Monday, February 28, 2011

Read Your Paperwork!

If you've recently purchased a timeshare and are still within your legal recession timeframe, I strongly urge you to carefully read ALL of the documents that you were given.

Lately, consumers have been writing me asking if certain things are "legal." While I am not an attorney and can not offer legal advice or opinions, I do tell them that if they signed the documents and the documents themselves are legal, there is not much recourse if the recession time has expired.

What are they writing to me about? No limit on the annual fee increases, no membership in the resort's HOA, not being able to get back to the home resort, other types of "ownership" that have no connection to weeks or points...the list is practically endless.

Read ALL of your documentation. Make the deeder or verification officer go over EVERYTHING in the legal documents, paragraph by paragraph, take as long as you need. If something doesn't sound right to you, chances are it's not right. Question everything. Don't assume anything.

Navigating Change Indeed

I am both excited and honored to be covering GNEX 2011 being presented by Perspective Magazine later this year.

The title of the conference is Navigating Change and a quick look at the educational sessions planned are indeed a breath of fresh air. "Identifying and Resolving Product Weaknesses", "Tackling Consumer and Media Perception" are two of the sessions that I am most looking forward to covering. NOT because I am a naysayer, but because I'm excited that perhaps, for once, the truth will be addressed. The truth is that the media and the average, non-timeshare owning consumer do NOT think highly of the word "timeshare."

In addition to the educational sessions and the networking time, GNEX will be honoring the best of the best in the timeshare and fractional industries. Sure, you can nominate yourself as "Best Project Team-Marketing", but then you'll be voted on by Perspective's social mediasphere (there, I just made up a word) in order to move on to the final round. I applaud that. It is, at least in the early stages, quite transparant, and as regular readers know, I think that more transparancy in this industry is needed.

I'll be writing much more about GNEX in the weeks and months to come, culminating with a wrap-up article in the July/August issue of TimeSharing Today.

In the meantime, if you'd like to find out more about GNEX 2011, feel free to visit their website at

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You Bore Me

There's actually a website out there called "How To Get Free Stuff from a Timeshare Presentation." Can you believe it? How insane.

The author seems to be proud of himself by saying that, "the situation my wife and I faced was the need to get cheap Walt Disney World tickets." (Emphasis mine.) First of all, no one NEEDS Walt Disney World tickets and as eveyone knows, Disney tickets are not cheap because Walt Disney World is not a cheap place. If you can't afford to go buddy, then stay home!

The idea of timeshare to begin with is to reallocate money that you are already spending on when he says that he was able to get through a timeshare presentation "without commiting (sic) ourselves to a long term financial situation" he makes no sense whatsoever. You're already in a long term financial situation if you are going on vacation and spending money on accommodations.

I won't bore you with the typos that this guy has all over his website, it's just not worth it..I mean after all, how hard is it to spell the word "presentation"?

His book goes for $6.99. I'll save you the time and expense of ordering this worthless bunch of paper. DON'T go timeshare presentations at all if you:

* spend less than $500 per person per year on vacation
* think that giving up 3+ hours of your vacation for tickets is a good deal
* don't understand the value of owning your vacation over renting your vacations
* have a closed mind

Look, timeshares are NOT for everyone. But if they aren't for you, why would you want to sit through presentation after presentation after presentation? Aren't you bored already? You know what, as a former timeshare salesperson, you bore me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No Minimum Income Required

Some new statistics were recently published about the average timeshare owner. They clearly indicate that this person is a) married, b) 52 years old, c) has no children under the age of 18 living with them and most importantly, ) has an average annual household income of $81,000.

Nothing new or exciting here...with the average price of a timeshare in 2009 over $20,000, it is clear that timeshare is not an inexpensive vacation alternative.

What continues to stun me along with some other professionals on the so-called "fringes of timeshare" e.g. not employed by the traditional timeshare developer, is that the timeshare developer continues to market their product to people who clearly don't fit the demographics of the average owner. They continue to play the numbers game. For every 100 people that are in a typical sales center in the US, a good 70% of them shouldn't even be there.

And the marketing companies, the ones that I affectionately refer to as "body snatchers" continue to rake in $300, $400 or more per client that they send in and are laughing all the way to the bank. Even stranger is the fact that some of these marketing companies have sold timeshare developers on the idea that clients don't need a minimum income. They only need to be employed full-time. Wow...what excellent salespersons these marketing companies are...or is it that someone is getting paid on the back end for taking these clients?

When, if ever, are traditional timeshare companies going to wake up? And no, I don't mean the higher end properties or the fractionals, who long ago realized this lesson. Perhaps it is already too late for them and the resellers are going to beat them at their own game.

The writing has been on the wall for timeshare developers who play "same old, same old" for years now and I really won't feel much sympathy for then when they are forced out of business.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Response To The WSJ's Story on the Marriott Timeshare Spinoff

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I've had some pointed things to say to and about the traditional timeshare industry. However, I am a strong believer in the value of the product and what that product can do for consumers. I am also fed up with the constant negative press that the industry receives, many times without the benefit of all the facts.

Some of you may have read the recent piece by Al Lewis for the Wall Street Journal about the recent decision Marriott took to spinoff its timshare division. I was NOT happy with the tone of the article. Here's the content of the e-mail that I wrote to Mr. Lewis regarding his article:

While I was pleased to read your recent timeshare story concerning Marriott, I fear you presented a rather one-sided view.

While Timeshare Insights does NOT sell, rent, buy, broker, list, transfer or represent any timeshare or any timeshare company, I feel that it's necessary to point out that while timeshare sales presentations can be high pressure at times, no one forced consumers to purchase anything, Marriott or otherwise. Also, while it is true that timeshares should be purchased only for the value that they represent for future vacations, they should not be thought of an investment of any sort. Also, when people always complain that they are only able to sell their timeshares for a fraction of what they paid for it, I ask them "how much can you sell your hotel receipts for?" and that usually puts a perspective on things.

Timeshare Insights is an education and consultant based company. Our motto for this year is, "Educate Yourself, Open Your Mind, Get Involved." Consumers seem to lose their common sense when it comes to anything timeshare and the media is way to quick to point out only the bad news about timeshare. While I will be the first to admit that there is some bad news and the timeshare industry has some work to do to improve their damaged reputation, it is not all doom and gloom.

Timeshares can be wonderful things to some people. And while I am not a spokesperson for Marriott, I doubt that "Marriott wants out" as you put it...I am confident that the next five years will bring about the positive changes that are needed in this industry and Timeshare Insights is proud to be working FOR those positive changes, as opposed to some organizations who seem to be in the business of spreading doom and gloom and profiting from consumers' misfortunes.

I'd be happy to speak with you about this, or any other timeshare issues in the future.

Continued Success.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Where's The Sticker Price?

I'm reading a terrific book for the second time..."Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here-Inside the 300 Billion Dollar Business Behind the Media You Constantly Consume." Fascinating book, I highly recommend it.

Chapter 15 is entitled, "Why Honda Hates the Internet...and Those Who Haunt It." The beginning two paragraphs read:

"In the dark ages of the early 1990s, before websites such as began publishing the invoice prices of cars for all to see, dealers maximized their profits by shrouding the deal. It wasn't an especially daunting task, as most new-car buyers involved a welter of variables including trade-in value, interest rate, different loan terms and a bevy of fees. In the old way of moving metal, salespeople practices psychological tricks on "ups" (as customers who strolled into the showroom were called) to stoke their excitement for the car, and employed numerical legerdemain on the "four-square" worksheet used to negotiate a typical car deal, starting with the sticker price and workng down and angling to squeeze more from the back end, such as in higher finance charges."

"Once the Internet pulled away the cloak, a car shopper could find the invoice price, add the requiste 2 or 3 percent profit and make an over, take it or leave it. Today, more than four out of five Ford's US customers have gone online before going into the showroom. Most come to the dealer with a spec sheet showing just what they want and what they're prepared to pay for it."

Sound familar? The first paragraph details exactly what happens when customers enter a timeshare presentation. The second paragraph sums up, clearer than anything else that I've seen,why more people don't buy least from the developer.

The first company who clearly unveils "the sticker price" of the timeshare is going to win the timeshare wars. Who is smart enough to step up to the plate?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Things I Learned On Friday

You may remember that I attended a timeshare HOA meeting on Friday morning on behalf of an owner that I met through the National Timeshare Owners Association.

Here's a glimpse into what was said to the owners in attendance who had some serious questions and concerns about the future of the resort, the location and use of the Special Assessment that they paid last year, the makeup of the HOA and some general timeshare questions:

"Westgate has laid off all of their salespeople."
No, they did not. Ever.

"The reason that the landscaping is in bad shape is that the last two winters have been cold."
OK, and the reason the landscaping looks good at other resorts in the area is...?

"When you use your RCI Points, the resort pays RCI."
In what universe?

"I don't know where the developer lives."
Yes, in fact you do.

"It may be illegal to have another meeting in April."
No, you don't want another meeting in April.

"I don't have the financials with me so I can't tell you how much Special Assessment was billed and how much was actually collected"
Of course you don't have the "financials" with you, because if you did you would have to give a full answer.

"We no longer have the luxury of having 150 people working to keep the resort up."
There were never 150 people working at the resort...ever...and the resort has fired all but a skeletel crew resulting in the resort being in extremely poor condition.

"The resort has to be 90% sold out in order to transfer HOA authority to the owners and we're a long way from that."
This would later be changed to "90% built." Either way, they didn't have a clue as to when authority would be transferred or when the resort would be 90% anything.

"This meeting isn't to point fingers, or discuss who is getting paid, this meeting is to discuss the "good things that are on the horizon.""
No, actually the owners came to the meeting to point fingers, because the owners have a right to know what is going on at the resort, where the money went, what the HOA members actually do for the HOA and other things that affect the resort and their ability to use their timeshare. And the owners have listened to the "good things that are on the horizon" for 3 years now with no results.

"I don't speak with the developer."
Oh, wait, that's true. The General Manager almost never sees, talks, or has communication with the developer. And that's a good sign, right?

Unfortunately, there's much more in this saga. Stay tuned...and I'm interested in hearing what goes on at your HOA meeting. Let me know so that I can share with other owners.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Biggest Challenges For The Timeshare Industry Today

My collegue Dave Thackeray over in the UK asked me for my thoughts on what the biggest challenges the timeshare industry faces today.

Here are my answers:

1) Seriously dealing with the fact to the average non-timeshare owning consumer, "timeshare" is still less than a trustworthy word.

2) Cracking down on the ever increasing number of scams and boarderline scams, preying upon the lack of education, fear and ignorance of some timeshare owners.

3) Seriously addressing the entire "new" vs. "used" timeshare issue, including some easy to understand value propositions for the product and the lifestyle.

4) Spreading the good words about timeshare in an honest and believable way and developing a believable and comprehensive outreach program...enough already with the outdated thinking that "timeshare is not a sought after product"...nonsense, vacations are indeed a sought after product (or experience) and so too can timeshares.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lesson Learned

I believe that things happen for a reason .

I started out in the timeshare business out of necessity in late 1998. I was naive as one can be in the the business...heck, I didn't even realize that all the "resorts" in the Central Florida area where I had recently moved to were indeed, timeshares.

I learned. I learned good and bad, pros and cons, truths and myths. And I had some valuable assistance along the way. And I learned some lessons...boy did I learn some lessons.

I'll share my recent lessons with you all here today. There are two more important questions to ask if and when you are considering purchasing any timeshare...from the developer or on the resale market:

* is the resort under developer guarantee?
* is the resort under developer control?

If the resort is NOT under developer guarantee, the owners will have to make up any budget shortfall. This can be a HUGE financial burden and the cause of many bad surprises.

If the resort IS under developer control, I'd seriously consider another purchase. While I am sure that the vast majority of developers are straightforward, honest, ethical people, there are some that aren't. Some that will appoint their sometimes useless cronies on the Homeowners Association board. Some, that no matter how badly the resort has been mismanaged over the years, legally owe nothing and no explanation to the hapless owners.

Sad, sad cases exist out there. Something has to be done. If the timeshare house is not put into better shape very soon, there might not be a timeshare house around. And that would be sad indeed because, as I've said before, timeshare is a wonderful thing.

Educate Yourself, Open Your Mind, Get Involved, and let's clean house.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Timeshare "Joke"

There's an old timeshare joke that I'd like to share with you today.

A timeshare salesperson dies and is offered a choice of heaven or hell. Being a cautious type person, he asks to see both places before he chooses.

His "guide" first shows him heaven. Lots of angels playing harps, floating around on clouds, surrounded by people the salesperson has never seen.

Next, they visit hell. Here the salesperson sees lots of his old friends, laughing, eating pizza, player poker, and having a great time.

The salesperson thinks for a moment and then informs the guide that hell will have to be his choice.

Half a second later, the salesperson finds himself chained to a wall of fire and brimstone, the beer, pizza and poker are nowhere in sight and the temperature is unbearable.

He sees his guide off to the side and cries out to him..."hey, hey, hey,this is not what you showed me."

The guide smile and simply replies, "That was the model."

Cute joke until it happens to you.

This morning, I'm attending a timeshare HOA meeting that has been pulling this timeshare "joke" on it's owners and prospective owners for more than a year. The "model" is full of new furniture, has been freshly painted, has new stainless steel appliances, new carpeting and nice homey decorator touches.

The reality is that the cabinets are falling off the hinges, the furniture has not been replaced in more than 10 years, the carpeting (where it still exists) is threadbare and dirty, almost every room is missing something important like a coffee maker, patio furniture is missing, patio screens are torn and the place bears no resemblance to the word "resort" which it has the audacity to include in its name.

In other words, it's a timeshare joke and not a funny one. I'll be reporting on what the owners have to say about this next week.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Timeshare Question #1 And A Clarification

Still the #1 question I get asked by consumers and the media alike (closely followed by questions related to getting rid of a timeshare):

What timeshare is the best?

My answer? There is no such thing as the best timeshare. Among the myriad of questions to need to look at are:

* do you plan on using the timeshare more to trade or more at your home resort?
* are you a spontaneous traveler, or do you like to plan months ahead of time?
* what would make your vacations better?

And now the clarification: Timeshare Insights does NOT rent, sell, buy, broker, list, transfer or represent any timeshare or any timeshare company. We write about the timeshare industry, provide education to timeshare owners, timeshare students and prospective timeshare owners and are an unbiased, independent consultancy company.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Article on DAE's Vacation Ownership Education Session

Here's the first of several articles that will be published on Dial An Exchange's Vacation Ownership Education session that we spoke at.

The video will soon be available for free viewing and look for future free sessions and webinars in the future.

Five Travel Types Who Benefit From Timeshare

1) People who have set times/locations and/or preferences for their vacations. If you are the type of person who always goes to the same place, the same time every year, a fixed week based timeshare works well because in most cases, there are no reservations necessary, your week and your room are waiting for you each year. Cuts down on a lot of hassle.

2) People who are flexible with their vacation plans. There are approximately 6,000 timeshare resorts worldwide. Many of them are great, off the beaten path properties that consumers may not ever have the opportunity to experience. We’re not talking Hilton Head, Cancun or Orlando here. Looking through the resort directories from the exchange companies reminds me of the old “Sears Christmas Wish Book” in that you end up with some great options that you never knew existed.

3) People who already own a timeshare. Sounds either obvious or contrary, but the fact is that timeshare owners are on the whole, quite happy with their timeshare once they educate themselves on the best way to use it, the best place to buy it and of course how to maximize their ownership with the many benefits that timeshare ownership offers.

4) People who want more than just a place to sleep. Let’s face it, there are times when all people need or want is a place to crash. Those people are not the best candidate for a timeshare. On the other hand, vacationers looking for a bit more in terms of space, amenities, accoutrements, and options are those who really benefit from a timeshare.

5) Larger families or groups of people who vacation together regularly. If you’ve ever shared one hotel room among 5 or 6 people, you’ll easily appreciate a 2 or 3 bedroom timeshare. This larger size timeshare can also make great financial sense compared to renting 2, 3 or more hotel rooms, depending of course on where you buy your timeshare and if you are buying on the primary or legitimate secondary market.