Time To Face Reality

The other day I took a call from someone who wanted to sell their time share. We spent some time on the phone discussing the market conditions, our fees and the value of his time share. He mentioned to me that he has had his time share for sale with a company based in Orlando for about three years. He then gave me the name of the company and told me he keeps calling them to lower the price but nothing happens. As soon as he gave me the name of the company I knew he had not yet figured out that he had been scammed three years ago. I asked him how much money he’d given them up-front. He told me $495 and asked how I knew he’d paid up-front.

     If you’re putting yourself into this guy’s shoes, you need to read on. There are so many folks out there that have given money up-front to “resale companies” and they’re still believing that something is going to happen. Give it up. Up-front fee companies are not in business to sell time shares. They’re in business to take your money. And they do a pretty good job of convincing people to hand over their money. Promises of sky-high prices is the normal forte.
     So my advice to you is the same as I gave this person on the phone. Go to www.myfloridalegal.com This is the web site for the Florida Attorney General. If the company who took your money is based in Florida, file a complaint. Secondly, file a complaint with the Attorney General in the state in which you live. Thirdly, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) if you live in one state and the perpetrators are in another. The FTC is taking a very active role in trying to shut down these companies.
     Why bother to file a complaint? Many of these companies are under investigation. For the current list under investigation by the Florida Attorney General, go to: http://myfloridalegal.com/lit_ec.nsf/timeshares
Note that these companies are under investigation, not convicted of any crime. Also note that there are MANY companies out there who deserve to be on the list, but are not as yet. If a company is found to have committed fraud or deceived the public you want to be on the list of people who were one of the victims. You may find that you are in line for a refund.
You’re welcome!

Florida Attorney General Targets Timeshare Resale Scams

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi recently announced a major new push to clean up the timeshare resale scams that have plagued consumers for too many years. The legislation targets people and companies who contact timeshare owners, claim to have a buyer available if the timeshare owner wants to sell, but the timeshare owner must pay a set amount of money upfront. Of course, no sale ever takes place and the time share owner is out a few hundred dollars. In other words, the very scams our company has been warning you about for many years.

     Bondi noted that since she took office in January, her office has received 6,863 complaints regarding timeshare resale companies. Last year, the office fielded 12,000 complaints on the same topic, four times the next four highest complaint categories combined.
Under the proposed legislation:

* A timeshare resale advertiser may not misrepresent a pre-existing interest in the owner’s timeshare.

* A timeshare resale advertiser may not mislead a customer as to the success rate of the advertiser’s sales.

* A timeshare resale advertiser may not provide brokerage or direct sale services.

* A timeshare resale advertiser must honor a cancellation request made within seven days following a signed agreement.

* A timeshare resale advertiser must provide a full refund by a timeshare owner within 20 days of a valid cancellation request.

* A timeshare resale advertiser must not collect any payment or engage in any resale advertising activities until the timeshare owner delivers a signed, written agreement for the services.

* A timeshare resale advertiser must also provide a full disclosure statement printed in bold type, with no smaller than a 12-point font, and printed immediately preceding the space provided for the timeshare owner’s signature.

* A timeshare advertising agreement must be put in writing.

* A company that violates these provisions has committed a violation of the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act with a penalty not to exceed $15,000 per violation.

     Now, followers of this newsletter might remember that for over a year there has been a bill working it’s way through the Florida legislature that, in name, was supposed to protect the consumer. This bill was put together by folks outside the Florida government and the group I co-founded almost two years ago, the Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association (LTRBA), opposed it as actually doing more to harm the consumer than help. Our position was that licensed brokers were not the problem nor did they need more laws and restrictions as we were already regulated by the real estate commission. “Advertising” agencies, however, are where the complaints are coming from and regulation has been lax or full of loopholes. That bill would have blurred the lines between honest brokers, and up-front fee “companies” who were fleecing the public. This new bill, we hope, will truly be something that makes a difference in helping to put an end to the scams. At this point, “we hope” is still the key word as LTRBA has not yet received a copy of the proposed legislation. We are hopefully optimistic and we’ll report more to you when we know more.
     The proposed legislation is aimed at crooks, plain and simple. These crooks continue to cause the entire timeshare industry to get a black eye and to make potential newbies to time shares wary. One of the primary reasons LTRBA was formed was to put an end to this. And I’m here to tell you that we’re making a difference. While much work remains to be done, rest assured that you, the timeshare consumer, has an ally who has been working in the background tirelessly to protect you from scams and to ensure that your timeshare investment is one you’ll treasure for years to come.
You’ve got a friend in the business.
Tom Tubbs, Broker
Island Consulting Realty
800-809-6020 or 941-922-3808
Co-Founder: Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association

RCI Platinum Membership vs Regular Membership

So for some of you this may be old news. But for all the rest of you that are like me, you’ve probably gotten info in the mail from RCI telling you the benefits of their new Platinum Membership upgrade and you’ve put it aside (forever) because you’re too busy doing other things right now. Well, that’s what we’re here for. We’re going to give you a synopsis of the new program along with some pros and cons to at least give you a heads up on if you’re missing something or not.

     RCI advertises that the membership costs $55. Now you have to remember, this is $55 on top of your regular membership fee of $89. Still, not a ton of money. So what do you get and is it worth it?
          1. PRIORITY ACCESS. RCI states that “With RCI Platinum membership, you can benefit from “Priority Access” exchange privileges at upscale hotels and resorts in high demand locations. This means that you could be among the first in line when it comes to exchanging for sensational accommodations, specially acquired by RCI for RCI Platinum members, in sought-after destinations like Chicago, San Francisco and New York.” Now at first glance the first thing that came to my mind was, “Does this mean that all the good stuff goes to the folks who paid more money to RCI? What about all the folks with regular memberships?” Hmmmm…… Well, in the fine print RCI states that this is “specially-acquired vacation inventory…made exclusively available for Exchanges by Platinum Members before the inventory is made available to Points Members and Weeks Members who are not Platinum Members”. The words “specially-acquired” are key here. What makes it “special”? We don’t know. Does it work? Here’s two blogs we ran across that may give a clue: “I did a search before becoming a Platinum member, called and became a Platinum member, and then did another search in the standard points search. There were a few new places that showed up. The membership goes into effect as soon as you pay, but you have to log out and then back into your account.” And another: “I joined the Platinum Points program and thus far have been pleasantly surprised by what I can now see with some searches. There was one in May that NEVER comes up on that short of notice. I am also in for an upgrade for DVC at Vero Beach in September. You do not actually know if you get the upgrade until 14 days before check in, so I will have to let you know if I get upgraded or not. I figure just one upgrade would be worth the extra Platinum membership cost. So far it looks very good.” Now these are only two different blogs, but honestly we couldn’t find any negative comments. So if this works as advertised, is it worth the $55? Personally, I think so. Everyone wants the best of the best, and they’re willing to pay a bit more for it. If you truly get hard-to-get exchanges, I’d say this benefit along is worth the $55.
          2. Complementary Unit Upgrades. Who doesn’t like more room to stretch out? If a larger unit is available within two weeks of check-in, it’s all yours! So that Studio now becomes a one bedroom, that one bedroom becomes a two bedroom, etc. I like this. Figure this: the $55 fee divided by 7 nights works out to $7.86 per night. Would you pay $7.86 per night to get a larger unit? If it works, I think this also is worth the $55 all by itself.
          3. Platinum Rebates. Get a $20 rebate for RCI Guest Certificates, a $25 rebate when you book an Extra Vacations Getaway and a $25 rebate when you combine multiple deposits or deposit credits (more on this in a future newsletter). Depending on how you use RCI, this also could be a substantial savings based on the fact that the upgrade fee is only $55. I’d go along with this one also.
          4. Experiential Vacation Exchange. These are tours put together by third parties. You save $500 or more per couple by going through RCI. Personally, I’d do a lot of comparison shopping to make sure the savings are really there.
          5. Platinum Cruise Exchange. Again, this is put together by third parties and you supposedly save $500 or more going through RCI. Comparison shop on this as well.
     There’s a few other perks as well but some you’ve seen before with restaurant discount cards, etc. So is the $55 upgrade worth it? I think so. It’s still a relatively new program so time will tell how the public perceives it and how well the program actually works. We’ll keep you informed.
     Happy Vacations!
     Tom Tubbs