologies to British comedians Bird and Fortune

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-across-atlantic/

Do not pay anyone money upfront to get out of a timeshare without checking with Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups. You will find straight answers at no cost on these sites.

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/

That’s it for this week, remember if you have been contacted by any company with a story that your timeshare company or club has been taken to court and there is money waiting for you, it will be a scam. If you need any help in checking the validity of any company that contacts you or one that you have found on the internet or advert, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week we have another consumers “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this time involving the timeshare company Westgate.

Over the past few days Inside Timeshare has been receiving many emails from Silverpoint clients seeking advice, we have also received an email from an ex-telemarketer of Signallia Marketing, which sheds a lot of light on what they are up to. We will be publishing an article on this subject tomorrow, but now on with this weeks Tuesday Slot.

A Westgate buyer’s experience

By the Dashiell’s

Westgate owners Jackie and David Siegle’s 90,000 square foot home

The plans for the American Versailles, a 90,000-square-foot behemoth near Orlando, FL, seemed to have one overarching goal: to make the French original look shabby by comparison. Did Marie Antoinette have 10 kitchens, an ice skating rink, and a 5,000-square-foot closet?

https://www.realtor.com/news/trends/queen-of-versailles-q-and-a/

The Dashiell’s Westgate Experience

September 25, 2018

When I purchased a Westgate Lakes timeshare two years ago, the salesman told us about great financial benefits. We don’t have money to throw away, but it sounded like a good investment. The sales rep kept telling us over and over how the timeshare would “pay for itself” by generating rental income while also paying for maintenance fees and loan payments. He mentioned that we could write it off on our taxes and also said I could refinance the timeshare at my personal bank to get a lower interest rate. We thought we had security and low risk, especially since he said the timeshare could easily be resold.

After the presentation, our sales rep didn’t give us time to read the long contract. It would have taken all day if he had. He told us what was in the contract and pointed out where to sign and initial. He mailed us our document package with our contract and everything in it, AFTER the contract rescission period had passed! After receiving the contract, we learned that everything told to us during the sales presentation contradicted what was in the contract! We have tried to make the best of it, but it’s been two years now without making a dime on our “investment” and we could not refinance or get tax breaks.

We tried calling Westgate to give it back but they said I would have to find a buyer myself. There is no rental program. There is no resale program. The program is hard to use and we are done with it.

Another reason I bought was to be able to travel with my family at an affordable price. Our rep told me that I would be able to exchange property locations at any time and go anywhere if I had Interval International and all the travel extras for free or very cheap. In reality, properties were ALWAYS booked. I was told I should book 11 months out to reserve my stay. In this day and age of Airbnb and Expedia, that is just not realistic or flexible.

I’ve read other owners’ testimonies. They all seem to share our story. We feel the way the product was sold to us was unfair and deceptive. It’s bad enough that people can’t get rid of a timeshare, it’s yours for life, but promising rental income and tax breaks that do not exist seems criminal.

After we wrote Westgate a letter of complaint, Westgate spent months informing us by email that they were looking into our contract. They did not reply until we filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Westgate said that they had replied to us by letter (which they hadn’t), explaining that ‘timeshare real estate sales are highly regulated,’ pointing to the AOR document with my initials.

Westgate said that it ‘absolutely holds its employees responsible for the things they do and say, however, supporting documentation is required.’ What documentation would there be – a letter from the rep with his signature confessing his misrepresentations? Needless to say the BBB closed our case swiftly and we are now hoping that the Attorney General will help us. If the Attorney General won’t help, that means the sales reps can say anything to make a sale and get away with it. I feel this is criminal.

I have no hope or faith that Westgate will respond to us. I do wonder what the point of the Better Business Bureau is, if they regularly side with Westgate when there is so much precedent on their own forum with so many Westgate buyers describing deception and misrepresentations.

Thank you to the Dashiell’s for sharing their experience. Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a timeshare experience to share. When sold honestly, a timeshare can be of great benefit to a family. Families, who feel they bought a timeshare based on inaccurate information, letting their voice be heard, may save another family from making a timeshare decision they will live to regret. 

      

If you have a similar story and want to share it it others, contact Inside Timeshare using our contact page and we will get back to you.

Have you had a call from a company promising you the earth, want to know if they and what they say is genuine?

Have you found a company on the internet that claims they can get you out of your timeshare and get your money back?

Not sure how to check if they are genuine and will actually deliver what they say, then contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

Start the Week: Litigaciones SL A New Name in the Litigious Abogados Family

Another New Name in the Litigious Abogados Family has now come to light, Litigaciones SL with the website:

http://litigaciones.com

This was registered on 5 July 2018, so is only a couple of months old, with the registrant not being shown, as usual it is exactly the same layout and wording as all the others that have come before. The only difference are the photographs of the “new lawyers”. Also according to the homepage the company was founded on Monday 30th August 1990 by Alberto Dilendro Nabalez, now that date in 1990 was actually a Thursday. They also claim to be legally registered in Spain and the Canary Islands with the following CIF number A19626885, which cannot be found on any company registration website.

The address that is shown is one we have seen before with about 4 other companies of this group of “fakes”:

4, Calle de S. Francisco, 4, Santa Cruz, 38001-38002, Tenerife

They use the following telephone numbers:

Freephone: 0800 862 0 314

Tenerife Tel: 0034 822 680 013

The email addresses are as usual not connected to the website but are consultant.com a free email address provider:

[email protected]

[email protected]

Below are the photos of the new lawyers the first being the founder of the company:

Alberto Dilendro Nabalez (Actually identified as López Saavedra of Villarroel Abogados Argentina)

Manuel Rintlas Quejon (This is actually a Florida lawyer called David Haenel)

Valentine Afelergo Barille (Currently unidentified)

Juan Ilominan Ovuso (This is actually Argentinian Lawyer Alberto Niseman, who was assassinated in 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Nisman )

On the contact page they show pictures of two young ladies who you will be taking your calls:

Vittoria Tetazi Normez (Actual person identified as Johanna M. Herrero, Born Argentina, and runs a law firm in Boston USA, http://www.johannaherrerolaw.com/attorneys-1/ )

Maria Gosadema Raviya (At present unidentified)

The format of the “fraud” is the same as previously reported on these pages, a case has been lodged with the court in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, on this occasion it is against Petchey Leisure Group. The trial is set for Tuesday 9 October 2018, and the amount being claimed is 18,221€. If the client wishes to go ahead, (which is rather strange, because unless the client had started legal action in the first place no case could have been lodged), they must first pay a “refundable fee” of 784€ to the Court Procurators directly. In this case the procuradores is named as Ramon Gomez and his bank details have been provided, (as usual it will be to his personal account).

So there you have it, another fake website for a fake law firm, once again using photographs of genuine people with fictitious names to try and give credibility. But as usual Inside Timeshare brings you the truth about them and exposes them for what they are “criminals”.

Have you been contacted by a similar firm telling you your timeshare company is being prosecuted or has already been taken to court, have they told you that there is a substantial amount of money lodged with the court, just waiting for you?

If so, contact Inside Timeshare first, do not pay any money, especially by bank transfer, use our contact page and send us the details, we will check them out and publish our findings. It is through your information that others will be warned.

Tomorrow in the Tuesday Slot,we highlight another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, a family’s experience with Westgate. So join us tomorrow.

 

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.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Richard Cordray

Timeshare Developers and ARDA vs the Timeshare Consumer

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ALEC – What’s a Corporate Bill Mill?

Part I – The Manhattan Club

Part II – Marriott and Florida legislation Tuesday, November 28

By Irene Parker

November 21

Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an agency that overreached or a necessary protection for consumers?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Director Richard Cordray recently announced his resignation. Timeshare members not familiar with the CFPB may remember 3.4 million Wells Fargo customers receiving restitution from unauthorized credit card accounts being opened that allowed Wells Fargo representatives to meet incentive targets. CFPB conducted that investigation.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/15/richard-cordray-resigns-consumer-financial-protection-bureau-24493/

Timeshare today seems as polarized as Democrats vs the GOP. Given the corporate driven political climate in Washington DC, it is unlikely Cordray’s replacement will bolster the agency’s power or recourse for timeshare consumers.

Timeshare members have not benefitted from the CFPB like the Wells Fargo victims. The opening of an unauthorized credit card is annoying, but probably not financially devastating. The majority of our 209 Inside Timeshare readers, reaching out to us for advice, are often financially devastated by their decision to purchase a timeshare or continuing to own one. The perpetual contract, accompanied by rising maintenance fees and little or no secondary market can spell disaster, especially if sold by deceit.

Still, timeshare members appreciate the CFPB’s interest in hearing timeshare complaints. The CFPB did initiate a Westgate timeshare investigation that lasted two years, only to be dropped after the 2016 presidential election. Call me suspicious, but seeing Westgate owner David Siegel pictured left of Mr. Trump on the stump during the campaign, while the Trump organization simultaneously launched a timeshare in Scotland, seems beyond coincidental.

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Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s name was mentioned in the Politico article linked above as a possible Cordray replacement. Given Florida’s current legislative and timeshare enforcement climate, timeshare members have little to cheer should a former or current Florida elected official be named director. In our opinion, Ms. Bondi has done little to address deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale. As Inside Timeshare previously reported, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints received from April 2014 to April 2016.

In contrast, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club members, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich $800,000 for Diamond Resort members, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III $3 million for Festiva members, and other smaller settlements by Colorado, Wisconsin and Missouri Attorneys General.

Despite AG settlements that seem mere financial speed bumps in the life of a timeshare corporation, timeshare members are hopeful our grassroots efforts to educate lawmakers will someday bear fruit.

The Manhattan Club investigation was one member vs developer battle over lack of availability and other concerns that led to the $6.5 million settlement. TMC owners were banned from the timeshare industry as part of the agreement. While the settlement was hailed as a significant accomplishment, Douglas Wasser, an attorney involved with the investigation is not so sure:

The $6.5 million was set aside for the benefit of “hundreds of purchasers” as a restitution fund.  But The Manhattan Club has upwards of 14,700 unit owners.  So, the pool of Manhattan Club owners entitled to a purchase refund may be a very small one.

The forced divestiture by the current sponsor of control over the Manhattan Club could be a lift for the entire community. Given the lack of confidence in the current reservation system and the many complaints that the reservation system was heavily tilted to benefit the sponsor, this seems like a significant positive to the Manhattan Club community.  It may restore confidence, perhaps drive up market value of the units and allow those who want to leave to do so, and bring in new and willing participants.   

Will it be uplifting for all timeshare members?

Inside Timeshare and other advocates expect little improvement given the polarity that exists between member advocacy groups and ARDA, the American Resort Development Association. I have personally forwarded close to 100 complaints to ARDA, prepared by members alleging timeshare sales agents violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics, which have been ignored.

The two resorts which seem to have the highest volume of complaints each give ARDA ROC, the supposed owner’s arm of ARDA, $1million dollars a year through “voluntary” opt out donations. It took until November to have my $7 removed. When I contacted my resort to have the donation removed, it was instead moved to another account and reported as a delinquency on that account. When members ask what ARDA ROC is, members are told it is a nonprofit that helps members. However, ARDA seemed to be on the side of TMC developers.

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The picture above shows two ARDA attorneys observing a TMC meeting and taking notes. The notes may have later turned into an amicus brief written by a high ranking executive member and attorney for ARDA attempting to defend TMC.  In the brief, Robb Webb described the company’s practices as “routine industry transactions” and, according to one source, drafted some TMC original documents.

Our readers would agree false promises and shady sales tactics are often routine industry practices or transactions, but members are alarmed ARDA defended such practices. In the settlement, the Manhattan Club defendants acknowledged that they misled buyers about availability and the ability to sell back the timeshare.

“The owners of the Manhattan Club lured thousands of timeshare buyers with false promises and shady sales tactics that violated New York law,” Schneiderman said.

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

What’s a corporate bill mill and does such an entity play a role in timeshare?

On Friday in Part II we will examine how politics played a role in the Marriott racketeering case, as lawyers involved with the case suspect. It’s been reported backdoor politics contributed to a bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott that, in effect, rendered the Marriott case non-meritorious.

Unsure of the allegations, I researched lobby efforts and their influence on legislation and the possibility of timeshare participating in an ALEC type endeavor. Georgia Senator Nan Orrock described ALEC as “a corporate bill mill.” ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council.

According to Senator Orrock, ALEC is an organization that gets money from lobbyists and gives the money to legislatures and it is considered charity. Three lawmakers, mentioned in this video, received $22,000 in “scholarships” from ALEC, considered an educational charity. The YouTube is disturbing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNA0-GBuunc

The timeshare PAC ARDA also has a charitable educational organization called AIF ARDA International Fund. I don’t know enough about AIF to parallel it to ARDA, but the legislative action in the Marriott case seems similar.

http://www.arda.org/foundation/

Open Secrets list ARDA’s contributions to political candidates:  

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00358663

So where do we go from here and why can’t we all just get along? Has greed so permeated timeshare and American politics that a working relationship between timeshare members and developers or between the rich and the not rich, is as unlikely as Bernie Sanders and President Trump coming to terms over health care?

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Fortunately, the court of public opinion is still open as long as the first amendment stands while timeshare members keep coming forward filing regulatory complaints and reaching out to the media if they feel they have been harmed. Someday, somewhere, someone will listen. Until then, we build our case brick by brick.

If you or someone you know needs help with a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or a self-help advocacy Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene, as usual you explain things in a way that is easily understood, we look forward to Part II next week.

Start the Week

Welcome to another new week in the world of timeshare, tomorrow Irene Parker has prepared an article following the news that Richard Cordray has stepped down from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Part I is about the Manhattan Club, She begins with what the CFPB has done, including the investigation into Westgate, which was conveniently dropped after two years. But more on that tomorrow.

tribunal supremo

In Friday’s Letter from America, we began with the usual roundup from Europe, with the latest court cases. At the end of the day the news came in, too late for publishing, of yet another Supreme Court ruling being issued from Madrid.

In this case, Silverpoint have been ordered to return over £61,000 plus legal fees and interest to another client. The contract was also declared null and void, at present we do not have the full details of the sentence, but it would appear that the contract breached the timeshare law on several points.

As usual the main point will be the length of the contract, the law states that contract must be no longer than 50 years in duration, so the perpetuity contracts sold by Silverpoint contravene this. Once again the Supreme Court has made its point.

los claveles logo

On the story of Los Claveles in Tenerife, Inside Timeshare has received some comments from other members who do not appear to be in agreement with the Committee. They are either neutral or feel that Wimpen has acted in good faith.

Well, there are always two sides to any story or dispute, not all will agree, Inside Timeshare is happy to publish opposing views. We will also be looking into this and preparing a full article in due course.

In the meantime there is a link below which will start the ball rolling in bringing another side to the story and hopefully a little balance.

Inside Timeshare does try to get other views, quite often other parties do not respond, many emails are sent but no reply is ever received. Telephone calls are terminated, usually with you are through to the wrong department or even we don’t know anything about that. So thank you to those who did send in information.

http://www.losclaveles-alt.eu

 

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You have any comments or views on any article published, send them in using the contact form, we will either post them in the comments section or include them in any article.

Want to know if a company is genuine, once again contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.