Monday, January 22, 2018

Enough With The Upselling Already

Today’s Guest Blog comes from a very frustrated and angry Diamond owner. This pattern, and it is a pattern, of continually attempting to upsell owners with more and more outrageous promises MUST STOP. 

Ok, Here goes.  We were/are long time Diamond members with 2225 (ish) points a year.  In January 2017 we went to Orlando Florida on a free stay/meeting.  We met with the DRI rep and told him that our biggest complaint was the maintenance fees.  $700 a year for points we rarely used.  

He told us that if we bought more points to get our total up to 5000 points a year that we would become Platinum members.  Yeah, my maintenance fees would go up because of the added points, but as Platinum we would get access to more options, one of them being the ability to sell back unused points for $.50 a point at the end of the year.  That money could then go towards paying our maintenance fees.  We would also be able to use our points at any hotel anywhere, and in January of 2018 there would be a "cash out" option where Diamond would buy back out timeshare if we were not happy, we would take a loss, but we would be free and clear.  All of this was because Apollo was taking over and things were getting better.  He then offered us what sounded like a good deal on 3000 points to get us to the magic 5000 points a year mark.  so...  sadly... we did it. 

Turns out the new 3000 points became a second account, so instead of one account with 5000+ points, we have the original 2225 and a second one with 3000.  

I cannot even use them on the same vacation, I have tried.  I have been trying to get Diamond to merge them for a year.  There is also no such program to buy back points. at least none they will tell me about, and I have learned that it does not take 5000 points to get to platinum, it takes 50,000.  

It is very difficult to use points at a non Diamond resort and if you try, you end up paying almost as much as you would out of pocket anyway... plus you use points.  As for as cashing out....yeah right.  

So I walked out of that meeting a year ago thinking that my maintenance fees would go down or if I didn't use any points, i could pay all my maintenance fees with the money earned from selling my points back.  instead... I now pay more then twice as much in maintenance fees and of course i am still paying on the loan for the new 3000 points.

This last week I have been talking to Diamond.  They finally said they could merge my accounts.  All I have to do is buy another 2500 points.  What is wrong with these people?  When I told them i wanted to be less invested in DRI, they said I would have to pay the maintenance fees for the rest of my life and if i did not buy the extra 2500 points and merge my accounts, one of those accounts would get passed on to my children.    

This is not a vacation.  this is horrible. 

I know a lot of people that claim they can help are scammers, but I need something!! ... this has to end, I have to get out from under DRI somehow.



What are your experiences with Diamond?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Word of Warning

I can not state this strongly enough:

I absolutely encourage you to comment on any and all posts. However, if you choose to include your email address in your comments you are opening the door to scammers. These guys are good in that they know the psychological tricks and language to use to separate you from your money. 

The only recommendation or referral that comes from me will be via email from me. 

Do NOT include your email address in your comment. DO continue to read and comment. 

If you require assistance or are looking for specific information, contact me directly at:

lisaschreier617@gmail.com


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Where Are The Needed Consumer Protections?

Timeshares have long suffered from a negative image, brought on for the most part by the outdated and heavy handed marketing and sales practices that are still in use, despite what those in charge of ‘spin’ in the industry would like us to believe. 

However, as 2018 dawns, it’s becoming clear that the developers and the national association that protects those developers have carefully crafted an environment where they reign and consumer protections are dangerously close to non-existent. 

We’re not just talking one concerning developer practice here, but rather a carefully orchestrated business model that puts consumers at a clear and some would say, illegal disadvantage.

Consider this:

—At least one major developer, has a clause buried in their contract that bans any owner from starting or joining any class action lawsuit, forcing them instead into arbitration which in their case,
they pre-selected the exclusive filing location or venue, making it costly and inefficient for the consumer and is so knowledgeable about the pool of available arbitrators from experience in using them, that they can in part control the outcome by striking any proposed arbitrator that hasn't previously ruled in favor of the developer. The one shot that a consumer can't compete in that game.

To protect themselves, within that clause the developer states that a consumer may ‘opt out’ of that restriction if they notify the developer within 30 days of purchase. Talk to 100 of their owners, and 99 of them are unaware of this. 

Another developer, now exiting the industry themselves and formerly based in New York City, wrote their contracts in such a way that unsuspecting owners literally gave the developer the right to change the Offering Plan several times annually without owners' knowledge or advisement. Changes were made with the New York States Attorney General’s office as well as with New York City Real Property Records to change the type of deeds the owners held. You guessed it; the changes that were made inevitably favored the developer and put the owners at a disadvantage. 

—Then there is the inability to access or use what you purchased until well after the rescission period. In the United States, there is a legal rescission or cooling off period which ranges from 3-10 days. On the surface, that sounds like adequate consumer protection. But dig a little deeper as I did in this article I wrote for Senior.com(https://senior.com/timeshare-industry-keeps-rescinding/) and you’ll see that while almost all developers pressure you to purchase within the scope of a 2-5 hour sales presentation; promising you the price is for ‘today only’, they are under no obligation, legal or moral, to process the paperwork giving you access to what you purchased within that same legally mandated rescission period. Additionally, developers are getting ‘creative’ in how they give you the legal paperwork concerning the purchase and the rules concerning rescission. Several developers now routinely use a CD ROM or a tablet of some sort, both of which are difficult at best to access while on vacation. 

—Check any timeshare contract and you’ll find the ‘oral representation clause.’ This nifty clause, also known as ‘the salesperson can lie all they want during the sales pitch’ clause allows salespeople working on behalf of timeshare developers to say whatever is necessary to obtain the sale during the course of the 2-5 hour sales pitch and be under no obligation to live up to any of it. To wit; one major developer is telling unsuspecting consumers that they’ll be able to ‘cash in their timeshare points’ at $.30 per. When the owner attempts to cash those points out, they are of course told that no such program exists. 

—Most salespeople extoll the many virtues of timeshare ownership, among them being the ‘full bundle of rights’ that being the ability to use, exchange, rent, sell or will their interest. Ah yes, the ability to sell. What they don’t mention is that in the majority of cases, the resale timeshare market is so depressed that there are hundreds of thousands of owners who are listing their timeshare for sale for less than $1,000 and in many cases for nothing after spending upwards of $20,000 for their ‘piece of paradise.’ (In 2016, the average price of a timeshare was over $21,000)

—The American Resort Development Association (ARDA), funded by timeshare developers and exchange companies among others, has a Code of Ethics. (http://www.arda.org/ethics/) However, several high ranking members of ARDA including at least one serving on the Ethics Committee, have been copied on at least 80 and as many as 100 detailed complaints from one consumer advocate on behalf of owners. ARDA’s response? They have ignored every single complaint. What, I ask you is a Code of Ethics good for if it’s not enforced? The answer of course is ‘window dressing.’ It looks good but is in fact empty. 

Skeptics of the premise that the consumer is clearly at serious disadvantage in timeshare matters will fall back on the old adage ‘caveat emptor’ or buyer beware. Defenders of the timeshare industry will point out that more than 7 million people own timeshare. However, even a cursory look behind the numbers will reveal an industry that consistently struggles against a negative image and furthermore, steadfastly refuses to do anything to change that, relying on the fact that consumers can not possibly read, understand and agree to language contained within mounds of paperwork signed while on vacation. 

The timeshare industry has cleverly written their own rules. I’ve yet to find another product that has been able to do that and whose rules of governance so clearly disregard common legal and moral obligations to the consumer. 

For timeshare and the vacation ownership industry to survive, some drastic steps must be undertaken, including sales and marketing methods of attracting new owners along with creating sustainable owner programs that show consumers that they are indeed a real stakeholder.

Why Timeshare Rescission Laws Are Laughably Useless

Everyone knows that in the US and most other countries, there are so-called consumer protection laws allowing a consumer to cancel or rescind the purchase of a timeshare and receive all of their money back. In the US, these rescission periods range from 3-10 days. 

Let’s forget for a minute that most timeshare developers make the consumer follow quite strict and sometimes arcane procedures to actually rescind. Let’s further forget for a minute that at least one well-known developer goes even further and actually hides any and all mention of the rescission period in a ‘secret compartment’ in the myriad of paperwork given to purchasers. 

Let’s focus on the absolute absurdity of the short period of time that consumers have to cancel. 

To wit:

  1. Purchasers are given either mounds of paperwork or worse yet, a CD/ROM with all the terms and conditions. 99% of the time, the purchase is made while the consumer is on vacation. The odds of a consumer reviewing these terms and conditions are incredibly small. 
  2. The Uniform Commercial Code ‘gives a buyer a right to inspect goods prior to accepting or paying for them, and a buyer is not required to pay for goods that he or she does not accept. More specifically, before making payment, the buyer has the right to inspect the goods “at any reasonable place and time and in any reasonable manner.”’  In the case of deeded-timeshare, how many purchasers actually inspect the physical unit they purchased?  Worse yet, how does a consumer inspect a point-based timeshare?
  3. Shouldn’t ‘inspecting the goods’ include determining if the timeshare operates as the salesperson said it did?  You’d expect this from a watch, a TV, a computer or even a pair of jeans. Not so with timeshare. 
  4. The ‘use’ of a timeshare boils down to two options:  using it at the home resort or trading/exchanging to another refuel, whether internal or external. Furthermore, the use of the timeshare requires an ‘account’ of some sort, generally Internet based, to be activated. Not surprisingly, the developer is UNDER NO TIME CONSTRAINTS TO OPEN OR ACTIVATE THIS ACCOUNT. 

So, the consumer has absolutely no method of adequately inspecting anything. No way of seeing how many points it really takes to get that 2-bedroom condo in Hawaii, no way of seeing just how easy it is to get a studio in Daytona during Race Week. Not even a way of finding out how simple it is to come back to the home resort the following July. 

Now of course I hear you asking, ‘how is this possible?  This isn’t fair!’  The answer of course is that the timeshare laws were written approximately 40 years ago and that the terribly clever people in the industry categorized their nifty little product in such a way that the UCC didn’t pertain to it. 

As a matter of fact, those clever people made sure that the laws covering their nifty timeshare product were specific to only timeshare. 


And there you have it. A legal rescission period that on the surface, is consumer protection. In actuality, it’s a total farce. Except the only ones laughing at this face are those within the industry. Consumers are crying.