Social media is here to stay. As social media pertains to timeshare, it serves to increase consumer awareness and educate the timeshare consumer about the oral representation clause. Timeshare complaints are often dismissed by default, referring the member to the oral representation clause buried in the body of a voluminous contract. If the developer really wanted a purchaser to be aware of the fact that you cannot believe what a sales agent promises, it would be disclosed at or prior to a timeshare presentation.
Promotions are clearly disclosed as a solicitation, but existing members are routinely told they will not be attending a sales session, but rather an educational update. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no such thing as an educational update that does not include a sales agent the opportunity of selling more timeshare points. Longstanding members complain about being up-sold for reasons that do not exist. Often attending a meeting to seek an exit because of already struggling to pay maintenance fees, they instead are sold more points to gain the ability to sell points or offset maintenance fees. As a result, the higher loyalty member, who likely has spent a considerable sum, is forced to default if their dispute is not resolved.
If falsely promised the ability to rent or sell points or weeks to offset maintenance fees or even loan payments, few would attempt to do so while on a short vacation. This makes it easy for the dishonest sales agents to dodge the contract rescission period. Since some contracts state that you can rent, it is impossible to detect the deception by reading the contract. Renting your timeshare to cover costs is unfeasible, and according to one expert, illegal in Florida as it is selling the timeshare as an investment.
Below are a number of social-purpose timeshare advocacy Facebook Groups. Over 12,000 timeshare members and owners have joined these groups to support each other and raise awareness.
Even the National Association for Attorneys General warned in 2020 that there is little protection for timeshare buyers.
Unfortunately, the current landscape of the timeshare industry has exposed significant inadequacies in protection for those seeking to purchase, lease, or exit their timeshare contracts.
Those who are unable to resolve a timeshare dispute by working directly with their resort should report their experience to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Only Westgate Resort timeshare buyers can file a complaint. For all other timeshare developers, the member must “Tell Their Story.”
Member/Owner Support Facebook Groups
Vacation Village Massanutten Timeshare Unfortunate Owners – 60 members
(Founded 10/2021) https://www.facebook.com/groups/1309724916165817
Justice for Manhattan Club Owners – 123 members (11/2021)
The Manhattan Club Disgruntled Owners
https://www.facebook.com/groups/116892578330143/ – 610 members (2010)
Unhappy Wyndham Owners – 125 Members (12/2018)
(Wyndham) Pattern of Complaints:
Diamond Resorts Hilton Grand Vacation Advocacy – 7590 members as of 7/25/22 (up from 7,134 members) (2/2017)
Diamond started recording the closing session after the Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of complaints, fined the company $800,000, and issued an Assurance of Discontinuance. Other developers quickly followed suit. If you are told what to say or not say on the recorded closing, it is a red flag. Purchasers are encouraged to record the sales session in states where it is legal to record without the other person aware. If you are attending a presentation in a state where you must have the other party’s consent, ask to record, and if refused, leave. Member recordings provide clear and convincing evidence.
Gold Key Owners’ Forum – 291 members (10/2015)
Bluegreen Timeshare Hostgates – 860 members (2012)
Westgate Timeshare Hostages – 740 members 7/25/22 (up from 386 members) (12/2021)
Carriage Hills and Carriage Ridge Owners – 3,966 members (2/2018)
A group of determined volunteers forced the sale of Wyndham’s Carriage Hills/Carriage Ridge Resorts, releasing 14,000 owners. These resorts would not allow an exit under any circumstances. Both resorts have been sold, no longer timeshare.
We encourage first-time timeshare buyers, and especially existing timeshare members, to record their sales sessions in states where it is legal to do so. One-party states allow you to record without the other person being aware. There are many Florida complaints, but it is illegal to record in Florida, making it easier to dismiss complaints because “verbal representations are hard to prove.”
The only defence is consumer education and awareness. Thank you to Facebook Group admins and supporters of efforts to enhance awareness, so that if a timeshare is purchased, it is purchased for the right reason, instead of causing often irreparable financial harm.
Reigning in Repeat Offenders – A Lecture at the Penn Program by CFPB Director Rohit Chopra
Thank you, Irene, social media platforms do have a place as we have seen with all the self-help groups, but it also has its dangers as we have already seen in some groups. They are also a very useful tool for the scammers, who troll these groups looking for likely victims. Some are set up with the sole intention of generating leads for sale. A recent example is a post that has appeared on my Fb due to friends reacting to it, it is giving away a “free holiday” in a draw, all you do is type “done” in the comments, you then get an automated reply that your application is almost complete but first you must validate it by going to a link. As I have been following this, the comments have been getting very humourous and the reply is the same for everyone. It is a lead generating site, nothing more nothing less.
As with everything surrounding timeshare, it is so easy for the crooks to befriend you online with their own sob stories and how such and such a company came to their rescue, we see it every day at AIT. Social media is helpful, but also treat it with caution, just as you would do for “cold calls”, it is your personal information they want and ultimately your money.
That is all for this week and the end of another month, Tempus Fugit as they say. Baby Dog is in a sulky mood, huffing & puffing because he has to wait for a walk, so have a great weekend all and join us again next week.