According to legend the history of timeshare began in the south of France in the late 1960’s. A developer named Gilbert Tregano had constructed a number of luxury villas but was having trouble selling them. As the story goes he was talking to a friend one evening who worked in an office building. This building had a huge computer – they were all huge in the 1960’s – in the basement and all of the businesses in the building shared access to the computer.
This set up got Gilbert thinking and he came up with the idea of selling his villas in monthly blocks or intervals of time. Very quickly news of his idea got round and before he knew it he had sold every last villa and was back in profit. And thus timeshare was born.
Exchanges Increased Popularity
The idea that you could buy just the amount of time you needed for your vacations appealed to the holiday making public and during the 1970’s this fledgling industry began to flourish. However, for many the idea of returning to the same destination every year seemed unappealing and was a genuine objection to buying timeshare. This obstacle was overcome when a woman named Cristel DeHann started the company Resort Condominiums International (RCI) which was concerned with connecting timeshare owners who wished to exchange their holiday time to visit another destination.
Now timeshare as a product was thriving with people able to swap their weeks to visit resorts of equal quality in countries around the world. By the 1980s timeshare was experiencing a golden age and developers were quick to cash in on the boom by throwing up ever more extravagant resorts and employing teams of ever more ruthless sales people. This is perhaps the era when the first whispers of discontent began to taint the product’s shiny image.
Creating A Bad Name
High pressure sales tactics ensured the developers kept raking in the cash but the downside of this pushiness meant customers were being mis sold or in some way bamboozled leading to feelings of remorse and resentment. For the legions of sales teams this bad feeling was water off a ducks back – after all the internet hadn’t been invented yet and anyone with a complaint was going to find it hard to bring it to the attention of a national or global audience.
This lack of ability for customers to communicate meant the industry could please itself in the methods it used to get customers and to part them from their money. In some of the more famous cases, criminals were seeking a slice of the action and were selling developments that did not even exist. This type of activity was hard to hide from the world and word of mouth and the occasional high profile TV expose saw timeshare becoming recognised as something shady and to be avoided.
Of course the tenacious sales practices meant that new owners still entered the system. Top flight closing teams, fed by an army of persistent street touts, ensured new blood but the rot had set in and by the 1990’s the dream was beginning to go bad as fewer and fewer members of the public were prepared to believe the promises made to them in timeshare sales offices.
Business Changes Focus
With this slowdown in business hitting the pockets of timeshare salespeople a new level of cynicism was complimented with a new type of deal known behind closed industry doors as “The Buy Sell”. Beautiful in its simplicity, and designed to cash in on current timeshare owners, the deal was to persuade a timeshare owner that they needed to buy something better. Say for example they owned a one bedroom unit but brought friends or children on holiday, the pitch would be to buy a two bedroom cheaply with the one bedroom unit being sold to cover the cost of the purchase.
Sounds good right? Well it would have been if the original units had been sold but as with many timeshare promises the sales never happened and the owners were left with two apartments and crucially two sets of maintenance fees. The late 1990’s and early 2000’s saw a feeding frenzy as the sharks closed in to take advantage of owners with problems. Investment packages, luxury fractional clubs, boats and who knows what were introduced to the timeshare mix to supposedly help people get out of the mess they were in. In almost every case these so called solutions just put people deeper in the hole, sometimes tens of thousands out of pocket, and with several weeks of timeshare to pay maintenance on if they were not to be repossessed.
Preying On Desperation
By now owners were desperate and would clutch at any line that was thrown to them in the hope of getting out of this financial mess and recouping some of their savings. To take advantage of this situation were a new breed of bogus Resell companies. Preying on the owners’ desperation they would offer to sell the unwanted timeshare for a great price in exchange for an upfront fee. After getting paid they would usually do absolutely nothing leaving the poor owner even more out of pocket and in the same sad situation.
By now the internet was helping to name and shame the shady practitioners but owners still needed to find a way out of contracts that locked them into their ownership for ever with obligations being handed down to future generations. Usually the task was handed to the family solicitor who with little experience of international timeshare contract law would find it impossible to negotiate the complex path to a successful timeshare exit.
A Genuine Solution
The Timeshare Help Centre was created to provide precisely the expertise needed to bring about successful timeshare relinquishment and get people out of the system – completely, once and for all. We give free impartial advice to owners looking to exit timeshare and can help them to identify the reputable companies working in this field. If you have any questions regarding your ownership or the timeshare product in general, or would like to book a free consultation then get in touch with us today.