Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tipping The Social Media Scales Is VERY Easy

Have you ever watched one of the morning news shows where they have a segment named "Trending on Twitter" or something similar?  I checked one day to see what in fact was trending on Twitter and not surprisingly, their trending list was fake. It was a list of topics they fabricated so they could feature them for whatever their reasoning was.

Not a good thing but not dangerous.  Or is it dangerous?

It got me thinking about timeshare related posts on Twitter and how many times I read that positive or neutral timeshare mentions far outweigh negative mentions. So I did several month long studies of timeshare mentions on Twitter. And yes, neutral mentions far outweighed negative ones.

But with just a little digging, I found some red flags. 

*  A full 48% of the mentions were ads for timeshare properties on the secondary market.
*  24% were ads for mini vacs linked to sales presentations.
*  10% were for industry news. 
*  9% were total gibberish including non existent or broken links. 
*  3% were positive comments.
*  The remaining 6% were slightly/overtly negative or complaints 

I suppose that ads for timeshare properties on the secondary market and ads for mini vacs linked to timeshare sales presentations can be considered neutral.  As can legitimate timeshare industry news. I'm clearly NOT knocking timeshare news being posted to Twitter.  Industry news definitely needs to be shared.  I do it whenever I deem it necessary.

Looking more closely at the ads, a clear pattern emerged. The same handful of Twitter accounts were blasting ads for mini vans. And another handful were blasting ads for timeshare properties on the secondary market.
The mini vac ads were clearly placed be what I call Twitter bots. Multiple Twitter accounts posting the exact same message. Over and over again.  Most were poorly written and contained so many grammatical errors, I doubt anyone would actually book a mini-vac through them.
Only a small percentage of the timeshare for sale ads/tweets came from well known-legitimate timeshare resellers.  The good guys as I call them.  The vast majority of them were not.  These companies are not well known, use misleading photographs in their tweets (any timeshare for sale in Orlando is accompanied by a photo of something at the Walt Disney World Resort for instance) and have an astronomical tweet to follower ratio. And these ads seemed to be similar to the mini vac Twitter bots.

For a terrific and insightful article about "Twitter-bots" read this from Fast Company: 

It's evidently quite easy to control what's trending or showing up on Twitter or any other social media channel. We should be asking who or what is behind all these Twitter bots and what their purpose really is.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Around The World In 80 Days With Timeshare

I recently shared the story of a British company, eXpections Holidays, that showed how intrepid travelers could literally go around the world using 80,000 RCI points and some of the benefits of RCI.

I sat down with Roy Forsdick, the Commercial Director of Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket Ltd. (the parent company of eXpectations Holidays) to find out more.

Lisa:  How did you come up with the idea for this adventure?

Roy:  There was a very popular TV series in the 80’s which featured Monty Python’s Michael Palin in which he was challenged with retracing the footsteps of Phileas Fogg from the original “Around The World In Eighty Days” novel. This was my first real introduction to the story and I happened to stumble across one of the episodes on YouTube last year which brought about the question “Could we travel the world on 80,000 points?”. Despite what I felt was quite a compelling case, I couldn’t convince our CEO to send me round the world for 12 weeks! However, since the aim was to demonstrate the value and flexibility of points, a virtual journey using real-time availability from RCI was equally effective and also in keeping with the original novel. 

Lisa:  How can one become a member of eXpectatiions Holidays?

Roy:  “First Time Buyers” can become members by simply purchasing a minimum of 30,000 points. They’re great value, for example, the purchase price for 80,000 points (which may be an excessive membership level for some people) is only £3,799 (approx $6,000). You then own the right to use that same amount of points year after year. 

For existing owners it is important to first explain how the club has been set up. We wanted to make sure we are offering fantastic value to all our members and so underpinning all our points is a portfolio of carefully selected timeshare weeks from various, well-managed resorts around the world. We’ve built the portfolio using our knowledge of the resale market to ensure that every timeshare in the portfolio yields a high level of points for every £ / $ or € paid in annual management fees. 

It’s surprising just how dramatically the value of different timeshare products can vary and so there is some fairly strict criteria regarding what timeshare weeks can be introduced to the portfolio meaning not all existing owners will be able to convert their timeshare into eXpectations. For example, the points value of a low season week in a 2 bedroom apartment is likely to be relatively low which, in itself is OK, but, the annual fee is likely to mean that there just isn’t the required value in order to introduce that week into the portfolio. The owner of a peak week in the same 2 bedroom apartment will have a much higher likelihood of being able to convert their week into eXpectations points on the assumption they pay the same annual fee as the low season owner since the peak week will be worth maybe 3 times the points value of the low season week. 

I hope all that makes sense!! We actually have another video you can watch which explains this with a lot more ease! here’s the YouTube link

Lisa:  How long is membership for?

Roy:  The club is set up to run until 2042 and we’ve built in a guaranteed exit to allow any members to simply walk away after the first three years if they so wish. As you probably know very well, some resorts and clubs can tie their members in indefinitely until ownership is transferred to another party. Because of our business model there’s simply no need to try and retain members who’s holiday habits have changed. 

Lisa:  Is there anything that can't be done with these points that you can do with RCI points?

Roy:  OK, so I think the only real difference is that unlike many other points programs there is no “home resort” for you to book into meaning that you’ll…. I think instead your readers will want to know that they can also bolt on access to hundreds of hotels across Europe where provided they book 6 weeks or less before check in they only pay for Breakfast and Dinner and get the accommodation free! Details on our website!

Lisa:  What are the costs involved?

Roy:  So, after the initial purchase, members pay an annual management fee relative to each point they own along with a membership fee which includes access to RCI. It’s great value. For example, after the initial purchase price of 80,000 points, if you just took the cost associated with using those 80,000 points on a yearly basis the accommodation on the round-the-world journey worked out less than $20 per person per night (based on two people sharing).
I think this is a terrific way to illustrate that if you really want to see the world, or just a portion of it, timeshare gives you the opportunity to do so.  Think outside the box.  Orlando is nice, but there are so many other places in Florida.  Sure, Paris is a wonderful city, but France has much to offer.  
Make 2014 the year you really use your timeshare and the benefits it provides.  I may be headed to Azure Resort in Malta this year for International Timeshare Appreciation Day.  Get out and see the world.
Thanks to eXpectations Holidays ( and Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket, Ltd.  ( Shining examples of honest, caring, intelligent people in timeshare.  My hat is off to both Roy and Phil! 





Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's Time For A Timeshare Restocking Fee

Six things we know for sure:
1)  Consumers simply don’t understand the mountains of timeshare paperwork generated with a sale

2)  Frustrated timeshare owners are being taken advantage of by an army of scammers that ultimately do great damage to consumers and resorts alike

3)  Less than scrupulous sellers have been known to “sneak in” paperwork into the aforementioned mountains of paperwork

4)  The one thing that all of the “good guys” can agree on is that the “bad guys” need to be brought to light and thrown out

5)  Consumers sometime need a way out

6)  Timeshare simply has to adopt policies that other industries have been using successfully for years

It’s with this in mind that I unveil my solution:


Just as you can return a computer for a refund less a restocking fee if the computer is not what you wanted, you find out you wanted a Mac when you purchased a PC, you come to the conclusion you are a technophobe or you thought that the Internet “came with the computer”, you should be able to return a timeshare for a full refund less a restocking fee if:

·        You thought you could move into your timeshare full time

·        You have no idea how exchanging works

·        You lose your job six months after purchase

·        You didn’t quite remember the bit about the annual maintenance fee

·        Your attorney does a thorough review of the paperwork and discovers that the “upgrade” you thought you purchased isn’t “quite” what you thought it was

This restocking fee should be a sliding scale fee.  I propose 5% of purchase price for purchases up to $7,500, 7% for purchases of $7,501-$20,000 and 10% for purchases over $20,000.

Furthermore, there is a time limit of 6 months or until the first maintenance fee is due, whichever is less for consumers to take advantage of this return policy.

Who benefits from this?  EVERYONE.

Consumers benefit from having time to fully review the paperwork and fully understand the benefits and responsibilities of timeshare ownership, which you and I both know cannot (and should not be attempted) be accomplished in the space of a 120 minute sales pitch and a 20 minute closing

Resorts, developers and resellers (the good ones at least, who have nothing to hide) benefit from having the good PR benefit of doing the right thing for consumers.

The industry as a whole benefits from having a much better understanding of who the bad guys really are.

Furthermore, everyone benefits by only having people who are confident in their purchase move forward with it, leading to happy owners, higher owner satisfaction, an increase in owner referrals and far less likelihood of non-payment issues down the road.

This “re-stocking fee” should be implemented for both primary and secondary market sales as it is obvious that there is too much room for “misunderstanding” in a timeshare sale.

This additional time to truly understand all the implications of a major purchase such as a timeshare should be in addition to the legal rescission period in each jurisdiction.  Ten plus years in and around the timeshare industry has taught me that it would be a foolish endeavor to try and get the legal rescission periods extended.

Having said that I feel that any company, especially timeshare companies need to go the extra mile and take the moral high ground in addition to adhering to the legal rules and regulations. 

Legally, Nordstroms does not have to accept returns without a receipt.  They do and they consistently receive exemplary customer service scores.  Legally, Apple did not have to provide me with any assistance when I encountered a “glitch” in my most recent software update since my iPhone was long out of warranty.  They did and my opinion of the company stays at an extremely high level.

I think this “restocking fee” will ultimately result in more sales with less rescission.  Customers buy more when there’s less pressure.  Buying a $20,000 timeshare in the middle of a 7 day vacation when you only have a 10 day cooling off period is pressure.  No one reads the paperwork or even fully understands what they purchased in many cases.  This leads to fear…fear leads to rescission.

The “extra time” that the customer has also means that the resort and the exchange company have that extra time to really communicate and educate the customer.  More time, more communication and more education leads to more confident owners.  Owners who are less likely to cancel.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Who Says Timeshare Isn't A Sought After Product?

The timeshare industry has been gifting/bribing consumers with non-timeshare related stuff for 40 years now based on the assumption that timeshare is not a sought after product, so people have to be SOLD rather than letting them BUY.
This is the basis for most of my gripes with the industry.  I've been very vocal about it and I'm pleased to see that I'm not alone.  Here is a MUST READ  article by my good friend "Scoop" at Inside The Gate.
-by Scoop
May 30, 2014 — I received a few e-mails about last week’s piece and a couple of folks challenged my position and pretty much told me that I was all wet behind the ears. That “You don’t know what you are talking about…”, etc.; and with those and other comments in mind I did some more research on the vacation home market – and man oh man did I ever blow it with my assertions last week in“It’s a Vacation Home Pilgrim”.
So Here’s the Scoop: Upon further research I discovered — based on reports from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) — that people have actually been getting out of their beds in the morning for decades and thought, as I wrote last week, “Golly Gee Whiz, this would be a gosh darn good day to buy that dang vacation home we’ve always dreamed about.”
I learned that during previous years as many as 1/3 of all homes purchased just in the USA were on the secondary market, and those buyers went looking of their own free will, with no gifts being dangled by sellers, etc. and purchased their second home for mostly — now brace yourself Bubba — “recreational use”. You know, for VACATIONING!

For the rest of the story, click here:
Interesting, isn't it?
And while we're at it, think of all the other vacation related products and services that people buy each and everyday, starting with vacations themselves.  This doesn't even begin to give space to the vibrant secondary timeshare market, where thousands of people seek out timeshare without the need for an OPC, a gift, coffee and stale bagels and seeing three or four salespeople each with a different price.
Who says timeshare isn't a sought after product?  Not me!