Over the years, we’ve talked to thousands of vacation owners about their timeshare experience and the regret of the purchase as a whole. Whether it takes them days, months, years or decades to denounce the product, each tells a unique story. While the entrapment is fairly consistent, the consumer reaction and corresponding misfortune is rarely the same. Because of the depths of the deal and magnitude of the transaction, some even struggle to pinpoint where it all went wrong. But for one couple, it was clear right away that they needed to escape vacation ownership immediately.
Unlike many consumers, they took the large purchase very seriously. In other words, they didn’t completely buy into promises and were highly critical when expectations weren’t met. They asked questions and pressed the timeshare giant for answers as they believed their hard-earned money seemed to be going to waste. In the end, escaping what they felt was an inaccurate purchase was proving to be exhausting.
But before we get into the details of their misguided journey, let’s better understand why Maria and Luis bought the timeshare in the first place – and why they feel it turned into such a devastating blow for their family.
A Timeshare Purchase to Celebrate a New Life.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Maria and Luis worked hard to become U.S. citizens and chase the American dream. To them, this “dream” wasn’t just about earning money. It was more about raising a family with rights and values in a land of opportunity. During our discussion with Maria, she looked back at their life saying, “Luis and I had to work a lot for a long time just to go on a trip.” The last thing they wanted to do was fight to escape vacation ownership.
For most of their life, bills consumed them. After going to school, Maria took on the occupation of a medical assistant and the couple began saving for their future. Once they paid off their mortgage, they turned their attention to their son’s college tuition. No matter how far ahead they were able to get, setbacks usually kept them from truly rewarding the family’s work ethic. While this would discourage many, we could hear a sense of pride in Maria’s voice.
As she continued explaining their story to us, it was evident that determination has carried them. Even a surgical procedure last May, that cost them 6 weeks of pay, didn’t detour their aspirations of escaping reality one day. By the time their boys graduated, and bills seemed to settle, Maria and Luis eagerly took a 7-day Florida vacation for two.
While the intent was to enjoy a well-deserved getaway and “celebrate a new life”, the experience didn’t exactly go as planned. Here is their story and why they decided to legally escape vacation ownership.
Anticipated Vacation Interrupted by Misleading Raffle.
On September 7th of 2019, Maria and Luis were having a “great time” on vacation. After getting up early to go sightseeing, the couple decided to go on a bus tour to explore the city. They also went on a “boat trip” with a large group of people to see more of the Florida shoreline. Once aboard, they were promptly “approached by two gentlemen pitching a raffle.” Like most people on vacation, they decided to take their chances.
“They gave us a form asking for our information, like how much we make a year,” Maria said. This should have been the first red flag. No raffle needs to know this to give something away. Despite this, Maria and Luis ended up “winning” and were presented with a “trip for their next vacation.” This really caught them off guard. “We never win anything,” said Maria. Now that they want to escape vacation ownership, the deception is clear.
The Appearance of an Award Misleads the Travelers.
“That is when they arranged for us to go to the timeshare hotel to claim this special deal they were offering,” she recalled. “We were not told the specific details of what that entailed and were only told that we had to go to the timeshare to claim our prize.” Upon exit of the boat, transportation was already waiting for them. From here, they were taken to meet Daniela Rausseo, a guest service representative at the hotel. But they soon found out that Daniela wasn’t exactly handing out the prize they had “won”.
“She greeted us and took us to a conference room where she brought us a binder full of information [with] benefits of being a member of the timeshare.” The couple was then ushered into a sales presentation to hammer home the perks, she recalled. “The presentation was this whole flashy show about the great amenities, prizes, memberships, clubs – basically becoming a part of this timeshare ‘family’. They also gave us a tour of the facilities [and] kept us there and fished for more information.”
The Reality of the Ploy Was Difficult to See.
As Maria reflects on the experience, you can tell her perspective of the sales pitch is totally different today. In hindsight, she wishes they never partook in the raffle. She believes they were viewed as easy targets and handpicked to win. “They got us into signing up for the package and a credit card without being fully transparent of what this was,” she said. Maria also pointed out the couple has always been strict with their money and never this gullible. But after being worn down by relentless sales pitches, they fell for the deal.
“They took advantage of the exhaustion of keeping us there for six hours from 4pm to 10pm,” says Maria. Aside from losing out on the vacation time they worked hard for, they felt deceived. “We thought it would be simple to just get information on this, but instead, we got roped into something we did not want.” Aside from their income, the couple believes they were easy targets for “predators” because they were middle class, low income tourists that were new to empty nesting.
How Does a Free Trip Turn Into Discounted Timeshares.
One of the hardest things for the couple to get over is the character of the timeshare’s salespeople. “They seemed to be genuine [and] they pretended to be friendly and honest,” she recalled. The couple doesn’t believe they’d be trying to escape vacation ownership today if someone would have simply been honest with them. “We thought they were our friends and we would have said, ‘No’.” But because they were implored to trust the pitch, they were misled.
How Did Trust Impact Their Final Decision?
It’s important to understand that this type of misrepresentation further blinded the couple from additional red flags. At one point, they totally forgot about the “free trip” they were supposed to “quickly” receive. “It was overwhelming,” she said. By the time they gave in, Maria said guest services “worked very fast and quickly to check our credit and begin the process.” Without many questions asked, Luis and his wife were quickly assigned a “universal room” that was said to be the same as their tour.
The couple’s minor raffle prize wasn’t even explained or awarded until after $1,624.55 was charged to a new credit card account and 10 years worth of timeshare mortgage payments had been scheduled ($255.55/month at 17.99% interest). The agreement they’re now looking to escape also included about $1,000 in maintenance, tax and assessment fees they weren’t fully aware of. Instead of focusing on contract terms, “guest services” sent them on their way with a helpful guide on how to use it all.
Aside from their subconscious desire (like most people) to travel as empty nesters, Maria and Luis finally gave in because the pressure of the sales environment was too much to bear. Sadly, thousands of innocent people like this are worn down by timeshare sales presentations every year. While it was their decision to buy, it’s safe to say the lure played a major role in the outcome. Unfortunately, most buyers never escape vacation ownership.
The Couple Felt Uneasy About the Purchase Right Away.
“They run their business like a smooth sales machine. From the beginning they have the recruiter ready to go. They have the conference room setup, the guest representative waiting, a supervisor on site and a notary on standby. It was the perfect set up to convince the guests even more to sign up for this deal – and especially to apply pressure to couples,” said Maria. “What they did was predatory and not okay.”
She went on to say, “They know how to play this game. They know what they’re doing, how to manage it [and] what they’re doing to wrap people around their feelings.” By the time the couple got home from vacation, they started wondering about the effect of that $300/month payment. “You start thinking, there goes my electric bill,” she said. But despite intuition and a subtle buyer’s remorse, they decided to give it a try.
The Timeshare Didn’t Provide Much of an Escape.
The couple’s first call to the timeshare occurred a month later (October 2019) when Maria tried booking her brother a trip to the Dominican Republic. After logging into their account, she realized prices were still high and no deals were available. She remembers wondering, “why would he have to pay this much for something we already pay for?” She told us, “That’s when I came to the realization, Oh my God, what have we done? This is nothing like they say it was – nothing like it.”
According to Maria, no matter how many phone calls she made, she was not able to speak to someone that could help. The card that Daniela Rausseo (who’s actually registered as a realtor in Dade County, Florida) had given her with contact numbers was bogus. “No one is allowed to talk to the sales representatives or teams,” she said. Breaking free from the binding contract started to seem impossible.
Even though valid complaints were immediately made and three timeshare cancellation letters were written, the responses they received showed them they’d have to seek outside help to escape vacation ownership. Maria and Luis were told, “You have the timeshare, it is your responsibility to sell it, pay it or take care of it on your own,” she said. Here is one of the replies from the timeshare company:
The Couple’s Timeshare Experience Was Devastating.
When asked how this made them feel, she replied, “I felt very taken advantage of and felt like an idiot for falling into their trap – I can’t describe with words how I feel.” In the past, the couple’s determination has carried them. But effort hasn’t provided them much satisfaction to date when it comes to escaping their timeshare.
“A lot of my family members have no idea,” she said. Despite deception being the culprit, there’s a lot of embarrassment and shame in her story. “I’m disappointed in myself and for my husband and kids. My life is absolutely destroyed.” Everything they’ve worked for is now turned back due to a purchase they were talked into. Helping Luis and his wife manage this situation is a privilege.
In our next article, we’ll talk more about the couple’s experience with VOC and how they’re looking to move past their timeshare decision. If you’d like to learn more about how you can help Maria and Luis escape vacation ownership financially, leave us a comment below! If you’re currently in a similar situation, you can always schedule a free consultation to better understand your options.