Monday, June 18, 2018

An Open Letter to Timeshare Developers

Dear Timeshare Developers:

I’d appreciate an honest answer from any of you. 

Why do you not buy back your own product when it’s being sold for $1,000, $100 or $1.00 on the secondary market when you can turn around and sell it the very next day or week for whatever grossly inflated price you do each and everyday to unsuspecting consumers?

It’s not like we’re talking about a product that deprecated due to rust or even the fact that it’s outdated. You maintain the product with the owners money and you determine the usage rules. 

ARDA just reported that the average price of a timeshare was $22,180. 

In under a minute, I was able to find these listings on a reputable resale site:

Marriott’s Desert Springs $4,295
Orange Lake North Village $3,000
Sheraton Broadway Plantation $500
Summer Bay Orlando $0 (not a typo)

It seems to me that you guys could turn a nifty profit by snapping these up and selling them for $22,180 or whatever your salespeople try to get. 

But you don’t. Why is that?  Are you trying to give the impression that these timeshares aren’t worth anything?  Because that’s exactly what you’re doing. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Cautionary Tale

This is yet another timeshare sales horror story that came to me last week.

I’m reprinting it here, complete will spelling and grammatical errors, and have added my thoughts on what the clear red flags were in the hope that they serve as a warning to you. 

My wife bought a sampler package for Diamonds out of sympathy for a old lady who was selling this for 140 USD package.  MISTAKE #1 DON’T BUY ANYTHING OUT OF SYMPATHY 

She lives in Texas and I am in Europe for the time being, we are from India. We used the package for Las Vegas, where we got an email that we have be in a meeting with them for 2 hour or else we have to pay 1200 USD fine. We had no choice and we agreed to be there. We had no idea what were getting into. I had never heard of Time share or Diamond resorts before. MISTAKE #2 DON’T GET INTO A SALES PITCH WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO SELL

In the meeting they were trying to sell as this Diamond resort points, which we denied as we don´t have the money or time to enjoy it. To give you a perspective, my wife widowed mother is suffering from breast cancer, currently living in India and all are money and time goes in travelling to India and bearing the expenses for the Chemotherapy. On hearing this the sales agent lied about the scheme completely. Understanding our situation, he told us that with this scheme she can save money on travelling. Every time she will buy a return ticket to India,she will be provided with an extra air ticket just for the price of 50 USD that she can use within 6 months. He reiterated that she did not have to necessarily use this scheme to enjoy the benefits of luxury resorts; in fact, she could use it for air travel to India and back. On asking the prices of tickets, he showed documents that the prices of tickets would be same (as we pay now) based on points and instead of two times I can travel four times to India. After he showed us those documents, we kind of agreed with his argument. MISTAKE #3 IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT IS

We spend almost 6 hours arguing with them, but they simply kept on lying about the scheme and got us to buy this 7500 yearly points (loan 27 Thousand USD).  MISTAKE #4 IT WAS TO HAVE BEEN A 2 HOUR SALES PITCH, WHY WOULD YOU SPEND 6 HOURS?  GET UP AND LEAVE

We now realize this was lie when she recently wanted to book a ticket to India through them. They told us that 7500 points are not enough to buy air ticket to India ( one way) and there is no such scheme of getting extra free ticket. MISTAKE #5 DO NOT BUY ANYTHING THAT YOU DON’T GET ACCESS TO IMMEDIATELY SO YOU CAN VERIFY

We are not in a financial position where we can afford paying for this (which is 400 USD per month) as well as expenses for the medical treatment of my mother which is necessary. This scheme is completely useless for us if we cannot use it for the purpose it was sold to us. 
We were sold this scheme on a false pretext which is shameful; trying to reap off a person in our situation who has already enough personal and financial troubles.



Monday, June 11, 2018

Double Points? How About Multiple Lies

I like to think that I'm a creative writer. I could not, even on my best day come up with such an outrageous story as this timeshare sales pitch that was sent my way. 

I’m not using the couple’s real name for reasons that will soon be evident. These people were promised "double point usage" if they upgraded by buying 15,000 additional points. They already had 50,000 points, which gave them more than what they needed to meet their travel needs.

Back in February of this year, they met with their sales rep who informed them of "big changes" in the program due to the company being acquired by a private equity firm some time ago and "to thank them for being members for over 5 years."  

The so-called "double point usage" pitch went something like this:

50,000 points already owned
15,000 points purchased today
65,000 total points
65,000 ‘double points given’
130,000 total points owned annually 

The sales rep casually mentioned that they would be responsible for a whopping $86,310 in maintenance fees over the next 10 years if they didn’t take advantage of this offer. Of course, he had a 'solution' for that.

The ‘solution’ was to purchase 15,000 more points, giving them 65,000. But the developer would then ‘give them’ an additional 65,000 making 130,000 annually. 

Using the original 50,000 would leave them 80,000 which would then be ‘translated’ into $8,000 annually to be used to pay off maintenance fees. Are you as confused as I am?  The $8,000 comes from a ‘redemption’ of $.10 for each of the remaining points. I TOLD you these guys were creative. The $8,000 would be given to them either on a check or a reloadable debit card. I kid you not!  

Believe it or not, this couple fell for this BS.   Their annual maintenance fees are now more than $11,000 and they have new loans totaling $57,000!

Astonishingly, this story gets worse. Flash forward to May when the couple went through yet another sales pitch with the same salesperson. 

Ah, now the program had some changes according to the dear, sweet, trustworthy salesperson. The reloadable debit card had been discontinued due to ‘problems.’

The ‘bonus’ 65,000 points were to have appears on a ‘split screen’ on the couples online dashboard. The developer was still ‘working on’ this split screen feature.

The ‘double points’ never made it to the consumer’s account of course. 

The developer’s answer to this nonsense?  

“I definitely agree that your confusion of that process is warranted. I have spoken to our legal team and sales team and we agree the double point explanation is definitely something that could have been misconstrued or seen as confusing by members or purchasers.

We have made changes to the way that information is given at the time of sale but we have to say the stance we take on this is: because there may have been some confusion on how you may use those points to create a savings for yourself doesn’t make the explanation illegal.”

As reprehensible as this sales pitch is, I find it equally, if not more astonishing that this couple fell for this. The red flags in the pitch are EVERYWHERE!

If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

If something is important to you, get it in writing and ask to see exactly where it is in the contract.

Do not purchase anything today based upon things you're getting in the future.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Where's Your License?

I'm happy to reprint this information which comes from our good friends at Inside The Gate.

Very few consumers bother to find out if the salesperson they're dealing with is licensed and what the licensing requirements for sellers are when purchasing a timeshare,  Remember that the person asking the questions is in control  Make certain that's YOU.

  • MAINE: Maine Real Estate Commission. No license required. FAX 207/624-8637 -Phone 207/624-8603
  • MISSOURI: Under Missouri state law, timeshares are defined as merchandise and fall within the guidelines of Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act, Chapter 407.600, Missouri Revised Statutes. No Timeshare or RE License required. For more information visit the MO-AG website
    For info about real estate issues:
  • OKLAHOMA: The Securities Commission regulates Timeshare sales and dealers in Oklahoma. No special license required.
  • TEXAS: Texas Real Estate Commission. No special license required.  If the sales agent is an employee of the owner of the timeshare, the employee would not be required to be licensed. [Rule 535.5(d)] Otherwise, the sales agent needs to be licensed
  • VIRGINIA: Virginia Dept. of Professional & Occupational Regulation. No special license required. Phone: 804/367-8526

  • LOUISIANA: Louisiana Real Estate Commission. Must be registered as a timeshare interest salesperson, unless you are already a licensed RE Agent.
  • TENNESSEE: Tennessee Real Estate Commission. Timeshare salesperson license required. A timeshare salesperson must be affiliated with a licensed real estate firm which is affiliated with a registered timeshare development. A license is required to be issued by the Tennessee Real Estate Commission to engage in the activities of a Timeshare Salesperson.
  • UTAH: Utah Division of Real Estate. According to Utah law, all individuals who market, offer, or sell interests in a timeshare or camp resort project in the state of Utah must register as a timeshare salesperson with the Utah Division of Real Estate. To register as a salesperson, submit to the Division:

  • ARIZONA: Department of Real Estate. RE License required. FAX 602/468-0562 – Phone 602/468-1414
  • ARKANSAS: Arkansas Real Estate Commission. RE License required. FAX 501/683-8020 – Phone 501/683-8010
  • CONNECTICUT: Real estate issues concerning timeshares are regulated by the Department of Consumer Protection. RE License required.
  • GEORGIA: Georgia Real Estate Commission. RE License required. FAX 404/656-6650 – Phone 404/656-3916
  • KANSAS: There don’t seem to be any timeshare resorts in Kansas, but for your convenience here is information for the Kansas Real Estate Commission.
  • KENTUCKY: Kentucky Real Estate Commission. RE License required FAX 502/426-2717 – Phone 502/425-4273
  • NORTH CAROLINA: North Carolina Real Estate Commission. RE License required. Phone 919/875-3700
  • NORTH DAKOTA: There don’t seem to be any timeshare developments in North Dakota, but for your convenience: North Dakota Real Estate Commission. (Does not specifically reference timesharing.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Aggressive, Mean-Spirted and Unethical

I read an article last night at 2:00 am while the fire alarm was going off in the building next to mine, about how some top executives in the timeshare industry were upset and concerned about the proliferation of companies designed to get people out of their timeshare. 

To quote the article;”...the constant barrage of aggressive ads from lawyers, wannabe lawyers and other sharks offering to help hapless owners was upsetting to the public and, particularly, to owners who were being prompted to question their purchase.”  It continued to quote the COO of a timeshare company that is currently facing legal action from one or more of its sales agents accused of selling timeshare points as a financial investment;”...seeing a dramatically rising incidence of default.” and categorized the activity of these companies as “mean-spirited and, in the opinion of resort shareholders, unethical.”  

I kid you not. The timeshare industry accusing these companies of being aggressive, mean-spirited and unethical. Have any of these guys ever sat through a 3, 4 or 6 hour timeshare sales pitch?  

Dear timeshare industry people:  Rather than complain about the proliferation of companies designed to get people out of their timeshare, how about you stop suppressing the secondary market and devise a fair exit strategy?  

Fondly, Lisa 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Beware-New Heinous Sales Tactics

We all know that consumers must be cautious during a timeshare sales pitch. Actually, consumers must remain cautious during any transaction anywhere.

Timeshare sales pitches are unique due to the mountains of paperwork that the sales and closing personnel force you to sign without any chance of reading beforehand---it's all about the fake 'one day only' offer.

Lately, I've heard from consumers who find out that the developer opened one or more credit cards in the buyers' name without their knowledge or consent. Here's a link to a story that got media attention:

How does this happen and how can you protect yourself?

Before I get hammered with nasty comments, let me state for the record that the consumer bears some responsibility for this happening. Just as in all the cases I hear about 5, 6 or 7 hour long sales presentations where the consumer was denied food, etc. while these tactics are heinous, I have yet to understand why people don't just get up and leave.

In the case of finding out a credit card has been unwillingly opened, it's a bit easier to understand how it happens. There's just too much paperwork presented in too short of a period of time.

Some tips to protect yourself:

Don't hand over your Drivers License or credit card to anyone
Don't let anyone make copies of those
Don't sign or initial anything without reading it, or at least having an understanding of what the document is
Don't use a tablet or other electronic device to sign anything...insist on paper
Do not provide your Social Security Number
Do not provide any bank account information
Do not give permission to anyone to run your credit report
Do not provide your date of birth

Obviously, if you decide to purchase, some of that information will be required.

It’s imperative for you to maintain control during the entire process. If you don’t understand something, STOP and regroup. If you feel you’re being rushed, STOP and regroup. If signing feels wrong STOP and regroup. If you’re not getting straight answers, STOP and ask yourself if you want to continue. If portions of the paper you’re signing are kept hidden from you, STOP and do not proceed.

I don’t want to sound like an alarmist; most developers do not open credit cards in your name without you knowing. However, even one reported story generally means that there could be hundreds if not thousands of unreported incidents.

Friday, May 4, 2018

A (Not So) Brief History of Timeshare Related Scams

This is an excerpt of a longer piece from Inside Timeshare, published in the UK. 

I find it sad and truthful. I’ve yet to find another industry that continually comes up with ways to scam consumers and more troubling, one that consumers continue to reward this horrible behavior by dropping money and then crying ‘foul.’

When timeshare first started it was a very good concept, the accommodation was superb, far better than what was available through the high street travel agent, but something went very wrong. Greed took over.

Some of the first “scams” were the buying off plan schemes, where all you purchased was a hole in the ground and an architects plan. Many of these were never built with hundreds of people losing thousands of pounds.

The industry itself did little to “police itself”, countries laws where these timeshares were being built were not adequate, allowing many frauds to take place, with the perpetrators getting away with millions.

After the “off plan” scams, the industry through how the product was sold was instrumental in the next phase, the resale scam. As timeshares were being sold as “property” which would go up in value, the resale companies capitalised on this. Offering clients the promise of selling their timeshare for more than they actually paid for it, taking thousands to “list” the timeshare for sale and then disappearing.
Now because the laws have been strengthened, especially in Spain, we are seeing bogus claims companies taking thousands for relinquishments and no win no fee claims. 

Just recently Inside Timeshare has been getting enquiries about one of these companies, RSB Legal. Many have paid them to cancel their timeshare and claim the money back, but they are now no longer trading, they have simply vanished, leaving hundreds of clients out of pocket.

These stories show why you must do your due diligence and homework before going to any presentation, or doing business with any company. Check, check then check again, ask the questions, are they for real, how are they going to claim, can they do what they say they can do, how long have they been trading?

Sadly, for consumers, there are far more opportunities to be scammed than ever before. These scammers are relentless and extremely good at what they do, playing on fear of loss and in some cases, pure intimidation. 

It is getting increasingly more difficult to determine who to trust in this space. I don’t know how long the industry and the extended timeshare community can continue to exist before it all comes crashing down. Will it be rebuilt, or is the end in sight?