Have you ever had an unctuous salesperson offer you some wonderful freebie — free luxury-restaurant dinners, free show or concert tickets, free stay in a vacation resort hotel — provided you agree to spend an hour or two attending a vaguely described “sales presentation?” If so, then watch out: chances are someone’s about to try selling you a timeshare.
In just the past month we’ve had readers from all over the world complain about what they say are deceptive or high-pressure timeshare-sale tactics from Wyndham Vacation Resorts, but before sharing their stories, we want to remind you of three things you should remember while dealing with all salespeople, not just timeshare peddlers:
One: Don’t trust anyone who offers you something valuable in exchange for listening to a sales pitch. If what they’re selling were really such a good deal, they wouldn’t need to bribe potential customers into hearing about it.
Two: Never trust a salesperson who tries making you feel hurried or uncomfortable. “We’re offering a stunningly awesome deal, but only if you buy right now! This instant! No, you can’t take time to think about it! You can’t sleep on it tonight and make your decision tomorrow! You must sign a contract now now now right now!”
Three: Never buy anything from a salesman who tries guilt-tripping you into a purchase. “I desperately need you to buy this, ’cause if you don’t I’ll lose my job and my children will be homeless and we’ll all starve!”
So as you read the reviews we collected about Wyndham Vacation Rentals this September, keep these three rules in mind — and notice how every single anecdote features a salesman breaking at least one of them.
Approached in a mall
Jana S. from Whangaparaoa, New Zealand, doesn’t even own a Wyndham timeshare, but still wrote us on Sept. 30 to say, “I am getting very sick and tired of these people … We were approached in a mall, asked if we would like to take part in a little competition and win a holiday, cash or TV.”
So they did, and they won! What amazing good luck, right? They took their valuable prize and went home?
Of course not. “When we won we were told we had to attend a 90-minute sales presentation. I pointed at the kids and said only one can go, but the lady was adamant that there was kids' entertainment and we had to attend both to redeem the prize. We agreed that it is 90 minutes of our holiday (and were set on not buying anything), but hey, we would get a free holiday in return.”
Or so they thought. Next morning, they went to the sales presentation. “It was a pokey little office and the kid’s entertainment was a TV and some colouring-in sheets. We had to wait for another couple and then the presentation started. It took about 45 min and the two of us just looked at each other and we knew there would be no sales agreement. Anyway, after the initial presentation, we were placed with a sales rep and he started to fill out a questionnaire. Then he talked us again through the program with all the fancy sales schnickschnack.”
Jana and her husband work in financial services, and are presumably more contract-savvy than the average person, so they ignored the salesman’s high-pressure pitch and “got straight to the point."
"We asked a lot of questions and he showed us what would be available and at what points amount, etc.," she said. "But our questions were never answered. We asked whether it's a timeshare (my other half still has one somewhere in Asia, worth not even the paper the contract is written on). The sales rep told us adamantly it isn't.”
They asked the salesman for the contract, so they could “read it in peace and quiet, do a little bit of research and then decide. That's when his manager stepped in and tried to lure us in, decidedly not to give us the fine print. We weren't moving an inch, and my other half even asked them if they would buy anything without reading the contract first.”
That was three years ago. Jana and her husband eventually escaped without signing anything, but Wyndham now had their contact phone number, and wasn’t afraid to use it.
“A couple of months later it started. Every so often I get called -- I had won something. After 3 years of harassment I told them to effing take me off their callers list, as they are scammers and there would be no way that I would ever buy anything from them. Well, one of ’em rung me today ... But, my new phone has an ignore function and that was hopefully the last I ever heard of them!”
And hopefully Timothy P. of Melbourne, Australia, won’t have his next three years play out like Jana’s last three. Tim wrote us after attending a Wyndham sales presentation on Sept. 22, and concluding their salespeople were “unprofessional bullies.”
Tim almost considered buying a timeshare, he said, “until we were bullied and intimidated into a sale at the end of the presentation by a man whose name I cannot remember."
"His behavior was incredibly unprofessional and argumentative," Timothy said. "We left the presentation feeling angry and incredibly frustrated. I put a warning out to everyone who is looking to attend one of these presentations, as you will be treated like idiots and probably feel intimidated like we did. … Prior to the presentation I was told over the phone that it was a no-pressure, no-obligation presentation.”
Not so lucky
As annoying as Tim and Jana’s experiences were, at least they didn’t sign anything or part with any of their money. Most of our readers weren’t so lucky. Pamela P. of Worcester, Mass., wrote us on Sept. 16:
“We were basically accosted during vacation. For free tickets to a museum, we had to sit through a ‘no pressure’ timeshare presentation for 90 minutes. The presentation was over 5 hours and the salespeople wouldn't take no for an answer. By the time we left, we had purchased a deeded unit at Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.”
Uh-oh. As Pamela mourned, “We were told many lies.” The first: “We could use Bill Me Later for the down payment and if we couldn't pay it in 6 months, they would extend it another 6 months, interest free. After falling on hard times, we couldn't pay the down payment and were told by Bill Me Later that was not true, and Wyndham should not have told us that.”
What else? “We were told we would get 10 days of vacation during ‘primetime’ with the 84,000 points we bought into. Come to find out, for the property we bought, that only gets us 3 days, and SC is too far to travel to for just 3 days.” Also, “They didn't tell us our points expire. They have to be used or forfeited unless we pay a fee.
"We were told party weekends were for anyone who could attend just because Wyndham likes to treat their customers well. We later found out, you have to bring a guest and they have to sit through a sales pitch."
What else went wrong with their Virginia stay? “We were accosted again, and tricked into another presentation advertised as learning how your membership works and finding out about new resorts in New York and Boston, but it was actually another sales pitch. … We were told it would be 45 minutes but turned into over 4 hours.
Another time Pamela attempted to vacation at a Wyndham property, “We had to bring a guest over 28 with an income of over $70,000, or a person over 55, and they had to sit through a presentation. … They also never told us about all the fees that are associated with any services. … They never told us that the maintenance fees will increase when we signed up, but when they tried to get us to upgrade, they told us that we needed to get out of our current plan because it's just going to keep going up.”
Wyndham timeshare owner Ed M. of Tafton, Pa., also complained about maintenance fees, when he wrote us on Sept. 17 to say that “upgrades are basically buying more points with more maintenance fees.”
Ed never actually bought a timeshare, but explained that, “My wife inherited hers from her parents who bought it many years ago and they never went once. They since have both died and now we have it. We asked [Wyndham] how we could change a fixed week to points and they said, ‘This is all we have.’"
“When the smoke cleared we did change a fixed week to 126,000 points but when we signed the contract we went back to the room and saw that we bought another 126,000 points for $17,000, which we paid off within a month, thanks to Mom and Dad's will," Ed said.
What are these points?
What are these “points” that Ed and other customers keep mentioning? Our attempts to find answers on Wyndham Resort’s incredibly annoying website went nowhere, though when we checked today’s eBay listings we found dozens of sellers trying to unload “Wyndham timeshare points,” with some auctions offering over 200,000 points for as little as a dollar.
The best explanation of the Wyndham point system we found came from a Fodor’s Travel Talk discussion forum, after a member asked, “Wyndham timeshares — should we or shouldn’t?”
Dozens of community members warned the advice-seeker to avoid all timeshares, and a commenter calling himself “No Timeshare” gave a more detailed warning against Wyndham’s in particular:
“If you buy, you will be purchasing a point system. It allows these resorts to sell then raise the amount of points it will take to stay there in the future. Then you have to buy more points. It’s a new twist to buying a week of timeshare. With the selling of weeks, resorts would eventually run out of inventory. With points, it is unlimited sales."
So points (not money) are what you need to buy time at a Wyndham property, except points (unlike money) have a built-in expiration date, and points you can spend at one property aren’t necessarily good at another property. Which is why “No Timeshare” urged everyone at the Fodor’s forum: “My advice … rent for your vacation. It's cheaper and your kids won't be stuck with it someday.”
Alicia S of Johns Island, S.C., wrote us on Sept. 6 about her Wyndham experience: “My husband and I purchased 154,000 points from Fairfield Ocean Ridge Edisto, SC on 06-16-00 for $15,150.00. We paid the (so-called) mortgage in full on 08-08-03. This purchase was a mistake for us because we weren't able to use it very often. We used it approximately six times over the 13-year ownership.”
Not for lack of trying, though.
“It was also extremely difficult to attempt to make reservations as there never seemed to be any availabilities when we needed. This exacerbated the already frustrating feeling we had over such a huge financial mistake. The maintenance fee started at $54.03 and is now $98.44. They want to hold you hostage to this maintenance fee (which they can raise at any time) for life."
"We asked by phone (in June 2013) to discontinue our ownership, wanting nothing other than to be done. We were told ‘it's just not that easy’ to do. We had paid our account in full in 2003 and never missed a maintenance fee. The points are worth nothing and you cannot give them away because no one wants to be stuck with a lifetime of maintenance fees," she said.
Eventually, Alicia said, “We consulted with an attorney. Our attorney said trying to deal with them was frustrating and actually made her angry at times. They just try and wear you down so you will give up. They have held up recording the deed as long as they can, to obtain more maintenance fees. Our attorney told them she didn't need their permission to record a deed in SC. Their response was, ‘Go ahead... we'll just record it back to your client.’ … We have given them approximately 27,000-plus dollars over the last 13 years in exchange for maybe roughly 42 days of hotel/condo use. Again, I understand this was our mistake. But for them to make you feel you have no way out even when you owe them nothing is just wrong on so many levels. Their aggressive practices need to be stopped.”
And in conclusion ...
As one remorseful timeshare owner put it: “Trust me, people, just save your money every year and purchase your vacation the old-fashioned way. I am trapped into paying for a headache, and these bozos have even begged me to put Wyndham in my will for my kids! Like I really want to leave my kids the headache I foolishly bought into.”
Thinking about buying a timeshare? Think again....