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ABC News – Timeshare Scams

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Diaz: Time Share Scams
Beware the ‘Heat Merchants’

By Arnold Diaz and Glenn A. Ruppel

First in a SeriesJuly 27 2008

Vacation time shares sales are a booming business. More than 3 million Americans own a piece of a time share vacation resort, and many of them are very satisfied with their purchase. Fortunately, this is no longer the industry that was once infamous for salespeople who operated with the instincts of a Great White Shark.

But while your chances of being fleeced have greatly decreased, insiders say there are still enough unethical salespeople — known as “heat merchants” — out there that vacationers need to be wary.

How They Find You
These hard-selling salespeople use high-pressure tactics to sell overpriced time shares — aided by misrepresentations and even outright lies.

How do vacationers end up in these salespitches? Typically they’ve responded to a mailing promising them a cheap travel package — usually including hotel stay and a short cruise.

Or in many vacation areas, so-called tourist information storefronts bring in travelers, and then convince them to visit a nearby resort for a sales presentation in exchange for a freebie of some kind — tickets to a local attraction, for instance, or dinner at a nearby restaurant.

When you buy a time share you’re getting a week of time at a vacation resort, which you have the right to use year after year. You can return that same week each year, or you may be able to exchange it and stay at a different resort at another destination.

When you show up for the resort’s presentation, you may be in for more than you bargained for. So to prepare you in advance, here’s a list, along with some quotes from actual sales pitches at prominent Florida and South Carolina time share resorts that demonstrate some of the most common misrepresentations and questionable statements you may hear.

Remember that, even if your salesman isn’t a full-scale heat merchant, there’s a good chance you’ll hear at least some of these whoppers along the way — it’s just standard operating procedures in many resort sales offices.