By Karen in Virginia
Vacation Village – Massanutten Unfortunate Owners Facebook Group
In 2021 we wrote to Patriots Inn, a Vacation Village resort to request a release. We received an email back saying that they will not take a timeshare back unless there is serious medical or financial hardship. Timeshares were routinely sold as being just like real estate, easy to sell. They are not.
Alarmed at being held hostage, we retained an exit company and signed an agreement on February 25, 2021, to pay the firm $38,653 to be released from two Wyndham contracts and our Patriots Inn contract. We had no loans outstanding.
On June 27, 2022, the Missouri Attorney General announced that he filed suit, naming our exit company as one of the companies involved. I believe exit companies are the symptom. Without getting to the root of the problem, exit companies will be here to stay. From the press release:
Earlier this month, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt charged the owners and operators of Square One Development Group, Inc., Consumer Law Protection, LLC, Consumer Rights Council, Resort Transfer Group, LLC, Premier Reservations Group, LLC, Square One Group, LLC, and Timeshare Help Source with violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
Suspecting we made the wrong decision having retained an exit company, I reached out to Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability, Inc., (TARDA). A volunteer helped us get a refund for the $9,000 we had already paid the exit company and we were able to get the agreement we signed cancelled. An agent from the exit company had been calling asking for the $29,653 balance due.
We attempted to sell the Vacation Village timeshare. A licensed timeshare resale broker I spoke with did not want to list our Patriots Inn timeshare. Another broker said they would list it, but explained that there were about 12,000 unwanted timeshares – just in Florida. I was advised to list our unit for sale with Timeshare Users Group (TUG). I will do that, but if there are no takers, we have no choice but to default or keep an unwanted timeshare.
The timeshare industry lobby, American Resort Development Association, (ARDA), has a Responsible Exit program, but thousands of Vacation Village owners are not eligible as Vacation Village offers no responsible exit unless you are severely ill and unable to travel.
Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc.
Wyndham, on the other hand, was there for us. We purchased a Wyndham timeshare at National Harbor timeshare a long time ago. In 2021 we purchased Club Wyndham Access points. My TARDA volunteer told me about Wyndham Cares. She called them while we were on the phone. I learned that both my contracts were eligible for Wyndham’s Certified Exit, Limited Edition program. The first part of the program involves deeding the points back to Wyndham, which takes six to nine months. After the deed-back is complete, we would have three years to use our remaining points, with no maintenance fees. At the end of three years, the agreement expires and we are Wyndham free. It’s good to know some resorts really do have a responsible exit.
The exit company we signed up with said they were affiliated with ARDA. They explained that ARDA supports their efforts because there is much money being made so lobbyists want us to be happy. The agent specifically said, “That is why they let us do it.” He said they have contract liaisons with every developer that has to be available 24 hours a day; and that they have the authority to negotiate exit agreement fees. Their offer was only available for the day of the presentation, which was held at a hotel convention center.
My TARDA volunteer provided me with the name and email address of the person in charge of ARDA, and the email for ARDA-ROC (Resort Owners Coalition). I copied them on the email I sent to the exit company when I asked for the $9,000 back. It was a nail-biting wait, but the exit company agreed to refund the $9,000 and end the agreement, with a snarky comment, “You seem to think we cannot help you. If and when the volunteer can’t help you we will be here.”
Our Vacation Village Timeshare Trap
I spoke with Sheri in Minnesota after reading about her The Colonies at Williamsburg, Vacation Village experience. Sheri was promised the ability to easily sell her Westgate timeshare to be able to afford to buy at The Colonies. Like Sheri, I was told I could easily rent out our Vacation Village timeshare if I couldn’t use it to pay our maintenance fees. According to Sheri, if you complain about being told of this unfeasible strategy, Vacation Village will only remind you that you signed a contract.
Around 2018, we attended an owner’s update at Vacation Village’s Williamsburg Plantation resort. Our main objective was to get out of a tri-annual contract that we had purchased in 2010. We wanted points rather than a fixed-week contract. A sales agent convinced us to turn in our tri-annual 2 BR unit for an every-year property at the Patriot’s Inn. The cost was $15,000. This was when our sales agent told us that we could rent out the week. He did a whole spiel about going on RedWeek to list our week, saying we would get top dollar if there was a conference or a big event going on, and that if we researched what was going on in the area, we could make a lot of money during high demand periods. Not true.
We thought we were exchanging our fixed week for points, but that was not the case. It turned out we would need to bank the week with Interval International to get credited points – for a fee.
We made it clear that we did not want to go to Williamsburg in August. It’s too hot. We ended up with a Patriot Inn every-year week (week 34), in August.
Patriot’s Inn has a D- BBB rating
Vacation Village has a BBB rating of F
TIMESHARE HELP SOURCE, the exit company, has a BBB rating of B
Better Business Timeshare Help Source Profile and Complaints
A TUG post about Timeshare Help Source
Maureen, look up Resort Release to see where they ended up. (Bankrupt last year.) They had an A + rating with the BBB and dozens of glowing reviews. They offered a Money-back guarantee. Their owners, Shyla Cline and her husband, bought a $9 million mansion in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. At first, they looked SO good. Then, not so much. That is how the exit industry operates. Here today, gone tomorrow.
AND… one of the complaints about the company was that the person did not receive the promised $500 gift card. Food for thought.
Timeshare Help Source is barely 2 years old. A February 2021 article about owner Charles Hearn, who sold timeshares for seven years:
Wyndham has a C+ rating BBB rating and a Consumer Alert posted:
BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances, owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.
Our email to ARDA:
I need to talk to someone asap about an exit presentation. Timeshare Help Source from Colorado Springs said they were affiliated with you. We have put down a lot of money for them to get us out of 2 Wyndham contracts and one small Vacation Village. In searching Facebook, I am concerned we are making a mistake. They told us not to contact Wyndham or we would lose our money, but I have seen other posts where people got money back through their exit program. Please call.
No one called.
Peter at Timeshare Help Source told me, “Wyndham won’t do anything.” He should have advised me to reach out to both resorts before entering into an agreement with them but instructed us not to call either developer.
The Bottom Line
I’m sure there are circumstances when it might be necessary to pay a law firm, but anyone seeking an exit should contract their resort before paying anyone. There are resources like After Inside Timeshare and TARDA that will provide straight answers. TARDA volunteers answer questions about regulatory filings if you feel you experienced unfair and deceptive marketing and sales practices and are not able to resolve a dispute by working with your resort.
Just don’t be fooled twice.
Related articles: How to Write and File a Timeshare Report
Consumer Law Protection
Thank you, Karen, your experiences along with the many others we have published, certainly reinforce the point of blame for the many scams owners have to face. By denying or making it almost impossible to “exit/relinquish”, the developers are supporting a growing industry, fraud. In Europe, the problem has grown even more rapidly than people have realised, it has also gone one step further, “exit & claims”. The enticer is a “no win no fee” claim, but in order to do this, you have o pay them upfront for “exit/relinquishment”, even if the member has already got out of their timeshare, they are being told the contract was not legally cancelled. Needless to say, the “claim” will never materialise.
In no other industry can we find that it is the policies of the developers that have spawned an industry that preys on its own customers and members, but there again, their own sales agents are also committing what we will only describe as a “scam”. These are well documented, and in Spain, they also have the evidence of court judgements, the long-running fraud perpetrated by Silverpoint.
Timeshare is full of lies, from the moment you are approached for a sales presentation to attempting to exit you are vulnerable to more lies, and unless the developers and their mouthpiece ARDA recognise that they are the root cause of the problem, the more their own members are going to get “scammed”.
That is all for this week, join us on Monday which just happens to be Independence Day for our US friends, it is also the start of their “Military Consumer Month” and is a stark reminder of the problems AIT has highlighted with “Predatory Military Lending“, another abhorrent tactic of the industry.
Have a great weekend, we certainly will, Baby Dog already knows it’s that time again.