After I attended three of the four-day Wyndham v Carlsbad Law, Timeshare Compliance/Pandora Marketing bench trial, beginning October 24, I reached out to Timeshare Compliance seeking answers to questions I had about what transpired. Timeshare Compliance was more than willing to discuss the lawsuit, grateful that someone is willing to present their side, something the courts don’t always allow. Timeshare Compliance was not represented at trial because the firm had already been issued a default judgment.
In Part IV I will list the highlights of the trial and the answers to my questions received from Catherine Tan, Director of Administration, and from Timeshare Compliance co-founders, Rich Folk and Bo Wilson. I will also reach out to Wyndham Media and Carlsbad Law for comment.
Part III My History with Timeshare Compliance
An attorney introduced me to Catherine, Rich and Bo in early 2019, well before any lawsuits had been filed. I learned that Michael Santos, one of Rich’s high-school friends, had written a 23,000-word self-help manual to help disgruntled timeshare members self-advocate their way towards dispute resolution, offering a less costly option of support and guidance. I was asked to collaborate.
Michael Santos and two co-founders founded the Straight-A-Guide Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, in 2009. Straight-A-Guide’s clients were prisons. Self-advocating strategies were offered to approximately 100,000 prisoners a year to help them transition back to society productively. If I remember correctly, the two other founders included a convicted bank robber, who became a lawyer, interviewed by 60 Minutes. He assisted the Trump administration with criminal justice reform. The other co-founder served time for white-collar crime.
The concept sounded perfect for timeshare!
Michael Santos’ Ten Tips to Voluntarily Surrender to Authorities:
- In what ways are you defining the best possible outcome?
- How do you intend to document that journey?
- What priorities must you put in place, before the start of the journey?
- What tools, tactics, and resources can you create to differentiate yourself from every other person that wants to get out early?
- How will you show that you’ve executed the plan?
- In what ways will you invite the world to hold you accountable?
- How transparent will you make your execution strategy?
- In what ways will the documentation you create advance your candidacy for relief?
- How will your strategy show that you’ve worked hard to make amends?
- In what ways will stakeholders see you as being different from expectations of people that have gone into the system?
Michael and I spent a month or two revising the manual, and recording interviews with timeshare members struggling to resolve their dispute or be released from their timeshare.
Husband Don on my right, Michael Santos on my left
Michael Santos, in his early 20s, watched the movie Scarface and concluded trafficking cocaine was a good idea. Busted after a few years, with no violent crime, and no weapons, he was sentenced to 45 years during the Drug Czar years that lasted until 1962, under the administrations of presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy. He served 26 years of his 45-year sentence. During his years of incarceration, Michael earned a B.S. degree, and a Master’s degree, and became a PhD candidate. He published seven books and became known as the Prison Professor. While incarcerated, he married another of his high school friends.
Callers to Timeshare Compliance were referred to Straight-A-Guide, if they had no outstanding loan, or if it was determined they were not a good fit for Timeshare Compliance. Of the 129 families that were referred to our volunteers, 97 were able to resolve their dispute to their satisfaction or be released from their timeshare, by working directly with their resort. The remaining 17 were not resolved, because they did not want to follow the process, or may have misunderstood self-advocacy, and 15 families are pending with an unknown outcome.
Instead of charging a sizable upfront fee, those willing to dig in to resolve their own dispute were charged $299 per month for six months and could cancel after the first month, if they resolved their dispute, or did not want to continue with the program. The fact that 75% of those who signed up for the program resolved, is a remarkable achievement. I would argue with any developer that these families, often angry, confused and desperate, were taken advantage of because they were charged this modest amount when they did not know where to turn. Our volunteers were not compensated. I was not compensated.
I consider the program a success, but after Timeshare Compliance became more involved with Straight-A-Guide around 2020, I distanced myself, uncomfortable having a direct relationship with an exit company. Our volunteers have NEVER referred anyone to an exit company.
I am part of a nationwide network of volunteers offering advice as to how to file a complaint with state and federal agencies. The task can be daunting for some, as each state has different requirements and some members are not aware of federal agencies that should be contacted. Not many find us. We don’t have search engines or advertising budgets. Sizeable exit providers receive 3,000 callers per week or more. We hear from one to three families per week.
My Exit Company campaign
In 2019 I contacted four or five of the larger exit firms, concerned that they were accepting as clients, Diamond members who had no outstanding loans. Diamond’s exit program Transitions works for those in good standing, unlike some developers, who cherry-pick inventory. In other words, some responsible exit programs are mostly smoke and mirrors. Not so with Diamond Resorts!
Although Diamond is not required to take back inventory, everyone seeking release that I referred to Transitions who met the required criteria was able to exit. I exited two of our three Diamond contracts. One criterion is that you did not retain a third party. I did not blame Diamond for refusing to accept members for Transitions who had paid a third party. Why pay an exit company $2,500 to $5,000 when all the member had to do was go to their login page, click Transitions, choose from their list of contracts, and click which contracts you wish to exit? There might be paperwork glitches, but overall, the process is painless. Diamond imposes a Transition fee of $1,000 per contract, unless you fall under the 2017 Arizona Attorney General’s settlement terms, in which the member pays only $250 per contract.
Despite Transitions having been available for almost two years (in 2019), launched at the end of 2017, I had been getting frequent calls, as had other Diamond members, reporting that solicitors were offering help to be released from a Diamond timeshare, including Diamond members that had no outstanding loan. I argued with these obnoxious callers, explaining that there was no need for their service. Of the several exit providers I contacted, only Timeshare Compliance listened. The other exit company representatives I spoke with responded as if I had two heads. It helped that Michael Santos had already been working on a self-help program. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that people need help
My husband and I bought four timeshares beginning in 1984. Our lives revolved around our next exchange. Developers have called me an “industry hater” but how can you be a timeshare hater if you purchased and used four timeshares for decades? What I am against are unfair and deceptive sales and marketing practices.
My timeshare buying “Dos and Don’ts” were included in Kiplinger magazine, an interview with attorney H. Dennis Beaver. It may be too late if you’re reading this article, but it’s not too late to pass on important “points” if considering the purchase of timeshare points. Timeshares are a great benefit for families when sold honestly, but I doubt there exists a more buyer-beware product. Consumer awareness is the best defence.
It took me a while to locate the May 28, 2019 article I wrote about Straight-A-Guide. The article describes Michael Santos’ remarkable background. Straight-A-Guide is still in existence, expanded to include other forms of problem-solving. https://straightaguidefoundation.org/
Wyndham Canceled $700 Million in Mortgage Loans (lawsuit settled)
As reported by the Orlando Sentinel: According to his lawsuit, it was around September that year (2019) when he discovered more than $700,000 in timeshare mortgage contracts had been cancelled by his company on the same day, all with the same code: “Per Mgmt Request due to project.” Chief Operating Officer Geoffrey Richards told Sapien in a conference call the company had reversed more than $300 million in contracts in order to “insulate” the stock price by making the company’s default rate look more in line with competitors. In 2019, Sapien was the senior vice president of sales and marketing for Club Wyndham, Bonnet Creek.
Part I: Wyndham v Carlsbad Law, Pandora Marketing, Timeshare Compliance Pretrial
Part II: The Trial
Part IV upcoming: Timeshare Compliance Rebuttal
Part V: The judge’s ruling after December 9 Court Filings
Thank you, Irene, from your report it is becoming very clear the timeshare industry is attacking any legitimate company regarding exits, in other words, they want to hold the “Monopoly” in this field. By doing so they hold all timeshare owners “hostage” to continued and rising maintenance fees. In the UK there is the Competition Commission, which replaced the Monopolies Commission and was subsequently replaced by the Competition and Markets Authority.
The old Commission had this as their brief: “The Commission has the mandate to investigate all competition concerns as envisaged by the Act. These include restrictive practices, abuse of dominance, exemptions from the application of the Act and mergers and acquisitions.”
Short and simple, the new Authority goes into more detail to ensure the best for consumers, their about page explains it all: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/competition-and-markets-authority/about
As their brief clearly states, competition is good for consumers, offering them choice, something the timeshare industry is very much against. The trial continues and Irene will bring us the latest as it happens.
That is all for this week, we hope you all have a great weekend and join us on Monday for Episode 6 of the Silverpoint expose. Baby Dog is now resting, again, after another long morning walk, he just loves his walks along the paseo.