It’s safe to say the elderly population is one of the most highly targeted demographics by many sales organizations across the world. Aside from living it up before their lifestyle recedes, seniors become extremely vulnerable to being easily taken advantage of. Although aging could create a desire for acceptance (which can lead to avoiding conflict and saying “yes” more often), it’s not the primary reason why the elderly are easily suckered into buying unnecessary items – like timeshares. Sadly, predatory sales teams see technological novices with physical limitations, declining health and a weakened state of mind as advantageous.
After helping thousands of vacation owners navigate their timeshare contracts, we’ve come to realize that many should have never been allowed to make the purchase in the first place. If a timeshare unit isn’t suited for an eighty year old couple, then it should never be presented as an option to them. Unfortunately, they are – and quite frequently. Because of this, many senior citizens find themselves trapped in an expensive timeshare agreement that they can’t even use.
The nerve of some of these timeshare sales teams is disappointing to say the least. Once elderly buyers are under contract, they’re easily manipulated due to overwhelment and hopefulness. Most of them simply want to enjoy themselves while they still have an ability to. In reality, they end up spending an unexpected amount of time trying to make the purchase worthwhile. Not only can this become quite discouraging, but the added stress can’t be beneficial to their health. A news story from a few years ago showed all of this to be true
Senior Couple Manipulated to Buy Points Program.
In December of 2018, the daughter of an 88 year old couple contacted the FBI for assistance with her parent’s timeshare agreement. Diane Burkhart says her father (87 at the time) bought $250K worth of timeshare points over the course of a year and a half. This occured after the seniors were lured into a timeshare presentation during a day trip to the beach near their California home. Diamond Resorts had recently purchased a charming property and the salesmen out front sweet-talked the couple into buying a weekly interval.
According to Diane, her folks were immediately remorseful. “A month after purchasing the first contract, my dad tried to end the agreement due to his wife’s declining health and included a letter from one of her doctors,” she said. But it didn’t aid them in their quest to get out of the timeshare. “Diamond turned him down, so he paid off the promissory note in full, believing that would be the end of it,” she said. Shortly after, her mom was diagnosed with dementia (passing last summer) and her father was placed in a nursing home.
Questionable Sales Practices by Diamond.
The simple fact that they needed in-home care should tell you all you need to know about their ability to make decisions. But death and assisted living wasn’t the end of their story. Diane’s letter to the FBI said Diamond responded by telling them, “they needed to go to a meeting to learn how to use their points.” Ouch. Diane went on to say the “meeting” was nothing more than additional timeshare sales pitches.
Burkhart was able to finally get Diamond’s attention in January of 2019 when Consumer Affairs published her parent’s story. The timeshare company’s immediate response was that they were “working with Diane Burkhart directly” and that they “do not disclose member details publicly.” Their press team concluded by saying, “We encourage all members with any questions to contact us directly so we can work together and identify solutions that are built with their best interests in mind.” But are they really willing to offer fair resolutions?
Senior Couple Not Given a Fair Offer by Diamond.
If you take a look at the offer Diamond presented to Burkhart, you might think otherwise. Especially since the resort was completely unwilling to negotiate. Although each of the aging couple’s purchases were questionable, Diamond was only willing to forgive the most recent loan for $116K. A Barclays credit card, issued by Diamond, was authorized along with the financing for this forgettable amount back in 2017. But the offer was only available if the Burkharts signed a non-disparagement clause and surrendered their right to buy another timeshare contract elsewhere.
While this is a lot more than most vacation owners are offered, it still raised some red flags. Diane wondered why Diamond couldn’t just report the purchase as cancelled instead of “forgiven.” “The big issue is the 1099 in my mind,” she said. Aside from incurring annual fees on the property, she was also afraid her dad would be responsible for the taxes. But Diamond simply directed her to their legal team after refusing to modify the contract and accommodate her requests.
The last time she spoke with Consumer Affairs, she told them she would probably just accept the offer and try to move on. Unfortunately, many disgruntled buyers eventually let go of hope. Refuge is hard to find in the timeshare industry – even when the financial toll isn’t even your fault.