BELLEVUE, Wash., May 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Timeshare Exit Team, the industry leader in finding a path out of consumers' unwanted timeshares, is urging timeshare developers to show compassion for owners struggling with medical and financial hardships during the worst pandemic in more than a century, and provide immediate relief to those in need.
The need for consumers to exit their timeshares is more relevant now than ever, yet their ability to exit is stifled by red tape put up by the timeshare industry – or even worse, new deceptive practices aimed at making more sales in the guise of COVID-19 relief:
- In a dazzling display of insensitivity and greed, Orlando Sentinel reported that an executive at Westgate Resorts "offered to use coronavirus relief money from the federal government to give short-term jobs to travel bloggers to write stories promoting the company's resorts."
- Diamond Resorts sent out an email to customers in April stating that they've "identified ways to provide financial relief to members through refinancing options," but the true purpose of the solicitation becomes clear in the email's fine print: "This advertising material is being used for the purpose of soliciting timeshare sales."
- In Wyndham Destinations' Q1 earnings call, CEO Michael Brown said that the developer will have to focus more on "owner sales" to keep earnings afloat amid COVID-19 – in other words, pushing upgrades on existing members.
"The way timeshare developers are treating their customers right now, in the middle of an unprecedented medical and economic crisis, is downright cruel," Brandon Reed, Timeshare Exit Team founder and CEO, said. "We're seeing so many businesses throughout the country put their profits aside and reach out to help consumers, but developers are still demanding the payment of sky-high maintenance fees and refusing to reimburse consumers who are unable to travel. Americans need help, but instead of taking this opportunity to help their customers, the timeshare industry has largely decided to throw them to the curb."
"It's also worth noting that out of the 100,000+ timeshare owners who have come to Timeshare Exit Team seeking relief from their timeshare, the vast majority of them are over 65 years old," Reed added. "They're being left to decide between continuing to pay for a timeshare they cannot use because they don't feel safe traveling, or to feel pressured into traveling despite the health risks because of what they're paying. It's infuriating and unacceptable."
Below is a sampling of recent Tweets from timeshare owners frustrated with developers' policies amid COVID-19:
"@RCI_Timeshare we have a vacation booked, but the resort and amenities are now closed due to #Covid_19. Why are you not allowing us to cancel or reschedule without huge penalties? This is absurd." - @imsowilde
"Don't book with Diamond Resorts. They refuse to refund our cruise during COVID-19. My husband is immunocompromised. Do not purchase a timeshare with them."- @independentpup
"@RCI_Timeshare needs to meet the times and address this situation. Not allowing members to change dates due to #coronavirus is archaic. Terrible customer service. My mother is stuck now and has been a loyal customer for over 20 years. @WLWT @WCPO @Local12 @FOX19" - @chrislenhof
In response to pleas like these, Timeshare Exit Team founder Brandon Reed sent two open letters to major industry players, including one pledging to work directly with the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) on finding a path out for frustrated consumers and another urging ARDA's Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC) to join them in championing consumers, which is their stated mission. Sadly, neither of these letters received a response.
There have been some encouraging signs, including Disney Vacation Club committing to extending the life of points at risk of being lost due to the COVID-19 closure, while temporarily limiting members' ability to borrow future points. Timeshare Exit Team has outlined few specific areas that it recommends as a starting point for helping timeshare owners in distress:
- Waive fees associated with rescheduling vacations or rolling over points to the following year
- Extend timeframes for point usage without penalties
- Reduce management fee profit margins for developer-managed resorts
- Offer truly responsible exits without excessive fees or upgrade sales pitches for owners facing financial or medical issues caused by COVID-19
To those who have followed the timeshare industry for years, their latest actions – or inaction – amid COVID-19 unfortunately should not come as a large surprise. In a lengthy feature, Forbes.com recently highlighted comments from Ken McKelvey, chair of the American Resort Development Association-Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC), which claims to fight for timeshare owners.
"The best thing we can do with exit (is) judicial foreclosure, ruin the credit and enforce the contract," said McKelvey, according to minutes from the industry's ARDA World conference in April 2019. "Each developer should have an exit strategy office with (their) call center, also can be opportunity to upsell. Only 40-50% (of owners) actually exit after reaching the office of exit."
About Timeshare Exit Team
Timeshare Exit Team is the industry leader in helping people exit their unwanted timeshares. Understanding this hardship, Timeshare Exit Team started in 2012 with one goal in mind: help consumers find financial and emotional freedom from their timeshare situation. To date, it has helped more than 21,000 timeshare owners exit their timeshare contracts. For more information, please visit https://timeshareexitteam.com.