Friday, October 21, 2011

It's Not About Saving Money

Back in the dark ages-circa 2000 when I began selling timeshare full time-all the training salespeople received was about the money saving benefits of timeshare.  All of us were carefully taught to take the so-called average price of a hotel room of $100 and using a "moderate" 10% rate of inflation, calculate for the benefit of the client that their "average" hotel room would cost them $235 per night in just ten years, even without the room tax.

When you look at it that way, timeshare made great economic sense, even when you factored in the annual fees and the usage fees.

Flash forward to 2011 where during the recent SOIC conference, we all discovered that the average ADR (average daily rate) of a hotel room in the United States last year was around $106 and we begin to see one of the problems facing the industry today.

People who purchased back in 2000 have been faced with rising annual fees (an average of $731, or almost exactly what it would cost to rent a hotel room), the ability to find discounted hotel rooms and rent timeshares for half of what their annual fees are.  Prospective owners can't be "shown the math" any longer as the math doesn't make any sense.

But, even as a novice salesperson back in 2000, I realized what the timeshare industry is starting to realize's NOT about saving money, it's about increasing the quality of vacations.

As readers of this blog know, I am a huge Apple fan and I've written about what the timeshare industry can learn from Apple.  Sure, you can purchase cheaper phones than the iPhone and cheaper computers than a Mac.  But it's not about saving money in those cases for millions of fans, is it?

What timeshare needs to get across is the value propositon, both of "new" and "used" timeshare.  It can be done.  There are a lot of intelligent people in the business, many of whom I had the privilage of meeting this past week.  Consumers are NOT them what they can have through owning timeshare and the industry will be well on the way to further market penetration and owner satisfaction.

Who is ready to lead the way?

Monday, October 17, 2011

A SOIC Preview

Interval International's annual conference, Shared Ownership Investment Conference (SOIC) begins today and we are honored that we have been granted a Media Pass to cover the event.

I hope that I'm able to bring you, my readers, positive stories.  I'd like nothing more to report that there are positive changes happening in the timeshare industry.  I've made a career out of writing about what those changes should be.  Timeshare moves very slowly and it's important to remember that the people at the top of the food pyramid have no real incentive to change a system that has brought them millions upon millions of dollars in the past.

No doubt, the conference will be attended by people and organizations that have been ill-informed and dismissive of what Timeshare Insights and other like minded organizations are all about.  I've been called a "troublemaker" and worse and been treated like I didn't matter by many people who of course haven't bothered to find out what Timeshare Insights is all about.  They of course now command huge speaking and consulting fees and are looked at as the "new timeshare mesiah" for saying the exact same things that I've been saying for years now...really, it's a big suprise to anyone that consumers like to buy and don't like to be sold to?  Wow, where have I heard that before?

However, despite the fact that the conference will be full of these people, I'm going to attempt to take the high road and spend my time reporting on what is going on as well as spending time discussing what positive changes can be made with the people that are interested in these changes.

If you are one of the former...I have one word for you..."karma."  If you are one of the latter, I look forward to working with you.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Bad Guys Busted

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gilles, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Frank Adderley, Chief, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, announced Oct. 6 the filing of an information charging defendants Scott Faraguna, 41, Charles Blomquist, 52, Peter Borkowicz, 31, Raymond Harcar, 39, James Taylor, 23, Ryan Greene, 23, Jason Hampton, 28, Chris Faccone, 43, Steven Sokoloff, 47, Marco Sguera, 30, Joseph Giancola, 38, Ryan Soltow, 27, and Donna Ackermann Brown, 50, in a one-count Criminal Information with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

The defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances in court Tuesday morning October 11, 2011, in West Palm Beach before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linnea Johnson.

According to the Information, the defendants worked for Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group, Inc. (TMMMG), on Oakland Park Boulevard, in Fort Lauderdale. From in or about October 2009 and continuing to May 2010, the defendants and others at TMMMG called owners of time-share units and told them that they had buyers for their time-share units if the time-share unit owners would send $1,996 to TMMMG for the fees associated with the sale of the unit, such as closings costs and a title search. In fact, however, the defendants knew that they did not have buyers for the time-share units, and nor were the units previously sold.

The Information alleges that after the time-share unit owners agreed to pay the fee associated with the sale of their units, the time-share unit owners would be called by another employee from TMMMG who acted as a “verifier.” The “verifier” would try to get the time-share unit owners to admit on tape that they knew that the fee they were paying was for the advertising of their time-share units and that TMMMG could charge their credit card. Some of the defendants would pay the “verifier” $50-$100 per sale in order to either not call the time-share unit owners or to process the transaction with the credit card company, even though the victim did not want to go through with the transaction.

According to the Information, in order to make it more difficult for the time-share unit owners to obtain a refund of their money, the defendants were instructed by coconspirators not to give the time-share unit owners closing dates for the sale of their time-shares, or if they insisted, to give closing dates more than 60 days after the receipt of their money. When time-share unit owners would call TMMMG inquiring about the sale of their time shares, coconspirators would try to “lull” the victims by falsely stating to the time-share unit owners that the original buyer had a credit problem and was not approved, but that TMMMG had another buyer and that the sale would take place in the near future, in order to keep the victims from complaining to the credit card companies or the authorities.

If convicted the defendants each face a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of 5 years and a fine of up to $250,000.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in connection with the investigation of this matter. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey N. Kaplan.

An Information is only an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

SOURCE: US Attorney General’s Office of the Southern District of Florida

Friday, October 14, 2011

Four Things Timeshare Can and Should Concentrate On

Here's a link to my latest article in RCI Ventures magazine about the four things that the timeshare industry needs to focus on if it is ever going to stage a comeback and be the success that it can be.

As usual, we welcome your thoughts and comments.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Proposed Florida Legislation

Here's a recap of the proposed legislation in Florida regarding timeshare resales:
  • A timeshare resale advertiser may not misrepresent a pre-existing interest in the owner’s timeshare.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser may not mislead a customer as to the success rate of the advertiser’s sales.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser may not provide brokerage or direct sale services.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser must honor a cancellation request made within 7 days following a signed agreement.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser must provide a full refund by a timeshare owner within 20 days of a valid cancellation request.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser must not collect any payment or engage in any resale advertising activities until the timeshare owner delivers a signed written agreement for the services.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser must also provide a full disclosure statement printed in bold type, with no smaller than a 12-point font, and printed immediately preceding the space provided for the timeshare owner’s signature.
  • A timeshare advertising agreement must be put in writing.
  • A company who violates these provisions has committed a violation of the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act with a penalty not to exceed $15,000 per violation.
Thoughts?  I think it's a great start, but if it passes, it MUST be combined with a strong consumer outreach program.  Just because it may become illegal for companies to conduct business this way doesn't mean consumers won't be ripped off.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Innovation and Timeshare

I'll start off today's post with two oft-repeated disclaimers;  1)  I don't profess to know everything and 2)  I firmly believe that the way to bring timeshare into the 21st century and to more people is to look to non-timeshare experts to help.

Today's help comes from Donny Deutsch's and Catherine Whitney's book "The Big Idea" and a chapter in which they talk about "The Five Qualities of an Innovator."

Quality #1-Innovators ask "How would I approach this business challenge if I had no preconceived notions of how it should be done?"  The timeshare industry has thankfully, seen it fit to at least start the discussion here as witnessed by the exceptional panel discussions held at both ARDA and CRDA earlier this year where participants, myself included, talked about the many ways we would start from scratch and reinvent timeshare.  We need to keep this momentum going and see some real changes.

Quality #2-Innovators don't care if it's never been done.  In fact, they love it.  "It's never been done" has to rank up there as the stupidest reason not to pursue a new idea.  It leaves no room for change.  You can call me a lot of things as many people have over the years, but this is my mantra, so I guess I'm an innovator.  All I'll say on this point is this..."timeshare marketing."

Quality #3-Innovators don't believe it has already been done.  In virtually every category there is room for innovation-a unique twist on an exciting concept.  And no, I don't think upgrades to point-based memberships designed to get more money out of owners qualify as innovation.  Here's a unique twist that I appreciated...the open conversation atmosphere at this years GNEX conferene put on by Perspective Magazine.  Now, if we could just harness that open atmosphere and expand it to transparancy to timeshare owners and prospective owners, we'd be onto something.

Quality #4-Innovators are champions of individuality.  Not so evident in either the timeshare product nor the timeshare professional.  Sales directors hate to take into account individuals, demanding instead that every salesperson go through the same hackneyed sales steps with every client.  My very last "tour" that I had as a salesperson was a man in his late 50s that had just gotten out of jail on a 17 year crack cocaine charge.  (Yes, this is a true story, I am not that creative of a writer to make this up.)  My manager insisted that I go through all the steps and then came over and asked the man, "so, did you like the model?"  To which I answered, "yes, it's much nicer than the jail cell he's been in for the past 17 years."

Quality #5-Innovators are disruptive.  Innovators will challenge everyday assumptions.  About the only thing disruptive in timeshare seems to be, well, me!

As always, I welcome your thoughts.