There have been a number of whistleblower lawsuits filed by former timeshare sales agents. While a wrongful termination lawsuit is technically not a whistleblower lawsuit, former Wyndham Vacation Ownership sales agent, Tiffany Birch, did “blow the whistle” on alleged unfair and deceptive practices. Ms Birch filed her lawsuit on December 30, 2022.
There are strong similarities in the deceptive practices described by Ms Birch in her lawsuit, and reports from members and owners of other timeshare developers. In particular, many have reported that their sales agents falsely claimed that maintenance fees will rise dramatically if additional points are not purchased.
Past Wyndham whistleblowers include former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams. In 2016 a jury awarded Ms William $20 million.
In 2018, ten former Wyndham Clearwater Beach Resort marketing and sales employees filed a lawsuit in Pinellas County, Florida, alleging unlawful sales practices. The case is pending. The former employees allege that a Wyndham Vice President forced them to “engage in, or otherwise resist, unlawful sales practices at the direction of their Supervisors.” One Supervisor advised Plaintiffs to, “forget everything (they) just learned” as they would never make a sale that way.”
CALIFORNIA PLAINTIFF TIFFANY BIRCH’S COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES AND DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
Excerpts from Tiffany Birch’s lawsuit complaint:
BIRCH reported to WYNDHAM that supervisors were instructing salespersons to falsely tell customers their maintenance fees will increase if the customers do not purchase more products.
BIRCH reported to WYNDHAM that supervisors were instructing salespersons to falsely tell customers that if they do not make a purchase their HOA/maintenance fees are going to triple and quadruple. For example, customers were told that if their maintenance fees are $250 a month now and they do not make a purchase the maintenance will go to $750 a month with the assessments coming to their ownership. This is a complete lie and fear tactic used by WYNDHAM to coerce customers to buy more points or trade their contracts, which are both actions that benefit WYNDHAM.
BIRCH reported to WYNDHAM that supervisors were instructing salespersons to falsely tell customers that if they do not buy a deed they will get assessed on their account and owe extra fees.
This is a case about a company once again valuing its profits over its people, customers, and the law. Plaintiff TIFFANY BIRCH has been wrongfully and unlawfully retaliated against by her employer of WYNDHAM VACATION OWNERSHIP, INC., for disclosing information that her employer was engaging in unlawful acts of fraud and elder abuse through its timeshare sales practices, and for reporting illegal gender discrimination, which WYNDHAM substantiated after an internal investigation, but refuses to correct.
BIRCH suffered adverse employment actions in that she was not put “on the wheel” which is how the best sales assignments are given to employees and saw her income dramatically decrease as a result.
BIRCH reported to WYNDHAM that supervisors were instructing salespersons to utilize a false and nonexistent “buyback” scheme. In this scheme, customers are falsely told WYNDHAM will buy back unused points from customers. In reality, WYNDHAM does not purchase any points back; this is the lie salespeople are instructed to say so customers feel comfortable making a large point purchase.
BIRCH reported to WYNDHAM that supervisors were instructing salespersons to falsely tell customers they will lose a “discount” if they do not purchase on that day. In reality, there is no discount; this is completely made up and is a false high-pressure sales tactic used to coerce the customers to make an immediate purchase.
BIRCH reported to WYNDHAM that supervisors gave direct orders for salespersons to “go in the grey” when pitching to customers, meaning to employ false, deceptive, and illegal sales practices.
BIRCH also reported to WYNDHAM false and illegal sales practices regarding WYNDHAM’S “Vacasa” and “Travelrama” programs. Both of these programs are complimentary programs anyone may use without purchasing any WYNDHAM products. Supervisors instructed salespersons to make representations to customers that Vacasa and Travelrama are separate programs that have some added value. Salespersons are instructed to tell customers they must buy points to be able to “purchase” these programs when in reality these are just names of amenities anyone can use without buying any WYNDHAM products.
This is referred to within WYNDHAM as the “Blue Thread” sales pitch.
As part of the “Blue Thread” sales pitch, salespersons are also instructed by WYNDHAM to lie to customers and tell them they must open a WYNDHAM rewards credit card (another product that benefits WYNDHAM financially) to enrol in these rewards programs.
WYNDHAM purchased “Travel and Leisure” in 2021. BIRCH was told by management that as a result of this purchase, WYNDHAM was going to have a full new collection of inventory, including private homes and Air BnBs. BIRCH and other salespersons were likewise instructed to make this representation to customers to get them to purchase more WYNDHAM products and points. However, this was false.
In reality, WYNDHAM purchased the name “Travel and Leisure,” but there are no additional benefits or inventory to this branch. Nevertheless, WYNDHAM employees are directed by management to sell the “Travel and Leisure” brand to customers and to falsely tell customers they must purchase points to be a part of “Travel and Leisure” moving forward.
Another program being promoted as “the new system” is “Travel Up”. It is a website customers can access to purchase airline tickets, car rentals, cruises, and other travel reservations. WYNDHAM instructed BIRCH and other salespersons to falsely tell customers they can use their ownership points and reward points to make these reservations. This is false. Customers cannot use WYNDHAM ownership or rewards points on this website at all and must pay out of pocket for these reservations.
Two more whistleblowers
We will be reporting on two other wrongful termination lawsuits. Timeshare members deeply appreciate those who are not afraid to speak up when they feel the consumer is being treated unfairly and deceptively. Anyone who feels they have been harmed should report their experience to the Federal Trade Commission by filing a complaint, and “Tell Your Story” to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Whistleblowing is an act of making public a wrong, it is a matter of conscience for the person making the call, often with severe consequences to themselves. A famous case which is still ongoing is the “Wikileaks” founder Julian Assange, he has been facing a relentless barrage of legal cases to bring him to trial, spending 7 years holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
It cannot be an easy choice to make, putting on the line your career and livelihood, possibly making life difficult not just for yourself but your own family, to protect those you don’t even know. It is a choice many have made and some have paid the ultimate price, without their conscience, many wrongs will never have been put right.
AIT will continue to publish these and other stories for as long as it takes for the industry to change, Whistleblowers are welcome.
That is all for this week, we hope that you all have a good weekend and join us again next week. Baby Dog got caught in the act, trying to sneak up onto the sofa when he wasn’t allowed, face says it all.