A proposed class action filed in Illinois accuses Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc. of deceptively misrepresenting the fundamental aspects of its timeshare program, including the availability of vacation properties, nature of maintenance fees, enforceability of contracts, and transferability of the all-important timeshare “points.” The suit claims that, in essence, Wyndham’s model for selling timeshares is “premised on the false assumption that you can lie to consumers” with the hope of getting signatures on “confusing, vague and ambiguous” contracts for which the company has no liability.
According to the complaint, customers are paired at pitch meetings with Wyndham sales representatives who offer, among other things, “special bonus points” for those who sign up for timeshare plans on the spot. Although these meetings are advertised as lasting an hour to an hour and a half, the complaint claims they routinely take five or six hours and are designed to “break down the prospective buyer’s resistance to buying by relentless physical and psychological pressure.” Wyndham even goes so far as to prevent customers from leaving these meetings by checking purses and shuttling prospective clients in company vans, the lawsuit says. Should a customer agree to sign up, the case contends, Wyndham turns up the pressure and urges them to buy more timeshare points and opt for membership upgrades.
Wyndham’s timeshare business model, the case says, allows for customers to purchase “points,” which the defendant claims can be redeemed for stays at any of their more than 220 resorts around the world; however, the case alleges, these points are exceedingly difficult to redeem. From the complaint:
“In fact, desired destinations are not available at the desired time and have to be booked sometimes as much as a year in advance, assuming they are even available. The sales pitch is false and misleading.”
Further, despite Wyndham’s claim that points can be banked for up to four years, the case alleges they expire after only one year.
Unfortunately, the lawsuit continues, complaining to Wyndham ordinarily does nothing to address the issue. When club members express concern about their memberships, the case claims, Wyndham merely suggests that they upgrade their plan, in effect prompting proposed class members to throw money at their problem.
“[Wyndham’s] sales people routinely falsely tell purchasers that the solution to their availability problem is to spend more money for more points,” the case states.
Moreover, the suit charges that Wyndham is far more concerned with selling points than just about anything else, including the maintenance and availability of its properties. According to one plaintiff couple, Wyndham even instructs its maintenance employees not to clean club member’s rooms until they go home, while non-members’ rooms are cleaned every night.
To make matters worse, the suit alleges that the Club Wyndham Access Vacation Ownership Plan agreements, once signed, are exceedingly difficult to get out of. The contracts are designed to be a long-term commitment, according to the case, as Wyndham pressures customers to pass them on to children and grandchildren.
The lead plaintiffs in the suit offer their stories as specific examples of the ways Wyndham allegedly mistreats its timeshare plan members. Two of the plaintiffs claim they were charged over $18,000 for 105,000 Wyndham points, purportedly enough to buy a small, soot-covered room at the Wyndham Durango in Colorado for a week. A third plaintiff alleges she was charged about $40,000 for 126,000 points and tried, unsuccessfully, to cancel her membership after finding that “it was cheaper to book flights to destinations such as Jamaica outside the Wyndham program.”
The final two plaintiffs allege that they signed a contract with undefined terms, fractions that included a numerator but not a denominator, and completely made-up legalese. The contract also stated that their points are only “symbolic” despite Wyndham’s claims that they can be exchanged for cash, according to the suit.
Wyndham and its predecessor Trendwest Resorts have been sued over their timeshare marketing practices several times before, including in 2015 and 2003 by the state of Wisconsin and the Attorney General of California, respectively.