The following is my commentary regarding questionable practices of SellMyTimeshareNOW and affiliated companies (Timeshare Broker Services / Timeshare Hot Deal). It will uncover how SellMyTimeshareNOW has gone from doing the right thing" and conducting business with strong ethics and morals to doing whatever it takes to get the unsuspecting consumer's money. It will also uncover how SMTN has conducted illegal rental transactions (without a licensed broker's involvement) and how an affiliated licensed brokerage has negotiated back door" commissions, shifted offers and manipulated the market for the sake of profit while actually causing harm and negligence to contracted clients. Does this sound like todays banking headlines? Is this the new standard of business practice?
The implications indicate that hundreds of SMTN advertising clients could be entitled to refunds. As well, brokerage clients of Timeshare Broker Services could have unknowingly had their contracted rights violated causing unkown losses to the clients. This article is rather long but each component is very important to building the case of a good company succumbing to a substantially more corrupt practice of business. Please read all of it and judge for yourself.
SellMyTimeshareNow was started back in mid 2003 by the CEO (Jason Tremblay) and his mother (Cindy Gonzalez) in Florida. Soon after they added the current Director of Sales (Rosanne Luba). The ideas implemented were solid and were intended to change the market of timeshare resale Internet advertising. At that point, many of the timeshare advertising companies were promising things they could not deliver such as excessively high resale prices, the highest amount of resale shoppers on their websites or in their storefronts, implied 30, 60 or 90 day turn around, and so on.
The SMTN program was designed to tell the seller the truth regarding resale, give a more true market value, not promise any selling time (since every timeshare sale is different), and actually provide the highest volume of buyers to the website. Getting the buyers to the website was achieved by actually spending money on pay-per-click positions and continually tuning search engine optimization for virtually every buyer search term (something the other companies put no effort or little effort into). Advertising sales reps for SMTN had all the right things going. They could explain the two key factors in successfully selling a timeshare were exposure to buyers and asking price, and could prove the buyer search terms were in place to provide the volume of exposure. The only thing left was the seller's asking price. SMTN advertising sales reps were told to tell potential customers that SMTN would rather not do business with the seller if the seller wanted to price their timeshare too far out of line with the realistic market. That was the moral and correct thing to do and SMTN was rewarded for the honesty. This is not the case anymore. I overheard the Director of Sales actually state that the company's integrity is not what it used to be, that she could not sell ads under the current requirements, and since the company needed in excess of $160,000 per week in sales to meet payroll, the job of the ad sales rep was simply to get the credit card payment for the ad. The company was now overlooking many of the things the advertising sales rep said or did during the sale. Wow, that a change from honesty and integrity! SMTN is now guilty of the same overpricing it was so much against back in the early days of its existence. SMTN used to contest the overpricing of sites like Vacation Register and Timeshare Quick Sale but now has joined ranks with them. Instead of do the right thing" it is now do whatever it takes". Climbing to the top, SMTN has become one of the worlds most exposed timeshare resale websites. But now it seems that with a little power comes a lot of corruption. What do you think the most corrupting factor on the planet is? The answer is MONEY.
The faster money comes in, the more money is desired. It is the simple principle of greed and power. The more money is desired, the more rules are either bent or broken. The money makes us powerful, or so we think. Therefor we presume we can tend to the rules as we see fit. If we don't like the rules, we will bend them a bit, ignore them or make our own to justify our actions. The best current example of this is todays Wall Street and the economy. Do whatever it takes!" is the business practice of today.
Of course all of this do whatever it takes" can be shrugged off by saying SMTN is the best shot for the seller to get a result so, let's just get them on the website at whatever selling price and then convince them to change the price later." That may or may not be true. Is this attitude helpful to the timeshare seller or the company taking the seller's money for the ad. Some timeshares will not sell regardless of price. That fact is NEVER disclosed by the advertising sales rep. The point is, the lure of big money and being the dominant power in timeshare resale has effected every facet of this company starting with the CEO, down to the Director of Sales and on to the affiliated brokerage currently headed up by Don Nadeau, which brings us to back door commissions and other questionable or unethical real estate practices.
Sometime back in late 2004, early 2005, the CEO of SMTN decided it was time to get in on the commission side of timeshare. At first, SMTN had a gentleman by the name of Gary Shelton doing flips" on timeshare deals. Using Laura Selway (later to be indited for embezzlement while in the position of managing partner of SMTN's closing company Timeshare Transfer), Gary would find a buyer for a specific timeshare, take a deposit, find a seller fitting the description and dual close" the deal, keeping the spread" which was then divided by the company and Gary. This was all well and good (although somewhat borderline practice since Gary had no real estate license) until Gary started taking deposits and not locating sellers. Gary was keeping the deposits for himself. SMTN reimbursed everything Gary had taken when Gary was still employed by SMTN. I would speculate that SMTN did this only as a matter of survival at this point. Gary died before he could be indited.
Sometime during the early stages of the commissioned sales idea (circa 2005), the CEO decided to start a brokerage called Timeshare Broker Services. This is based out of Tampa, Florida. Don Nadeau and Diane Nadeau are in the Tampa office with Don as Principal Broker. Timeshare Broker Service started as a brokerage with no advertising cost up front. They took a commission upon sale. This is the right way to do things. SMTN and TBS share some data base information. As well, anything listed on TBS is posted as an advertisement on SMTN. As time went by, it was determined that 1 week old offers coming in through SMTN would be accessible by TBS and their agents. The TBS agent could then contact the potential buyer and attempt to locate a seller for any offer negotiated by the TBS agent. This sounds like a great idea until the advertising client of SMTN attempts to get back to the buyer and finds out the buyer is working with another seller. It was even in the grapevine that TBS had pilfered SMTN offers prior to 7 days. Yes, the original seller who received the offer should be quick in replying to an offer..... but what if the seller was on vacation or even in the hospital for a few days. Too late. The the deal already belongs to someone else. The idea was designed to carve out commissions from offers coming in through the for sale by owner" website. TBS has a partnership agreement with the owners of SMTN which splits commission profits. And what if TBS had taken SMTN offers prior to 7 day? What would that imply?
In 2007, Timeshare Broker Services and SMTN were about to break up their partnership. It seems that TBS was not paying any profits share to SMTN and Don and Diane Nadeau had been secretly starting another website entity in an attempt to gain more money and control for themselves (what a great choice to put back in charge later). The partners of SMTN had an idea of an in house brokerage in Dover, NH (home of SMTN). The process had been toyed with for a while. Jay Garland, a licensed real estate broker in NH, had began with Timeshare Brokerage Services New Hampshire sometime earlier. They had a small impact and only a handful of seller listings. As well, they assisted with implementing a donation program befitting timeshare owners who wanted to get rid of timeshare regardless of selling price while donating net proceeds to Southern New Hampshire University's general scholarship fund. During the fall out of TBS (Florida) and SMTN, the new in house brokerage, to be named Timeshare HotDeal, was to be launched with Jay Garland as principal broker. This was done with the assistance of Ryan Braze, an experienced ad sales rep for SMTN who had joined the company back in late 2003, early 2004. I understand Ryan had attained his Florida real estate license at the same time the CEO's mother (Cindy Gonzalez)attained her Florida license. Ryan was insistent he would not work for Don and Diane Nadeau do to ethical difference. Ryan felt that Don worked too much in the gray area" and hired agents that were out only for the money regardless of ethical practice or lack of ethical practice. Instead, Ryan was offered a key roll with Timeshare HotDeal if he attained a New Hampshire license, which he did.
Making a slow but steady start of the Timeshare HotDeal program, Ryan, under supervision of Jay Garland, began to develop a program integrating the services of SMTN advertising and the expert assistance of a brokerage. The service would be implemented and offered to SMTN advertising clients on a voluntary, opt in basis and would be known as Broker Assist". Any offer received on a client's ad would be sent directly to the brokerage department, the offer would be addressed, qualified and any offer resulting would be forwarded to the seller for further negotiation or acceptance. The program was developed so that the buyer was to pay the brokerage fees and/or commissions. The broker assist program is now pretty much mandatory for the seller and there is no longer an opt in option for them. If at anytime a seller were to insist that they did not want to pay an advertising fee, they were referred to THD and were signed under a seller's agreement as a commission only deal. In this case the seller paid the commission.
A few months after the launch of Timeshare HotDeal, Antonia Sabia was brought on as a licensed sales agent for THD. Soon to follow was Jason Hubbard. There were still a few bugs to work out but, all in all, the program was making some headway. The buyer assist sales contracts developed for the sale of timeshare through THD were clear and concise. By Ryan's account, Jay Garland made sure that everything on the contracts were according to NH real estate law. Commissions were clearly stated as a percentage as well as a dollar amount and were shown as paid by the buyer, as stated in the terms of agreement in the SMTN advertising contract. This made it so all payment was quite clear prior to the closing statements being sent to buyer and seller. Soon to follow, SMTN and TBS (Florida) would repair their relationship. At this point, many of the broker assist clients would get confused. SMTN had granted TBS (Florida) access to the data base once again and many of the clients were being contacted by TBS agents. TBS agents would state they had a buyer, mention what the offer would net the seller and send the contracts out. The contracts would then go out as seller paid commission, which should by any rights, entitle the advertiser to a complete refund. The Advertisement Agreement signed by the seller would have stated that the buyer would pay commission, NOT THE SELLER.
At some point the CEO of SMTN deemed it necessary to place the broker assist program under the control of Don Nadeau upon the acquisition of a New Hampshire Real Estate Broker License. I presume this would be to stop the complaints from THD agents regarding TBS agents speaking to broker assist clients as well as Ryan's complaints of TBS sending seller paid commission contracts to broker assist clients (all of these sellers would be entitled to a refund under SMTN's advertising contract). Having spoke to Ryan on several occasions and knowing how he chose not to work for Don, I could see many things were going to change, and not necessarily for the better. TBS would now handle distribution of all offers. Upon the shift of principal broker from Jay Garland to Don Nadeau, Ryan began to complain that the contracts were not correct. Ryan stated first off, since THD is now in violation of NH real estate law and has no licensed managing broker in the office, there was no one to take the complaint directly to. By Ryan's account the CEO of SMTN and Don Nadeau were told as well as Jerome Bocquet (Don's manager licensed as a sales agent in Florida) and Don's administrative staff in Florida. Still, nothing was changed. Ryan said he was completely ignored and mentioned to me on several occasions that under Don Nadeau's new contracts, not only did the buyer not see the commission amount until the closing statement (which could be several months later) but since there was no percentage given to the commission, it could be interpreted as a net commission contract which is illegal in the state of New Hampshire. Ryan claimed to have made this clear several times verbally and by email, only to be ignored and written off as a complainer and not a team player. I think since the guy relocated his family from Florida all on the word of the CEO of SMTN, he showed his dedication to the team. Ryan was pretty upbeat until Don took over. After that he was a bit of a complainer at times. I don't think it was unjustified in this case. I think if Ryan was trying to get the contract practices corrected, he was looking out for the company's best interest to prevent them from legal issues or refunding advertising clients. Ryan also mentioned to me, since Don Nadeau had not provided New Hampshire forms to the New Hampshire agents in a timely manner, Don was collecting New Hampshire escrows (Timeshare HotDeal) on Florida (Timeshare Broker Services) forms. I heard Ryan claim that Don was in such a hurry to get control of THD that he disregarded the implications of co-mingling escrow funds. Both Ryan Braze and Antonia Sabia can confirm any this brokerage information. Ryan is gone now. So are many of the SMTN employees that don't fit the grab the money now" mold.
Here is how the broker assist program currently runs. An offer comes in on the property. That potential buyer is contacted and the offer is confirmed and validated. Lets say that the buyer offered $10,000 plus closing costs. Now the agent contacts the SMTN advertiser (the seller). That agent now tells the seller there is an offer that will net the seller $7,500 or $8,000 on the sale. The agent is attempting to negotiate a $2,000 or $2,500 commission in this example. This is the back door" commission. If an advertiser is paying to list their property and they are going to pay a commission, there are other ways to do it without someone selling you an ad and then telling you that the buyer is paying commission. Stroman Realty (www.timesharelink.com) and Timeshares Only (www.timesharesonly.com) are more straight forward. At least you know, as a seller, you will be paying a commission with these organizations. Timeshares Only actually has a huge walk in show room right outside the entrance of Marriott's Grande Vista in Orlando, Florida.
Another complaint I heard from THD regarding Don and Diane Nadeau was that ALL HILTON OFFERS were now to be given to Diane Nadeau. This is because she was responsible for making Timeshare Broker Services a Hilton Authorized Reseller. It was indicated by the sales reps at THD that the real reason might be that Diane makes a 20% commission from anything sold from Hilton's resale department and that Diane might not be giving the full effort of delivering SMTN advertising customers their Hilton offers. This would be so she can make more commission directly from Hilton's resale department. The reps at THD claim they never saw another offer on Hilton timeshares after Don Nadeau took over. Is this another way of simply grabbing as much money as fast as you can? Also, many of the premium properties get what is considered to be low ball" offers. Dozens of these offers are ignored and never attend to. The seller might be missing out on a deal that is acceptable to them. I think the Florida Real Estate Commission and the New Hampshire Real Estate Commission should investigate a few things mentioned here anyway. Diane Nadeau's Florida license numbers are BK3148324 and BK3208581. Don Nadeau's Florida license numbers are BK3147692 and BK3192083. Don Nadeau's New Hampshire license number is 064852.
One more thing to consider is, Don Nadeau has placed his name on a number of contracts as the buyer. He does not have it disclose that he is a broker or that there is broker interest" in the property. A good example of this would be Marriott properties. This is because Marriott would buy the timeshare back if the contracted price was under Marriott's predesignated percentage of the current resort price. Since Don has inside contacts with Marriott (I believe through his manager), Don has access to current Marriott pricing and unit availabilities listed in the Marriott data base. This assists him in placing purchase prices on contracts that will most likely get Marriott to exercise right of first refusal. Marriott sellers were approached, offered a net proceed which is a few thousand less than Marriott's buy back price and if the seller accepted, the difference was written in the contract as commission. Once Marriott purchased the timeshare under right of first refusal", Marriott would send a commission check to the brokerage and the seller would get their money straight from Marriott. Don Nadeau, as a private buyer, would be out of the deal but Don Nadeau's brokerage would get the commission check. This works with most premium timeshare brands under their right of first refusal. In many cases the seller would be better off waiting for a real offer from a real buyer rather than Don Nadeau trying to force the resort to buy the unit back under right of first refusal so Don can pocket the difference. The seller would not know this because they do not know the buyer is a broker. In many cases, the seller could get $2,000 or $3,000 more for the sale even paying a commission if the timeshares was left on the market long enough for real buyers to offer. Instead, the second a desirable premium units becomes available, if there were no buyers waiting in the wings", the broker would scoop it up for a quick turnover and a fast commission in his pocket. I am sure this is practiced by many brokerages. Some may get away with it, some may not. I am only stating what is being done through SMTN, TBS and THD. The real estate commission can determine whether this is ethical or not. I presume most sellers would not like this idea that they are being used to make the broker a fast buck.
I, at one point, had become aware of other manipulation of timeshare prices by TBS. They would create an advertisement on a desirable property at a price that was below other similar properties on the SMTN website. The property they were listing would not actually exist in and of itself. The listing was simply placed to attract offers to the TBS ad so they could either contact another broker who had a seller they thought would accept that offer or to contact one of the SMTN advertisers with that offer to see if they were willing to accept the offer. The commission spread was taken off of the offer price, of course. The problem here is that many of the broker's ghost ads" were competing with one another as well as advertising client's ads. The CEO of SMTN was very aware that TBS was doing these loss leader ghost ads" and actually permitted it (since they too would get a split of any resulting profit). Also, many of those ghost ads were not attended to and remained on the websites even if the inventory was not available. This would certainly effect comparative market values and offer prices for all other sellers and is a really good example of manipulation for the sake of nothing other than profit. Unfortunately, it was at the expense of paying advertisers as well as those who signed with the brokerage under a seller's listing agreement. I became aware once that one of Don Nadeau's agents in Florida had placed a ghost ad" on a Monte Cristo Estates fractional ownership. The unit listed in the ghost ad was the same villa and weeks as was listed in the next highest priced ad on the websites. It turned out that the next highest priced ad was a seller agreement listing with TBS in Florida. The seller's actual price was ridiculously low anyway. Why would TBS want to violate the trust with the seller as well as violate real estate law and place a fake ad, at a lower price, on one of their own client's properties when they have a responsibility to do what is in that client's best interest? This type of activity would drive the selling prices down, which is not in the seller's best interest. I am reasonably sure that there are many of these ghost ads running on the websites. Nothing is worse as a seller than to have your own property competing against you for offers. If any seller out there has the feeling that they have fallen into a trap like this with TBS then go straight to the Florida Real Estate Commission and complain. Also, since TBS raves about their Better Business Bureau rating, go there and file a complaint as well. Remember, TBS has a responsibility to EVERY client to deal honestly and fairly.
One last thing on TBS. This goes back to ethical practice. One example that comes to mind is an agent currently working for Don under TBS in Florida. She is using an alias (Stephanie Jay). The first name is real but the the last is fictitious. I understand she initiate this because of a no compete clause with another company. Don is aware of her using an alias. This type of practice could make a person wonder what else is she hiding from. I am not sure about how her offer or sales contracts go out but I would think regardless of that, a licensed real estate agent would be required to use their legal name both verbally and written.
As far as rentals are concerned, once a rental offer comes in on a property, the potential renter is contacted, the location, size of unit and rental price offered is confirmed. The owner of the property is then contacted and the renting agent (non-licensed) tries to get the owner to accept as little as possible. The non licensed rental agent is negotiating a spread" on which they get paid a commission. Since this is done in the New Hampshire office, this is another thing that the New Hampshire Real Estate Commission should look into. The CEO of SMTN has been made aware that any rentals or leases made by a non licensed agent cannot pay on a commission basis. He has known this for over a year. They are not diverting any rentals through any licensed brokerage.
Once again, I think the Florida Real Estate Commission and the New Hampshire Real Estate Commission should investigate a few things mentioned. Diane Nadeau's Florida license numbers are BK3148324 and BK3208581. Don Nadeau's Florida license numbers are BK3147692 and BK3192083. Don Nadeau's New Hampshire license number is 064852. SellMyTimeshareNOW should be investigated for their rentals and for allowing TBS to place ghost ads on the website that compete with real sellers with real prices. This would be a matter for the New Hampshire Real Estate Commission as well as the State Attorney Generals of all 50 states.
Just to wrap things up, I want to reiterate that Transfer My Timeshare was under the same umbrella as SMTN, TBS and THD. There were several good employees at TMT but the company has since gone under due to the previously mentioned embezzlement conducted by the managing partner. She was also diverting timeshare deeds to a relative while keeping all purchase proceeds. The monetary issues were, for the most part, resolved. The company is currently being dissolved. Maybe this is just another example of putting the wrong people in charge in order to make a quick buck. It backfired in this case.
TMT has already come under judgment. Judge SMTN, TBS and THD for yourself. In this day and age, do the ends justify the means? Look at the economy and what the investment banks did to try and turn a quick buck. Now the federal government is coming to bail them out with OUR TAX MONEY! These banks cheated the American public. They sneaked around conducting business unethically and did what they wanted to do thinking they would never get caught. They did it to pad their own pockets by any and every means, legal or illegal. What about the 50 Billion Dollar scam by Burnard Madoff? He operated by his own rules and helped the economy take a nose dive as well. People and businesses that have secret agendas, operate with deception, half truths and manipulation do not deserve to continue to do business. They do not deserve to have your business or your money! The ends would simply be your dollars in their pockets. The means are not justified because at this point it is deception simply to get your money any way possible! I believe honesty is the best policy. Don't you?
Sure SMTN, TBS and THD want to sell timeshares. They could not stay in business without those sales. We are not looking at the desire to sell timeshare, we are looking at the activities to make those sales most profitable for the companies rather than the sellers. Is this just another example of big business preying on the unsuspecting?
I am placing this on every known timeshare and vacation website for all to judge for themselves. Also, I am placing this with the appropriate real estate commissions and attorneys general offices for completion of their duties of investigation. As well, a copy will be forwarded to the BBB, ARDA and CRDA so their other members will be aware of current practices.