Pictured from left, Jackie Moldau, Lori Kelso, Carl Staples
A group of protesters held up signs in front of Westgate Lakes Resort on January 5th. The protest extended through January 6th, coinciding with Westgate’s Annual Meeting that took place on January 5th. The first question one owner raised at the meeting was why Westgate would not address the concerns of the protesters, standing in the rain while the grass and sidewalk were watered, for the three hours that I observed the protest. The protesters were the voice of over 1,600 members of a Facebook Group launched in December of 2021 called Westgate Timeshare Hostages. https://www.facebook.com/groups/westgatehostages/members
The title of today’s article could be Hug Your Haters. The book’s author, Jay Baer, was a speaker at a timeshare industry conference some years back. Mr Baer’s advice:
Haters are not your problem. . . .
Ignoring them is.
January 12 note: I reached out to the hostage protestors on January 11 to see if there were further developments. They could not comment because they are in discussions with Westgate. Likely this will require a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), timeshare’s version of a gag order, used to silence and isolate truthtellers. In 2016 I was offered a refund from another developer but refused to sign an NDA. As a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) supervisor, my volunteers and I were the voice in court for a child in foster care. I could not bring myself to sign an agreement stating I would never say anything disparaging about the company, plus we were not that negatively impacted. My complaint was that it would cost $10,000 to use my timeshare points, compared to $3,000 booked online for the same property, the same time. The response from the company to the New York Attorney General was a list of all the times I had used my points. This had nothing to do with the recent purchase, specifically purchased to book New York properties. The word “affiliate property” was not mentioned in the contract. Affiliate properties required an inordinate amount of points because the property was not owned or managed by the timeshare company. In any event, as far as Westgate, Bluegreen, Wyndham, Hilton, or Vacation Village hostages are concerned, the hostage protesters should be motivation to those who have been similarly harmed – that accompanied by the tools of wisdom, truth, determination and perseverance, change happens, at least for the few brave souls possessing the commitment required.
Protestor Jackie published an article, linked below, on June 10, 2022. Living in the vicinity of Westgate Lakes, she had no reason to buy a timeshare. According to Jackie, her sales agent suggested she combine her T-Shirt business in Massachusetts with a Westgate timeshare rental business. Jackie said he even came up with a company name – Jackie’s Vacays!
Westgate is not the only developer to have members complain about being pitched the ability to rent to cover costs. We have heard from members of ten resort developers who report that they were sold a timeshare as a rental investment opportunity. Such a strategy is unfeasible for the average timeshare member or owner. A recent complaint was submitted by a timeshare buyer who provided us with an hour-long video presentation in which a rental scammer worked in collaboration with one of the developer’s sales agents to sell points to rent for profit. Their contract clearly states renting is not allowed. It is believed over 40 people fell for the scam, given the number of people who attended the online meeting.
We recommend leaving timeshare renting to professionals. Rental professionals Koala and Timeshare Rental Pros have been featured in earlier articles, but members and owners should check with their resort first to make sure renting is allowed. When developers like Vacation Village and Westgate state in their contracts that renting is allowed, reading the contract will not protect the consumer who counts on the ability to rent, as advised by their sales agent. There is no reason to question the sales agent.
In response to the protest, a spokesperson for the Florida Atty General commented, as reported by Trevor Fraser at the Orlando Sentinel, that they could not confirm that they received 584 Westgate complaints. That’s odd because the complaints were obtained by filing a Public Records Request with the Florida Timeshare Division. Nearly half of the 584 complaints complained of being assured it would be easy to rent out the timeshare to cover costs. A breakdown of Florida AG complaints is included in this article penned by Larry Lobbyist, the alter ego of one of our protesters:
Remarkably, also reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Westgate COO Mark Waltrip’s response to complaints was a reference to a shooting that took place on December 14th. This obviously had absolutely nothing to do with the protest, announced on December 9th. Certainly, our protesters are peaceful people.
Protestor Jackie’s response to COO Mark Waltrip
Shame on you, Mr Waltrip.
You completely missed the critical point, in that you have a group of extremely unhappy owners who feel manipulated and lied to by your inept sales reps.
So much so, that we took time out of our lives in order to attempt to be heard by your corporation, whose every phone call to your “Correspondence Team” is met with the same:
“Unfortunately you signed a (convoluted) contract”, cop-out.
To have the audacity to blame our frustrations on a completely unrelated, tragic incident at your resort, highlights the lack of compassion within your entire organization.
Your defamatory statement towards our private group allegedly harassing your resort is completely unfounded.
Our protest was planned the day that we got the annual owners’ meeting letter on December 9, prior to that despicable incident.
Westgate Resorts seems to pride itself on “stellar” customer service, yet allowed the group to stand outside in the rain, without feeling any sense of responsibility for having been the vehicle that drove us to that act of desperation.
Nobody came out front to check on the group, nor to hear our concerns.
This act depicts the opposite of a hospitable corporation.
Active Duty Service Members with Security Clearances in Jeopardy
Of particular concern are active duty service members who find their security clearances in jeopardy because of a timeshare default. Westgate has been sued, and accused of violating the Military Lending Act (MLA). One of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit complained of being promised the timeshare would serve as a profitable rental investment opportunity. Counting on the ability to rent, he was forced to default on his Westgate timeshare loan. Timeshares are financed at 12 to 19.99%. Loss of a security clearance can lead to involuntary separation from service.
In another lawsuit, Bluegreen was accused of violating the Military Lending Act. There have been multiple complaints from Bluegreen members who found their accounts suspended “suspected” of commercial activity. Bluegreen members have reported being presented a survey at check-in with “maintenance assistance” listed on the survey. According to one Bluegreen member, their sales agent zeroed in on this when checked, suggesting more points be purchased to rent.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), as well as several military and veteran organizations, weighed in about the harm timeshare has caused some active duty service members:
Let’s hope 2023 rings in with more accountability concerning timeshares sales and lending practices. One of our goals is to see the oral representation clause disclosed prior to the sales presentation rather than buried in the electronic fine print. Knowing you cannot rely on claims made by a timeshare sales agent is not fair to honest agents, but unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell the difference between a bad actor and an honest one.
Related articles, including 30 families forced to default, or consider a default, unable to rent for profit
MSN – Westgate Protest
Local Today – Westgate Protest
Finger Lakes Times – Westgate Protest
Westgate Arbitration and the Military Lending Act Lawsuit June 17, 2021
Westgate Resorts Case PDF Link: Westgate Case No 8;22CV-0028-CEH-JSS
Are my Consumer Rights being eroded? February 25, 2022
Other Rental complaints:
Westgate (13), Bluegreen (1), Exploria (2), Vacation Village (3), Branson’s Nantucket (3), Hilton Grand Vacation (3), Wyndham (2), Diamond Resorts (3)
Bluegreen Account Suspension for Renting, Angela, October 7, 2022
Wyndham Sues Their Agent for Renting September 23, 2022
Nine Westgate Families (2 – 10) March 4, 2022
Exploria v Austin Aaronson (1) March 11, 2022
Sheri (Vacation Village) March 18, 2022
Ashley Vacation Village (2)
Karen, Vacation Village (3) July 1, 2022
Westgate by Abdur Rashid (11) April 22, 2022
Branson’s Nantucket (3) May 13, 2022
Veteran Westgate (13) Ed Wilson, August 22, 2022
Veteran David Young (3) August 26, 2022
Comments by Charles Thomas
Thank you, Irene and all those who attended, shame about the weather but it doesn’t appear to have dampened your spirits. Reading all the posts and the links to the media was very interesting, especially the report in the Orlando Sentinel:
In a statement when asked about the protest, Mark Waltrip, the Cheif Operating Officer for Westgate, has made, probably, the biggest Faux Pas* of his career, I use the word Faux Pas quite simply because it is the mildest thing I can use, my other reaction is unprintable.
Rather than rewrite the Sentinel’s report it has been reproduced below:
“Asked about the protests, Mark Waltrip, Westgate’s chief operating officer, referenced a shooting at Orlando Westgate locations in December. The 19-year-old suspect in the shooting, which wounded two people, said he felt “scammed” when a Westgate hotel wouldn’t let him check in for being under 21 (a company policy), and told detectives he felt “a sense of relief” after the shooting.”
“Unfortunately, an isolated group of individuals are leveraging the shooter’s actions to harass the resort with comments on social media wishing that our CEO had been shot, as well as staging a protest at our resort owners’ meeting,” Waltrip wrote in an email.”
The definition of a Faux Pas is
a significant or embarrassing error or mistake: Blunder
especially: a socially awkward or improper act or remark
So far there seems to be no apology from Waltrip, published or otherwise.
At the same time as all this was happening, Facebook banned Benn Dover, ironically from Benn’s own Facebook group, Westgate Timeshare Hostages. There appears to be no actual reason for the ban, which as usual will never be revealed apart from some vague reference to “Community Standards”. The ban can only have resulted in “someone” (a Westgate employee perhaps) making numerous complaints and the only reason I can think of is the name. Being a Brit, it is right up our street as far as humour goes, it is the classical “Double Entendre”, with the “smutty” meaning being very appropriate to the predicament of the hostages.
Long Live BENN DOVER. You will never be forgotten.
That is it for this week, join us for Part Three of the Anfi story on Monday, and this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Baby Dog is getting impatient for his walk and the look says it all. Have a great weekend.