In todays article Karen Garello shares her experience as a Secret Shopper at a timeshare presentation. Most restaurants, bars and supermarkets are familiar with this concept, it is a useful tool for improving service. The first the staff know about it is when the report is filed by the Mystery Shopper.
The idea is that the staff, sales people, waiters even managers, have no idea, so it gives a very true reflection of service, it also keeps everyone on their toes, especially when you know that your firm employs these mystery people. Inside imeshare hopes you enjoy the article from our new contributor.
Secret Timeshare Shopper
By Karen Garello
June 22, 2017
If you are reading this article, there’s a good chance you bought a timeshare based on something a timeshare sales agent said that was not true. You probably already know about the oral representation clause that states, “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase” which allows the sales agents to say anything to sell vacation points. Even with proof, the timeshare developer can still fall back on that clause.
After what happened to me, I have decided to become a Secret Shopper to report sales agents that are untruthful, as well as sales agents that do tell the truth, and to collect stories from other Secret Shoppers. Our Timeshare Advocacy Group’s new Secret Shopper program has been in existence since March when Laurie Sabbagh published our first Secret Shopper report.
But here’s what happened to me
I bought a Diamond Sampler product. This is a program that allows you to use a set number of points to try out a vacation plan. Since it is a trial program, the buyer is not locked into a perpetual contract. You do have to attend a sales presentation when you stay at one of the company’s resorts.
I attended a sales presentation at Polo Towers in Las Vegas. My first sales agent was Greg. Greg was respectful when I said I did not want to buy any more timeshares since I was already a Starwood member. He turned me over to Aries. I am a Filipino occupational therapist. Aries is Filipino. Aries offered me 20,000 Diamond points to try out the Diamond program because I was a Starwood member. He said they wanted to give me the points so that I would have an opportunity to compare Diamond’s program to Starwood. I have never had any problems with Starwood, so I had no need to buy additional vacation points. Still, it couldn’t hurt to compare.
Aries said I should open a Diamond Barclay MasterCard. The company was going to give me 20,000 vacation points. I saw no harm in filling out the credit card application. While I was putting my initials on a small piece of paper, I did notice the figure of $3,995 and asked what this amount referred to. Aries said it was the limit on the Master Card. I left with no paperwork.
Leaving the sales presentation, I was elated. Aries told me he was also going to give me a cruise and a $200 restaurant coupon. I called my cousin and told her this Filipino guy gave me 20,000 vacation points, a $200 restaurant coupon, and a cruise! I was embarrassed to later tell my cousin what really happened.
When I arrived home, I was shocked to see a charge for $3,995 on the BarclayCard. The statement said I had purchased a Sampler. Not only had I not heard the word Sampler before, I never heard the word purchase or buy mentioned throughout the entire sales presentation. I called Diamond thinking there must have been some kind of mix-up. I spoke with “Hospitality” agent Kayla. Kayla basically said, “Too bad, you signed a contract.”
Diamond Resorts has a new program called CLARITY™ which is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. How can the company claim to have this program when I have been treated this way?
Kayla kept repeating that I bought a Sampler. She said she would send me a copy of the contract. What contract? I walked out of Polo Towers with nothing.
What can I do to stop others from being harmed?
What happened to me wasn’t right. In my opinion, what happened to me was criminal. I began to research corporate fraud and found this on Wikipedia.
First, customers are “baited” by merchants advertising products or services at a low price, but when customers visit the store, they discover that the advertised goods either are not available or are not as good as expected, or the customers are pressured by salespeople to consider similar, but higher-priced, items (“switching”).
In my case, my switch wasn’t higher. I didn’t even know I bought anything!
According to a publication called the balance, unauthorized credit card charges include any type of charge to your credit card account that you didn’t give permission for. I should have called Barclays Bank right away instead of assuming Diamond Resorts would correct it.
Many of our Diamond member sponsored Advocacy Group members say they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. It is one thing to use a timeshare for a long time and just give it back, but many of our Facebook members have invested sometimes $50,000 or more saying they were deceived and found out only two weeks, two months or a year later. I hope others join our Advocacy Group to get the support and encouragement I received in the hope of educating the public as to what to watch out for when on vacation.
We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.
By Irene Parker
Thank you to Karen for joining our network of Secret Shoppers. The more people who uncover deceptive sales practices and report to regulatory and enforcement agencies, the more likely the industry will be forced to change. Public awareness and education through print and broadcast media can make a difference, as in the almost overnight appearance of a generic $200 Epipen.
It is legal to record a conversation in Arizona as long as one person is aware, according to Attorney Carrie Wilcox. “In the case of a telephone or in-person conversation, recording simply means making a copy of the conversation between two or more people. Recording is illegal in Arizona if NO party to the conversation knows that the conversation is being recorded. However, in Arizona, and this varies by state, if one party to the conversation knows that the conversation is being recorded, it is not illegal. However, bugging/wiretapping is always illegal. Don’t make assumptions about the law in other states -consult an attorney to determine what is allowed.”
The Law Office of Carrie M. Wilcox
There was a time we would never have thought people would not leave home without a phone in their pocket, briefcase or purse. Who knows? Maybe someday timeshare buyers will come equipped to timeshare sales presentations able to record with a blink of a contact lens eye!
Deceit and bait and switch tactics will probably always be part and parcel of timeshare, but once victimized, you feel you have to do something about it.
Inside Timeshare thanks Karen for her contribution and once again thanks to Irene for her editing. If you would like to share your experiences with others contact Inside Timeshare or Irene on the advocacy facebook page. We look forward to and welcome your views, by sharing it helps other to learn and see they are not alone.