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.