March 24, 2023 Update: Angela reported that after her article was published, her account was reinstated.
Former Bluegreen Vacations manager, Denise Mecke, filed a lawsuit against Bluegreen Vacations and nine of their agents, managers and executives. She alleges that those named as defendants were complicit in employing deceptive practices, including selling points to rent for profit or offset costs, a common complaint reported by timeshare owners and members industry-wide. A rental strategy is unfeasible for the average timeshare owner, so those who counted on renting can find themselves with little choice but to default.
In October of last year, we published a report by Angela concerning her Bluegreen account suspension. Angela was a Bluegreen Vacations owner since 2016 until her account was permanently suspended because of reservations not in her name. She is one of many who have had their Bluegreen accounts suspended, all reporting that their sales agents promoted renting points. One of the individuals Angela wrote to about her suspension is named as a defendant in Ms Mecke’s lawsuit. As Angela explains:
I rented points to friends and family because they were going to expire. I was not able to travel much in 2021 because my husband had a stroke. His short-term memory is impaired and he falls frequently. I booked short stays for friends. In no way should my reservations be considered commercial activity. There was only one three-day rental booked for someone I did not know. A friend helped me set up an ad and listed it on her Facebook page. I emailed a letter on August 17, 2022, to Bluegreen representatives Kathy Foster, Dusty Tonkin, and Chief and Legal Compliance Officer Jorge De La Osa. I was not engaged in commercial activity.
Former Bluegreen Manager Denise Mecke’s Lawsuit Complaint
Ms Mecke worked for Bluegreen Vacations from 2002 until she was terminated on August 4, 2022. A high-performing sales agent, she worked her way up from receptionist to manager. There was a brief period in 2010 when Ms Mecke resigned because she could not tolerate the deceptive practices she had witnessed. According to Ms Mecke, “These employees were advising timeshare owners on renting points online, which violated Bluegreen policies.”
Ms Mecke reported the violations through the proper channels. No changes were made. Following her 2010 medical leave, she was rehired in April 2011. In 2015 she was promoted to Inhouse Sales Manager.
In October of 2020, Ms Mecke noticed a representative “pitching rental income.” She reported the violation to Branson, MO defendant Steve Coen, Inhouse Sales Director. No action was taken. Ms Mecke escalated her concerns by reporting them to Coen’s supervisor, defendant Howard Kitchen.
Coen was one of five members of a team called the “SWAT” team due to their high volume sales, described amongst the employees as the “hostile takeover” of the sales force. Kitchen ultimately moved all the SWAT team members but Coen to another location, promoting one to a supervisory position.
After returning from medical leave in February of 2021, on Ms Mecke’s first day back, Coen requested a private meeting. During the meeting, he asked if she was “on the bus” which she took to mean, would she go along with the tactics used to sell timeshare points? She confirmed her loyalty. Coen demoted her to sales representative.
Coen was in daily contact with Dusty Tonkin, VP of Sales at Bluegreen corporate (who Angela wrote to). Other named defendants include Branson employees Russell Cox, Heather Pilkinton (Nixa), Kathy Jo Conque, Lynn Brown (Hollister) and Bluegreen corporate employees Susan Saturday, Executive VP, Chief Administrative Officer, and Yolanda Armalin.
According to Mecke:
Repeated violations included referring timeshare owners to an independent rental company owned by a friend of the group to rent their timeshare, or promising potential timeshare owners guaranteed buy-backs, and return on investment and also guaranteeing potential owners lower financing rates through referrals to external third-party finance companies.
Following Ms Mecke’s reports of ethics violations, on March 21, 2021, the five SWAT team members were fired.
Ms Mecke had provided recordings of deception. Bluegreen authorizes the use of recording to monitor the actions of sales agents. As instructed, Ms Mecke sent the recordings to Howard Kitchen for review. On August 4, 2022, she was fired for “breach of confidentiality by covertly recording reps” even though she had been instructed by defendant Conque to do so. She had even been reimbursed for the Fed X shipping costs. On the day the SWAT team was fired, Ms Mecke received the following message from an unknown person (unedited):
“What a real cunt you are. You will get yours someday. You fat bitch. Every time you feel back pain just remember that’s called KARMA. There’s a reason your single u cunt. This isn’t over.”
Coen was later rehired.
To give you an idea of what those reporting deceptive practices face, and the character of some members of the timeshare sales community, below is a revolting conversation allegedly held with Wyndham whistleblower, Julia Havey and Senior Manager Joe Minor and four other male sales agents. In a February 9, 2023 court filing, Wyndham denied all wrongdoing. They are asking the court to order Ms Havey to pay Wyndham’s legal fees. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would fabricate Ms Havey’s report. Her experience is similar to timeshare members who report oral representations.
Ms Havey follows Wyndham Whistleblower, Tiffany Birch, and former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams, who was awarded $20 million by a jury in 2016. The following conversation Ms Havey said took place as part of her interview for a Presenter position.
Case 3:22-cv-01047, filed 12-21-2022:
- During this interview, Joe Minor, Senior Manager for Defendant, subjected Ms Havey to a one-hour closed-door mock presentation.
- During Ms Havey’s mock presentation, Jason, Shawn, Jake, and Chris, acted as prospective clients and asserted that they were on vacation to “fuck Shawn’s wife.”
- Ms Havey openly expressed her humiliation during this mock presentation.
- Following this interview, Defendant hired Ms Havey to be a full-time presenter at the downtown Nashville office.
- Throughout her employment, Ms Havey was subjected to extreme and pervasive sexual harassment.
- Managerial employees, on multiple occasions, made comments to Ms Havey about her breasts and made inquiries about her private sex life.
- On several occasions, Andre Carey, an employee of Defendant, asked Ms Havey “where [she] got them” and “how much did [she] pay” in reference to Ms. Havey’s buttocks.
- On one occasion, Josh Frakes, a sales manager for Defendant, addressed Ms Havey in front of a room full of Defendant’s employees saying “Damn Jules, you’d better not fall down, or we’d have to milk you before we can stand you up!”
- Shortly after Mr Frakes’ comment, Jennifer Null, a manager for Defendant, gave Ms Havey a hug and then commented, “They are so much firmer than I expected them to be!” in reference to Ms Havey’s breasts.
- After this instance, several more of Defendant’s employees made comments about Ms Havey’s body.
- Ms Havey then filed a formal complaint with Human Resources.
- Defendant did nothing to investigate Ms Havey’s complaint.
- The harassment continued, and in February 2021 Ms Havey again made a complaint to Human Resources regarding sexual and verbal harassment.
- On May 26, 2021, two Human Resources employees approached Ms Havey about a statement Ms Havey made in support of another employee of Defendant who had been sexually assaulted by an upper-level male employee of Defendant.
- During this conversation, Defendant interrogated Ms Havey for upwards of four hours.
- At the conclusion of this conversation, Ms Havey commented that she felt like the only option was for her to resign if the harassing behaviour was going to persist.
- Defendant immediately responded, “we accept your resignation.”
- Following this conversation, Ms Havey sent Defendant a letter stating she needed more time and that she did not resign.
- Ms Havey clarified that she had offered solutions to prevent being harassed by her coworkers going forward.
- Ms Havey further clarified that she communicated that she felt the only way to prevent future harassment would be to quit.
Renting Complaints from Owners and Members Industry-wide
As we reported last October, Bluegreen is the 9th developer with owners reporting how they were sold points to rent, following Westgate Resorts, Vacation Village, Club Exploria, Branson’s Nantucket, Tahiti Village (Soleil Management), Diamond Resorts, and Wyndham (the 10th resort). Two additional resorts resolved disputes with owners complaining about being sold points to rent.
A two-faced whistleblower sued Diamond Resorts, claiming that Diamond insisted he employ deceptive practices that included renting. As a result, he said he suffered severe emotional and physical distress. However, one year later, on September 23, 2022, Wyndham filed a lawsuit against the same agent caught renting to Wyndham members as a side business.
Related article: Tiffany Birch, Wyndham Whistleblower
Wyndham member Les in New York Confirms Tiffany Birch Report
Other Articles about Renting
A group of Westgate owners filed a Public Records Request with the Florida Attorney General. Nearly half complained about being encouraged to rent to pay for the timeshare. The owners reviewed 584 complaints filed over a three-year period.
Club Exploria (2) March 11, 2022
Vacation Village (2) March 18, 2022
Branson’s Nantucket (3) May 13, 2022
Tahiti Village Soleil Management, Active Duty Navy, 14 years served
Diamond Resorts, a Decorated Army Veteran
Westgate, Active Duty Air National Guard, 8 ½ years served
Westgate, a Veteran, 100% Disabled, works at the Pentagon, 24 years served
Whistleblowing is very much associated with making public wrongdoing or unethical policies by governments, it is down to the conscience of the person making it known, Julianne Assange and his “Wikileaks” exposures are probably the most well-known. It is a practice for which we the public should be supporting, whether it be in political life or consumer affairs.
The timeshare industry is well known for misleading consumers, and sales agents lying about what they are selling, all with the connivance of their employers, who hide been hide the clause “we are not responsible for what our sales agents say”. In our last article “When Comedy gets the Point Across“, we highlighted the HBO episode of John Oliver and his take on the timeshare industry. For those who have no idea about the “bad practices” used to sell a product which should bring joy to any family, it is an eye opener to be sure. If you know nothing of timeshare, you would run a mile from the suggestion of purchasing a timeshare after seeing it.
If the industry had any sense, it would curb these practices, then there may not be a need for decent people to put their lives and careers in jeopardy to make it known that what they are being made to do is wrong. AIT applauds these people, and we thank them for allowing us to publish their stories. For the timeshare industry, the ball is squarely in your court, it is time to change.
That is all for this week, on Monday we shall be publishing the news on the amendments to the Spanish Timeshare Laws, from what we have seen so far, it is yet another attempt by the industry to influence the lawmakers in their favour. All will be explained. Baby Dog has taken his posing to the next level, rather than sit on his chair and watch the world go by, he decided he wanted to be in full view. Certainly brought a smile to those walking past. Have a great weekend.