In April of this year, 16 co-plaintiffs filed another amendment in their lawsuit against Bluegreen Vacations. Their reasoning surrounds fraudulent misconduct that includes misleading sales tactics, statutory violations and a failure to point out the owner’s right of rescission. The damages they’re seeking restitution for began after a routine trip to a local Bass Pro Shop. The plaintiffs and others never really knew the extent of their timeshare purchase and believe they’ve been intentionally manipulated.
Bluegreen’s Partnership With Bass Pro Shops.
For nearly 20 years, Bass Pro Shops has allowed Bluegreen to sell timeshare ownership in their stores. The agreement provides customers with store discounts and other promotional items in exchange for attending Bluegreen presentations. From 2016-2018, nearly 15% of the timeshare company’s revenue came from the retailer. But the relationship has become tense ever since Bass Pro Shops heard their customers were being treated unfairly.
How Bass Pro Responded to Customer Allegations.
In May, once the consumer lawsuit was made public, Bass Pro Shops announced they were banning Bluegreen Vacations from 69 of their stores. After voicing their concerns with “high-pressure or offensive salesmanship,” they took things a step further by announcing they were suing the timeshare company. While one might think it’s because of the damages customers incurred, it seems as though the outdoorsmen supplier is using customer complaints to their advantage.
In the lawsuit, Bass Pro Shop claims Bluegreen has refused to pay them $10 million in commissions. Instead of standing for those suing, they decided to file their own suit. Although the contract between the two runs through 2025, Bass Pro knew they had the leverage. Bluegreen heavily relies on leads from their stores. Aside from refuted payments for “sampler packages,” Bass Pro also claims they’ve been shorted commissions when buyers defaulted on or decided to cancel timeshare contracts.
How Bluegreen Responded to a Voided Partnership.
Their decision to oust Bluegreen resulted in a 50% plummet of the travel company’s shares. In turn, Bluegreen had no choice but to mend the relationship monetarily. A few weeks ago, the timeshare company announced they will be paying an excess of $40 million over the next five years to Bass Pro Shops in order to resume selling fractional ownership in their stores. You could say they’re financially motivated to settle their differences. $20 million will be paid this month and $4 million will be deposit per year for five years.
President and CEO of Bluegreen, Shawn Pearson, had this to say: “We look forward to building on our 19-year partnership with Bass Pro, through which we have developed close to 700 units in our joint venture at three luxury resorts.” Bluegreen’s willingness to quickly fork over the cash shows how dependent they are on the retailer for revenue.
Aside from these hefty sums, they also agreed to pay Bass Pro (which includes subsidiary, Cabellas, Inc.) $70k per year for each store they operate a kiosk in plus an additional $32.00 per vacation package sold less any cancellations and/or refunds. “We are excited about our ability to expand into Cabela’s locations, which will further cement our ability to grow and give store visitors the opportunity to make memories at our resorts,” said Pearson.
Since mending the relationship, Bluegreen has already seen a 35% increase in their shares. This tells us Bass Pro’s approval carries a lot of weight. It would have been nice to see them go to bat for their customers in this way but hopefully it encourages them to monitor sales more diligently. Either way, Bluegreen and other corporations have a lot of explaining to do when it comes to the way they go about selling fractional ownership.
Bluegreen Will Continue to Face an Uphill Battle.
Consumers who claim wrongdoing by Bluegreen state they have been harassed to attend high-pressure sales presentations, only to be sold overpriced, low quality timeshares. While timeshare developers will tell you they can’t please everyone, the fact of the matter is millions of timeshare owners are dissatisfied.
The problem is, most timeshare companies view upgrades or add-ons as solutions. A number of lawsuits claim that timeshare company’s solutions are meant to hold them hostage. The Pinnacle program, for example, is said to be “devoted to exclusively keep owners trapped in the resale market void.” Resale, income opportunities and a promised ability to cancel the timeshare are all primary reasons people decide to give timeshare ownership a try. But nearly every timeshare company doesn’t actually help them find relief in any of these ways. In reality, none of them even exist unless you contact a 3rd party company to help you legally get rid of a timeshare.
The lawsuit against Bluegreen and Bass Pro mentions this sense of misguided hopelessness. Part of the complaint in Case 3:19-cv-00054-HSM-DCP documented that “In addition to inducing purchases through fraudulent sales tactics, once Bluegreen convinces owners to purchase a time-share interest, it traps them in a valueless resale market, leaving them with few options but to continue paying their monthly mortgage and maintenance fees.” If buyers initially attended a Bluegreen presentation just to get a discount at Bass Pro, they have every right to be upset.
Everything seems to revolve around bait and switch tactics here. It appears that Bass Pro decided to ignore the misconduct in exchange for a payment, which is troubling to say the least. “Bluegreen shares our commitment to providing our customers and its owners and guests a memorable vacation in the great outdoors,” said Bass Pro’s founder and CEO, Johnny Morris. “We look forward to this next chapter of our long running relationship.”
Lawsuits, settlements and partnerships like these should shed some light on how important consumer representation is today. Deception is a real problem in the travel industry. Hopefully our commitment to exposing timeshare related sales misconduct allows more consumers to make informed decisions.