February 16, 2024 • By Dennis Beaver

If you have been kicking yourself and considering a name change to “sucker” for buying a timeshare while on vacation at that nice resort — but you can never actually book a stay — then today’s story will make you feel less guilty.

When you are having the time of your life at a lovely destination, attend a sales presentation and buy a timeshare thinking “How nice it would be to come back here again and again,” this is often the single worst financial decision you could ever make.

Buy it today, new from the developer, for $25,000, and tomorrow it is virtually worthless, a gleaming white elephant that you can’t give back and no one wants — and you are stuck with the yearly “maintenance fees and assessments” that never end and are well over $1,000.

(Timeshares are available on the resale market for a tiny fraction of the original selling price — even for $1 — if you really want one.)

As a result of the morally bankrupt companies that run many timeshares and one enabler — the Better Business Bureau gives some of them an A grade — nothing is ever available when you try to book a timeshare. And, why?

Won a trip to Las Vegas

Late last year two sales associates and their families from a Midwest industrial paper supplier were awarded a week’s stay in Las Vegas.

Their employer phoned me, explaining, “I had to fire one other sales associate for dishonesty, and he was a friend of the two guys. After being let go, he returned home to Las Vegas. When my employees checked into their hotel, who should they run into, but the jerk I fired, and he was selling timeshares.

“He conned them into buying a timeshare, but they have never been able to book a resort stay. Why is this, Mr. Beaver?”

Owners can’t book a stay, but others can

In a 2022 class-action lawsuit filed in the Delaware U.S. District Court against Wyndham Vacation Resorts a former executive, Danielle Henderson, turned whistleblower on why its timeshare owners were often unable to book a stay.

Her position was eliminated after bringing “this integrity concern” to the attention of the company’s CEO.

I have summarized her sworn declaration:

“Wyndham misappropriates owner inventory for its own financial gain, severely reducing the availability of accommodations and resulting in an inability to reserve on its website, but giving it to other, publicly accessible booking sites like Expedia.

Senior leadership is aware of this issue, yet continues to force owners to remain in their contracts even while knowing these business practices are the direct causes of the problems being experienced by owners.

None of this is disclosed before timeshare purchase agreements are signed.”

Blatantly fraudulent

“This industry-wide fraud has been known for years,” observes attorney Mike Finn, of Finn Law Group in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Heis one of a handful of attorneys in the country who concentrate on timeshare law.

“Access to your timeshare is based on availability, but you are competing with members of the public to use something that you’ve paid for, but the public have not paid a thing, yet. They can get it, and you can’t because it often is not available to the timeshare owner.

“So, when you realize what’s going on and that your first chance to use the timeshare could be a year or two away, you try to cancel. By then, it is well beyond the cancellation period spelled out in the purchase agreements. It is truly maddening.”

So I’ll just hire a timeshare exit company

Finn correctly warns that virtually all exit companies are not run by attorneys and to steer clear of them — a point I agree with. Each one I looked into proved to be a scam.

The catchy but misleading radio spot by Chuck McDowell, CEO of Wesley Financial Group, incorrectly tells us “the ugly truth about timeshares … even when you die, your family will be stuck with this burden.”

The truth is that anyone who receives a timeshare through an inheritance or gift can decline to accept it, in writing.

The Timeshare Law Firm, a national law firm based in Melbourne Beach, Fla., has filed a class-action suit against some of the largest in America. Its website shows which ones they are.

To see how the BBB grades the timeshare companies on the Timeshare Law Firm list, visit www.bbb.org and do a search. Some of the companies have been given D or F grades or are not rated, but others have gotten As.

See my article Best Way to Exit Your Timeshare: Never Buy One in the First Place, for some advice on how to best buy a timeshare if you really want one and how to go about getting out of a timeshare you’ve already bought.