The following article is reprinted with permission from Allyance Partners - Read Original Article
Wyndham has had crazy history with the Better Business Bureau. The problem is that Wyndham wants a good rating like other “more reputable” timeshare companies, but isn’t willing to improve their sales practices to ensure a better consumer rating. Wyndham has had thousands of BBB complaints filed against it, almost two thousand over the last year or so. Such a flurry of complaints led to Wyndham’s rating dropping to an “F” last year, the lowest possible BBB rating. Nonetheless, refusing to change their deceptive sales practices, new complaints continued to be filed. So many complaints that the BBB finally decided to remove Wyndham’s rating altogether.
Normally, when a business receives so many consumer complaints, their reaction is to clean up their act. Not so for Wyndham. Wyndham’s timeshare success is wholly dependent upon their continued use of deceptive and manipulative sales practices. Consequently, Wyndham’s management has made a conscious decision to continue its organized sales fraud, apparently hoping no one will care that the fortune 500 company has a terrible BBB record.
In fact, Wyndham’s BBB record is so horrible that BBB took the unprecedented step (when removing Wyndham’s rating) of including a complaint summary in its online profile. BBB states the following:
“BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.” – See more at: http://www.bbb.org/central-florida/business-reviews/vacation-timeshare/wyndham-vacation-ownership-in-orlando-fl-20000283#sthash.oO3PluZ3.dpuf.
The above BBB quote speaks volumes….
The following spreadsheet contains an analysis of all sales of Wyndham timeshare points on eBay over a two week period. We had heard from numerous sources that it was impossible to sale Wyndham points in the open market. We had also been told by industry experts that if someone was willing to buy your points (usually a mega-renter or resale company), they would require the seller to pay several months of maintenance fees as well as closing costs. Wading through the above, and all things being equal, we still wanted to know the going aftermarket price being paid for Wyndham timeshare points.
Therefore, after considerable work by our brilliant analyst, we were finally able to ascertain that the market price for Wyndham timeshare points is a whopping $3.25 per thousand (1,000) points ($3.25/k). See spreadsheet. This price does not take into account that the seller is likely to pay all sale and closing related fees (including 3+ months of future maintenance fees on the points being sold).
Therefore, considering the average price for Wyndham points is $150/k are higher, the open market price for Wyndham points is phenomenally less expensive (98% cheaper) than buying points directly from Wyndham. Consequently, based on our diligence, it would seem horribly ill advised to buy Wyndham Timeshare points directly from Wyndham.
Wyndham Worldwide Declares Cash Dividend
Wyndham Worldwide Corporation WYN +2.57%announced today its Board of Directors declared a cash dividend of $0.35 per share on its common stock, payable September 5, 2014 to shareholders of record as of August 21, 2014. So lets see, all shareholders of record get a dividend. That would include the largest Wyndham shareholders which are Wyndham’s Directors, Officers, Creditors, and institutional Shareholders. But that doesn’t include all of us Wyndham timeshare owners who paid all the money so they can reap huge dividends. Advice to those people that are considering purchasing or upgrading a Wyndham timeshare – DON’T. Instead, invest that money in Wyndham stock, and use Expedia to rent rooms at the same Wyndham Resorts for pennies of what it will cost you as a Wyndham owner. Food for Thought.
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Tony and Carrie Mendoza walked into the Wyndham Vacation Resorts office here in September hoping to sell four timeshares they had purchased years ago back to the company that had sold them. They walked out of the office unknowingly owing more than $18,000 to a credit card and finance company they say they’d never heard of.
“Wyndham pulled the wool over our eyes,” said Carrie Mendoza, 80, whose 86-year-old husband, Tony, is a World War II veteran. “The people at Wyndham work with this stuff every day. They talk so fast and flip pages so fast that only they know what’s going on.”
Documents show the Mendozas signed up for a program called Pathway by Club Wyndham – promoted by the timeshare company as an easy way for owners to sell back their unwanted vacation plans and eliminate the monthly maintenance fees. The Mendozas say they do not remember signing the documents, but they do not dispute that the signatures are theirs.
Timeshare critics say in lawsuits filed in Florida, California and other states that the program and Wyndham’s sales techniques are deceptive and target elderly victims.
“Timeshare sales are commission driven; the sales people get 20 percent of the deal,” said Mike Finn, a Largo, Fla., lawyer whose firm specializes in timeshare lawsuits. “They [the Mendozas] went in there thinking they were going to get help, but the sales guys just saw them as meat on the table.”
Patrick Mumford, the Mendozas’ lawyer, is out of the office until later this month and unavailable for comment.
Alicia Dickson – a consumer affairs specialist in Wyndham’s legal department – did not respond to email and telephone requests for comment. Dickson reviewed the Mendozas’ documents after receiving a letter from Mumford asking the timeshare company to justify the $18,000 debt “ or, otherwise, dismiss or waive [it].”
Dickson responded to Mumford by saying “we regret to hear of Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza’s concerns and apologize for any service challenges and inconveniences they may have encountered,” but the contract they signed binds them to the deal.
Lindsay Hodges, Wyndham’s corporate communications manager, told The Sun News on Friday that the company is “committed to providing a positive resolution for the Mendoza family.”
“Providing world-class customer service is our top priority and we strive to do all that we can to deliver a great experience to our owners at every interaction,” Hodges said. “We regret that their situation did not reflect this.”
The Pathway program
Wyndham requires timeshare owners to purchase an additional 105,000 points – the “currency” owners use to pay for their vacation stays – to join the Pathway program. Once they are in the program, owners can ask Wyndham to buy back their timeshares. Wyndham is not obligated to buy the timeshares but, if the company chooses, it will purchase them for 20 percent of their stated value.
In the Mendozas’ case, Wyndham paid $13,779 for timeshares the couple had purchased since 1996 for more than $68,000.
To make them eligible for that buy-back, Wyndham signed the Mendozas up for a Visa credit card and a Bill Me Later credit account – with a 19.99 percent annual interest rate – to cover the $18,125 cost of joining the Pathway program.
The Mendozas said they had no idea they had signed up for those credit accounts until months later when they started getting bills in the mail.
“It was never our intention to buy any additional timeshares or anything else that would cost us more money,” Tony Mendoza said.
Carrie Mendoza said she would not have agreed to the buy-back program if she knew it came at such a steep price.
“Our travel days are over,” she said. “We need the re-sale money to allow us to purchase medications and to keep us going for as long as the good Lord lets us remain on this earth.”
Documents show the Mendozas did indeed sign up for the credit accounts and agreed to all of the terms of the Pathway program, including the purchase of additional points. But the couple says they were pressured into signing documents before they read or fully understood them.
“When they have a large stack of papers with the pages flipped back and the back page ready for our signature without us being able to read the pages before that . . . and they encouraged us, saying, ‘Oh yeah, it’s OK, go ahead and just sign here’,” Carrie Mendoza said. “And very fast [they] flipped another page at us.”
The Mendozas say they did not get copies of all the documents they signed until their lawyer requested them months later.
Contracts hard to beat in court
Court documents show the Mendozas are not alone.
A lawsuit filed last year against Wyndham by a Wisconsin couple claims the timeshare company “trains its sales employees to arrange and procure loans through various credit cards and the Bill Me Later program without customers’ knowledge or consent.” Wyndham denies any wrongdoing in that lawsuit, which is pending.
A separate class-action lawsuit filed in California claims Wyndham deceived buyers into purchasing additional timeshare points through the Bill Me Later credit account “so that the charges would not be readily apparent.” The lead plaintiffs in that case, like the Mendozas, “were not aware of the purchase of additional points until they received their credit card statement,” according to the lawsuit.
Barbara Figari, the lawyer representing Wyndham customers in the class-action lawsuit, said in court documents that the timeshare company targeted her clients with deceptive and misleading sales pitches because of their age.
“The fraudulent practices and false representations were being targeted toward seniors,” Figari stated.
Wyndham has denied any wrongdoing in that case as well, and a judge ruled this year that Figari’s claims cannot be heard in court but must be resolved by an arbitrator, as stated by the contracts her clients signed.
Finn, the Florida lawyer, said it is usually futile to try to fight a timeshare contract on legal grounds.
“The contracts are damned hard to beat,” he said. “The timeshare attorneys figured out how to beat the system before they sold their first timeshare. Once you sign the contract, you’re usually stuck with that timeshare for the rest of your life.”
South Carolina consumers have five days to cancel a timeshare contract, and that cancellation has to be in writing and sent by certified mail with a return receipt. Once that time period expires, consumers have little recourse for cancelling a transaction due to buyer’s remorse.
The S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs, the state agency charged with protecting consumers’ rights, does not investigate timeshare complaints but forwards them to the state’s Real Estate Commission. The commission can’t adjudicate contractual disputes and is mostly limited to licensing violations.
Timeshare complaints are among the most common received by the commission, with 283 of them lodged in 2013, according to commission spokeswoman Lesia Kudelka. Of that amount, the commission declined to investigate 226 complaints due to a lack of jurisdiction or insufficient evidence to support a legal violation. None of the cases ended with a public disciplinary order against a timeshare company or sales agent.
Consumer advocates say the commission’s oversight of the timeshare industry is hampered by the fact that state law does not require individual sales agents to be licensed as long as their company is registered with the state. South Carolina is one of 12 states that do not require timeshare sales agents to obtain a license.
That leaves many consumers with a largely unsympathetic court system as their only hope.
“If you go in front of a judge and he asks, ‘Did you sign this contract?’ and you say, ‘Yes,’ you don’t stand a chance,” Finn said.
Mumford, the Mendozas’ lawyer, appears to agree in a March 21 memo he wrote about the Little River couple’s case.
“Unless Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza deny that the signatures contained thereon are theirs, the documents on their face appear to be very much in order,” Mumford states.
A little caution can save money
Finn has said one approach is not to pay the credit card or Bill Me Later bill. That’s because those finance companies have “recourse agreements” with Wyndham for most of the accounts opened to make timeshare purchases. Under those agreements, the finance companies perform minimal credit checks on consumers because Wyndham guarantees the payments.
“They’re not relying on an individual’s credit as to whether they should make the loan,” Finn said, referring to the finance companies. “They’re relying on that recourse agreement they have with Wyndham.”
Finn said he has been able to get companies such as Bill Me Later to cancel debts for more than 100 of his clients by sending a letter outlining what he says are the timeshare company’s deceptive sales practices.
“When Bill Me Later gets my letter, they take it to Wyndham and say, “Give us our money back’,” Finn said. “The best way to get their attention is to tell them my client is not going to pay you any more and you cannot contact them any more. I create a situation where they have to come to my table.”
Finn’s services aren’t cheap – he charges a flat rate of $5,000 for each case – but he said business is booming.
“I started focusing on timeshare cases three years ago, and I’ve been the busiest during those three years than at any other time during 43 years in practice,” he said.
Pam Bondi – the attorney general in Florida where many of the timeshare companies, including Wyndham, are headquartered – said a little patience and caution on the front end can save consumers thousands in timeshare and legal fees.
“The salesman may try to give you the impression that the papers have to be signed that same day,” Bondi said in a news release. “Remember that you always have the right to leave the sales office, and come back later. Read your contract to determine what cancellation rights you have after you have signed the papers. Before buying a timeshare, you should consider whether you will want to return to the same vacation spot each year. Remember that once you buy it, you may not be able to sell it due to a depressed resale market.”
It’s advice the Mendozas say they wish they had taken.
“They had a lot of places where we were told to initial or sign,” Carrie Mendoza said. “We trusted them, and that was our biggest mistake.”
Several reports have come to light that Wyndham managers and executives have begun shredding sensitive documents requested in numerous federal and state employment and sales fraud lawsuits. These documents have also been requested in on-going investigations by the SEC and FTC.
This picture shows a huge “shred-it” truck at the sales offices of Wyndham’s resort in Nashville, Tennessee. The picture was taken by a Wyndham owner just this week, describing the shredding activities as way out of the ordinary. Such conduct would violate several federal and state laws, as well as court orders. Our requests and calls for more information from Wyndham have not been returned.
Wyndham Timeshare Business – What’s Really Going On
Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc. Better Business Bureau rating increased from F to C+ recently. BBB raised Wyndham’s dismal rating stating that the following factors resulted in its increase:
- Length of time business has been operating.
- Complaint volume filed with BBB for business of this size.
- Response to 1687 complaint(s) filed against business.
- BBB has sufficient background information on this business.
In other words, after what we are sure were a barrage of letters from Wyndham’s legal department, BBB relented and raised the rating to a whopping C+.
The truth can still be discerned in the overall complaint numbers. 1659 recent complaints, most of which were related to Wyndham’s sales practices. Approximately 600 of those complaints were filed in the last year.
These numbers beg the question, if 1700 people have filed formal complaints against Wyndham for deceptive sales practices, how many people were wronged that have not filed a complaint.
Its estimated that the number of consumers that will actually file a formal complaint with governmental or quasi-governmental organizations is less than 5% of those actually wronged by a merchant. If that’s true, the likely number of consumers wronged by Wyndham’s fraudulent sales practices is probably closer to 35,000 over the last few years.
This may be evidenced by the number of complaints on other consumer complaint internet sites like Rip-off Report, Consumer Affairs, and Scam book. Literally thousands of complaints can be found across the internet. Where there’s smoke there is likely fire.
One would think that the powers that be at Wyndham would conclude that they have a real problem. In fact, they actually know exactly what’s transpiring at the local sales level. A recent report issued by Allyance Partners, Inc. explained that Wyndham’s auditor has required Wyndham to show the growing contingent lawsuit liability on their 2012 balance sheet, and actually took the unprecedented step requiring Wyndham to set aside a cash reserve to satisfy these timeshare related fraud claims.
In other words, Wyndham Worldwide’s management is aware of the continuing deceptive trade practices, and is intent on looking the other way as they book upwards of a billion dollars a year in timeshare contracts.
Meanwhile, Wyndham has successfully distracted state and federal regulators by convincing the department of justice and state AG offices that the “real” problem are all the timeshare cancellation and resale companies. Wyndham sells worthless timeshare memberships to unwary retirees, while claiming the various companies trying to help them avoid bankruptcy are the true culprits of fraud and deception.
At the end of the day, we are left with an obvious conclusion – the rich fortune 500 companies get richer (Wyndham is actually ranked around 530, just missing the coveted list), at the expense of unwary susceptible consumers like our retiring baby boomer senior citizens.