Saturday, August 19, 2017

Exclusive Interview Regarding RCI's Acquisition of DAE

I don't know about you, but I was shocked to read of RCI's acquisition of Dial An Exchange (DAE) last week. I reached out to Francis Taylor, DAE's CEO for an exclusive interview. 

So, Francis---big news in the world of timeshare exchange. What can current DAE members expect both in the short term (3-6 months) and long term? 

Members can expect the same high level of customer service and attention they have always known and come to expect when dealing with our company. It is 'business as usual' and DAE's role won't change from being a service provider in the timeshare industry in the 'Exchange' space. We will continue to operate from our existing offices and keep our website for our members who enjoy working with us via website and online services. Going further forward our members can expect that exchange opportunities will be enhanced as we find our way through this new relationship of having new owners. There are a great many synergies between RCI and DAE and given we both operate in the same space there are some obvious areas in which we can co-exist and support each other to help grow our respective brands. Importantly this will raise member satisfaction levels when it comes to obtaining their desired exchange holidays. 

The companies have quite different business models as I know from working closely with you both for a number of years---what do you see as the biggest challenge to melding those two? Will DAE continue to have their call centers or will those be eliminated?


Yes, we do have very different business models and that's probably why we complement each other's business goals. We attract different demographic audiences.  DAE operates under a 'low cost' business model and we've been able to build on that niche in the market. DAE is primarily focused on direct-to-consumer transactions with individual timeshare owners and HOAs and that has worked for our brand for 20 years. 

So, melding the two is more about how we can collaborate behind the scenes to complement each other’s businesses and strengthening our back office capabilities to both drive our individual business goals and support the industry as a whole. DAE will continue to operate as a separate and individual brand and entity. We will retain different call centers to RCI, our own staff, our own color (we love blue!), our own style of marketing and customer service initiatives, and our own support programs of HOAs, resorts and infustry partners.

Going forward, when a consumer purchases a timeshare interest at an RCI affiliated resort, will they receive an RCI membership, a DAE membership or both? 

I don't expect dual memberships will be offered at time of sale to both as common place. RCI & DAE will compete for our business by offering our individual services, product range, and industry support programs as we currently do now. It's also timely to remember that individual timeshare owners have a choice of who they want to call on to provide an exchange service, just as we do as individuals in all areas of our lives when it comes to purchasing a product or service.



I know in the past there have been some issues with RCI Points members not being able to deposit and then use DAE for an exchange. I trust that these issues will no longer be a problem? 

It's still early days and we have many topics and issues that will need to be raised; examined to see where things sit; what makes sense; how we can cooperate to get the best result for both entities and allow consumers to benefit. As I said earlier, RCI & DAE are different businesses, with different drivers and ways of conducting business. We won't always agree on everything, and we each need to stay true to our own business models and the direction we're reaching to achieve.

Will DAE now begin to affiliate resorts as RCI does? 

DAE is happy with the way we interact and work with resorts. Our point of difference has always been to work with individual owners and do the very best we can for them. We've always found most resorts honor their owners’ wishes when it comes to working with an exchange provider so I'm not sure how much of a change will be considered going forward on this issue. 

Lastly, does this acquisition signal the start of more acquisitions in the future in your opinion? Are the days of the secondary and tertiary exchange companies coming to a close?

That's probably a question for others as DAE isn't looking to acquire another business. As for a future place for different sorts of exchange companies, yes, I believe there is. Our industry is as massive as it is global and humans are funny creatures. We like to have choice, we like working with people or a business with whom we feel a connection and comfortable, and in many cases, we like to work with somebody 'local'. With that said, it's hard to imagine in the 21st century that choice will be a word or option that disappears from our vocabulary!

Many thanks to Francis Taylor who took the time for this exclusive interview in what I can only assume is a busy time for him. 

So, timeshare owners---what are your thoughts on this development?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Big Changes

As most of you know, I started Timeshare Insights and the blog “The Word From The Timeshare Crusader” with one goal:  to be a catalyst for positive change within the timeshare industry.


I’m pleased to say that I’ve helped a lot of timeshare owners and prospective timeshare owners.  While I’ve garnered some terrific media coverage from such outlets as CNBC, The Chicago Tribune, Senior.com and WGN-TV, it’s not about the media coverage, it was always about helping consumers and attempting to move the timeshare industry forward despite its stubborn intentions to stay stuck in the 1970s.


Today, in 2017 consumers are being ripped off in record numbers, there’s a never ending array of so-called “experts” who are hawking their latest company designed to prey upon unsuspecting timeshare owners and the industry has taken little or no steps to change an outdated marketing and sales structure which continues to foster a sense of distrust with consumers.


Despite that, I believe that timeshare has great potential.


So, it’s time for some changes.


Effective today August 17 2017, The Word From The Timeshare Crusader has been redesigned and relaunched as The Timeshare Crusader Blog and can be accessed directly on http://www.timesharecrusader.com and on Twitter at @TheTSCrusader.  It will have more news, more guest bloggers, more features and will of course; maintain my own independent voice as the main blogger.


I continue to tweet at @LisaLooksAt and will remain as the timeshare contributor at Senior.com.


Additionally, I continue my important work with the National Timeshare Owners Association which is celebrating 20 years of educating, advocating and encouraging responsible timeshare management and ownership.

In conclusion for today:  If you like what I’ve been doing for the past 12 years or so, stay tuned, it’s going to get better and more positive changes are just around the corner.  If you don’t like what I’ve been doing for the past 12 years or so, here’s a quote from Star Wars to get you thinking; “You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Code of Ethics....Good Only if Enforced

Today we hear from a Guest Blogger describing her experiences at a DRI resort and her follow up with ARDA as to alleged violations of their Code of Ethics.

My husband and I feel we have been deceived by Diamond Resorts International, and ask for your assistance in getting justice for our victimization.

In November of 2016 we stayed in one of DRI's timeshare resorts in Sedona, AZ through our Interval International membership. While there we attended a DRI sales presentation. The hotel concierge gave our family of 4 a $150 gift card to a local restaurant for our thanksgiving meal, and in return we were to attend a 90-minute sales presentation. The presentation ended up lasting 6 hours, with our sales agent becoming agitated when we said we needed to leave due to my husband's golf tee time. This violates ARDA's Code of Ethics of "Information".

The sales agent, Karen Calvano, empathized with us about our inability to stay in resorts unless located close to home which is in Houston, TX. She said she knew Interval International did not have many resorts in our area, but that DRI had many resorts, and we would certainly be able to find resorts in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana. As it turned out, DRI's resorts in our area are owned by affiliate resorts rather than DRI and costs approximately more points than we were sold. This violates ARDA's "Exchange Program" in which we were over promised on the likely hood to exchange for Diamond’s inventory in our area.

When I looked on the Diamond member website recently, Diamond’s Great Wolf Lodge affiliate property in Texas was available for 26,911 to 66,467 points. If we multiply 26,911 by 20 cents which is the typical cost of maintenance fees, it would cost $5,382 for a one week stay. Booking.com had the same Family Suite available for the same week for $1,700. This is not an unusual scenario. I have searched various times throughout the year.

We attended DRI's "Event of a Lifetime" in January, 2017 which we were told was our member orientation. The “orientation” turned into a high pressure sales presentation quickly with misleading information regarding redeeming our points for 30 cents per point if we paid to upgrade our membership to platinum. When my husband, Dr. Mark Grant, asked to see the price per point in writing, the sales agent pointed to his own written notes to show us that it was legitimate. My husband pointed out the documented literature which showed the amount at 10 cents per point, and the salesman quickly dismissed us to the next sales agent.

According to the ARDA Code of Ethics, this sales agent violated the ethics standard of "Avoidance of False and Deceptive Statements".

Mr. Clements, as you can tell from the brief account I have written, we are in a rough situation with devious minded people who have not followed ARDA's Code of Ethics, and should therefore be forced to let us out of our contractual agreement.

We appreciate your consideration, and assistance!

Sincerely,
Eron Grant


Response from Diamond
I am responding to your concerns regarding availability in Texas and Louisiana. While Diamond Resorts does not own or manage any properties in these states, we do have affiliate agreements with several resorts. These properties offer us limited inventory each year to offer to our members to book with their points. Inventory is typically limited, and prices are set by the properties themselves, and not by Diamond Resorts. These properties are offered on a first come, first served basis in addition to the Diamond Resorts properties covered under your contract.
Diamond Resorts does offer a property in New Mexico, the Villas de Santa Fe. If you would like assistance booking at this property, please let me know and I will be happy to assist.


My Response

My concerns with Karen Calvano stating "DRI has several resorts in TX, LA, and NM" is that when we asked her to show us the properties she said, "Oh we can't do that right now, but we can do that later." After 6 hours of being with her, we were exhausted and never did see the properties.

We explained that we are owners with Marriott and members of Interval International already, so affiliate properties through DRI really don't help us. Plus, the value of your affiliate properties is ridiculous. How does this help us?

What's telling is that the consumer never even heard back from Mt. Clements personally, nor from ARDA as an organization. As a matter of fact, there are close to 100 complaints that I know of personally that have been sent to ARDA and have not been acknowledged, much less addressed

Let me be clear, this is not merely a DRI issue. It's s much larger one. If there is indeed an ARDA code of Ethics and if indeed issues and concerns are brought to the Committee's attention but ignored, what's the point?

As always, constructive comments are welcome.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Guest Post-Timeshare Thoughts

Some great insights here. Thoughts?

What I have started to think when it comes to timeshare ownership and the future of the industry...

Everyone knows this industry is not well regulated (but obviously needs to be).  Some of the actions and activities of individuals and companies that gets reported in the timeshare world would result in major fines and possibly prison sentences in other better regulated industries.

It appears the industry has long depended on being "self regulating."  It has not done a great job of that but it seems there have always been just enough legit companies that seem to try and deliver a quality product and quality customer experience at the same time they balance trying to make a healthy profit.

I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost.  Also while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience.  I am sure there are other good examples.

In the past the bad eggs of the industry (the industry's worst examples) seemed to mostly be of the smaller, regional variety.  The negative impact was always minimal and able to be managed before it metastasized.   But the potential problem as I see it is that in the last decade plus, it appears what may be described as large predatory financial engineering companies almost "posing" as timeshare companies have risen and aggressively worked every loophole and non regulation to their own advantage and now are probably guilty of gross violations of their fiduciary responsibility to their customers / owners.  These companies have created vast fortunes for a very small network of individuals at the top of the pyramid.

Ironically though, and looking at historical examples from other industries, it is these very companies likely to bring the whole industry into the national spotlight and to its knees eventually.  Some of these appear to have walked to the edge of doing that already.

As these quasi financial engineering / timesharing companies become increasingly more brazen in chasing profits by any means possible, raising fees rapidly at the same time they are reducing owner benefits, due to their increased sheer size the public outcry will likely increase and just the odds of random probability suggests there will be a gotcha moment or event that will bring increased scrutiny and increased legislation.

If the good timeshare companies try to ignore what the bad ones are doing, they may find someday that their systems and profits and share prices are negatively impacted by the future regulations forced on the industry from the egregious actions of the bad actors in their industry.

Pharma for example is still dealing with the Turing Pharmaceuticals fallout even now 2 years later, and that fallout will likely not dissipate anytime soon.

This is just my still forming hypothesis.  We'll see.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stop With The Spin.Just Stop


Lately, there's been some truly laughable advice about timeshares; buying, owning and selling that certain people and certain organizations have been able to get through to the media.

I'm tired of this, so here's my thoughts:

1) ARDA-ROC has positioned itself as 'an alliance of over one million timeshare owners.’

It's not really 'an alliance of over one million timeshare owners' when not a single one of them votes, advises or even participates in anything that they do.

2) Timeshare is a usage product and not something that should be purchased as an investment, but rather as something you buy to save money on vacations.

True on the first two points. Usually false on the third. If you buy a timeshare from the developer then add maintenance fees, reservation fees, usage fees, etc., the average person does not save money.

Usage or not, any purchase for $20K should have some residual value after 5 or 10 years, assuming it's been maintained. Not so with timeshare. Listings abound for $100 or less.

3) You should call your resort to see if they have a take back program

Hysterical. Why a take back program and not a buyback program?  Go ahead, call and let me know what you find out. I have close to 1,600 emails from owners who want out.

4) Work with a broker

Another funny. Did you know that there's at least one major developer whose product will not be handled by any of the brokers in the LTRBA?  Did you also know that the residual value of the majority of the timeshares for sale is so low that if a broker were able to sell it, the original owner would end up paying money for the privilege of getting rid of it?  Doubt me?  Check Sharket.com

5) It's the 'mom and pop drive-inn on the Jersey Shore that have little to no value.'

None of the 1,600 emails I gave from owners wanting out own at a one of those resorts. They own at Bluegreen, Wyndham, Festiva and Diamond for the most part. There's hundreds more who are members of FB groups. Oh, and although they're geographically close, you may want to check out The Manhattan Club saga.

6) Don't list it for $1

GOLDEN. This comes from a spokesperson for an online listing platform that charges both a membership fee and a listing fee that has thousands of listings for $1. This is also the same platform that willingly takes listings from Diamond properties when they know that Diamond does not allow listings in third party platforms and will take punitive action if they are caught.

What does all this mean?

You had better be very careful who you trust with your money and your decisions concerning buying, using and selling timeshare. Question everything. Trust no one blindly. Verify everything. Don't believe something just because it was on the Internet.

Most of all, follow the money.

 

Monday, May 15, 2017

71%!

Last week, the American Resort Development Association released "Shifting Historic Industry Perception with Owner Data" in which they, along with the ARDA International Foundation, attempted to clear up 6 myths.

It was "myth 6" that caught my eye:

Myth #6: All timeshare owners disliked the buying experience.
Fact: More than seven out of 10 recent purchasers (71%) found their buying experience to be excellent or good.

Now, I don't know what "recent" means, nor do I know if the people surveyed purchased at a resort or on the secondary market.

However, I do know that the overwhelming percentage of timeshare complaints that I receive on a daily basis have to do with the buying experience a/k/a the sales pitch.

So, let's hear from you, my readers.  Agree, disagree with these findings?  Feel free to divulge as much information as you'd like.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Case Against Timeshare Points

Timeshare points.

I used to like them. Back in 2001, I worked for the first resort in the Orlando area to convert from RCI weeks to RCI points.

So many things to do with points. So much more you could get with your points than with weeks. So much more flexibility.

Flash forward to 2017-in addition to RCI Points, nearly every brand name timeshare has instituted their version of points and in good conscience, I no longer recommend points of any kind.

Here are just a few of the many reasons I prefer timeshare weeks over timeshare points:

1-Inflation. A week is 7 days. It is now and it will be in 60 years. Not so with points. Your yearly allocation of points may get you a week in a resort this year. Next year, it may be 6 nights. 60 years down the road, who knows. There is no hedge against point devaluation and you, the owner have no control.

2-Continual Upselling. In order to counter the above, owners are continually told they need to buy more. And more. And more. I'm sorry, if your new car continually had to 'upgraded' each year because it wouldn't drive on new roads, no one would let this happen. Yet, this is precisely what is happening. The timeshare you purchased in order to accomplish good vacation accommodations, no longer does that.

3-Confusion and Lying. If I had a dollar for every time someone called or wrote saying that they had been told that the weeks system was going away and if they didn't convert, usually for upwards of $7,000, they'd no longer be able to exchange their timeshare, I'd be a wealthy woman. Just not true. Add to that the number of salespeople who don't really know about points, but desperately try to convince consumers of their 'magical powers' and you've got a mess.

4-Where's The Asset. A timeshare week is generally backed with real estate. Not so with most point systems. You're buying air. And oftentimes charged closing costs and other real estate based fees when you own no real estate. Frankly, why should you pay maintenance fees? You don't own any part of the property.

5-Sold Out Status. A timeshare with 100 units can have 50,000 owners, assuming each unit can be sold 50 times. Try to do that math with points. Try to find anyone who gives you the straight answer to 'how many total points is this property allocated?'

Are there exceptions?  Possibly.  But in general, I find timeshare points to be a poor alternative to timeshare weeks.

As always, I value your input.
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