October 7, 2011 — Although the following true story has been repeated countless times over many years I’ve decided to pass this one along as timeshare developers rarely hear directly from their owners. And since most developers read ‘Inside The Gate’ perhaps this documented situation will give some developers additional thoughts regarding the plight of many of their very best ‘clients’.
The year was 1997 when Gary and Michelle Smith (real last name withheld) purchased their first timeshare plan of two (2) weeks for $36,950. They signed a five (5) year ‘contract’ agreeing to a 20% down payment and 60 monthly installments (payments) over five (5) years at a 12.5% interest rate (plus annual maintenance fees, etc.)
The ‘Smiths’ were excited to become timeshare owners. After years of hard work, getting the kids through school and life’s challenges, etc. they were finally ready to travel (vacation) and see the world; and as such the following year (1998) they exchanged their ‘home-resort’ for two (2) weeks in a tropical Paradise and off to Maui they traveled!
A great time was had by all and the next year (1999) they were Mexico-bound. They spent two weeks in Mazatlan and discovered they loved that vacation and Mexico so much that as soon as they returned home they put in their request to exchange to Puerto Vallarta in 2000.
Gary and Michelle now loved to travel and loved their timeshare, too, and over the next many years they exchanged to the Caribbean, Orlando, Vegas and so on as well as vacationing at their home resort. Becoming timeshare owners had worked really well for them as it does for millions the world over.
Then tragedy struck. Gary unexpectedly passed away and naturally that changed Michelle’s life forever. After a period of deep mourning Michelle began settling all their obligations and debts, etc. When it finally came to their Timeshare, as Michelle told Inside The Gate, she just didn’t want to vacation any longer.
So she contacted her home resort and explained the situation and was told, as countless other timeshare owners have been told going back decades, that there was nothing the developer could do to help her except to refer her to a couple of resale companies.
Michelle tried one and they charged their upfront fee of $1,800 ($900 per week) and that was the last she ever heard from them. She was then contacted by another resale outfit and believed their pitch, too. This time she was out another $1,000 (‘discounted’, aka ‘the drop’ to $500 per week) for their ‘advertising’ service.
Again, no results. Ultimately Michelle was contacted by a ‘post-card’ company and after attending their ‘seminar’ Michelle concluded that she had no option left other than to pay them $7,000 ($3,500 per week) to finally get rid of her timeshares.
Michelle e-mailed ‘Scoop’ and we spoke on the phone, too, and what she really didn’t understand was why developers abandon their ‘owners’ (aka: clients) in such a manner. Especially after owners like Michelle and Gary had ‘invested’ nearly $66,000 (principle, interest and annual maintenance fees) at their ‘home-resort’ (aka: Developer) over the course of about 14 years.
From cradle to grave, so to speak, when the resale and post-card ‘fees’ are added to the TS ‘bill’ this one timeshare owner had ‘invested’ —almost to the penny— $76,000 USD of their very hard earned money ‘timesharing’ and I’m sure I can speak for Michelle that although they loved their timeshare and travel experiences, etc. she would now never recommend TS ownership to anyone!
And you can bet she is telling ‘their’ story to those who will listen (neighbors, at church, relatives, etc.) and although there are no concrete numbers as to how many other TS owners, in all, have already fallen into similar situations over the years developers can rest assured that tens + tens of thousands more are just around the corner…
I do know, however, that there is no shortage of ‘post-card’ and/or resale type companies who have mostly done nothing but fleece otherwise outstanding clients (owners) of developers simply because their lifestyles changed (death in the family, divorce, health/illness, too old to travel, kids don’t want the TS, loss of income/job, etc.) and the timeshare developers continue to turn their backs…
And if that wasn’t bad enough (and again there are no hard numbers) I now wonder how many thousands of ‘former’ timeshare owners (developer clients) have had their credit scores (worthiness) lowered if not outright ruined because developers won’t address the needs of their very best money spending client(s) in the first place?
I do expect, though, that the continued turning of a deaf ear is not only another classic TS example of biting the hand that feeds them but exponentially speaking, and on top of an already less than glowing industry reputation, this ‘handling’ of existing TS owners (‘clients’) will likely become, in due time (and with the help of the Internet), the final nail in the coffin for those timeshare developers who freely choose to ‘eat their own’…
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©2011 Inside The Gate