Friday, November 30, 2018

Peppermint Mochas

In a recent article, I saw that Wyndham Destinations, one of the largest developers in the timeshare industry, is claiming that a timeshare is the same price as, to quote, “A Peppermint Mocha Per Day”. 

That math falls apart almost immediately when you look at the way they calculated this.  Again, to quote, “The average cost of a Wyndham timeshare is $21,000, plus annual maintenance fees from $725 over the course of 40 years, which is equivalent to $3.40 each day. Financing costs and loan length are not considered.”  

Fab. How many people are paying cash for their timeshare?  Most are paying the ‘convenient’ 14, 15 or 16% interest offered by the developer. Oh, and they didn’t factor in the cost of the annual increases in maintenance fees. And they didn’t factor in the cost of making a reservation using the timeshare, nor the cost of membership in an exchange company nor for that matter, the cost of making an exchange with the exchange company. 

In my opinion, in trying to make a timeshare appear inexpensive-which it isn’t-they only succeeded in sounding desperate. Surely they can do better, can’t they?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

How to Combat Sales Psychology

This blog post will not name a specific resort, developer, salesperson or any identifying details for a reason-I want to look at the industry as a whole as well as consumer behavior as a whole. 

Why do otherwise smart consumers routinely plop down thousands of dollars without doing a modicum of research, yet easily find online sites that clearly show that other consumers were lied to only after the fact?  The internet has made information available to us as no time in the past. Why don’t we take advantage of this information?

Here’s part of a consumer’s original complaint, again, with all identifying details redacted:

I tried calling XXX hospitality today and guess what? Nobody ever answers the phone there - particularly our salesperson. 

Has anyone else been scammed by this new 10 year Intro points product?
This is a 10 year product, so not perpetual, 7500 points we were told were the same as US Collection, but our contract states we can only stay at three resorts unless we pay more money to join XXX which was not disclosed to us by the sales agent. The maintenance fees are billed separately.   

#1 The sales agent said Intro points were just like US Collection points. We could stay anywhere the same. There are 56 US Collections properties, but our Intro contract only says we can stay at three, and the one highlighted as our primary, NAME OF RESORT, is closed! NAME OF DEVELOPER had to know this resort is closed.  But they sold us the contract anyways. 

#2 We said we were primarily interested in being able to stay specifically at NAME OF RESORT. We understand booking is based on availability. 

#3 NAME OF SALESPERSON from NAME OF DEVELOPER said we can stay in Vegas but our contract still states only three resorts unless we pay more to join NAME OF INTERNAL EXCHANGE SYSTEM. How much are these fees? 

I have read so many complaints from so many existing NAME OF DEVELOPER members on so many complaint sites, there are far fewer complaints for the branded timeshare names like Hilton or Marriott, Disney, compared to NAME OF DEVELOPERS who seem to be the masters of deception . 

Based on the knowledge that this company is so despised by their own customers, I have no intention of honoring this contract based on how we have been treated, the disparity between what the sales agents promised and what the contract stated, knowing NAME OF DEVELOPER allows sales agents to say anything to sell points, makes us uncomfortable with this contract. 

We will be filing a follow up complaint with the Canadian Vacation Owners Association and with the appropriated US regulatory agencies. 

The public needs to be made aware that NAME OF DEVELOPER sales agents can make up anything to sell points. The fact that the agent told us we could stay anywhere, knowing there were only three locations stated in the contract is unfair and deceptive.

I addressed this woman’s issues/complaint as follows:

Please don’t take this the wrong way. Your post clearly indicates that you have the mental acuity to do all sorts of research AFTER the fact. 

My question to you-and to just about every other person who purchases a timeshare to find out the truth after the rescission period is over-is why didn’t you do any research prior to purchasing?

I just do not understand why consumers do not do even a cursory internet search into a company to see if there are a history of complaints against them. 

I appreciate your response and again, I mean nothing disparaging. The psychology of the entire industry continues to baffle me.

Her answer is quite illuminating:

Lisa Ann Schreier hi thank you for your comment.  We had no plans to purchase a timeshare and was on vacation.  NAME OF RESORT is a very aggressive timeshare organization from the hotel clerks to their welcome desk. We booked the hotel through Expedia. Not being from Nevada I was not aware of the recession period and was not told about this either.  There were no warning signs during the sales presentation that we were being scammed until we read the contract after the rescission period. 

I had no idea that NAME OF DEVELOPER was this crooked!!  people normally do not research timeshare companies before they go on vacation!!  If NAME OF DEVELOPER stands behind what they are selling there would not be a need for the fraudulent practices that they employ to get a sales.  People that are interested in timeshares as a vacation style would invest their money.  But when greed gets in the way and sales agents are allowed to use whatever lies they want to get commission on a sale - you have to wonder about the integrity of the company.  

You are right - I have the mental acuity to understand what was happening and yet I still got scammed! And that's the psychology part of timeshare sales.  But that is why this site exists and the work done by advocates is so important for educating people about timeshares and what to watch out for.

Interesting answer. Now, I don’t condone any salesperson from any developer withholding information or flat out lying. Having said that, there’s absolutely no reason for a consumer to walk into a timeshare presentation “unarmed.”  Do some research. Read some books. Talk to some owners. Ask the right questions. Demand to see answers to those questions in the written contract. Don’t sign anything electronically. Remember you, not the salesperson is in charge. 

Timeshare knowledge is timeshare power. Use it. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Epic Hospitality Fail

Epic FAIL in terms of hospitality at this resort. (This is a verbatim report from a timeshare owner that I’m reprinting in full here both to embarrass the resort personnel and developer involved and to warn consumers to avoid the concierge/hospitality desk when checking in and demand to get your room key from the check in desk.)

Nightmare checking into Royal Kona yesterday!  Before arriving I got a sales call for a whole day of activities etc. for $99.00. I said that I would be interested but didn’t know for sure I would be able to because my husband didn’t know if he was going to make it.  “No problem” said the sales guy.  “If he can’t we’ll just cancel your reservation”.  

But when I checked in, the activities concierge Kamakani Pua said we needed to go over the paperwork for the activities that I signed up for.  I said I called and cancelled it because my husband couldn’t come with me.  He was immediately rude and said I couldn’t cancel because I already agreed to it.  He kept insisting I sign a paper regarding the promotion.  I said I wouldn’t sign it because I cancelled it and I can’t go.  He said he would not give me my room keys unless I signed the paper!!! I had been flying for 12 hours.  I was exhausted and by myself for the first time.  

I asked to speak to  the guy who told me I could cancel and he said he wasn’t available.  I asked for a manager and he refused that too. He was extremely rude.  He said I needed proof and I needed to show him a email or something to prove it.  And then he says, all the calls are recorded, we can pull it up to see if you agreed to this.  I said, awesome!  Get the recording!  He said he’d have to go through customer service, etc. and was raising his voice.  But never did it.  I finally signed it and figured I’d call the credit card company to make sure they didn’t charge me.  

As soon as I got to my room the same guy who was yelling at me Kamakani Pua called and said he cancelled it and I wouldn’t be charged and that he’s sending me a confirmation email.  No explanation, no apology, and no email.  The only email I received was one to join Greenback.  

It was such a nightmare I’m still so upset that he wouldn’t give me my room keys!!  Needless to say we will NEVER agree to do another sales presentation no matter what they offer!  I’ve never been treated so poorly and with such disrespect in my life.  When I was walking away a family stopped me and said they overheard what was going on and said they were having a huge problem too.  Something about their keys not working after a few days and it was a nightmare.  Not sure what that was about because I was so upset about what just happened to me I couldn’t even talk.  We’ve never had any problems with resorts or presentations till now.  I recommend you do NOT stay at the Royal Kona.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Another (Non) Isolated Incident

This is not my story, but the story of a daughter who has become an advocate based on the truly horrible way her parents have been treated.  

I’d like to say this is an isolated incident. It isn’t. It seems to be happening more and more. 

After my parents purchased 17,000 timeshare points in 2014 for $49,492, for no reason, I started looking into their transactions. 

In 2018 I accompanied them to a timeshare presentation at the company they had invested in. I took notes under the table. 

"I am writing this at my parent's last timeshare update March 13, 2018. I am convinced my parents, at age 83 and 79, would have purchased 30,000 additional timeshare vacation points for $234,295 had I not been with them. This offer required a down payment of $69,993. I kept the paper of these terms under the table because members are not allowed to walk out with hand-written notes."

My dad was not feeling well that day. He falls asleep in his wheelchair and had spent six months in the hospital after a heart attack. The stress over this expense has caused my parents' health to deteriorate further.

I first learned of their timeshare purchase when my mom told me they had purchased an investment. She said they had invested in property. I called the company when my dad said they wanted to sell some points. When I asked how to go about selling points, the agent laughed at me.

Like many, my parents used their timeshare for years without complaint. They said they were told they had to give up their deed and buy vacation points. I've learned they did not have to do that. Since then their annual maintenance fees have increased from $2,600 to $4,600.

When the collection calls started, I changed their phone number because they made my mom so upset. She still shakes when she hears the phone ring. She has never been late on paying a bill in her life, so this has caused her to lose weight and lose sleep. I learned my mom's entire Social Security check goes to pay the timeshare mortgage. We have learned their timeshare has no secondary market value.

What they bought:
4,000 points purchased in 3/12/2013 for $20,416
2500 points purchased in 6/25/2013 for $8,325
2500 points purchased in 7/29/2013 for $8,616
15000 trial points 5/4/2014 for $2,995
At ages 79 and 75 they were sold a trial program?

When I called the company and told them that they needed to take back this last purchase at the very least, they said they would work with us but had to talk to my parents directly. 

What did they do -- they sold my parents 17,000 more points over the phone at then ages 79 and 75 for $49,492. My parents said they were told they could not cancel the trial program, but the points could be added to something else. This is why they are in foreclosure. The caller said they would need to attach the trial points to another program. I could not believe it. Their new maintenance fees are $4,780.

My parents are not stupid people. My parents have never had financial problems until now. This situation and this timeshare developer have made me what I am today-a timeshare advocate who will do whatever she can to warn others of these horrible practices. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Manhattan Club Update From Attorney

I’m reprinting this verbatim from the attorney’s office now handling the case.

Zimmerman Law Group Update to TMC Members:

Dear TMC Members: We are writing to provide an update on our progress in the TMC suit.

As many of you know, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Robert Tucker, who was candidate for a non-sponsor Board position, to obtain TMC’s member list (presently maintained in confidence by TMC) in an effort to communicate with other members about remediating and obtaining redress for the wrongs TMC’s Sponsor admitted committing.

A hearing in Mr. Tucker’s case is next scheduled for December 12. While his lawsuit is not part of the action for which we have been retained by other members, Mr. Tucker may make this list available for contacting and organizing timeshare members. We are also engaged in other efforts to obtain the member list from TMC. Obtaining the list will eliminate the stranglehold that TMC’s Sponsor and management presently have on communications between members and allow members to organize and assert their rights. We therefore expect to soon be able to communicate directly with all TMC members about our planned suit. To date, only the Sponsor and management substantially benefit from the continued existence of TMC in its current form. We seek to change that. Our plan is to access the equity locked in the TMC building in addition to seeking damages from the Sponsor and management for their respective wrongs, including charging excessive maintenance fees, renting members’ rooms online to the public while denying preference to members, and otherwise rendering TMC timeshares worthless and thus unsaleable.

To move forward, we require additional members to retain us, beyond the several dozen who have already done so. Therefore, we ask that our supporters assist us in communicating our message to other members. When we reach sufficient scale, we will then be able to cost-effectively utilize all of our capabilities, to overturn the status quo at TMC and obtain relief.

Simply defaulting on timeshare maintenance fee payments and hoping that you can walk away from your TMC interest without any adverse consequence is not a viable option. Despite online posts reporting that members have been contacted by TMC about being able to do just that, recent comments from Shawn Person, CEO of Bluegreen Vacations, Inc. which now manages TMC seems to indicate otherwise. Specifically, during an analyst earnings call on November 5, 2018, Mr. Pearson stated that Bluegreen was “tak[ing] a proactive stance towards” timeshare exit firms who claim

“that they can eliminate owner obligations and encourage delinquencies and owner defaults. Our new Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, Jorge de la Osa, who joined us in June with substantial industry experience, is already making progress, as is the entire timeshare industry who are also focused on the issue. Multiple third-party timeshare exit firms have now filed termination of representation notices relating to more than 205 vacation club owner contracts. In addition, it was recently announced that the founder of one of the higher volume law firms involved in these activities was disbarred by the Supreme Court of Tennessee, and another of the firms declared bankruptcy”

Bluegreen indicates that it is “encouraged with the results of our strategy to date and intend to continue fighting” efforts by or on behalf of members to avoid paying maintenance fees “by aggressively addressing this industry-wide problem.” Similarly, during this same call, Bluegreen’s SVP Mr. Anthony Puleo stated that “while it is still early we believe, our more aggressive stance and other default initiatives show promise.”

Therefore, defaulting on timeshare maintenance fee payments is not the answer. We are not asking our clients to pay us to simply get them out of their contract. We are not an “exit firm”. Rather, we are seeking to recover damages, as well as equity value, and impose penalties on those who have wrongfully profited from TMC members. In the end, liquidation of our clients’ timeshare interest is clearly a goal, but we believe our clients should be paid. BlueGreen’s public statements about its aggressive stance towards defaulting members are a challenge we intend to meet.

As an incentive to increase the number of members who retain us, we are in discussions with a litigation funding firm to provide us with an alternative to the retainer terms we have offered to date. While this non-recourse funding could mitigate any up-front fees, doing so would require that members relinquish a portion of any recovery to the funding company larger than the 30% we have sought.

Please contact us if you would like further details, or wish to join the suit. Thank you.

Jean-Marc Zimmerman Zimmerman Law Group 233 Watchung Fork Westfield, NJ 07090 T: (908) 768-6408 F: (908) 935-0751 E:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Don’t Buy a Timeshare for the Frosting

I keep telling people to only purchase timeshare to use as an alternative to hotel rooms on vacation. But people continue to buy it for the unfulfillable promises of “other” uses.

Just as you shouldn’t buy a cupcake for the frosting, don’t buy a timeshare because the salesperson is telling you “frosting” stories which of course can’t be validated until after your rescission period has run out.

Here’s today’s frosting story:

I don't know if there if anything to be done or legal help, but I thought I'd check here. 

About a month ago we purchased a sampler package for $4000. We spoke in detail (for 3 hours) about wanting to take a trip to Europe with our points. We were told we could completely use our points to reserve these, at a half off rate, for hotels and rental cars. 

When I went to activate the package 10 days later, I found out that we could only use up to 20% points (at full rate) and that rental cars aren't even an option at all. 

We were completely, and blatantly lied to. I tried to follow up with my sales rep who gave us the runaround for over a week. 

I just spoke to the escalation department who said they basically can't do anything since we signed and it's past the rescind date.

I am just feeling so frustrated, lied to, and now out a lot of money that we were saving to use towards our trip. :(

Any help would be amazing, thanks.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

No, RCI Is Not Calling You

Notice From RCI:

From time to time, RCI becomes aware of third party companies attempting to defraud RCI Members and timeshare owners.  Recently, RCI has learned of several trends in consumer telemarketing scams relating to the timeshare and exchange industry that we feel is important to bring to your attention. 

The scams vary, but all of them seek either personal information or money.  Here are some examples: 
•Caller claims to be calling about your recent or past RCI vacations or resort vacations
•Caller asks you to take a survey regarding your timeshare ownership
•Caller invites you to an RCI update, dinner or meeting
•Caller offers to rent your “getaway weeks”, “bonus weeks” or otherwise rent your timeshare week with the promise of sharing the rental profits with you, but requires payment of an upfront fee
•Caller poses as RCI, claims you have RCI weeks left over and offers to purchase them back on behalf of RCI, but requires payment of an upfront fee

Often these callers are fraudulently stating or implying that they are RCI, authorized by RCI to make offers, or they are somehow affiliated with RCI.   These companies use the name of the RCI exchange programs, or refer to RCI terminology and products, to legitimatize the offer. 

Many of these calls originate from “spoofed” or fake telephone numbers.  Sometimes the calls give the appearance that RCI is calling when in actuality RCI is not the caller.  “Neighbor spoofing” is also used where the calls show up on your “Caller ID” using your same area code and telephone number prefix, leading you to believe it is a local call. 

Please know that these calls are not from RCI, and RCI does not approve or in any way endorse these calls or offers.

What should you do if you are contacted with one of these calls?

>Gather specific information about the company calling you, including the name of the company, the full name of the individual, the number they are calling you from and the day and time of the call(s)

>Know Your Rights. Often these companies are calling you in violation of do-not-call rules. If your number is on the national Do-Not-Call Registry or the Do-Not-Call list in your state of residence, and you do not have an established business relationship with the calling company, you may have reason to file a complaint against the company with federal and/or state regulators

>Check the validity of an and all calls by calling 1-800-338-7777 or 317-805-8000. Don’t hesitate to ask!  This will allow you to have confidence in knowing it is RCI calling

We are here to help you plan and enjoy the vacation of your dreams.  If you need any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to visit us at or call us at 317-805-8000 or our toll free line at 1-800-338-7777.

Friday, November 2, 2018

I’m Done Answering Questions About 5 Hour Sales Pitches

One of the most frequent questions I receive from both owners and non-owners is “Do I have to attend a timeshare sales presentation when I’m at the resort?”

It’s very cut and dry:

> If you are staying at the resort or even a hotel at a discounted rate offered by the developer or their affiliated marketing company the answer is YES

> If you are staying at the resort using all or a portion of a ‘trial program’ you previously purchased the answer is YES

> If you are receiving any sort of free or discounted admission, tickets, etc. to a theme park, attraction, concert, special event, etc. the answer is YES

> If you are using your week or points to stay at your home resort the answer is NO

> If you are using your week or points to exchange into another resort the answer is NO

> If you are renting a stay at the resort from an individual owner the answer is NO

> If you are renting a stay at the resort from the resort itself CHECK THE FINE PRINT

As a follow up, here’s an easy to follow checklist of what to do and what not to do to avoid being taken advantage of during a sales presentation:

> Be polite

> Don’t hand over your credit card and/or driver’s license to anyone or allow anyone to make a photocopy of them. If you’re asked for them upon check in to verify your identity, show them while holding onto them

> Ask the salesperson at the onset how long the presentation is going to take, or better yet, the minimum time you need to be there to fulfill the terms of the offer. This is BY LAW found in the small print of whatever offer you’re accepting 

> Set a timer or alarm for ten (10) minutes prior to that to serve as a reminder to both the salesperson and yourself

> If you choose not to purchase whatever they’re offering after your allotted time, say NO, shake the salesperson’s hand, thank them, get up and ask to be directed to where you can claim your gift, or whatever you’re entitled to receive

> If you choose not to purchase whatever they’re offering do NOT sign or initial anything, whether on paper or electronically 

Sounds easy, right?  I can guarantee you that next week I’ll hear a sob story from a consumer telling me that they were ‘forced to buy something’ because the sales presentation went on for 5 hours. 

There are important issues facing consumers in the timeshare industry. I’m done wasting my time on people who simply will not follow any common sense.