Aging Couple in 80’s Can’t Escape a Timeshare Agreement

Aging Couple in 80’s Can’t Escape a Timeshare Agreement

Those that purchase a timeshare unit for the first time rarely think about an eventual need to escape the binding agreement. Thomas and Huguette Game learned this the hard way when medical conditions halted their ability to travel in 2014. Now that they’ve spent the past 6 years trying to escape a timeshare agreement, they wish they hadn’t upgraded in 2006. Unfortunately, this is the story of many timeshare owners today.

During the initial presentation, most attendees are led to believe they’re investing in a piece of paradise only to discover unexpected limitations down the road. While the sales team is to blame for painting an unrealistic picture, the owner’s decision to invest further (in order to make it worthwhile), is normally what sends them in a downward spiral. 

In Thomas and his wife’s case, they upgraded their package at the Carriage Hills Resort because they could only use the week every other year. Since they were aging, traveling more was appealing. Little did they know that they’d have to continue making payments once health concerns limited their ability to travel. While they thoroughly enjoyed the experience, they didn’t appreciate the lack of compassion from the Barrie, Ontario timeshare.

“We were happy with it, it was a good system,” Mr. Game said. But it made no sense for him to have to continue making payments on something they couldn’t use. “We want to get rid of the title and the responsibility.” But a desire to escape a timeshare agreement and the ability to do so is a whole different story. Since the Game’s have compounding contracts, they’ll have to treat them as separate entities in order to cancel, amongst other things.

How the Timeshare is Making it Rough on the Aging Couple.

The association that represents Carriage Hill’s fractional owners (CHVOA) has continuously reiterated that the resort doesn’t buy back units. So far, the only solution they’ve provided is for owners to find buyers themselves. They’ve apparently been looking into “exit strategies for owners” since 2018 but have yet to find a viable “exit from ownership at this time.” In a newsletter they remained firm by stating, “(CHVOA) does not own any deeds, does not take back any deeds, and will not relieve any owners of the obligation to pay for annual assessment.”

What further complicates the matter is the simple fact Thomas and his wife aren’t even sure who owns the resort. They say it belonged to Shell Vacations Club, which may have been purchased by Wyndham. For a good part of this decade, the Games have been sending handwritten letters to the resort and CHVOA, pleading to be released from their obligation. They never imagined escaping a timeshare agreement would be so discouraging.

According to the couple, annual maintenance fees have really taken a toll on their finances. Paying anywhere from $400-$1400 per year with a limited income and medical uncertainty can be quite the burden to bear. Now that they’ve exhausted their efforts to find a buyer, they’re seeking help. For years now, Thomas says, “We’ve had no takers.”

So What Are They Going to Do?

“I’ve lost so much sleep over this,” said Huguette. You can tell she’s tired of stressing about it. “I wake up at 4 a.m. and I can’t get back to sleep because of this.” The couple told reporters that they were willing to lose their equity in the units if that’s what they have to do to escape a timeshare agreement. Mr. Game said they simply want to get rid of the title and its responsibility once and for all. “It’s like they put a big ball and chain behind me,” he said.

Thomas and Huguette aren’t alone. A growing number of owners are currently running into problems when it comes to using their units. But for some, they have no choice but to find a way to escape their timeshare agreement. Finding a middle ground with owners that have physical limitations is different than managing owners with severe medical conditions

This is what makes the Game’s situation rather sad. Thomas recently had open heart surgery and Huguette is legally blind. While Thomas can drive around locally, he is extremely limited because of his wife’s ailment. Hopefully timeshare companies will take the time to help aging couple’s like this and find alternative solutions to fill their units. Milking them for every dollar, while they hold onto their lives just doesn’t seem right.

This Book Explains How Salespeople Close Timeshare Deals.

This Book Explains How Salespeople Close Timeshare Deals.

If you own a timeshare package, then you’re probably well aware of the smooth-talkers in the podium room. Sadly, many like you wish they would have just said “No.” While the presentation itself can be quite riveting, the experience rarely lives up to the hype. This is because timeshare companies pay cunning salespeople to persuade unsavvy consumers. It’s not necessarily due to a poor decision by the consumer. Since you might view this as a bias remark, don’t take our word for it. Rick Pons, a former timeshare swindler full of regret, recently wrote a book about the disreputable practices of the timeshare presentation

Over the years more and more former timeshare employees have exposed the deceitful practices of the sale. Most of which take legal action for their forced involvement in deception. But Pons’s book titled, “Lying For A Living,” actually goes into detail about the lengths some salespeople go to close timeshare deals.

Pons Describes the Timeshare Work Culture.

Cancun, Mexico is one of the most competitive timeshare destinations in the world. Here, recruiters are always looking for young and eager people to help sell weekly intervals. This is where Pons was targeted nearly 17 years ago. When speaking with Consumer Affairs about his first impression of the industry, he recounted, “It’s really not a job for everybody.” 

“I first started in marketing where my main responsibility was to pre-qualify couples and convince them to attend a sales presentation,” he said. “It may sound simple but it’s actually almost as hard as actually selling them a timeshare in the sales room.” In other words, sales teams are literally incentivized to slowly talk people into making the purchase

It’s a relentless yet fine-tuned process that pays off – if you’re willing to endure. Think of it like a car salesman trying to persuade someone to buy a car they can’t see. Because of the disadvantage here, dangling gifts and offering special perks normally convinces people to attend a presentation.

Pons subtly admits the first few months changed him a little. He mentioned being devoured by “fear of rejection” and “constant backstabbing” from everyone involved. Even the harsh working conditions and “moral dilemmas” wore on him over time. When asked what he had to do to close timeshare deals he said, “If you have to lie, you lie.” If this is true then it doesn’t sound like timeshare companies are too interested in employee development.

Sales Teams Do Anything to Close Timeshare Deals.

Without giving away too much of the book, Pons illustrates the sale of a timeshares as an emotional experience. In short, sales teams will do or say whatever they can to build and sustain rapport. Every person involved plays a key role to close timeshare deals. 

The first person to make contact is often called “the liner.” Their role is to simply make sure the target (or couple) has a great time. Pons recalls, “You obtain as much information about them as you can.” Whether it be during breakfast or throughout the tour, fact finding is said to be important. The liner then relays their findings to other members of the process so they can develop a game plan together.

When one salesperson asks for too much or becomes overly aggressive, another can step in to salvage the timeshare deal by playing the “good cop” role. Some even go as far as “pitting the couple against each other” to close timeshare deals. In his book, Pons says that nearly any type of emotional advantage is considered. 

He even confirmed the false promises we frequently mention in our articles. Claiming that the interval will pay for itself or that resale and rental opportunities are advantageous are flat out lies. But if they have to lie, then they should lie – right? After years of involvement, Pons realized this type of career just wasn’t for him.

How Does This Book Help Consumers, in General?

Although Rick feels terrible about his involvement, he now sees his mistake as an opportunity to spread awareness. He believes the industry’s reputation has gotten so bad that salespeople don’t even sell them as timeshares anymore. “All inclusive, vacation and fractional ownership clubs” are often used to mask perception. Because of this, he urges aspiring travelers to use caution if they find themselves intrigued.

At this point, he just wants consumers to know how they’re being persuaded so they can make a wise purchase decision. “Timeshares sell dreams, the dream of a perfect family vacation and in most cases they do it when the families are in relaxation mode, when people are on a vacation and their defenses are down,” he said. So buyer beware.

Highlands Resorts, Another Christie Lodge Vendor, Sued for Sales Deception.

Highlands Resorts, Another Christie Lodge Vendor, Sued for Sales Deception.

Last summer we interviewed a couple that claimed to have been misled in 2018 after attending a free breakfast while using their timeshare week at Christie Lodge. They found themselves on the hook for additional payments, missing guarantees and upgrades they couldn’t use. Although this particular case of misconduct involved Wyndham, it’s not the first time Christie Lodge has been tied to ambiguous sales practices. Dating back to 2013, the Highlands Resorts in downtown Avon, Colorado used similar high-pressure tactics that limited disclosure in order to persuade consumers.

For two and a half years, the marketing company lured nearly 3,000 consumers to different Christie Lodge resorts across the country for timeshare presentations. The bait consistently included a number of bogus travel discounts and free gifts – similar to Gary and Drue’s complaint. Lisa Siegert, Christie Lodge general manager, stated that Highlands Resorts sold around 1,300 timeshares for Christie Lodge. Unfortunately, according to the complaint filed by the CO AG these may have been under false pretenses over that time period. Once buyers realized they weren’t going to receive what they were promised, a deceptive trade practices lawsuit was filed in Denver County Court

After reviewing buyer’s claims, the state of Colorado determined that Highlands Resorts and Todd Herrick (the owner, residing in tourist-happy Telluride, CO), “Intentionally deceived, misled and financially injured consumers.” But the purported deceitful operation didn’t act alone. The lawsuit states that Highlands Resorts paid third party telemarketers (that weren’t legally registered) to dishonestly undercut law-abiding competitors. Because of this, the state also decided to sue Greg Penrod (key salesman) and the vendors he was working with. 

Understanding the Timeshare Sales Ploy.

Shortly after being hired, the complaint states that third party sales teams started mailing out random postcards and cold-calling Colorado residents. When those that were solicited took interest, they were told they could claim free vouchers and travel packages by attending sales presentations. These were hosted at select Christie Lodge resorts and managed by Highlands Resorts. These seminars were said to be 90 minutes long and well-worth the return. Little did they know, the harmless exchange would turn into a pressure-filled environment that didn’t give them much choice but to give in. 

The longer that each attendee stayed at the presentation, the harder it was for them to say, “No.” The closer they got to walking away, the more aggressive and enticing the sales pitches became. It would be hard for anyone to decline a $1900 luxury vacation package for 90 minutes of their time. According to the lawsuit, potential buyers were offered vouchers for “free” cruises and airline tickets. Even though these gifts were for limited dates in predestined locations, the complimentary perks, discounts and cash deposits (towards travel expenses) seemed too good to pass up.

Those that remained skeptical were offered further cost reductions and perks for making the purchase that day. Highlands Resorts purportedly told them that if they didn’t buy right away, the same deal would increase to $25K. This really put the pressure on consumers. It’s no wonder why the sales company was able to close so many attendees.

The Demise of Highlands Resorts Was Inevitable.

After investigation, the state of Colorado found that the “same day” offers never actually expired. They also stated that Highlands Resorts feared that if a consumer left the sales presentation without making a purchase, they would never return. Wow, what a strategy. Today, victims now see that the offered “discounts” were actually a ruse that caused them to second guess their initial concern. In the end, the lawsuit states that they paid an average of $7000 for the timeshare package at Christie Lodge. 

According to the original complaint, Highlands Resorts at Christie Lodge, LLC shut down their Colorado operation in December of 2015. This occurred about ten months after the investigation began by the Colorado AG.

Vacation Owners Claim Bluegreen Sold Timeshares Under False Pretenses

Vacation Owners Claim Bluegreen Sold Timeshares Under False Pretenses

Timeshare owners are beginning to put their foot down when it comes to broken promises by sales teams. Every month, a new bundle of legal claims surface across the industry regarding the experience of vacation ownership. Whether it be scams in the relief realm or simple buyer’s remorse, the trip’s starting to hit the fan. Like we’ve covered a number of times in past articles, nearly every form of regret stems from the initial sale. This is nothing new, smoke and mirror techniques have been used since the 1980’s. A class action lawsuit that was filed back in September of 2017, claiming Bluegreen sold timeshares under false pretenses, is only adding to the stigma of the timeshare industry. 

Although many class action lawsuits form when victims experience similar outcomes in close proximity, timeshare legal battles often involve people from across the country. It’s highly unlikely that any of them attended the same timeshare presentation. What makes this simple fact interesting is that every plaintiff in a class action suit against a timeshare company would have had to experience similar misconduct. When a good number of vacation owners have the same complaints as buyers they’ve never met, then there’s a good chance that misleading sales tactics are frequently occurring.

Details on the Bluegreen Corp. Lawsuit.

In the 2017 lawsuit against Bluegreen Corp., a few dozen couples and a handful of individual buyers from across the United States came together to sue the timeshare conglomerate. They all believed they were duped, and that on many occasions, Bluegreen sold timeshares under false pretenses. While some lawsuits involve detailed acts of misconduct, this action was pretty straightforward. Each owner felt trapped in their agreement after the purchase didn’t match its description.

COST OF THE BLUEGREEN TIMESHARE

According to the U.S. District Court filings, the plaintiffs stated the timeshare interval was not only more expensive than what was originally presented to them, but the promised benefits never transpired. Attorneys Todd Friedman and Jason Whittemore wrote, “Contrary to claims made by Bluegreen sales people, annual maintenance fees on the units increased substantially each year.” Thousands of dollars that wasn’t planned for was handicapping their experience and creating a financial burden that didn’t make sense to them anymore.

FAILURE TO PROVIDE PROMOTED BENEFITS.

Aside from complaints about the unexpected cost, plaintiffs also claimed Bluegreen sold them on a points program that was supposed to roll over year after year. Supposedly, the sales team assured them they could cash in their points for Bluegreen rentals and other units. But in reality, their points expired at the end of every year. In order to close the deal, timeshare representatives allegedly even told victims that the product came with a money back guarantee. In the end, owners stated they were not able to cancel and refund requests were denied – causing them to seek out other buyers that could relate. They soon found that the tactics Bluegreen used may be in violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

FINAL STATEMENTS FROM LEGAL COUNSEL.

The victim’s attorneys initially sought more than $5 million in damages so the federal judge over the case would deem it a class action lawsuit. “These representations were false and (Bluegreen) would not permit the plaintiffs to cancel or refund their timeshares, routinely doubled or tripled the represented maintenance fees, and did not roll over any ‘points’ between years,” Whittemore and Friedman wrote. Whether these timeshare owners proved Bluegreen sold timeshares under false pretenses or not, the trend of similar complaints continues in the industry today. 

On March 20th of 2018, 38 plaintiffs withdrew from the case after two days of settlement negotiations.

Destination Timeshare Wedding Asks Guests to Pay For Cancun Trip.

Over the past year or so, our news articles have shown that a majority of timeshare companies and third party relief agencies will do or say anything to close the deal. For the most part, every transaction flows from the initial sale. Whether timeshare owners are spending more money to make the purchase worth it or escape perpetuity, the result rarely plays out the way they expected. Since many buyers never truly enjoy the experience, you’d think timeshare developers would improve their product. But they don’t – and a recent Reddit post about a destination timeshare wedding could be telling us how they’re deceivingly adapting to sell more weekly intervals.

What Is Reddit and How is it Used?

Reddit is a fairly new platform that aggregates a number of topics, posted by its users, and ranks them based on popularity. Unlike other social platforms, where trends and news is dictated to users, Reddit highlights what people really want to read. Like most user generated platforms and chat rooms, timeshares are a hot topic. While bias remarks and inaccuracy is a concern, the platform does provide a lot of insight and information on the timeshare experience. Based on a post earlier this month, it seems like the lure of a destination timeshare wedding is being used to fill sales presentations for a resort in Cancun.

The Details of the Destination Timeshare Wedding.

After finding herself concerned with a wedding invite that her boyfriend wanted to turn into a vacation, Katie turned to a friend for advice. Upon hearing the details of the trip, the friend agreed that her hesitation was valid. Aside from expecting their guests to pay for airfare and lodging, the couple getting married told invitees they’d have to attend a timeshare presentation in order to come. After agreeing the concept was pretty “tacky,” Katie allowed her friend to create a Reddit post to justify their initial gut feelings.

At first, Katie’s indecisiveness had more to do with her personal finances and the cost of the trip. She also wasn’t too happy about taking time off of work to attend a Monday wedding on 4/20 (AKA “weed day”). Her friend even informed her that people normally receive something free for attending a timeshare presentation. It was obvious she knew nothing about this method of travel because she was seriously considering going for her boyfriend’s sake. But once online users started commenting on the post, her perspective more than likely changed drastically.

Online Feedback Sheds Light on Some Truth.

One user chimed in by saying, “I refuse to sit through a timeshare even when they offer free rooms and dinners etc. I am not going to sit through one to attend a wedding when I get nothing out of it.” Some proposed ideas on how to manage the situation. “Tell your friend to encourage her boyfriend to go by himself.” Another wrote, “[I] might consider staying somewhere else (probably cheaper and no presentation – which by the way drag on forever, are incredibly boring and use high-pressure sales tactics).” Others simply “want an update after the wedding.” I think we all will want to see how this plays out. It’s a fairly unique situation.

WHAT TO MAKE OF THIS SITUATION?

While an opportunity like this may be tempting, Katie’s friend gave her solid advice. “I told her I’d put my foot down and not go because that’s absurd to ask of your guests.” It almost seems as though the bride and groom are setting themselves up for a free vacation or some sort of reward by organizing a mass presentation. When you think about it, there’s a good chance that some of the guests attending their destination timeshare wedding will sign up for a weekly interval

Since the ceremony has yet to happen, it’s hard to tell what the plot is here. But it’s safe to say that selling timeshare units is the focal point. Hopefully, Katie goes with her gut on this. The longer she allows people to influence her, the harder it’ll be to say no. The last thing you’d want to be is vulnerable during an aggressive sales pitch that other guests are buying into.

Is This The Future of Timeshare Sales?

If timeshare companies are now rewarding their owners for signing up friends and family, things could get a little hairy. Not only does this add an extra layer of protection for them when it comes to contractual disagreements, but it’s another way for them to point the blame. If you’ve been invited to a timeshare presentation, do yourself a favor and research what it entails. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into beforehand can save you an awful lot of regret in the long run.

Timeshare Exit Team Gives Client a Refund After a News Story in St. Charles, MO.

Timeshare Exit Team Gives Client a Refund After a News Story in St. Charles, MO.

Like many vacation owners, Ron Russelburg eventually grew tired of his timeshare contract. Once his kids were all grown up and the family was somewhat dispersed, he didn’t have much of a need for the travel package anymore. After looking for an affordable way to offload the timeshare, Russelburg determined selling his weekly interval at the Calypso Cay Resort in Orlando, Florida was the best solution. This is a fairly common decision that’s often misunderstood. But once he came across an advertisement for the Timeshare Exit Team, he was ready to take action.

In an interview with KMOV4 in St. Louis, Ron explained how Timeshare Exit Team’s guarantees really convinced him that selling his property was a good idea. Although the relief market is quite muddy, he acknowledged that confidence in a beneficial outcome really encouraged him to go forward with the sale. This was in October of 2017.

Guarantees Encourage Timeshare Owners to Pay.

After discussing the process with the well-known, reputable cancellation firm, Ron said he felt good about proceeding with the transaction. According to Russelburg, the salesman insisted that Timeshare Exit Team would find a buyer within 180 days. But he was first advised to work with the company to eliminate his annual maintenance fees. So he agreed to pay a few thousand dollars in upfront fees to get the ball rolling. 

By February of 2020, Russelburg’s frustration with the effectiveness of the sale reached its tipping point. Aside from the guarantees to remove maintenance fees, 27 months had passed without any scent of a sale. So he contacted his local news channel for help. His main cause for concern was the reluctance of Timeshare Exit Team to follow through with their promises. “It was their guarantee that if it didn’t work out we could get our money back. It would be no harm no foul,” he said.

Why Would Timeshare Exit Team Do This?

When the Missouri journalist asked him why he’s yet to receive a refund, Ron replied by saying, “That’s a good question.” Thousands of vacation owners are not only trapped in their timeshare contracts, but left without answers by relief agencies. Sadly, many of these “guaranteed” services are scams. What makes this story interesting is that Timeshare Exit Team has had some success helping consumers get out of timeshare contracts in the past. 

At the same time, convincing someone that you can help them sell a timeshare, then charging them to cancel annual fees seems a little odd. Once the interval of transferred to another owner, the original buyer shouldn’t have to worry about annual responsibilities. Nonetheless, Russelburg was out over $4k with no resolve.

When the St. Louis news station reached out to the Timeshare Exit Team for answers, a refund was initiated within a few days. This is encouraging because it shows that the company isn’t willing to inconvenience a customer in order to make a few thousand dollars. At the same time, it’s fair to wonder if a refund would have transpired had Mr. Russelburg not gone to the media for assistance.

Timeshare Exit Team’s Refund Statement.

Due to the negative attention caused by the public media, Timeshare Exit Team released the following statement: “Since 2011, [we have] successfully helped more than 20,000 consumers find a path out of their timeshares. Most of these people were unhappy with their timeshare purchase and faced numerous traps, loopholes and maintenance/other fees. Unfortunately, there was some confusion by this customer regarding the time frame detailed in our contract and a separate agreement that one of our third-party vendors had made with her. 

Timeshare Exit Team has never had a 180-day guarantee and we’re very sorry for any frustrations this may have caused. We have clarified this and she has relayed that she understands [our] time frame. We completely understood their frustration at this process, made unnecessarily complicated due to the hurdles that developers put up to keep people stuck in their timeshare, and have reached out to make it right. We offered to find another exit option for them, which they declined, so we are providing them with a full refund.”

Truth be told, Ron paid for a straightforward service and a very specific outcome. Whether Timeshare Exit Team made guarantees or not, we can’t miss the big picture here. Resale just can’t be viewed as a realistic option to get rid of a timeshare. Participating In this type of relief can ruin a company’s reputation fast if they’re not careful.

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