QUOTABLE QUOTES: “Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” -Will Rogers


Last week I went on a little rant about timeshare relief companies and the underlying reason for their success. This week I was reading ARDA’s magazine, Developments, and found a sort of parallel article written by attorney Dave Waller. Except his article left my rant in the dust, lol.

Waller, whose law firm is called Legal Aspirin, chairs ARDA’s Resale Forum and represented ARDA in its two-year effort to pass transfer regulation in Colorado, so you could say he understands the issues involved. Here’s a quote from the article, which is titled 2013 Legislation Addresses Relief:

The timeshare industry’s concerns regarding the relief model are straightforward. Resort managers report that transfer companies are duping responsible timeshare owners into spending thousands of dollars through scare tactics — “maintenance fees increase dramatically over time,” “a timeshare interest is worthless,” “there is no viable resale opportunity.”

To fulfill on their promise to “relieve” these owners of the “burdens of timeshare ownership,” these companies transfer ownership of the timeshare to either assetless entities (“Viking Ships”) or speculators (“Vikings”) that hope to profit by reselling or renting the timeshare. In neither scenario are assessments or maintenance dues typically paid. For a particular timeshare resort, significant relief activity means that resort infrastructure and operational costs will be drastically underfunded, resulting in deferred maintenance, special assessments, or a combination of both. Perversely, the relief activity actually results in the scenario used by the transfer company to pitch relief.

See? He took so many fewer words than I’ve ever managed to place the issue in its proper nutshell.

But he goes further with it, postulating toward the end of the article on what is likely to happen next and then what might happen after that and why, concluding that it will all keep circling the drain (my words) “until the industry cracks the resale riddle and finds a plausible endgame for tired resorts” (his words).

You can read the magazine (lots of good stuff in this issue) and Mr. Waller’s article online, and I highly suggest you do so.

It provides very good food for thought, even if you’re not hungry.


Email the Gatekeeper (or leave a comment below).

 


"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Do you have tips or rumors you’d like to share (ANONYMOUSLY)? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

Michael Gray has accepted the position of Vice President of Finance and Group Financial Controller for Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific.

Michael GrayMr Gray has over 20 years of financial experience and most recently worked as the International Finance Manager at Billabong International Limited for four years. He has previously worked in senior finance leadership roles for businesses including Villa World Limited, Tabcorp Holdings Limited, Domain Principal Group and Ocean Capital Limited. Mr Gray also has significant experience in global international financial reporting, gaming and casinos and property construction.

Reporting to Chief Financial Officer, Liam Crawley, Mr Gray will oversee aspects of accounting and financial reporting as well as overseeing payroll for Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific, Wyndham Hotel Group and Wyndham’s vacation club, the WorldMark South Pacific Club by Wyndham. A team of approximately 30 finance employees will report to Mr Gray.




Have you been promoted or moved to a new company/location? Do you know of someone who has? Has someone been fired or demoted? Tell us about it! Send the information to The GateHouse to be included in People on the Move!
CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

Scoop says: Over the course of the past three decades in the timeshare industry, having been involved in every aspect of sales, marketing, training and all levels of management, I can state with 100% confidence that I have sold and/or overseen the selling of a whole lot of Paradise. And because that is true I will also state for the record that contrary to what is taught by many in ‘the biz’ – selling slices of vacation time IS NOT purely an ‘emotional’ sale!

So what’s the Scoop? Not purely an emotional sale? What is he talking about? Find out at “Little White Lies Kill The Deals!”


Recognizing Our Industry’s Best

It’s that time of year… to start thinking about honoring your best people, products, and resorts by nominating them for an ARDA Award.

The Awards Nomination Guide is now online. Early-bird deadline for entries is December 13, 2013 — final deadline is January 3, 2014.

Questions about the program? Please contact Catherine Lacey.


There’s an article in Consumer Affairs by one Jennifer Abel titled “Unhappy timeshare owners agree: never buy into a timeshare”. (It’s subtitle says “Wyndham Vacation Resorts netted lots of complaints in September”, but that’s not today’s subject..)

The subject was the usual mishmash of complaints, most of which originated from allegations of deceptions and outright lies delivered by sales reps, along with maintenance fee issues and so forth. I’m not trying to belittle those complaints in any way here, just putting it in a nutshell. Read the article for the gory details.

What struck me was the headline: Unhappy timeshare owners agree: never buy into a timeshare. It actually made me chuckle a little bit. I mean, what would you expect unhappy owners to tell you, go ahead and buy a timeshare you’ll love it? They’re UNHAPPY for cryin’ out loud!

I wonder if the day will ever come when an eager journalist looking for a juicy story will write a headline that crows: Happy timeshare owners agree: buy a timeshare! There are millions of them out there, after all. But of course that kind of story just doesn’t pull as many eyeballs, does it?

And I also wonder if the day will ever come when the tales of deception and lies and sleaze associated with timeshare sales will cease because of improved company practices? Ha. What am I thinking? raspberry


I thought about placing this in our own obituaries section but decided it would be in bad taste.

Anyhow, fans of Breaking Bad recently placed an obituary for Walter White in the Albuquerque Journal. I thought you might like to see it, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with timeshare, so you can properly mourn his passing.

Breaking Bad Obit from Albuquerque Journal

R.I.P., Breaking Bad.


TWEET OF THE WEEK:

Do you like reggae? Did you know how musical Eddie Murphy is? Here he is with Snoop Lion, performing “Red Light”, Murphy’s first single in two decades. You’d better listen. ;)


The Video of the Week aims to feature good music/good fun regardless of era or genre. Send in your own favorite and if I can find a good version on YouTube I'll post it for you! What would you like to see or hear?

>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP: I really thought I was pretty much done with the whole VO Group/VO Financial thing, but I guess not. Stuff just keeps rolling into my inbox, and it’s mostly pretty interesting so I welcome it.

For instance, I learned this week (according to one source) that VO Financial’s Massachusetts office is still open, with four employees working from their homes and that Alan Lacerda (Adam’s brother) is taking over the running of the company.

And I learned that the company apparently discontinued the practice of employees earning residuals back in Nov. 2012, though that perk was still on the list of benefits presented on their Careers page as of last week.

There are two continuing themes that stand out in the mail I receive:

1): Most of the people working for VOF really believed (and some still do) that they really helped people. One former employee put it this way:

I do also believe we were helping people out. My clients thanked me over and over. One couple said we saved there marriage. Another said they dont have to work anymore to pay for the timeshare. And also VO could help anyone out if they wanted too but chose to only help people that have been scammed into or lied to buy timeshare. The real problem is not vo but the big timeshare companies. I dont think the clients got scammed but VOs employees were the ones getting scammed. Because we were never getting paid for our hard work.

Which brings us to point 2): Non-payment for services rendered. Over and over again I hear from former employees who claim they are owed thousands of dollars, whose checks were late and/or bounced, or who were not paid at all for weeks at a time. Assuming this litany of complaints is true, and from the sheer volume of them I believe they are true, where was the money going? To pay for Adam and Ashley Lacerda’s defense? Or??? Whatever, it sure doesn’t look good, does it?

Back to point #1 for a moment, let’s not mince words here. We all know that there are liars selling timeshare and that there are certain companies to which those liars gravitate. And we pretty much know which companies encourage doing whatever it takes to get a sale (until the heat merchants get caught, and then the companies never knew ‘em). We can’t sit back and pretend that fraud and deception never happens in sales rooms or that some clients/owners don’t have a legitimate gripe. It’s a real problem for the industry as a whole that such practices add mightily to timeshare’s shady reputation, and that the companies turning a blind eye to it don’t give a rat’s a$$ as long as they’re adding to their bottom line.

And it really annoys me that those heat merchants consider themselves hotshot closers, when all they really are is good con men. But that’s a story for another day.

ANYhow, if VOF is not paying its employees, can they be trusted to take proper care of their clients/members? It’s really starting to look like VO Financial’s financials are in the rough right now. So where’s the money??? Inquiring minds want to know.


Email the Gatekeeper (or leave a comment below).

"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Do you have tips or rumors you’d like to share (ANONYMOUSLY)? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

>> Eastern USA Timeshare News

EAST STROUDSBURG: Bushkill Group, the owners of Fernwood Resort up in the Poconos, has their maintenance plan down to a science, and it seems to be working pretty well. Rather than waiting the usual 5 to 7 years to refurbish and repair in one massive (expensive) fell swoop, they practice what they call “advanced preventive maintenance”, doing the work on a rolling schedule as needed. That way the units stay in better shape and the shabbiness that often results from deferring it to a set schedule (which draws negative comments from guests about units needing a facelift) is avoided.

For instance, they replace things in a reasonable number of units every year, repaint, etc. It’s a big resort, with 500 units, so this method works well with the smallest amount of disruption.

This year, according to an article in The Pocono Record, they’ve been working on 210 units in the Tree Tops cluster, a few units at a time, taking a time out from July 4 to Labor Day. This $3 million project also involved new attractions that included launching the Blue Lightning summer tubing (opened in August) and a TreeVentures rope course that will include a zipline (due to open this month).

There is one big caveat, however, that everyone should take note of: Fernwood Resort (Tree Tops Villas and Fairways) should not be confused with the Fernwood Hotel & Conference Center, which is located on the same property. The hotel has been getting a lot of extremely negative reviews on the Fernwood Resort page at TripAdvisor from guests who did not understand the difference. The hotel is separately owned and operated and does not reflect conditions at the Resort. Bushkill Group has notified TripAdvisor about this issue; it remains to be seen if corrections will be made.

Perhaps unfortunately, the check-in area for the Resort is currently located in the hotel lobby. Perhaps something should be done about that?


WILKES-BARRE: Back in September of 2007 a 38-year-old Pennsylvania woman and her live-in boyfriend were indicted and arrested in New Jersey on a five-count state grand jury indictment of first-degree counts of conspiracy and money laundering, and second-degree counts of securities fraud, theft by deception and misapplication of entrusted property. The couple was accused of stealing more than $500,000 through an investment scam via a company which specialized in private wealth management for podiatrists.

In 2008 the woman pled guilty to one count of conspiracy in a plea deal and was given 5 years probation, plus she was ordered to pay $276,566 in restitution. Her boyfriend, who confessed that between 2002 and 2007 the pair stole approximately $790,000 from clients, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Now 44 years old, the woman’s probation is complete and she is “free and clear” and apparently looking for a new job, if her posting on a certain website for resumes is any indication. Here’s what she has to say on that site about her professional experience between 2003-2007:

Business Coordinator (Feb 2003 – Sept 2007)
Entrepreneur
*Provided professional referral services to physicians for business insurance coverage’s. *Coordinated speaking engagements and meetings with an excess of over 200 attendees. *Managed fee based consulting services and new sales lead generation. *Coordinated travel arrangements.

Mmm-hmmm.

And here’s why this applies to Pennsylvania as opposed to New Jersey, where they were arrested and tried:

Work Experience:
Telemarketer/Mentor (Jun 2009 – Present)
Sundance Vacations
*Achieved marketer of the month and marketer of the week several times. *Received an award for marketer of the year (2010) for our evening shift office. *Train/mentor new and existing employees through demonstration techniques. *Assist the manager with administrative duties.

Yup. Not only is she a telemarketer for Sundance Vacations’, where she has access to the credit and debit card numbers of Sundance clients as well as other very personal and sensitive information, she is currently listed on the Careers page at Sundance’s website as the Nightshift Manager for the Marketing office at their Corporate Headquarters in Wilkes-Barre. (From what I hear she was technically working for TAN collecting money from clients for eight months, though working out of the Sundance offices, and in May this year she came back as a Sundance employee as Nightshift Manager.)

Now, I’m all for second chances. Even third and fourth chances sometimes. That’s why I haven’t published her name — that and the fact that there’s no indication that she’s done anything wrong while with Sundance. But I have to say that if I were a company doing the kind of business Sundance does I might hire her for some other kind of work but given her history I would be shy about putting her in a position that would give her that kind of access to that kind of information.

Am I being too skittish? Is it just me?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch house, Albert Whitehead (working without benefit of an attorney) has filed a motion to quash Sundance’s most recent subpoena against Facebook in an effort to force the disgorgement of additional information about the people liking the Boycott Sundance Vacations page or leaving comments on it. He maintains that this subpoena on “non-party Facebook” is “in flagrant violation of Rule 4011(a) (b) (c) (d) (e). Additionally, this third round of subpoenas is excessively expansive, invasive, impermissibly vague, harassing and unnecessarily burdensome”.

Even as Sundance continues its efforts to shut down the Boycott page on Facebook, the page’s number of “Likes” just keep growing. The number, as of this writing, is 1,552.

If you have a bag of popcorn, now would be the time to pop it in the microwave.


Email the Gatekeeper (or leave a comment below).



"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Do you have tips or rumors you’d like to share (ANONYMOUSLY)? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse >> WESTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

KAUA’I: Don’t look now but Phoenix-based Mei Holdings, Inc. has about 21 acres of beachfront land for sale between Kapa’a and Wailua that already has all necessary entitlements in place for 343 condominium/timeshare units and six hotel units.

The property, called the Coconut Beach Resort, is bookended by the Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy (a Shell Vacations Resort), and a Courtyard by Marriott, with easy direct access via the Aleka Loop off Kuhio Hwy. It’s within walking distance of the Coconut Marketplace and 10 minutes from the Lihue airport.

It is being marketed by Colliers International Hawaii via Bratton Realty Advisers on a “Submit Offer” basis, with no base price being indicated in the flyer or website. Infrastructure is in place, and they even conceptual plans for 332 one-, two- and three-bedroom units available for a proposed resort.

Did I mention that the land is fee simple? That means no underlying land lease, which is a GOOD thing.

Is anyone besides the Marriott Vacation Club Kauai Lagoons in Lihue and Westin Princeville still in active sales on Kaua’i?

Who do you think might be prepared to take on a project of this size? The two timeshare companies with the most resorts (and building/sales activity) in the islands are Wyndham Vacation Ownership and Hilton Grand Vacations, and both of those companies currently already have a lot going on in the process of getting BIGGER. Might someone else, like Bluegreen or Hyatt perhaps, take this opportunity to barge in on the game? Now might be a good time.


Email the Gatekeeper (or leave a comment below).



"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Do you have tips or rumors you’d like to share (ANONYMOUSLY)? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

>> WESTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

LAS VEGAS: Diamond Resorts is being creative by taking the “secret shopper” thing a step further. What they’ve done is to organize a new sweepstakes where the winners get a week-long paid “vacation of a lifetime” to various vacation destinations. So far so ordinary. BUT there’s a twist: Unbeknownst to the resorts they visit, those winners will be “Undercover Guests”.

Each of the winning families will report back to Diamond with detailed descriptions of their vacation experiences at all levels. What was good? What was not so good? What could Diamond do to improve things? Etc. DRI management will then take this information and use it “to improve and innovate across all aspects of Diamond Resorts, creating an ever-more-satisfying vacation paradigm”.

What could be more fun than that? You get a great free vacation AND you get to be spies! I wonder if any of them will report back that the sales reps were real pests about trying to get them to attend an “owner update” or something? :)

They’ve already done a test drive of the new program with one family, and it was a big success. That family was videotaped to complete its undercover assignment, and some of the winners in this new sweepstakes will also be videotaped. This is an ongoing operation, by the way, not a one-off thing.

ANYhow, the sweepstakes that selects the winning families will be live until November 9th, 2013, and full entry details are available on the website at www.DiamondResorts.com. Winners will be drawn every two weeks for a total of 4 winning families. Each family will receive a week-long vacation for up to four people, each at a different, undisclosed Diamond Resorts destination.

I’m thinking that maybe Diamond CEO Stephen Cloobeck’s experiences on the TV show “Undercover Boss” might have been the catalyst for this gambit. Good ideas can come from many sources!


Email the Gatekeeper (or leave a comment below).



"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Do you have tips or rumors you’d like to share (ANONYMOUSLY)? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

This week’s timeshare sales tip:

Anxiety:

REMEMBER: Every TS sales person, regardless of their individual level of expertise and talent, should often test their sales and closing skills and look for ways to improve their overall performance.

One such way is to evaluate, from the sales guest’s perspective, if the information that is being shared with a prospect is presented in such a manner as to sufficiently create some anxiety or concerns in the prospect’s mind that by not having and benefiting from what the rep is offering (vacation lifestyle, exotic travel, lifetime memories– heart strings) they’ll be missing out!

In this instance, those anxieties and concerns of a perceived loss are also a great motivating factor for the would-be owner because nobody wants to be left out of something really good. And the more the guest believes that could happen to them the more questions they’ll ask, which is great for the rep.

By honestly appraising and constantly evaluating and then improving every aspect of their selling and closing skills on a regular basis, it is indeed these savvy TS Pros who will sell more deals and laugh all the way to the bank.



Join us for a pithy morning meeting timeshare sales tip of the week, originally published in InsideTheGate.com, to help you to greater success in selling timeshare. Brief and to the point, these sales training tips are designed to get you thinking, to expand your knowledge, to help you to become all that you can be in the timeshare sales arena.

Whether you're an industry veteran or a green pea, it never hurts to brush up on your skills!

Copyright InsideTheGate.com All rights reserved

QUOTABLE QUOTES: “Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls-Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.” -The Tao of Warren Buffett


Timeshare relief/disposal/transfer companies — whatever you want to call them — have cropped up in their dozens over the last decade because the timeshare industry has utterly failed to resolve the problem of unwanted timeshares.

Some of those companies are total scams, some operate within the boundaries of current law (though with questionable ethics). They have found a niche and filled it, and they have every right to do so. A company’s business is to make a profit, after all. And many of them have become millionaires in the process.

And all of them feed off the rotting carcasses of unwanted timeshares, from people so desperate to get out from under their obligations that they’re willing to pay someone thousands of dollars to help them do it. All because the timeshare industry has failed to offer a reasonable exit for owners.

ARDA is working on the problem legislatively. Here’s what they had to say on Sept. 5, 2013:

We at ARDA, and as an industry, continue to pursue solutions to help solve the growing problems with illegitimate transfer companies and the far-reaching consequences they have on HOAs and owners.

There are challenges beyond finding an illegitimate company after it has taken money from unknowing owners. HOAs are burdened with unpaid and uncollectible fees and taxes from the timeshare property, while significant time and money must be spent by the HOA on the foreclosure process to recapture the interest. Maintenance fees rise to deal with the problem, leading to more and more delinquent owners, and the possibility of HOA bankruptcy. As a result, the effect on owners leads to negative perceptions toward the resort or HOA.

To date, ARDA-ROC has successfully lobbied for legislation in four states—Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Texas—with similar legislation pending in Massachusetts and South Carolina. Legislative solutions include the requirement of a written agreement between a consumer and transfer company, escrow for any payment of upfront fees by a consumer, and serious penalties for someone who knowingly transfers a timeshare interest to a person or entity with no intention of meeting its ownership obligations.

ARDA’s State Affairs team continues to work with state legislators and regulators to ensure that any enforcement mechanism (legislative or otherwise) gives proper protection to timeshare owners as well as legal consequences for the companies participating in bad business practices. Click here to learn more about ARDA-ROC’s position on this issue and others.

That legislation is important and I applaud their efforts, but it fails to address the core problem and for that the industry has no one to blame but itself. And unfortunately I see no end in sight until such time as the industry as a whole pulls its head out of its collective rear end and figures out a reasonable solution to that problem (and the corresponding issue of resales) which IMO is a reasonable exit program for owners.

Ha! The timeshare industry’s leaders working in concert (or even individually) on something for the benefit of all? That’ll be the day! haha smiley


Email the Gatekeeper (or leave a comment below).

 


"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Do you have tips or rumors you’d like to share (ANONYMOUSLY)? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

Dial An Exchange, the world’s 3rd largest timeshare exchange company, is getting so much BIGGER that they’ve rebranded themselves, launched a new, improved website and introduced a new logo.

DAE-new logoThe organisation, which operates from offices in 11 locations around the world, has officially relaunched as DAE, a change that consolidates the business under one global brand.

Starting in a single office in Australia 17 years ago, DAE now has global offices across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, and has matured into a significant international player in the vacation ownership and exchange industry. The company now serves more than one million members.

cheerleaderDAE (Dial An Exchange) getting BIGGER!


Email the Gatekeeper (or leave a comment below).

Do you have tips or rumors you'd like to share? Something you'd like us to investigate or follow up on? Help fill up the Tips Jar so we can share it with the whole Timeshare World! CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

Scoop says: I have written on this topic over the years and though I claim no exclusive rights to the idea, to the best of my knowledge there might only be one or two developers who’ve employed this highly successful method; and in this new era and challenges developers face maybe the time has come for more developers – if not everyone – to jump on the bandwagon and come on in for the big WIN!

So what’s the Scoop? Just what kind of bandwagon is he talking about? Find out at “A 16.67% Marketing & Sales Cost?”


If your company/resort is implementing practices that help the environment (and save you money, too, by the way) you should know that RCI is now accepting applications for its third annual RCI Green Awards, which recognize affiliated resorts for their sustainable business practices. The winners of the RCI Green Awards are chosen in partnership with Green Key Global, a leader in eco-certification.

Said Gordon Gurnik, president, RCI, “Going green is not a trend; it is a commitment to doing the right thing for the earth, and preserving it for future generations of travelers. So many of our affiliated resorts are doing wonderful things on the property level and these efforts are also valued by RCI members. We want to make sure their hard work is recognized with the RCI Green Awards.”

Being green-certified has several benefits beyond just winning an award, so get on the stick. The application deadline for the RCI Green Awards is Jan. 15, 2014. For more information, visit RCIAffiliates.com


TWEET OF THE WEEK:

CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO WATCH THE VIDEO: