MY STORY: The Timeshare Purchase from Hell: Westgate Resorts and Planet Hollywood
Dear Robert Paisola:
The call was perfectly timed. Just when I was considering taking my wife to Vegas for her birthday.
"Stay two nights at the newest hotel casino on the strip for half price, also included are show tickets and brunch. All you need to do is attend a ninety-minute presentation," the telemarketer said. I wasn't convinced.
We did this two years ago we did the Grandview presentation and they put us on a bus and shipped us out to the middle of the desert. Then we couldn't leave for three hours. No way do I want to go through that again.
"I can assure you we are not Grandview, our offer is much better. This is different. Just ninety-minutes, no bus trips, the presentation is at the same place you will be staying at and there is no obligation to buy."
I guess I'm somewhat of a dope when it comes to big discounts. I bought the trip and called my wife. She was less than enthusiastic about the idea.
We drove to the Planet Hollywood Casino from Salt Lake and it was indeed the newest casino on the strip. However, we would later find out that this was only half-true.
When we checked in, the attendant informed us that he could upgrade us to a "bigger nicer" room for free. We agreed, and we found our "upgrade" was a bigger room. However, it was in the not-yet-remodeled Aladdin tower. However, there were some framed photographs of celebrities like Denzel Washington and Will Smith. Our gold and red bedspread smelled like cigarettes and gin. It made me feel as if we were being put up by a middle-eastern sulten who had an obession for Hollywood. We would later learn this wasn't so far from the truth.
The next morning we checked into our presentation, A small energetic Asian woman with a very tight,fit body greeted us. "Hi, my name is Hikoo...Wow..Do you realize how beautiful your wife is?"
I didn't really know how to answer that question, so I just said, "Yes."
"You are very lucky"
"Yes, I know. Thank you." I said
We then started chatting about how most Americans have such a difficult time with the concept of vacation enjoyment. Hikoo told us she was from South Korea. She snowboards, surfs and plays golf. She only needs to work four days a week. Hikoo then revealed that she is 60-years-old.
We quietly sat through Hikoo's presentation. We watched a movie with Danny Divitto and David Siegel. Danny wasn't funny though. He was serious about what a great place the towers are. Danny, had a convincing sales pitch about the luxury. I couldn't help but associating Danny with Louie on Taxi, "Throw Mamma From the Train" etc; and for some reason I couldn't take him very seriously.
We then walked through their beautiful demo room. Hikoo was trying to sell me on the idea that this is a great investment. I was surprised by this tactic. So I presented my first objection: I would rather invest in real-estate in Salt Lake City, where the market is much less volatile and not based so much on the overall economic conditions of the United States.
Then came the full-court-press. Hikoo kept pointing to the beautiful blue and red towers. "You can't go wrong with something like this, its just going to go up-and-up in value. Our owner David Siegel is a multi-billionaire." Hikoo pointed to a photograph of David, an elderly man in his sixties with his wife, who is probably 25 and their new baby twin girls. Mr. Siegel indeed appeared pleased.
"Where would our particular room be?"
"Its floating," Hikoo smiled and said. "That's the other beauty of it, they can find you a room at any time of year, anywhere in the hotel."
Then I remembered something.
"I read in our local newspaper that Westgate in Park City was selling their timeshares and there was a big problem with people being showed different rooms then they were receiving, how do I know that's not going to happen?"
"That didn't happen with Westgate," Hikoo replied.
"Yes, Westgate I'm sure of it. They are the resort in the Canyons at Park City."
"No way, we have a great company. Of course you are always going to have someone who complains. You know you can never make everyone happy."
"Yes." I agreed and dropped it.
Hikoo then kept talking. I didn't want to talk any more. I realized that she had some sort of illogical response for everything. Then she finally showed us the price. $39,000 for one week of each year. The financing interest rate is 17.6 percent. I had to suppress a laugh.
"So you are telling me I can pay nearly forty-grand for room in your tower that I would need to share with 51 other people? I'm sorry but I would rather pay ten times that much and own the room outright. Then I could rent out the room myself and just use it on the weeks I need it. "
Hikoo began to sweat, she became irritated with me. She had been very nice until that point, until she saw that he slam dunk sale wasn't going smoothly in the hoop.
She then said, "I don't want you to buy it for me. I don't want to pressure you, but I can tell your wife obviously likes it. You should buy it for her."
So I should buy an obvious rip-off timeshare to demonstrate my undying love for my wife? I didn't say this out loud. Instead, I looked at my wife. Indeed she was sold, the room was beautiful, plasma screens and black granite stainless steel kitchen. Another nice touch was the fake strip view photograph hanging from the windows.
"I'm sorry but if you don't have any available for individual purchase, I'm not interested." Hikoo walked away visibly irritated. She was obviously very good at this and she probably didn't like what she had to do next.
Hikoo called in for back-up. Hiko's boss Amanda sat down with us. A skinny straight-long haired brunette. She didn't make any attempts to be nice. I told her my objections right off.
"I think this is way too much for just one week. If you can't offer me a room of my own, that I could purchase outright, then I'm not interested," I said.
"Like you could afford $3-million-dollars for one of our suites. I'm sorry but not everyone is a celebrity and can just walk in here and right us a check for $3-million-dollars. Our tower suites were sold out the first week they went up for sale and you can see on our wall who bought them."
On the wall were photographs of celebrities like Bruce Willis, Danny Divitto Sylvester Stalone and Kenny Rogers and several busty women.
"You obviously aren't a celebrity and you wouldn't be able to afford one of our suites, even if they were available." In fact you probably can't afford one of our regular time shares! She was now raising her voice showing me that she knew how to be the bad cop.
I then pointed out that Its actually not only celebrities who can afford nice real estate, there are plenty of successful entrepreneurs and business people who have a lot of money too.
Amanda started shaking her head and rolling her eyes.
"I'm sorry but its obvious he just doesn't get it. I can see you wife is smart and she gets it, but you don't."
I agreed. I didn't get it.
After three hours and the third woman in the tag team, the offer came down to one week for $495, in any of their beautiful Westgate properties. I found no objections to this offer and I realized I would save quite a bit in another trip I was planning to Florida. The saleslady assured me we would be able to book a room for the week we need.
Then they wanted to repeat an announcement, as they had already done three times while we were there, that we had just become the newest owners of Westgate!! This would have been completely inaccurate, since we were actually only buying one week of one year. So we declined the announcement.
While we were waiting in line to get our show tickets we were passed by a woman being carted off in a wheel chair who appeared to be having a nervous-break-down. She was blowing into a brown paper bag. A stretcher and paramedics were waiting for her outside. I guess they figured bringing the paramedics in the sales area might put a damper on people's enthusiasm.
Our final saleslady said that the woman was a single-parent-mother who was raising her three small children while selling timeshares. Hikoo's major selling point of the timeshare presentation was, "taking the time to enjoy life." Sounds appealing in our hectic society I agreed. However, the truth of is, going into debt $40 grand to buy a week in vegas at 18 percent interest rate, isn't taking time to enjoy life; Its taking on debt to ruin your credit and risk bankruptcy. Which could send you to a hospital vacation which could run you another $30 grand.
We were then told that we were not supposed to receive a brunch but just the show tickets. The woman pointed out that maybe the telemarketer was describing our snacks as the brunch we would get.
I've since done a bit of research. Hikoo told us that we could resell our property at any time and that next week the same offer could likely be $10 thousand dollars more. Hikoo said we could sell our timeshare and make a "huge profit down the road" if we wanted to. What I found was the same offer Hikoo presented for $39 thousand was being resold on a timeshare resale sight starting at $20 thousand dollars. Here is the link (in case this story has sold you on the great benefits of owning a piece of the strip) On the Vegas page there are 56 pages of listings(40 properties per page). Tahiti Village and Grandview have the most for resale but there were plenty of Westgate timeshares for sale as well.
Beware of the act-now-pitch on big ticket items. What they are really doing is essential to their business model. They can't let you leave the room because then you could inform yourself. Allowing the customer to do his or her own research would kill their profit margins substantially. Westgate is selling the emotional appeal people have for Vegas, Hollywood and towers. This presentation was actually a demonstration of what Vegas is really all about. Preying on people's naivetee to to sell them a hope and a dream. Westgate CEO David Siegel and his team of Hollywood stars can all be put in the scoundrel category. Besides the Planet Hollywood Towers, I've found hundreds of timeshare rip-off nightmare stories. A good place to see a few on Westgate are here. If you need further help check this out