Vacation owners have been voicing their concern about timeshare availability since the 1980’s. But they haven’t been able to prove what was promised to them by the sales team. Today, a number of unhappy owners are finding restitution due to the number of sales and marketing regulations that now monitor the industry. The ability to document presentations on cell phones and access public information online has also worked in the consumer’s favor. Although timeshare companies have been smirking and pointing to contractual agreements for decades, they’re finally forced to acknowledge their misconduct and relieve some of their buyer’s remorse.
In December of 2018, Westgate Resorts became the latest timeshare company to be exposed for misleading sales tactics. Apparently, their Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa in Gatlinburg, Tennessee was selling “dream mountain vacations” that didn’t exist. Buyers were promised “rest and relaxation” in the heart of the Smoky Mountains; but important details were left out of the presentation. For starters, many buyers weren’t aware that their timeshare interest was subject to a “floating use” plan.
Instead of adequately explaining the terms of their package, sales agents focused on avoiding full disclosure. They knew certain details might deter their prospects. According to the lawsuit, Westgate used “secret pockets” in their leather binders to hide pertinent information from sales attendees. Since Westgate made it extremely difficult for buyers to find legal documents that disclosed their rights, many weren’t aware of their right to cancel the timeshare purchase. Once buyers figured out their “floating use” plan didn’t provide reasonable access to the property, they realized they’d been lied to.
The Problem With Westgate’s Timeshare Sales Strategy
Attorney Mark Chalos, with the Nashville office of Lieff Cabraser, is part of the team representing victims in the class action timeshare lawsuit. He believes that Westgate’s business model is to blame. “It’s part of a very complicated, high pressure scheme, as we’ve alleged, to take money but deliver essentially nothing,” said Chalas. “So, one unit, they may sell hundreds of times, and when people call to say, ‘I’d like to use a week’, they’re not available,” Chalos relayed.
According to court documents, Westgate’s aggressive business model relies on making money “by selling shares in property units, not by customers using the weeks they have purchased in those units.” The 65-page lawsuit also claims that Westgate sales reps are “encouraged to lie to customers in high-pressure sales pitches.” There are strong incentives in place to sell as many shares as they can for one condo. Not only do sales teams benefit from timeshare sales, but the resort does too. Overbooking keeps every unit full throughout the year, maximizing the property’s revenue opportunities.
In this specific lawsuit, the timeshare company basically used their units any way they pleased. They were either clearing out certain dates for sales presentations or repeatedly selling and renting units at premium retail prices. In other words, Westgate was controlling availability at the buyer’s expense in order to line their own pockets. Availability didn’t worry them because the money was rolling in.
Since the defendants (Westgate), refused to disclose material facts about the purchase to buyers and deliver on their expectations, they were in violation of the Tennessee common law and the statutory law. So far, the lawsuit consists of six clients that claim they’ve never been able to book a vacation at the Smoky Mountain timeshare. Two of which stated they spent $30,000 and $18,000 on the nonexistent opportunity.
Helping Timeshare Owners Find Relief
Westgate isn’t the only timeshare using these tactics. Minimal disclosure coupled with high pressure sales is pretty common in the industry today. Unfortunately, many timeshare owners end up paying thousands of dollars for the property on top of multiple upgrade costs and yearly maintenance fees. If you feel as though you’ve prematurely made a purchase or would like to get out of a timeshare contract you’re unable to use, we’d love to help. Feel free to schedule a free consultation or proceed with our qualification process below.