The timeshare industry can be brutal.
From high-pressure sales tactics to emotional manipulation, timeshare companies can cause great distress among consumers. There are always more and more horror stories coming from the industry. Two of our clients have shared their experiences in the hopes you might learn from them – and avoid the same fates as they suffered.
It’s not uncommon to have been offered free lunches, tickets to your favourite theme park or attractions in exchange for attending a quick sales presentation. You’ll be offered these chances in hotels and tourist hotspots both at home in the UK and while in sunny locations abroad.
They seem like great opportunities to sit and wait for an hour or so until the tickets you would have spent hundreds of pounds on magically land in your lap. But these free rewards for attending can come at a huge cost.
Often these sales talks will gloss over the risky world of timeshares, and pushy salesmen will pressure you into signing timeshare contracts. In doing so, you could be signing away a lot more than meets the eye.
Sometimes the penny drops as soon as the unsuspecting holidaymaker has signed the timeshare agreement. For others, it can take months, or even years, before the true cost of the contract hits them. Companies such as Mercantile Claims are dedicated to helping customers get the money they deserve for mis-sold timeshares.
Timeshare properties are usually found in sunny resort towns or dotted along sunny coastal regions. Houses, flats and chalets are common timeshares where buyers purchase the rights to the properties for specific periods of time – usually a specific few weeks once each year.
Some of these holiday apartments will have a number of owners. Each timeshare owner will have a proportion of the deed which relates to their share of the property. In others, the investors only have the right to use the property for given periods of time and don’t actually own a share of it.
Other timeshare companies will even sell ‘points’ which might be used at any number of properties around the world at different times.
Across the world, there are an estimated 20 million people who own timeshares of some description.
There are valid reasons to own a timeshare, especially forcing you to take a family holiday each year – or miss out on what you have already bought. For many though, there often ends up being more regret and financial despair related to timeshares than fond memories of time spent in the sun.
Increasing costs and depreciating value
If you’re cynical of new things, or just stubbornly able to say no to new propositions, then there is less risk for you in attending a timeshare sales presentation. But for others, the chance to attend a major event or to take the kids to a theme park might not be worthwhile.
The sales team at these talks will try to dazzle you with false promises and shady claims. “This is a once in a lifetime chance to invest in your own piece of paradise” will be usually be said at some point in the talk. “This property will increase in value while becoming cheaper than hotels – and what’s more, it can be passed down generations” is also a commonly used tactic to convince you to part with your money.
Most of the time, these are false promises. They usually mean it’s time to leave the talk or be very prepared to stand your ground when they hand out contracts.
Most of the time, sales representatives will try to convince you that these homes will be set to grow in value, and will be excellent investments. They’ll claim that your family will be grateful for the long-term asset and that the savings will be astronomical.
Unsurprisingly, this is rarely the case. Most people pressured into buying a timeshare are constantly splashing out on maintenance fees and end up regretting even stepping foot into the sales talk they did. Many feel that they will be pumping cash into their shared apartment or house for the rest of their lives, and without help from Mercantile Claims, they often will be.
It’s becoming a trend where many timeshare owners are struggling to even give their piece of the property away to their co-owners, let alone to others.
Some families do still see value in their timeshare – fond memories can be tied up in the timeshare, as well as a feeling of a home away from home. For many, the feeling of being ‘forced’ into using the property for their annual break is valued – as they’re always feeling like they have to spend good times with their family or friends.
But, what happens as the family grows larger, children grow up and move away or the area invested in becomes less fashionable to spend holidays in?
Unfortunately, these are just the tip of the iceberg of problems encountered by many timeshare owners.
While it seemed like excellent value at the time, many of our clients come to realise over the years that the relentless maintenance fees can result in huge financial burdens – especially when many have stopped even using their time in the property.
Two families hurt by dishonest timeshare companies:
We have had many clients over time who have been mis-sold timeshares. While to many their experiences might seem shocking or implausible, they’re sadly familiar to many who have been through similar ordeals.
One couple contacted Mercantile Claims a couple of years ago. They ask to remain anonymous but want their story to be shared to raise awareness of the horrendous experience many like them have faced at the hands of unscrupulous timeshare agents.
Being in their sixties at the time of buying their timeshare, the couple were looking forward to holidays throughout their retirement in the Costa del Sol. After looking through many brochures of holiday homes and new developments, they stumbled across a timeshare that looked perfect for their needs.
Due to illness and family circumstances, the pair were unable to use the apartment for a couple of years. They were absolutely thrilled when they finally had the chance to head to Spain to use it for the first time.
Shortly after arriving at the paradise resort, the experience from hell started.
They spoke to the young gentleman who was working on the front desk of the development and asked if they could have their annual £1,000 maintenance fees reduced. A reasonable request – they retirees had already spent over £3,000 on maintenance despite not even set foot in the flat.
The Spanish receptionist directed them down a corridor marked ‘staff only.’ The couple, from southern England, ended up in a waiting room for well over three hours, with no sign of anyone coming to aid them.
“We were unable to use the WC,” the elderly female client told us in confidence, “and our bags were left unprotected out in the reception area.”
But these were just the start of the problems. An English salesman eventually came out from an office and spoke to the couple.
“He told us we owed them money in hidden fees,” her husband explained. “As soon as we thought we might be speaking to someone helpful, he just told us off, and demanded over £1,000 for other costs we didn’t even know we had to pay.”
After six gruelling hours in a hot office backroom, the couple eventually was able to leave – but not until after they agreed to buy a whole new timeshare for £6,500.
Stories like this sound shocking to most of us, but unfortunately, they are familiar to many who have been treated badly by timeshare companies.
For many, these talks with timeshare salespeople can be on par with an interrogation. Parting with their hard-earned cash can often be the only way that they feel they can leave the meetings.
It’s a warning many need to hear, but few will pay attention to.
Organisations which represent them often stay silent on individual cases, and companies can flat-out pretend these horrendous cases even happened. It can often feel demoralising when going after timeshare companies alone.
After speaking on behalf of this couple to the timeshare company at fault, we were eventually able to get through to them. Mercantile Claims ensured that this couple were not left in the dark, and were able to stay in touch with us at every stage of the reclamation process.
After fighting their case, we at Mercantile were finally able to get the full amount refunded. Once the money was safely in their savings account, we received a message from them saying how grateful they were.
“Now we can go on holiday wherever and whenever we want. We have booked ourselves in for Portugal next summer already – you’ve saved us a fortune!”
A similar story to this couple was experienced by a family who bought a timeshare in a house in South of France. They struggled with their timeshare from the moment they signed the paper.
Two generations of the family had saved up to ensure that they could invest in the timeshare, but the company piled on fees and pressured them to part with much more cash than they could afford in the contract-signing meeting.
They ended up leaving the offices with £30,000 less in their pocket, and a feeling of embarrassment and regret. After confidentially contacting Mercantile Claims, we were able to help them reclaim almost all of the additional unexpected timeshare fees and the money which was pressured out of them.
Where does the problem come from?
While both Spain and France have good policing, and the UK does its best to protect citizens’ in need abroad, not everyone can be helped by the authorities. Partly this is due to stretched resources leaving individuals vulnerable to these types of scams and high-pressure sales. It can also be blamed on the fact that property sales generate huge revenue for authorities, so they often don’t care to help out those left feeling used by shameless timeshare companies.
The sales presentations that lead people into the wrong path can affect anyone and everyone. Often certain groups are targeted – the elderly, nice people who struggle to say no, and the thrifty – but all people can be caught out. Unscrupulous sales presentations can attract anyone from any walk of life into the problems caused by timeshares.
If you’re tempted to attend a sales lunch or go to a talk in return for free tickets, remember anyone in the room could be a salesperson. They will be playing with your emotions and mounting pressure on you to sign contracts. They will try to stop you speaking to financial advisors or legal experts, and offer you incentives to sign on the spot. They might even plant fake audience members to convince you to sign up.
Remember – when it comes to timeshares, be careful, be careful, be careful. There are a lot more scams and false promises than there are real deals – in fact, real deals are almost unknown in timeshares. Always speak to a financial advisor or legal expert before investing in a timeshare, otherwise you might end up regretful and with vast financial burdens. In all, going to that sales talk is almost certainly not worth your time, and it might cost you a lot more.