A new study by the Better Business Bureau says hundreds of people across the U.S. have reported that companies in the timeshare and vacation club industry in Missouri have a pattern of deceiving consumers.
The report, “Don’t Fall For Deception, Pressure and Traps Disguised as Vacations: A BBB Study of the Missouri Timeshare/Vacation Club Industry,” shows a high number of complaints about high pressure sales tactics, oppressive contracts, and poor customer service, especially in Branson.
BBB’s study found that consumers often complain about timeshare exit companies charging consumers thousands of dollars for incentive services.
A victim from Carthage, Missouri, was promised discounted tickets to some shows if she sat through a sales presentation. With no intention of buying anything on her way into the presentation, the woman walked out as the owner of a vacation club package.
Immediately after completing the sales seminar, she researched the company that sold her the package at the seminar she attended. She told BBB that she had been unable to do that research before making her purchase. She later canceled her vacation club contract.
The study notes that thousands of consumers have complained to the Missouri Attorney General within the last few years.
Timeshares account for 5,274 of the 21,445 total resort and hotel rooms in the Branson region.
BBB offers the following tips for consumers who are considering a timeshare purchase or vacation club membership:
- Look on the secondary market before making a purchase. If you are interested in buying a timeshare, you may save thousands buying on the resale market. Be fully aware of what you are purchasing and from whom you are buying to ensure a smooth transaction. Make sure you have in writing the terms of the sale and what each side is responsible for paying at closing. Read the contract carefully and ask questions of the seller.
- Don’t bow to pressure. Take time to think about your decision. Ask the salesperson to send you written information about your possible purchase, including a contract that you can review. There is nothing that says you have to sign documents at the time of the presentation. Let the deal breathe before you figure out if it is right for you.
- Do your research. Compare travel savings with online travel services or local travel agents. Also, check out the company with BBB (bbb.org)
- Act fast if you are not satisfied. If you sign a contract for a timeshare or travel club, you have a short window to cancel the contract if you don’t like what you purchased. Don’t wait until after you get back from your trip to take a second look at the contract and research the company you are dealing with or it may be too late. Also, always pay with a credit card so you can challenge the charge should something go wrong with the purchase.
- Do it yourself. If you want to get out of a timeshare commitment, do the work yourself. First, turn to the property from which you purchased the deed to see if there is a deed-back program in place. If that does not work, you may have to turn to the resale market. You likely will have to make a deal with a buyer to sell the timeshare. That option often is still cheaper than dealing with a resale or liquidation company that may charge you thousands of dollars to do the same work for you.