Monday, December 10, 2018

Big Changes Proposed for “A Broken Industry “

After an 18 month investigation into timeshare practices in South Africa, the National Consumer Commission has released its report, containing their recommendations for what they call ‘a broken industry.’  

Here’s a link to an article which sums up the investigation. It’s well worth your time:  


Among the recommendations:

The practice of enticing or seducing consumers through purported freebies e.g. holiday vouchers, motor vehicles, free flights and similar items should be discontinued

All presentations made to consumers in the course of marketing should be recorded (visual/audio) and copies be kept and archived, in accordance with the Archives Act

The practice of requiring consumers to bring along credit cards to venues for marketing presentations should be outlawed and discontinued

The practice of inducing consumers into signing contracts under pressure, using ‘offers are valid for only today’ type threats  should be discontinued

At the point of sale, the seller should provide a clear and concise statement as part of its standard disclosures of the points’ value and the calculation behind it

In instances where a consumer could not secure holiday accommodation during any year, the consumer should pay a reduced levy/management fee

A platform should be created for cashing in, exchange and resale of points


Mind you, these are only recommendations but it seems to me that someone has been paying attention to the timeshare industry’s practices quite carefully. We can only hope that someone in this country does the same. It’s long overdue. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Maintenance Fee Gone Up? Here’s Why

Ah, the end of the year. The time when many of you are receiving your annual bill for your timeshare maintenance fees. Some of you are in for a nasty surprise.

Many of you are seeing a steep increase in your fees and may be asking why. For now, I’ll resist the impulse to ask you if you inquired about what the annual increase was capped at before you purchased, because I know full well only a tiny fraction of you did. 

Some of you may see an increase in fees for legitimate reasons such as improvements made to the property or the individual units. Some of you may see an increase in fees because the management company raised their fees. 

Many more of you may be seeing an increase in fees because too many of your fellow owners paid some self-proclaimed ‘exit company’ upwards of $5,000 to get out of their timeshare. 

These companies do irreparable harm to you, and all the other remaining owners. They may be successful in removing the owner off the deed, but the interest then sits unused and without maintenance fees paid on it. The more interests that aren’t being paid on, the more the resort increases the fees on the remaining interests. 

Don’t get me wrong; I still blame the industry for the very existence of these ‘exit’ companies. They continue to push contracts in perpetuity, the vast majority of the developers don’t offer a viable exit strategy and they do their best to suppress the secondary market. 

But the issue is that these ‘exit’ companies aren’t doing direct harm to the developers or the board of directors. They are doing direct harm to you and all the other owners. 

I have no respect for these ‘exit’ companies which are springing up at an astronomical rate. The fees that they charge are also rising. I just heard from someone who paid $12,000 to avoid paying a $954 annual fee on a fully paid timeshare. These companies and the people who work for, consult for and endorse these companies need to be stopped. 


History has clearly shown that the industry won’t shut these guys down, nor will state regulators. You and your fellow owners need to shut them down. Stop giving them your money and stop causing more harm to your fellow owners. 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Peppermint Mochas

In a recent article, I saw that Wyndham Destinations, one of the largest developers in the timeshare industry, is claiming that a timeshare is the same price as, to quote, “A Peppermint Mocha Per Day”. 

That math falls apart almost immediately when you look at the way they calculated this.  Again, to quote, “The average cost of a Wyndham timeshare is $21,000, plus annual maintenance fees from $725 over the course of 40 years, which is equivalent to $3.40 each day. Financing costs and loan length are not considered.”  

Fab. How many people are paying cash for their timeshare?  Most are paying the ‘convenient’ 14, 15 or 16% interest offered by the developer. Oh, and they didn’t factor in the cost of the annual increases in maintenance fees. And they didn’t factor in the cost of making a reservation using the timeshare, nor the cost of membership in an exchange company nor for that matter, the cost of making an exchange with the exchange company. 


In my opinion, in trying to make a timeshare appear inexpensive-which it isn’t-they only succeeded in sounding desperate. Surely they can do better, can’t they?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

How to Combat Sales Psychology

This blog post will not name a specific resort, developer, salesperson or any identifying details for a reason-I want to look at the industry as a whole as well as consumer behavior as a whole. 

Why do otherwise smart consumers routinely plop down thousands of dollars without doing a modicum of research, yet easily find online sites that clearly show that other consumers were lied to only after the fact?  The internet has made information available to us as no time in the past. Why don’t we take advantage of this information?

Here’s part of a consumer’s original complaint, again, with all identifying details redacted:

I tried calling XXX hospitality today and guess what? Nobody ever answers the phone there - particularly our salesperson. 

Has anyone else been scammed by this new 10 year Intro points product?
This is a 10 year product, so not perpetual, 7500 points we were told were the same as US Collection, but our contract states we can only stay at three resorts unless we pay more money to join XXX which was not disclosed to us by the sales agent. The maintenance fees are billed separately.   

#1 The sales agent said Intro points were just like US Collection points. We could stay anywhere the same. There are 56 US Collections properties, but our Intro contract only says we can stay at three, and the one highlighted as our primary, NAME OF RESORT, is closed! NAME OF DEVELOPER had to know this resort is closed.  But they sold us the contract anyways. 

#2 We said we were primarily interested in being able to stay specifically at NAME OF RESORT. We understand booking is based on availability. 

#3 NAME OF SALESPERSON from NAME OF DEVELOPER said we can stay in Vegas but our contract still states only three resorts unless we pay more to join NAME OF INTERNAL EXCHANGE SYSTEM. How much are these fees? 

I have read so many complaints from so many existing NAME OF DEVELOPER members on so many complaint sites, there are far fewer complaints for the branded timeshare names like Hilton or Marriott, Disney, compared to NAME OF DEVELOPERS who seem to be the masters of deception . 

Based on the knowledge that this company is so despised by their own customers, I have no intention of honoring this contract based on how we have been treated, the disparity between what the sales agents promised and what the contract stated, knowing NAME OF DEVELOPER allows sales agents to say anything to sell points, makes us uncomfortable with this contract. 

We will be filing a follow up complaint with the Canadian Vacation Owners Association and with the appropriated US regulatory agencies. 

The public needs to be made aware that NAME OF DEVELOPER sales agents can make up anything to sell points. The fact that the agent told us we could stay anywhere, knowing there were only three locations stated in the contract is unfair and deceptive.

I addressed this woman’s issues/complaint as follows:

Please don’t take this the wrong way. Your post clearly indicates that you have the mental acuity to do all sorts of research AFTER the fact. 

My question to you-and to just about every other person who purchases a timeshare to find out the truth after the rescission period is over-is why didn’t you do any research prior to purchasing?

I just do not understand why consumers do not do even a cursory internet search into a company to see if there are a history of complaints against them. 

I appreciate your response and again, I mean nothing disparaging. The psychology of the entire industry continues to baffle me.

Her answer is quite illuminating:

Lisa Ann Schreier hi thank you for your comment.  We had no plans to purchase a timeshare and was on vacation.  NAME OF RESORT is a very aggressive timeshare organization from the hotel clerks to their welcome desk. We booked the hotel through Expedia. Not being from Nevada I was not aware of the recession period and was not told about this either.  There were no warning signs during the sales presentation that we were being scammed until we read the contract after the rescission period. 

I had no idea that NAME OF DEVELOPER was this crooked!!  people normally do not research timeshare companies before they go on vacation!!  If NAME OF DEVELOPER stands behind what they are selling there would not be a need for the fraudulent practices that they employ to get a sales.  People that are interested in timeshares as a vacation style would invest their money.  But when greed gets in the way and sales agents are allowed to use whatever lies they want to get commission on a sale - you have to wonder about the integrity of the company.  

You are right - I have the mental acuity to understand what was happening and yet I still got scammed! And that's the psychology part of timeshare sales.  But that is why this site exists and the work done by advocates is so important for educating people about timeshares and what to watch out for.

Interesting answer. Now, I don’t condone any salesperson from any developer withholding information or flat out lying. Having said that, there’s absolutely no reason for a consumer to walk into a timeshare presentation “unarmed.”  Do some research. Read some books. Talk to some owners. Ask the right questions. Demand to see answers to those questions in the written contract. Don’t sign anything electronically. Remember you, not the salesperson is in charge. 


Timeshare knowledge is timeshare power. Use it. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Epic Hospitality Fail

Epic FAIL in terms of hospitality at this resort. (This is a verbatim report from a timeshare owner that I’m reprinting in full here both to embarrass the resort personnel and developer involved and to warn consumers to avoid the concierge/hospitality desk when checking in and demand to get your room key from the check in desk.)

Nightmare checking into Royal Kona yesterday!  Before arriving I got a sales call for a whole day of activities etc. for $99.00. I said that I would be interested but didn’t know for sure I would be able to because my husband didn’t know if he was going to make it.  “No problem” said the sales guy.  “If he can’t we’ll just cancel your reservation”.  

But when I checked in, the activities concierge Kamakani Pua said we needed to go over the paperwork for the activities that I signed up for.  I said I called and cancelled it because my husband couldn’t come with me.  He was immediately rude and said I couldn’t cancel because I already agreed to it.  He kept insisting I sign a paper regarding the promotion.  I said I wouldn’t sign it because I cancelled it and I can’t go.  He said he would not give me my room keys unless I signed the paper!!! I had been flying for 12 hours.  I was exhausted and by myself for the first time.  

I asked to speak to  the guy who told me I could cancel and he said he wasn’t available.  I asked for a manager and he refused that too. He was extremely rude.  He said I needed proof and I needed to show him a email or something to prove it.  And then he says, all the calls are recorded, we can pull it up to see if you agreed to this.  I said, awesome!  Get the recording!  He said he’d have to go through customer service, etc. and was raising his voice.  But never did it.  I finally signed it and figured I’d call the credit card company to make sure they didn’t charge me.  

As soon as I got to my room the same guy who was yelling at me Kamakani Pua called and said he cancelled it and I wouldn’t be charged and that he’s sending me a confirmation email.  No explanation, no apology, and no email.  The only email I received was one to join Greenback.  


It was such a nightmare I’m still so upset that he wouldn’t give me my room keys!!  Needless to say we will NEVER agree to do another sales presentation no matter what they offer!  I’ve never been treated so poorly and with such disrespect in my life.  When I was walking away a family stopped me and said they overheard what was going on and said they were having a huge problem too.  Something about their keys not working after a few days and it was a nightmare.  Not sure what that was about because I was so upset about what just happened to me I couldn’t even talk.  We’ve never had any problems with resorts or presentations till now.  I recommend you do NOT stay at the Royal Kona.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Another (Non) Isolated Incident

This is not my story, but the story of a daughter who has become an advocate based on the truly horrible way her parents have been treated.  

I’d like to say this is an isolated incident. It isn’t. It seems to be happening more and more. 

After my parents purchased 17,000 timeshare points in 2014 for $49,492, for no reason, I started looking into their transactions. 

In 2018 I accompanied them to a timeshare presentation at the company they had invested in. I took notes under the table. 

"I am writing this at my parent's last timeshare update March 13, 2018. I am convinced my parents, at age 83 and 79, would have purchased 30,000 additional timeshare vacation points for $234,295 had I not been with them. This offer required a down payment of $69,993. I kept the paper of these terms under the table because members are not allowed to walk out with hand-written notes."

My dad was not feeling well that day. He falls asleep in his wheelchair and had spent six months in the hospital after a heart attack. The stress over this expense has caused my parents' health to deteriorate further.

I first learned of their timeshare purchase when my mom told me they had purchased an investment. She said they had invested in property. I called the company when my dad said they wanted to sell some points. When I asked how to go about selling points, the agent laughed at me.

Like many, my parents used their timeshare for years without complaint. They said they were told they had to give up their deed and buy vacation points. I've learned they did not have to do that. Since then their annual maintenance fees have increased from $2,600 to $4,600.

When the collection calls started, I changed their phone number because they made my mom so upset. She still shakes when she hears the phone ring. She has never been late on paying a bill in her life, so this has caused her to lose weight and lose sleep. I learned my mom's entire Social Security check goes to pay the timeshare mortgage. We have learned their timeshare has no secondary market value.

What they bought:
4,000 points purchased in 3/12/2013 for $20,416
2500 points purchased in 6/25/2013 for $8,325
2500 points purchased in 7/29/2013 for $8,616
15000 trial points 5/4/2014 for $2,995
At ages 79 and 75 they were sold a trial program?

When I called the company and told them that they needed to take back this last purchase at the very least, they said they would work with us but had to talk to my parents directly. 

What did they do -- they sold my parents 17,000 more points over the phone at then ages 79 and 75 for $49,492. My parents said they were told they could not cancel the trial program, but the points could be added to something else. This is why they are in foreclosure. The caller said they would need to attach the trial points to another program. I could not believe it. Their new maintenance fees are $4,780.


My parents are not stupid people. My parents have never had financial problems until now. This situation and this timeshare developer have made me what I am today-a timeshare advocate who will do whatever she can to warn others of these horrible practices. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Manhattan Club Update From Attorney

I’m reprinting this verbatim from the attorney’s office now handling the case.

Zimmerman Law Group Update to TMC Members:

Dear TMC Members: We are writing to provide an update on our progress in the TMC suit.

As many of you know, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Robert Tucker, who was candidate for a non-sponsor Board position, to obtain TMC’s member list (presently maintained in confidence by TMC) in an effort to communicate with other members about remediating and obtaining redress for the wrongs TMC’s Sponsor admitted committing.

A hearing in Mr. Tucker’s case is next scheduled for December 12. While his lawsuit is not part of the action for which we have been retained by other members, Mr. Tucker may make this list available for contacting and organizing timeshare members. We are also engaged in other efforts to obtain the member list from TMC. Obtaining the list will eliminate the stranglehold that TMC’s Sponsor and management presently have on communications between members and allow members to organize and assert their rights. We therefore expect to soon be able to communicate directly with all TMC members about our planned suit. To date, only the Sponsor and management substantially benefit from the continued existence of TMC in its current form. We seek to change that. Our plan is to access the equity locked in the TMC building in addition to seeking damages from the Sponsor and management for their respective wrongs, including charging excessive maintenance fees, renting members’ rooms online to the public while denying preference to members, and otherwise rendering TMC timeshares worthless and thus unsaleable.

To move forward, we require additional members to retain us, beyond the several dozen who have already done so. Therefore, we ask that our supporters assist us in communicating our message to other members. When we reach sufficient scale, we will then be able to cost-effectively utilize all of our capabilities, to overturn the status quo at TMC and obtain relief.

Simply defaulting on timeshare maintenance fee payments and hoping that you can walk away from your TMC interest without any adverse consequence is not a viable option. Despite online posts reporting that members have been contacted by TMC about being able to do just that, recent comments from Shawn Person, CEO of Bluegreen Vacations, Inc. which now manages TMC seems to indicate otherwise. Specifically, during an analyst earnings call on November 5, 2018, Mr. Pearson stated that Bluegreen was “tak[ing] a proactive stance towards” timeshare exit firms who claim

“that they can eliminate owner obligations and encourage delinquencies and owner defaults. Our new Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, Jorge de la Osa, who joined us in June with substantial industry experience, is already making progress, as is the entire timeshare industry who are also focused on the issue. Multiple third-party timeshare exit firms have now filed termination of representation notices relating to more than 205 vacation club owner contracts. In addition, it was recently announced that the founder of one of the higher volume law firms involved in these activities was disbarred by the Supreme Court of Tennessee, and another of the firms declared bankruptcy”

Bluegreen indicates that it is “encouraged with the results of our strategy to date and intend to continue fighting” efforts by or on behalf of members to avoid paying maintenance fees “by aggressively addressing this industry-wide problem.” Similarly, during this same call, Bluegreen’s SVP Mr. Anthony Puleo stated that “while it is still early we believe, our more aggressive stance and other default initiatives show promise.”

Therefore, defaulting on timeshare maintenance fee payments is not the answer. We are not asking our clients to pay us to simply get them out of their contract. We are not an “exit firm”. Rather, we are seeking to recover damages, as well as equity value, and impose penalties on those who have wrongfully profited from TMC members. In the end, liquidation of our clients’ timeshare interest is clearly a goal, but we believe our clients should be paid. BlueGreen’s public statements about its aggressive stance towards defaulting members are a challenge we intend to meet.

As an incentive to increase the number of members who retain us, we are in discussions with a litigation funding firm to provide us with an alternative to the retainer terms we have offered to date. While this non-recourse funding could mitigate any up-front fees, doing so would require that members relinquish a portion of any recovery to the funding company larger than the 30% we have sought.

Please contact us if you would like further details, or wish to join the suit. Thank you.

Jean-Marc Zimmerman Zimmerman Law Group 233 Watchung Fork Westfield, NJ 07090 T: (908) 768-6408 F: (908) 935-0751 E: jmz@tmcsuit.com