Diamond Resorts have been known to be pushy. But their sales tactics often go beyond simply forceful, and oftentimes towards abusive. There are numerous reports, dating back years, of the company and their representatives bullying consumers into major financial decisions on the spot.
The unscrupulous firm doesn’t just commit these acts against new prospective customers, but they also target loyal, long-term timeshare owners who have been paying the maintenance fees for many years. One such customer wants to share the story of her ordeal with Diamond Resorts.
Beth Johnstone, 83 from Skegness, had a timeshare in a Lanzarote apartment with Diamond, as well as one she still has in Italy with another company.
She prided herself on her very own pieces of paradise. She’d worked hard for them, and she was determined to enjoy herself at both properties each year – usually taking friends and family with her.
Beth had been at the Lanzarote holiday flat with her three teenage grandchildren for almost two days when a salesman approached her in the café on the ground floor of her building. He was from Diamond Resorts, the same company who she had the timeshare with. The young English salesman offered Beth and her grandchildren tickets to a concert that night if she agreed to attend a sales presentation at a conference room at the resorts.
“I’d wanted to go out shopping that afternoon,” she confided in us, “but I knew the grandkids would like the show so I went to the talk instead of going into town.”
For several hours, various sales representatives used different sales tactics and eventually took over £3,000 from Beth’s accounts behind her back.
On her way into the talk, she needed to supply her credit card and bank details. Beth was told by staff it was for identification purposes, and so obliged.
“I trusted them. I’d been staying at the resort for years, and barely had a complaint.”
The sales team all but held her in the back office. Team members would stand next to the door ready to collar anyone leaving with yet more bullying sales talk. After sticking to her guns and turning down offers both to sell her existing timeshares to Diamond Resorts, and to buy, even more, she returned to her apartment.
“I’ll be honest, I was terrified in there.” Beth had enough time to calm her nerves after the ordeal and ready herself for the evening with her grandchildren – the company had at least been honest and given her the tickets.
“The show was great fun. The band played songs we all knew and I thought the problems were all over.”
After enjoying the rest of her time at the timeshare and getting home safely, Beth had yet another nasty surprise. The credit card bill had come through the letterbox and was waiting on the doormat when she stepped through the front door.
Thinking it was a given that she would eventually fold to their demands, Beth had been charged a huge deposit fee using the card details she gave prior to the sales talk. They had taken £3,200 out of her bank account. The bill didn’t even state what it was for. After contacting Diamond for information, they said she must have agreed to a payment, and sent her on a wild goose chase over the phone.
Adamant that she had not agreed to pay them a penny, Mrs Johnstone got in touch with Mercantile Claims, and we were able to reclaim the full amount for her. We knew the tricks and games that timeshare companies such as Diamond use to avoid paying customers what they’re owed and worked to get Beth her money back.
How common are timeshare scams?
But she is one of the lucky ones who got in touch with the right timeshare claims company at the right time. Many people who have fallen victim to these tactics by timeshare companies would rather lose their hard-earnt cash than swallow their pride and have a confidential discussion with a claims company. Many more feel like they’re alone in experiencing these problems.
But, perhaps sadly, it’s more common than you’d expect.
“Diamond just has an amazing reputation for being tough on people,” says timeshare writer and expert Jeff Weir. He feels that even among other timeshare companies known for pushy tactics, Diamond might have some of the more aggressive sales tactics.
Diamond itself, unsurprisingly, thinks itself as a force for good in the industry. The hard-on-sales executives aim to make sales presentations intimate. What we might see as high-pressure sales, Diamond’s previous chief executive, David Palmer, refers to an increasing “engagement” above what other companies in the industry are doing.
Mr Palmer also said that he has “zero tolerance” for any sales people who stray away from official company policy. In our experience with people hurt by Diamond, either he’s not speaking the full truth, or there are many sales teams who need to receive their marching orders.
Diamond Resorts: Are Customers Satisfied?
Diamond has done well for itself. Treating many customers well has allowed Diamond to grow, but equally coercion and bullying seem to have helped them line their pockets, too.
The firm, founded in Las Vegas in 1992, has become one of the biggest companies in the industry. Current Chief Executive Michael Flaskey has been receiving pay totalling over £5 Million annually, despite many customers and timeshare owners expressing great financial losses and reporting poor tactics from the firm. Many timeshare holders claim that Diamond has raked up their maintenance fees. In previous years, Diamond has been known to hike the rates up by as far as 25% without warning.
Despite the sky-high payments, members and owners have also complained that they haven’t been allowed to holiday where and when they want. Instead, Diamond seems to have given priority to other customers who aren’t on a contract, keen to bring in ever more cash. All these practices might seem terrible, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Many timeshare holders with Diamond Resorts are struggling to get their contracts cancelled.
Over half a million Brits have timeshares, and many are satisfied with their deals – but this is far from the norm. For every timeshare buyer, there can be several hundred looking to sell theirs. With Diamond often unable to get their members into the apartments and rooms they ask for, many are disappointed in the service – especially as Diamond makes it exceptionally difficult to leave contracts with them.
Diamond’s tagline, ‘We Love to Say Yes,’ seems to only apply when you’re not trying to leave your contract with them.
Back in the UK, Beth was still struggling with the consequences of almost losing her savings to a scandalous company. She was desperate to leave the timeshare, but Diamond Resorts were incredibly uncooperative.
Many others have had similar experiences trying to leave Diamond timeshares, too. The international company has forced payments from unwilling customers the world over. In some cases, Diamond has taken customers to court for refusing to pay fees they didn’t think were fair, justified or even legally required. One of the biggest cases occurred in 2013, when a timeshare owner we worked with was taken to court by Diamond.
After we had managed to get them the money they were owed by Diamond, the company agreed to terminate the contract. However, they continually billed our anonymous client from Greater Manchester who had timeshare points with Diamond.
The client was a couple in their 30s with young children, who had bought into Diamond’s timeshare programme as they were convinced it would save them money in the long run. Putting their life savings into the timeshare wasn’t enough for the heinous people at Diamond Timeshares.
They were told just two years into their contract that they would need to upgrade it to ensure that they would be able to use bigger rooms and apartments as their kids were growing up. After paying a lump sum of £4,300 and increasing their annual payments to almost twice what they were paying before, the couple noticed nothing had changed with their plan.
They were still offered the same holiday apartments to stay in as before. This was not ideal with their growing family, and as they’d paid so much to the firm they refused to pay any more fees until Diamond stuck to their part of the agreement.
Diamond took them to court over the unpaid fees, despite never having kept their side of the bargain. Unsurprisingly, Diamond lost the court case immediately. But, Diamond’s watertight contracts meant that our clients found it difficult to leave the contract after the ordeal.
We must note that not all Diamond Resorts customers are unhappy. Many are pleased with the service that Diamond gives them. We contacted a few Diamond timeshare owners and asked for their opinions of the company. One of the positive responses we had was from a timeshare owner from Essex, who has had contracts with many companies over the years. This customer, Martin, seemed pleased with the service from Diamond.
The resort “is very well managed under Diamond – perhaps better than the last management were. We haven’t had any complaints about quality at all and the staff are brilliant. The fees did rise when Diamond took over, but we hope the increased fees are going into the right areas.”
Selling on timeshares can often be incredibly difficult for owners. Even when they are no longer using them, the costs can rack up. Many timeshare owners are paying off loans they took out to pay the initial lump sum, and are now struggling to pay off the ever-increasing maintenance fees on top of this.
Checking eBay or Gumtree brings up too many timeshare listings to count. These are both in locations at home and abroad. One of the reasons for these huge numbers of timeshare owners looking to sell any way they can is that companies such as Diamond have no buy-back policy on most of the deeds they sell. With owners desperate to escape the fees, timeshares can be bought for as little as one pound at times.
Diamond says that accounting issues are to blame for the fact that they won’t buy back properties, leaving customers trapped in a cycle of payments for years on end. However, many other timeshare companies are able to purchase timeshare deeds back from customers for a reasonable price, which begs the question: does Diamond want to help these people at all?