Feb. 27, 2010: DOES ARDA KNOW WHAT THE KIDS ARE DOING?: And do they care, as long as ARDA gets its allowance? ONE MORE TIME FOR RCI: Just an update on last week’s bit…
Welcome to this weekend’s rundown of stories that didn’t make the front page!
DOES ARDA KNOW WHAT THE KIDS ARE DOING?: Don’t the big annual ARDA Conventions remind you of high school reunions? I went to one of each, and that was enough. Is it just me? Anyway, that’s not what this is all about. Here’s the deal.
I was slumming around in YouTube looking at timeshare related videos and I came across one from Apex Professionals LLC that said: “Apex Professionals LLC, Leaders in the Timeshare industry, explain the psychology behind a timeshare sale.” So of course I watched it.
Notwithstanding the fact that the company in no way is a leader in the Timeshare industry, the guy in that video was so full of crap that even I could hardly believe it. Except for stating that timesharing started in the ’60s in Europe, he was wrong about every other single thing he said. His talk about the psychology of the sale and the industry’s history was so lacking in fact, it was mind boggling. Not just a LITTLE bit wrong, but MAJORLY wrong. I was indignant.
I visited their website and it was so full of good will and charity (helping to end hunger in the world, etc.), of sweetness and light, it made my hair hurt. I finally got to what they do, though they made it as amorphous as possible. Turns out they’re a “postcard company”, so called because a glossy postcard in your mailbox is usually their first contact with their victims customers. What do they do? Put succinctly: “Consumers who went to the meetings with Apex went with the understanding that Apex would offer them money in exchange for their timeshares. Apex instead charged them a fee of several thousand dollars to transfer ownership of their timeshares.”
That quote comes from Vermont State Attorney General William Sorrell, who sued the company for fraud. Apex representatives began soliciting Vermont consumers in the spring of 2009 to transfer ownership of their unused timeshares to allow the original owners to be relieved of timeshare maintenance fees, taxes and other costs. In Nov. 2009 Apex had to pay more than $64,000 to 15 Vermont consumers and $65,000 in penalties and costs to the state over alleged violations. There’s a slew of complaints about them online, too. It turns out the company is not as full of sugar as their website implies. What they do, in fact, is at least a first cousin to legal theft in my opinion.
So where does ARDA come in? Well the Apex website has ARDA’s logo on it, stating that the company is a proud member of ARDA. I checked to make sure, and yup, they really are. A Proud Corporate Member. A proud DUES PAYING corporate member. Proudly using ARDA to give them an air of legitimacy.
Another “postcard” company operating the same way (but BIGGER) is Timeshare Relief. Also a proud, dues paying corporate member of ARDA.
Another thing all the postcard companies seem to have in common: “Apex representatives then told consumers that the several thousand dollar payment could be offset by filing for a federal income tax deduction for investment losses on their timeshare, the value of which was claimed to be equal to or greater than their payment to Apex. Sorrell says this claim was not true as consumers had purchased the timeshares for personal, not investment, purposes, which made them ineligible for a tax deduction.”
There are several other irreputable companies and people I could name off the top of my head who are proud members of ARDA, too. So my question to ARDA is, do you care AT ALL who is using your logo and reputation to legitimize questionable behavior? Or is anyone welcome, just as long as they pay their membership fees?
SEQUE INTO RCI: And then I got to thinking, hmmm, where have I seen that company’s name before? Ah, yes. It was in last week’s blurb about RCI warning consumers about companies that are NOT affiliated with RCI even though they say or imply that they are. I went back and looked, and yup, there they were. Listed right next to Timeshare Relief.
A pair of postcard companies abusing the name and reputations of both ARDA and RCI. Simultaneously. At the same time. Tsk tsk.
RCI did something about it, though (although the cases are really quite different). RCI not only warned consumers, they took legal action. Last November, in the cases of Global Destinations Consulting, Inc, A+ Advisors, Inc. et al and RCI Financial Management, LLC et al, RCI filed suit against them for trademark infringement.
Both ARDA and RCI have come out in recent months with statements supporting efforts to rein in fraudulent resale companies. But I haven’t noticed either company actually taking any kind of action against the biggest and worst abusers– all of whom seem to be in tight with both ARDA and RCI.
And that’s it for this weekend. See ya next weekend, and watch that VPG… Oh, and if you enjoyed this, tell a friend!
Published every Saturday, or whenever there’s something that hits Woody’s VPG-ometer.
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