Ariel Laur is a freelance writer from NYC who enjoys writing on a variety of topics and sharing useful information with readers.
"Did I Win the Car?"
It was a Saturday morning around 9 AM that my phone rang, I answered it, and a man named Nick was on the line. He asked me if I had filled out an entry form to win a new car at the Potomac Mall and I said “yes.” I had filled out an entry to win a car a few weeks earlier. While speaking with Nick, I thought to myself, 'did I win a new car?' I started to feel the excitement rising inside of me. Nick went on to explain that I was still in the running to win the car, but he has another exciting offer. My emotions were running high, just because someone called me and told me that I kinda sorta won.
Nick said that I am eligible to receive 4 airline tickets to both national and international destinations and that all I would have to do was attend a timeshare presentation (this is the bait and switch). Now I started to become skeptical. I had been to a timeshare presentation once before and the hard sale tactics were just ugly and exhausting and seemingly endless. As I recall, I must have been there for around 3 hours even though they promised that it only takes 2 hours. It felt like being held hostage and they have you as a sitting duck until they have drained you and then they give you the prize.
Definition of bait-and-switch:
the action (generally illegal) of advertising goods that are an apparent bargain, with the intention of substituting inferior or more expensive goods.
You won 4 airline tickets! -Nick
You won 4 airline tickets!
— Nick - Wyndham Resorts
Anyway, I was still wrapped up in the excitement of winning something; this must be some kind of primal instinct. Winning the prize, any prize, must feed into the human ego somehow. Nick was feeding me the line, telling me what I wanted to hear and I went along. He said that the airline tickets must be booked through a certain travel agency who would “conveniently” book my hotel as well, but their rates were competitive. He also explained that I would be responsible for some taxes. Wow, I still liked the idea of the free airfare, even with some taxes. I mean, how much could the taxes be, right? I was envisioning some vacations in my mind; maybe a trip with the kids to London, the thought was highly enticing. Nick also threw in a dining card valued at $50. That seemed to make my time more than worth the while even though I wasn’t interested in a timeshare.
An Offer too Good to Refuse, or Too Good to Be True?
I agreed to attend this meeting and pushed aside my skepticism. I remained in this dreamy mental place picturing my future travels, but this dreamy place soon had some holes in it. A few hours later I checked for my email confirmation and began reading the details of the “Fly Away Getaway” vacation certificate the one with the airfare. Reading the details of this offer caused me to question the pitch I was given. It was explained in the email that in order to use the 4 coach-class round-trip tickets I would need to book them and a minimum stay at a hotel through “First Priority Travel.”
I began to realize that the minimum stay was the catch. If I was to stay at a hotel of their choosing then the benefit of the free airfare would be washed out in the likely expensive cost of the hotel. If I really wanted to travel to a destination I would be better off looking for a package deal and skipping this “offer.” I called to ask about the minimum stay and found out that for most national destinations the minimum stay would be 4 or 5 days and for international destinations, the minimum stay would be 7–14 days. This is when it became perfectly clear to me that this travel agency would turn their profit on the hotel which in turn wipes out the free aspect of the airfare. I would simply be paying for a vacation that I might as well book on my own, if that is really what I want to do.
What Are "Dining Dollars" Anyway?
The final straw was when I clicked on the link for the $50 dining dollars card and found out that it wasn’t actually a dining card but rather a 50% discount card. That is not exactly the same thing.
My “friend” Nick over at Wyndham wanted me to sit in on a long hard sale presentation for a 50% off meal card and the lie of free airfare. With this in mind, I am sure that my answer is “no.” If this isn’t a scam, I don’t know what is. The dinning card is another example of bait-and-switch. I was led to believe that the value was $50.00 when it was really a 50% off card.
Definition of Scam:
A dishonest scheme; a fraud especially for making a quick profit; swindle.
I promptly emailed Nick and his partner in crime, a woman named Chantea who also emailed me to remind me to bring my credit card, even though they insisted they wouldn’t be actually using it. I was very polite and declined the offer.
Oh well, we live and learn. I am usually pretty skeptical, but this time I fell for it, almost.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2015 Ariel Laur
Jonas Bernholm on May 27, 2018:
In Nashville, I was invited to attend a Wyndham “Owners Update” information meeting. I said yes because I did not yet feel fully learned.
This meeting was almost immediately transformed into a very intensive sales session. An Afro-German woman (born in Germany on a US military base) was in charge.
Many with military experience or raised in military families appear to work at Wyndham. They have experience from foreign countries and of large, hierarchical organizations. (Dustin Leonard had just finished military anti-pirate activities outside Somalia).
She thought I had an insufficient membership. For travelers with a focus outside USA the "Rewards" system was the best. And a gold membership would get me everything I wanted.
It became a long day. The light breakfast started at 10.45 am. And it was over circa ten hours later – without any more food being served meanwhile.
My US bank account had been almost emptied for the Silver Membership. Now the hard working Wyndham staff tried to find different ways to sell me 300000 points (Points is the Wyndham currency) to get an "everlasting" gold membership. My assistant this day was Jennifer Starkey. And the one who arranged the final contract was Joey Spite. 300000 points cost 46,779 usd. And after making a downpayment of 4704 usd I owed Emerald Grande/Wyndham 42,074 usd.
It became a loan with 16.99% interest. (or 735.67 usd/month) . They had done a "credit survey", but without contacting a Swedish credit research institute – (I have all my funds in Sweden). I was not satisfied with the “loan shark” terms. When I picked up a check from my American bank in my hotel room, to make a first installment, Jennifer Starkey followed me there, obviously worried that I would not come back but instead departing before the negotiations were completed.
However, if I made a full down payment of the loan within a month (latest February 9th 2018) there was not going to be any interest payments at all.
Back home again on February 1st, I immediately sent Wyndham, Las Vegas a 25,000 usd personal check and bought a “bankers check” of 20,773 usd that was sent by Deutsche Bank to Wyndham Las Vegas. (This included a final down payment of the loan plus 10 months of Wyndham Home Owners Association maintenance fees as my USA bank account otherwise might be emptied or even overdrawn).
The letter to Wyndham in Las Vegas with the 25,000 usd personal check also included information about my membership number and contract numbers from Panama City Beach and Nashville. And info about the 20773 usd check that was arriving by separate mail from Deutsche Bank.
On the 13th of February 2018 the 25.000 dollar check was cashed.
I had bought my 300000 points to get the Gold membership from the hotel Emerald Grande in the seaside resort of Destin, Florida. According to the contract, the debt would be transferred the same day (Jan 10th, 2018) to Wyndham, PO Box in Las Vegas. And Wyndham Las Vegas was supposed to collect the interest payments as well as the downpayments.
I was very surprised to see that that Emerald Grande on the 26 of February and March 26th and April 26th via an automatic payment plan took 735.67 usd per month in interest. Without deducting the 59 % down-payment of the loan (via the 25.000 usd personal check).
I was paying interest to Emerald Grande who no longer had anything to do with the loan / debt / interest according to the contract.
And they even took an interest on the full amount (42074 usd) without reducing for the 25,000 usd that had already been cashed in.
It was a total back office failure.
There seemed to have been no communication between Wyndham Nashville (that had written the loan contracts) and Emerald Grande and Wyndham Las Vegas.
And when I tried to contact Jennifer Starkey and Joey Spite in Nashville office via email, their email addresses had stopped working......
I had to start an investigation about what had happened to the 20773 usd check. I learned that this check had not been cashed. And Wyndham Las Vegas confirmed that they could not find this 20,773 usd check) - via a very short 3-line unsigned email message. In fact this was the very first sign of life after waiting for 2 months for a reply from Wyndham…. (This check had so far cost me 141 usd; (buying, investigating, killing).
3 parties were involved:
1) The Nashville office that was responsible for the terms and conditions
2) Emerald Grande who should not have any interest payments – but did.
3) Wyndham Las Vegas who had not booked my 25,000 usd down payment.
Meanwhile, I had to blacklist Wyndham / Emerald Grande at my US bank (E-Trade), and stop all interest payments. The money went to the wrong recipient. And it did not take into account the downpayment of my debt.
And even worse was that the interest payment of 735.67 usd/month was not at 16.99 % but at 20.98 %!! (12 monthly payments of 735.67 = 8828.04 usd and the initial debt was 42,074 usd. Which makes 20.98 % yearly). Someone in the Nashville office didn’t even have a basic 4th grade knowledge of math! And Emerald Grande and Wyndham Las Vegas hadn’t even noticed it.
The fact that Wyndham's back office was dysfunctional was further confirmed by RCI when it turned out I was not a member of RCI.
A helpful Wyndham employee at "Owners Care" promised to fix this immediately. But nothing happened and I had to remind him again. Finally after three reminders No. 1; in Panama City Beach in December, and No. 2-3 in February-March 2018, I became a RCI member.
I also tried to register my Nashville contract number to receive Electronic Statements. But it was impossible. But I could register the contract from Panama City Beach. (Is this another aspect of the “cover up” of the Nashville contract situation?)
Wyndham's business model disadvantages the Wyndham Club members. Wyndham receives all payments in advance, or charges a very high interest rate. All effort is committed to selling membership and, afterwards, Wyndham's commitment has disappeared. All back office functions since then appear under-dimensioned, insufficient or avoided.
In addition, there is an unpleasant lack of respect for the customers. When Wyndham sellers have been successful they seem ashamed as they know the promises given will not be kept. So they avoid further contact with the customer. Like never respond to an e-mail. Or sending unsigned replies only, after months of waiting.
I also question Wyndham’s ability to be able to supply what the customers are expecting. Comments on the internet talks about long waiting lists and that it’s almost impossible to get what is wanted.
Has the business turned into a pyramid game where all employees are focused on selling memberships and get bonuses? And where the most popular resorts are never available.
After 3 months of waiting for a reply to my letters and messages I was finally contacted by Wyndham Las Vegas (Patrick Wolford) and Emerald Grande (Ed McMullen Jr). But it has been messages without substance. No promises or a plan. I have asked that the Nashville Contract should be terminated and money returned because Wyndham has broken so many of the contract terms. Instead I was recently transferred to “Owners Care” (Christopher Dzierbicki).
Piketru on November 05, 2016:
Just got a call for this 4 free tickets this morning. It started to sound too good to be true when I realized the 4 tickets didn't include the hotel. Did a google search to see if anyone else has "won" this contest. Read the fine print in the email they sent, seems I was NOT picked randomly in a raffle but they looked at the raffle ticket for people in a certain age and income bracket and martial status.
Oh well. It's not too far away to go pick up the package and I think there is the $100 restaurants giftcard 2 free show tickets and dinner tickets. There is supposed to also be a mini 2 night/3 day vacation. I've never been to one to of these timeshares so maybe it won't be too bad.
I remember the raffle, some of the other prizes were gift cards which I was really hoping to win. Atleast next time I fill out a contest I know to not put certain income, age, martial status.
Just strange and seems very much like a scam making someone think think they are "winning" a prize or raffle instead of being straight out honest about what it is.
Tyler on September 03, 2016:
Just did this because they approached my lovable but gullible girlfriend. Complete waste of time and energy. Extremely turned off by the Wyndham brand now and will avoid them when possible.
Wisam on August 29, 2016:
Wyndham are scammers
paul on March 26, 2016:
I have been to many time share sales pitch and have traveled the world on them and it has been great. I have not purchased either so go for it.