By Les in New York
In response to the February 3, 2023 article, Another Wyndham Whistleblower, I write to share how our Wyndham sales agent employed a rising maintenance fee scare to convince us to buy additional points. What happened to us was what former Wyndham sales agent, Tiffany Birch, described in her lawsuit complaint: “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.” Also, “Birch reported to WYNDHAM that supervisors were instructing salespersons to utilize a false and nonexistent ‘buyback’ scheme.”
In July of 2022, we attended a meeting at Wyndham’s Shawnee Village Resort in Stroudsburg, PA. We wanted to find out why another Wyndham member was associated with our account. This check-in was the third time this had caused confusion and delays. The concierge insisted we meet with their admin people to get to the bottom of it. She promised it would not be a sales presentation. We were only staying at the resort for two days so we did not want to waste time with salespeople.
The meeting was with salespeople. They looked over our previous vacations and found a few that weren’t ours. Seamlessly, the first agent moved into a discussion about a resort program based at Bonnet Creek Resort in Florida. She showed us how our existing maintenance fees would be going up over 10 years because of a 13.9% inflation rate. The main selling point that she and her manager presented was that Bonnet Creek’s maintenance fees were more affordable. To further sour us on our existing program, they showed us the interest we had paid on our loan so far, which was shocking. They said that in order to avoid higher maintenance fees, we would have to buy more points to buy into Bonnet Creek. The maintenance fee scare caught us off guard.
Throughout the process, our saleswoman wrote down a lot of figures on several sheets of paper. I thought she would provide them to us, but she kept taking them away when she went back to her office. I asked if we could take some time to go over all the details. That’s when the manager came over and said that the points for this program were selling quickly so they might not be available the next day.
We explained that we have trouble using all our points each year. The agent said that shouldn’t be an issue with the new program because we could sell unused points back to Wyndham. We later learned Wyndham doesn’t have a buyback program.
To further complicate things, my wife suffered an accident that morning. A defective chair in our unit had broken, causing her to fall backwards and hit the back of her head on the wall. She mentioned this to the agent when the promised one-hour meeting began at noon. We had to leave at about 5:30 to go to an emergency care clinic. We completed the transaction after returning at about 7 pm. In fear of missing out on lower maintenance fees, our existing loan was converted to a new loan. The new loan balance increased to $65,700.
Fast forward a few months. My bills showed that instead of lowering costs, we were being charged $375 more per month on the mortgage and $70 more each month on maintenance fees. I called the sales rep to ask about the unknown person that had our membership number. She said she’d get back to us. There was no response.
I’m 68 years old. How is what happened to us, not financial elder abuse?
On November 21, 2022, I called Wyndham’s Finance Department to explain the misrepresentations. I was told we’d have to speak to the Owner Care department. I was forwarded to Tiana, who listened for a few minutes, then literally hung up on me. I couldn’t believe it. I called back and got through to a representative named Brittany. She said our maintenance fees rose because the mortgage principal rose and that there was nothing she could do about it. If it had been explained that our maintenance fees would increase, I would have declined the proposition.
Brittany asked if we had felt pressured. We absolutely were, so she opened up a complaint ticket. I submitted a report explaining how we were misled and pressured through fear tactics. She responded saying we could have left the meeting, we had access to all the details, and we could have cancelled within 7 days, then wished us happy times taking future vacations. Brittany also said that I had acknowledged with my electronic signature the new maintenance fee schedule, but the sales rep didn’t show what my prior maintenance fees were. People don’t bring their prior paperwork or monthly bills with them on vacation! I explained to Brittany that we didn’t have all the details. We weren’t provided with the sales agent’s notes, a hard copy of the contract, or details on the new maintenance fees. We received only a copy of the mortgage note and nothing more. I checked the USB drive we were given. There was nothing but documents on resorts and vacation offers. After we left the presentation, we had no opportunity to review a complicated transaction that took place over many hours.
We first purchased Wyndham points in 2018 in Myrtle Beach. We upgraded once in 2020, in Atlantic City. There we were told that our membership was going to be downgraded from Gold to Silver if we didn’t upgrade. Our sales agent said I could put unused points on Facebook to rent out to help pay our timeshare bills. I had no time to pursue this strategy.
Private equity investors recommend timeshare stocks – because they trick people into signing convoluted contracts when they are on vacation.
In this article, we are going to look at another set of evil companies that use high-pressure sales tactics to trick consumers into signing complex long-term contracts that they don’t understand: timeshare marketing companies. Check out this Reddit post where the user is asking several questions about Wyndham timeshare cancellation. This person was able to cancel and receive a full refund, but many consumers don’t cancel within the 7-day or 10-day window specified in their contracts. Yahoo Finance
The Better Business Bureau notes a Pattern of Complaints
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.
Where are the lawmakers?
A television reporter in Washington State reported on a senior hounded to pay for her deceased son’s timeshare. Through a Public Records Request, she read over 1,000 pages of Wyndham complaints filed with the Washington State Attorney General. That’s only one state!
Thank you Les for your contribution and to Irene for the editing, the maintenance fee is a subject which has figured in our articles on a regular basis, the one thing in common is how it is used to scare members into making rash decisions. The most common use is the “exit & claims” area, with rising costs and the “threat” of your children “inheriting” them on your demise to elicit your payment to exit. Sales have used the idea of “renting” to cover these costs, with some “promising a profit, Silverpoint in Tenerife and Azure in Malta used this to great effect, selling “packs” of weeks as an “investment”.
We keep saying this, timeshare is like no other industry or product you purchase, it is full of deceit, a product that “masquerades” as “property or real estate” when in reality it is only a right to use. It is full of false promises made by sales agents to trick you into even greater debt, all with the knowledge and connivance of their employers, the developers themselves. They make it near impossible to escape from the contracts, coming up with even more schemes to keep you locked in and paying the annual fees.
On the scale of developers who are the worst offenders, as Irene has stated, Wyndham has been one of the better ones, but they still have a long way to go before they are what can only be described as “squeaky clean”.
The ball is in your court!