Timeshare: The Road to Being Scammed

Timeshare is probably the only product that is sold on lies, misinformation and pressure, but it doesn’t end there. Once you have purchased it you are now open to being “scammed” by those on the periphery, more often than not the very same salespeople who sold it in the first place. Today we take a quick look at the pitfalls of owning a timeshare and the never-ending demand for your hard-earned cash.

You have all attended a presentation, after all, you are owners of a timeshare or a member of a vacation club, although there are some who did go out with the intention of purchasing. These are usually timeshares on offer from resale companies or private individuals who advertise on eBay or similar sites. For this group, their first encounter with “timeshare sales reps” is likely to be on their first holiday using the timeshare.

The vast majority of purchasers’ first encounter with timeshare will be the “ticket touts”, that hang around on street corners usually near hotels and resorts, bus terminals and railway stations. with their tempting “scratch cards”. With these cards “everyone’s” a winner of the “star prize”, usually a holiday, well it is actually just free accommodation and you must also attend yet another presentation, known as the “tour”.

These “ticket touts” are known as OPCs, Off-Premises Canvassers, to the sales reps they are known as “Over Paid Crettins”, well, that is the polite form I have to use here. Their job is to entice you to attend a “90-minute” presentation and obviously, that is the only way you can collect your “star prize”. For this, they are very well paid, Inside Timeshare knows of many OPCs who have earned over 600€ a day, that is a lot of money I hear you say, but when each UP, (Unit Prospect), that is you the punter, is worth anything from 100€ to 200€, depending on the timeshare sales company, they only need to bring in one or two a day and they can live very well. Then they will usually get a “deal bonus” if you purchase.

This is where the first of the “misrepresentations” come into play, with the amount of money they can earn, anything goes. Over the years we have heard so many stories on what you the “UP” have been told, it would take several articles to list them all, so we will give you some of the most common.

The first lie is usually “no it’s not timeshare”, followed by “it’s a new hotel and they are holding an open day to get peoples opinions”. Sometimes the OPC will ask the question “would you like to know how you can holiday in 5-star luxury for the price of 3-star?” Well, that is very enticing and so off you go with the OPC, who you don’t know, get into a taxi and are driven somewhere you don’t know and all of this in a foreign country!

Now you arrive at the resort and are handed over to reception, here is where you are “qualified”, which means you will be questioned. The most important ones are, you have a credit card, preferably on your person, that you are married, in employment and at one time homeowners, council rentals were not desirable.

Then you are passed to one of the sales reps, if you fulfilled the criteria you will be a “qualified UP”, with those not fulfilling the criteria being labelled as a “courtesy tour”, often this “tour” is used for training purposes with new reps or those that didn’t meet their targets, this one is commonly known as “being put on the numbers”. The rep then has so many tours and must deal a certain number or they will be terminated. I know some of you wish the other meaning, but it is their continued employment.

During this “presentation”, which will usually last for more than 3 hours and not the original 90-minutes, you will be subtly “interrogated”. From the job you do, this gives them an indication of your earnings, how many holidays you take, how much you usually spend, where you tend to go, along with many other questions which will give the rep the tools to sell.

Now is where the real misinformation starts, we will mention only the most common here, because being timeshare owners you will more than likely have heard so many.

One which Inside Timeshare has heard from purchasers so often is they actually believed they were purchasing a “part ownership” of a property, that they were also “part owners” of the resort. In a way, when the old fixed week, fixed apartment system was the norm, this was almost true. Your purchase of the week and apartment would be registered in the land registry, not actually making you an “owner”, but it was in fact a way of monitoring the number of sales for each week and apartment. Legally they could only sell 51 weeks in each apartment.

With the advent of points and floating weeks, this pitch did not change, although you actually owned nothing apart from the right to use. You became a member of a vacation club just as you would by joining a golf club.

Then we have the standard, most commonly used is the “resort is a 5-star”, well, this is not strictly speaking true. The star system is for hotels, each star represents the quality and service that you can expect. Star ratings are given on the accommodation, facilities and the level of dining service among other things.

RCI, one of the major exchange companies, uses the following system. This is taken from the RCI website:

faqs

Gold Crown Resort® Award: Select RCI® affiliated resorts are recognized as RCI Gold Crown Resort properties – the highest of the three RCI Award Designations. The RCI Gold Crown Resort award designates resorts that have met or exceeded specific standards in the areas of unit housekeeping, unit maintenance, hospitality and check-in/check-out procedures, and an evaluation of resort facilities, amenities and services.

faqs

RCI Silver Crown Resort® Award: Resorts that have achieved excellence in providing outstanding vacation experiences for RCI subscribing members receive the RCI Silver Crown Resort award. This award designates resorts that have met or exceeded specific standards in the areas of unit housekeeping, unit maintenance, resort maintenance, hospitality and check-in/check-out procedures.

faqs

RCI Hospitality Award: The RCI Hospitality Award is presented for consistently high ratings in the check-in/check-out and hospitality categories.

A totally different rating system, after all the vast majority of timeshare resorts, are self-catering, so would not achieve the 4 or 5-star ratings of hotels.

This in itself may not be a major issue, but it is misinformation, to say the least.

Quite often the “UP”, may ask about a change in circumstances, where they no longer want the timeshare. The stock answer is that the timeshare company will “buy it back”. This will be followed by “for the price you paid”, sometimes more, which then links it with the original lie that you “own” property or real estate.

Unfortunately, this particular “lie” will not be known for many years when you decide that you no longer need it and want to get out.

After many hours of “pressure sales”, you end up signing the contract, pay for it and off you jolly well go. Now is where the after-sales problems start.

Not only are you then required to attend meetings with the “in-house” reps, where you will be pressured into “upgrading”, either more weeks, points and or, bigger apartments, your details will end up being sold to others.

“We want your Timeshare” sign near Puerto Rico on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands

In the past, the most common of these was resale, companies, quite often set up by sales reps. There were many of these around, one of the most prolific operators was based on the Costa del Sol. This was Tony Muldoon, who had a string of companies one of which was Platinum Properties.

It began with a cold call, with the sales pitch that your timeshare is the most sought after and has increased in value considerably, working on the pitch from the original sale, perpetuating the “owning of property” myth.

You will be promised and given a very good price, usually a few thousand more than you paid, you may also be told that sales go through very quickly. Just in case this does not happen, the “deposit” you pay, yes there is an advanced payment to sign up, this will be refunded in full at the end of 12 months. So what have you got to lose and so you pay.

At the end of the 12 months, your timeshare has not been sold, you try to get your refund, only to find that you are unable to contact the company, phone numbers have changed or they have just simply disappeared and now come under a new name. You now realise you have been scammed.

Then came the resale with a “corporate” buyer, who really wants your timeshare, as many of you will already know, there would be the requirement to attend a “presentation”.

This presentation will involve another “sales pitch” this time for a “discount holiday club. There were many of these in varying guises, from Designer Way Vacation Club to Monster Credits, a Mark Rowe invention.

At this “presentation” they explain that they will take over your timeshare, leaving you maintenance-free, but in order to do this, you must first purchase their product. You will be promised the same standard of accommodation, usually in timeshare resorts, along with an annual “admin or membership charge”. DWVC was originally £75 per year.

For so many people who went for this option, it was not until a few years later that they found out they also still owned the timeshare and were now several years in arrears on maintenance. This then brought threats of legal action to recover the debt.

Today we have “exit & claims” companies, all promising the same thing, termination of your contract and a claim for “compensation” once it is terminated.

The proliferation of these types of companies has increased over the past few years, mainly due to the success of genuine law firms in the courts. Again many have been started by ex-timeshare sales reps and sales managers, mostly due to the redundancies from the closure of the sales decks.

These companies present themselves as “legal consultants”, “paralegals”, “notaries” and even “law firms”. They employ many techniques, some more sophisticated than others, such as the bogus law firms dubbed The Litigious Abogados Family. They use fake court documents which to the untrained eye look genuine, some even claim to be working on behalf of the courts or National Banks such as Banco de España.

Unfortunately, many timeshare owners are so desperate to get out, they believe the “pitch” and lose thousands in the process.

Unlike purchasing any other product, let’s say a car, with timeshare you actually don’t know anything about it until it is too late. With a car, all the specifications are there to see, provided by the manufacturer, you can actually make an informed decision.

So with knowing what you know now about timeshare, would you have made the decision to buy!

Somehow I don’t think so.

For further information on this subject or any of the articles published, please use our contact page. If you would like to find out what your legal rights are in respect of making a claim or just terminating your contract, please get in touch and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.


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