Monday, July 12, 2010

About Timeshare Companies and Timeshare Packages Scams

It is unfortunate that the Timeshare industry is getting all the negative publicity with its hard-sell tactics, false promises, unfair practices and misrepresentations. Timeshare, from what I understand, is supposed to be a good thing.  You pay for packages which gives you discounts and a certain number of days of free stays at selected places. It is a win-win situation, you get your discounted travel packages, and accommodation providers fill their capacities. 

As in most cases such as land banking blogged about previously Land Banking- Land International (Far East) and Land Banking in the spotlight again? - Profitable Group, it is the unscrupulous people who give the industry the negative publicity. Timshare firms have topped Consumers Association of Singapore’s (Case) complaints list for the past five years with more than 2,000 complaints annually because of its hard-sell tactics.

It was reported in two articles last month – Travel Agency warns against timeshare firms (The Straits Times, June 18 2010) and Timeshare firm told to stop tactics (The Straits Times, June 19 2010).
In the latter article, the subordinate courts of Singapore actually ordered Garraway Enterprises to “stop making false promises to customers”. For the court to order that, that really says something. Victims paid between $2,998 and $80,000 for the fake packages with the total claims made by the customers against Garraway Enterprises amounting to $887,000. Who knows how much more went unreported?

How did the ploy work?
People were approached on the streets with Scratch-and-Win cards, prizes include $1,000 cash and digital camcorder. (Not sure if they still operate the same way now, but in the past I always see these people at the pavement walk near Ngee Ann City. Anybody who stopped to do the Scratch-and-Win cards ALWAYS seem to win something! Then comes part 2, the representative will jump up-and-down and proclaim “Oh my, you are so lucky!” and another “supervisor” comes along and does the same thing.)
For Garraway Enterprises, people who “won” prizes have to collect them in Ngee Ann City where their office is located. (Which may explain why they used to operate on Ngee Ann City pavement walk?)
There have also been cases as reported in Travel Agency warns against timeshare firms of companies posing as subsidiaries or affiliates of reputable travel companies offering free or discounted travel packages as baits.
In both cases, when they reach the offices, they will be asked to sit through hours of presentations where they will be hard-sold and in some cases even barred from leaving till they succumb to the hard-sell tactics.
After signing for packages, that is where they realize the discounted packages may cost the same or even more than those booked from travel agencies and unfulfilled promises.

The good news?
Companies who have been ordered by the court to stop such practices will be in contempt of court if they continue to do so.

The bad news?
The unscrupulous people behind the scams can just close the company down and continue under a different company.

The scary news?
There have been reports in the past where the cruelty of some devious people can be really scary. After some people fall for the scams and are cheated of their money to buy timeshare packages which they never got the chance to utilize due to the false promises, they would receive calls from companies who express sympathy to their plight. These scammers will then promise the victims that they can help them sell their timeshare packages or get refunds from the timeshare companies. Of course, these offers came with a fee. After paying the fees, the victims realize they are still stuck with the same timeshare packages and are now even poorer for it. That’s really double whammy and a demonstration of cross-selling in marketing terms in a negative way!

As usual, before parting ways with your hard-earned money, always do your own checks.
For people who claim to represent, is affiliated to or is a subsidiary of any company, contact the company to verify.  

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