Monday, June 29, 2015

What Changes Can Starwood Timeshare Owners Expect?

You've probably heard the news that Starwood (HOT) expects to "spin-off" its timeshare division in the near future.

While this may have significant affect on the stock value of both Starwood and the new entity, to be called Vistana Signature Experiences, Inc., we here at the timeshare blog are more interested in the affects to individual timeshare owners.

We posed some questions to Starwood and received these answers from someone who wants to be identified as "a spokesperson for Starwood Vacation Ownership":

·         For an average SVO current owner, what changes can they expect?

o   For our average current SVO owner, the new standalone company will explore new development and growth opportunities to offer more options and flexibility to owners and enhance their vacation experiences.  We have a rich 35-year history in the vacation ownership industry and expect to bring new and exciting opportunities to our owners in the future.

·         Will there be changes in exchange company?

o   No, there will be no changes in the exchange company.

·         Will all of the existing resorts continue to operate under the new Vistana name or it is expected that some will leave?

o   From a naming convention, all resorts will continue to operate as they do today.

·         On the flip side, are there new timeshare resorts expected to join?

o   Yes, 5 assets will transfer to the new company.  Additionally, we could possibly add The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, our newest purpose built resort on Maui which is opening in 2017.

·         I know that SVO owners have the option of using their ownership as SPG points on an every other basis.  Will this continue?

o   Yes, subject to the terms of our agreements with Starwood, all current and future owners will continue to enjoy privileged access to the SPG program. 

·         What changes will be made to the timeshare properties’ HOAs?

o   Our corporate identity may be evolving, but our vision will remain the same: to be the premier provider of outstanding personalized experiences, giving our vacation Owners, Members and Guests—a better way to see the world®. 

·         What impact will this have on expected annual fees at each of the resorts?

·         The annual maintenance fee assessments are already approved and billed to owners for 2015 and we expect there to be little to no change to our future budget processes.
Thoughts?  What do you foresee?  If you're a Marriott owner what changes did you encounter once they "spun-off"?


Monday, June 22, 2015

I'm Mad As Hell, But I Don't Know How To Fix Things

Everyday I receive an average of three e-mails from timeshare owners who are confused, feel ripped off and want out.  I can only assist them so much as I'm a writer and an educator, I don't buy or sell timeshare, I'm not an attorney and everyone knows that it is nearly impossible to "get out" of a timeshare, particularly when there are thousands still owed on it.   Day after day these e-mails come in and day after day I try my very best to find out why these consumers don't seek out any assistance PRIOR to buying a timeshare, only afterwards.

Here's the unedited e-mail that prompted this blog post:

Im a very angry Bluegreen owner. I have sent dispute letters and letter to Missouri Attorney Generals office. I have recieved a response from Missouri Attorney General with a nice letter from Bluegreen denying us of our money being returned and letting us out of our timeshares. They denied no wrong doings. I have sent them paperwork on top of paperwork to them showing them how we aren't the only timeshare owners that have been through the same scams and deceptive sales tactics. This has been going on since last August.
All this has got us is late payments on our credit and charge off/ collection. So I'm assuming after we contact the Mo Attorney General office within the next 45 days they will start wanting to collect from us. They have told us so many lies. They have even went as far to call us and offer to put is up at the 1000 Hills Golf course. Just for coming in for a owners update. But, they claim we arent pressured into going to owners updates. We choose to go to them, we only go to complain about all the issues we have had. What do they do to help take care of our concerns and issues, get you to try and buy more points.
We have 15,0000 bcuz they only way to fix one of our issues was to buy into bronze and that will give us a different screen of availability. Well I guess that explains why we could never get in when we wanted. Because we had 8,000 points. Duh? They highly pressured us to sign up for two credit cards for each my husband and I. After we repeatedly stated we didnt want any new credit cards and mind you we were there for serveral hours and our salesman who we were there for a owner update to explain again our issues. Nevermind that he knew I was very sick and had a headache and was threwing up.
I could go on and on about Bluegreen. Like they told us we would be deeded Big Cedar and that we own a one bedroom unit. Also that we wanted to be deeded at Big Cedar because it will be worth alot of money later. We can hand it down to our kids. Not telling us that we would owe for a lifetime and our children and there children and so long would be responsible for rising maintenance fees and club dues. Also that if there was a major disaster we would be liable for assessment fees. They told us with our 8000 would allow us to take our 3 girls and us to Disney. Wow what a lie. We could sell a week on eBay and make money off it.
A good one was a sales person told is that the employess do that and make money and then buy more points to continue to sell time at Big Cedar for people to buy to come stay there. Also were told by a sales person the reason why we couldnt get in when we wanted was because they went public and hugh corporations were buying up a hugh part of the inventory. I have in sight on their sales tactics from a former sales person who told us they were told to say anything to get a sell. If they dont sell they are fired. Which explains the high turn over of salespersons there. I should send a copy of the letter Bluegreen sent to the Missouri Attorney General. I always paid all my monthly payments and maintenance fees and club dues in time. I only stop paying them when we kept finding out things they told us were lies. Otherwise if they did what the promise and sell you we would still be paying.
We paid on one time share since 2005 and the other one 3 years(this is the one we had to upgrade to so we could stay there at Bronze level) I so tired worrying myself sick with Bluegreen. I am on a mission and looking for someone that can actually help us be done with this horrible company once and for all. Do you have any insight for us?? 

You can sense her frustration and frankly, I'm equally frustrated.  These sales tactics are reprehensible and make me ill.

However, it makes me equally ill to read that a consumer purchased such an expensive product...two of them...without doing so much as a cursory Internet search or verifying anything that the salesperson said...such as the number of points it would require to take a family of 4 to a resort near Walt Disney World.

Even if I were to be able to get this one person a refund...and that is doubtful to say the least, it doesn't stop other salespeople from such practices and doesn't stop consumers from making similar purchases without doing their due diligence.  How can something as good and fun as vacations have been tarnished like this?

And how do we fix this?

Friday, June 5, 2015

7 Questions You Had Better Be Asking

Ah, summer vacation season is here.  Beaches, theme parks, tourist attractions, dining, cities and oh yes, for millions of people, one or several timeshare sales presentations.
As I've said for years, timeshare can be a great thing for some people.  However, you had better be asking something more than "how much is it?" before making any decisions.
Here are some starter questions:

1)    Do you understand all the terms and conditions of the contract?

2)    What are the current maintenance fees?

3)    What is the five (5) year history of those fees?

4)    Are there any special assessments and if so, what are they and what are they for?

5)    Is the HOA (Home Owners Association) under developer control or owner control? 

6)    How much of the resort is sold out?

7)    What is the current delinquency rate among owners?

If you don't know why you should be asking these questions...perhaps this is not the time to purchase.  If you'd like more questions to ask...e-mail me.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Bluebell Ice Cream Understands "It"

Lately, Blue Bell Ice Cream has made some mistakes...some of them serious.

However, they maintain a loyal following in part, because of their ability to recognize, fix and move on from those errors.

Take a look at this video clip:

The difference between Blue Bell and other companies is quite simple:  they don't operate in an us vs. them mindset, they own their mistakes, they talk about them and above all, they are mistakes, they don't have a history of unfulfilled promises, misrepresentation and doing wrong for the consumer.

Lessons to be learned no doubt.  Who is paying attention?