If you were to stand outside of a timeshare presentation meeting room and watch the expression on the faces of individuals who just purchased a timeshare, you would witness in most cases, complete elation, happiness and excitement.
With a glossy file of contract details, and colorful brochures, and some freebies from the resort, new timeshare owners emerge with an expression on their face, that compares to winning a lottery. And who could blame them? They have sat through a 1-3-hour timeshare presentation that has successfully sold them on the advantages of timeshare membership, with virtually no negative talk about the downside of an industry that is infamous for unscrupulous sales tactics, predatory contracts and a general disregard for the long-term satisfaction of its customers.
We would know; our founder and many members of our team at Aconsumercredit™ were former timeshare employees and sales professionals. And what they learned on-the-job was enough, to compel them to switch sides, and advocate for timeshare owners instead.
In our industry experience, (we’ve been America’s leading timeshare release consultancy since 2006), there are six distinct stages of timeshare ownership. We would like to share our insights with anyone who is considering the purchase of a timeshare, or consumers who are seeking timeshare release options.
Everyone wants to take at least one great vacation per year, with family or friends. There are so many obstacles that prevent us all from scheduling the vacation time we want (and need) to balance our busy professional and personal lives.
The core motivations for seeking out affordable vacation options, are easy to understand. We want to take the time off that we are entitled to. We all want to enjoy vacations where we feel pampered, relaxed but also engaged in fun activities that we don’t always get the opportunity to enjoy at home. We crave sunshine, great food, amazing accommodations and outdoor activities, to give us the kind of vacation that is worth counting down for.
The problem is that for most people, there are many obstacles that prevent them from traveling, or simply taking that time off every year to relax, unwind and recharge. Millennials may find it difficult to request vacation time, when they are growing new career opportunities. Young parents may experience problems traveling with young children, or balancing school schedules with vacation time. And seniors may have health or financial limitations that can make travel more difficult. In fact, budget is often what separate us from being able to plan the destination vacations we want most.
So, when someone approaches you with some math, that looks like you can afford a luxury vacation once or twice per year, while paying the equivalent of $100-$200 per month, it sounds like quite an exciting opportunity doesn’t it? Timeshare ownership on the glamourous promotional side, feels like you are getting the deal of a lifetime, and that you will finally be able to make your dream of exotic annual vacations come true (at a price you can afford).
Exploration and Negotiation
When someone has decided to investigate the option of timeshare ownership, that’s when the true excitement begins. By this point, the potential buyer has already spoken to many individuals who currently own timeshares. They have heard about beautiful resorts, and friendships created with other timeshare owners, trips and excursions, family memories and all the wonderful aspects of travel made affordable by timeshare ownership.
Whether it is human nature, or an eagerness to believe that luxury travel can happen at a fraction of the retail cost, simply because of a timeshare membership, one thing is almost universally common between timeshare owners. In the extensive online research that they do on different timeshares, resort networks, point systems, exchanges and other facets of timeshare ownership, buyers are often remiss to talk to unhappy timeshare owners. And potential buyers rarely read through comments, and complaints from past or current members either.
It is almost as though we want to believe so badly, that our dream vacations can come with a bargain price tag, that we are willing to overlook the negative experiences and cautionary warnings that are available virtually everywhere online. From disgruntled owners, to financial experts explaining why a timeshare is never an ‘investment’, but rather a long-term lease with few options.
Nonetheless, the global timeshare industry shares revenues that number in the billions annually. They know how hard it is for the average family to save for a vacation, and the timeshare industry is an expert at focusing on what consumers want to hear. That timeshare ownership is the cheapest, and most affordable gateway to luxury vacation.
Something new is exciting, and timeshare owners generally start using their points or earned weeks the minute they are entitled to reserve their vacation time. The honeymoon phase of timeshare ownership is relatively short-lived, not because the home resort falls short or providing the vacation experience members want.
Three factors start to impact utilization of the timeshare, after year 3-5 of ownership:
a) Timeshare maintenance fees start to go up. This impacts individuals at different levels, depending on their household budget and threshold for additional expenses. Families with more residual income may not mind a slow increase in maintenance fees, if they are thoroughly enjoying their vacation time. However, consumers that were tightly budgeted and assured by the timeshare sales team that it would remain affordable for them, start to feel ‘the pinch’ of increasing costs, and concerns.
b) Timeshare owners talk to other owners, either online or while visiting the resort. Individuals who are happy with the management of the resort and administration of their timeshare lease, have positive things to say. Other members who are embroiled in fee conflicts, or disputes with the timeshare company, have plenty to share about their experience. New members start to consider (after hearing negative feedback and experiencing fee increases) that they may have been ‘cat fished’ into a bad financial decision.
c) In some cases, the timeshare that was sold without a prior visit, can fail to live up to the expectations of the consumer, who may have expected five-star accommodations and received a timeshare at a resort that meets 2-3-star service and experience levels. Some of our clients have shared that they purchased a timeshare in a ‘family friendly’ resort, only to find out that most members were a different crowd entirely. Florida for instance is a vacation hub for seniors, and for college age travelers, who may not mix well with families that have young children.
The social culture and atmosphere of the home-resort may not align with what was sold to the timeshare owner during the presentation, and devoid of a child-friendly environment or family centered atmosphere, many parents hesitate to use their timeshare for group travel with young children. Imagine sitting around the pool with your family while the kids splash around, and having other members complain about the noise or activity that is impeding their use of the facility? Or arriving at your resort to find teenagers or young adults vacationing without supervision, while you try to enjoy a wholesome vacation in a social environment equivalent to Spring Break for college students?
There are only so many times you can apologize for your kids “being kids” or cover their eyes to protect them from boisterous adult behavior, while trying to enjoy your family vacation. So much for the relaxing vacation you were aiming for.
At this point, the timeshare owner has gone through the contract with a fine-tooth comb and read about all inclusions and exclusions to their lease contract. Can they trade vacation time at the home resort, for other destinations and luxury resorts? Yes, but it will cost you. Is it easy to secure a week in trade at a partner resort? Almost never, particularly if you are aiming for a ‘red week’, or peak season holiday travel.
We’ve listened to stories shared by our clients, where it took them over two years to book vacation time during a peak period. Of course, that obstacle (and many other negative aspects to timeshare ownership) were never covered in the sales presentation. And we all know why.
If American families had unlimited financial resources, they would not pursue the ‘deals’ that timeshare companies offer. Stretching the family budget is a constant challenge, so when an assessment notice arrives in the mail for the sum of $500 to several thousands of dollars, you can imagine the frustration that many timeshare owners experience. If you pay it late? They tack on fees. If you refuse to pay the assessment fee, it can have the same repercussions that a missed mortgage payment can have, on your personal credit. And if you complain about the assessment fee, the timeshare points out the page in your lengthy contract, that outlines your legal responsibility to pay assessments.
The resignation phase occurs after the timeshare member has decided that increasing costs of membership, no longer equate to the discount vacation opportunity that they signed on for, when they purchased the timeshare. This is when the full realization of the timeshare as an exploitative opportunity where only one side truly benefits financially (the resort) becomes clear. And consumers get angry.
The first approach for many consumers, is to seek out support from the timeshare. After all, you have spent thousands of dollars with the organization at this point (likely tens of thousands), and you have an understandable expectation that you will be treated with the respect that a customer of that calibre deserves. The response from the timeshare is often underwhelming, dismissive and in some cases rude and aggressive, with a “you signed it, you bought it” attitude, instead of one that seeks to understand individual cases, such as illness, changes in financial needs and other important considerations.
Are you really trapped in your timeshare? Why didn’t the timeshare sales representative explain how limited your options as an owner are, or warn about how expensive rising maintenance fees and assessment fees could be? Saying that they wished they have never bought a timeshare, frustrated owners start to visit online forums and read complaints and feedback from other members, only to realize that their case is not unique; it’s part of an international and highly profitable business model, that most financial experts and many regulatory watch dogs warn against.
Disenchanted by the entire experience of timeshare ownership, consumers who have a negative experience feel trapped, frustrated, and frankly mislead about important facts that were glossed over, when they trusted their timeshare sales representative. A statement like “you should have read the contract” does little to comfort them, as they try to resolve the financial liability and growing concerns about affordability as a timeshare owner.
Some families have no choice, but to aggressively pursue timeshare release as an option. Whether they have health conditions and expenses that make the cost of timeshare ownership impossible, or whether they have been paying their fees, but unable to use their allocated vacation time due to administrative red-tape, the consumer gets to a certain point where they have really “had enough” of timeshare ownership, and simply want out.
When timeshare owners get persistent with their resort, that’s when the timeshare industry in general, starts to show its true colors. We have had clients who needed to file a no-contact order, after receiving harassing telephone calls at home (and at work) from timeshare collections. Others have accrued a significant balance of outstanding membership, maintenance and/or assessment fees, and approached their timeshare for a negotiation or payment plan, and simply been ‘shut down’ by a lack of empathy or understanding for their situation.
A bad situation gets worse, when a timeshare owner tries to sell their vacation lease to someone else. Transferring title to a new owner seems like the fastest and most affordable way to end their financial obligation, but unfortunately, less than 2% of timeshares are sold successfully. To add further disappointment, those assurances given about the ‘value’ of the timeshare on the resale market (perpetuated by sales teams), fall flat when consumers see the number of timeshare units for sale, starting at $1.00.
Supply of timeshare units exceeds global demand, and unless you have a grandfathered timeshare purchased 15-20 years ago with an exceptional resort and locked-in fee caps, it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to sell a timeshare at all, let alone recoup the initial ‘investment’ you spent to purchase it.
At Aconsumercredit™ we stand behind the rights of American consumers to request and negotiate release from their timeshare contract. We know that needs change, and that there are always legitimate reasons why families need our help, to exit their timeshare contract, with advice from our Attorney led timeshare release consultants.
Start today by contacting us for a fully transparent review of the processes behind timeshare release, and how our team can help you successfully end your timeshare contract, with cooperation from your resort or vacation membership organization. Call us at: 1-800-587-EXIT for more information.