There was a time when owning a timeshare was a good idea. It gave you the chance to purchase an annual vacation in advance and thereby make it possible to take a really nice vacation every year, even if your budget was a little low.
Today, timeshares are a rip-off. Why? Not because the properties themselves are bad, but because of the unscrupulous activities of the property management companies.
One example of a parasitic organization that feeds off of unsuspecting vacationers is Vacation Resorts International. This company, based in Laguna Hills, California, is a family owned business run like a cartel.
VRI secures contracts with the boards of directors of timeshare properties -- individuals who are volunteers and who are swayed by VRI's promises of flawless management. In reality, what VRI is good at is strong arming timeshare owners into paying hugely inflated maintenance fees, months in advance of when resort services need to be paid for. They earn interest on the money for months on end, deny timeshare owners the ability to use their legally purchased weeks if they can't pay nine months in advance and then hide behind the veil of "We are only doing what the board has mandated we do."
VRI is a company of thugs. It's "the family" in the truest sense of the word.
Case in point: Marriott, one of the world's best hospitality companies, sold one of its resorts (Cedar at Streamside in Vail, Colorado) to VRI. The resort was old and in need of major repairs. It no longer was up to Marriott standards, making it the perfect candidate for slum landlord VRI.
Immediately after the board of directors of Cedar at Streamside was duped into hiring VRI, maintenance fees for all owners soared. Property improvements, however, were slow to come, and in fact have been made only in superficial places.
Under the "professional management" of VRI, Cedar at Streamside has gone down hill. Board members are disappopinted, angered, but locked into a long-term contract by these "wise guys." In one case, maintenance fees jumped from $700 a year to $1360 a year. VRI also changed the terms from allowing quarterly maintenance fees to billing owners in December and making fees due January 1. Merry Christmas.
Even if your timeshare week is in December, you are required to pay your fees the January before or suffer the consequences of steep late fees, harassing delinquency notices, and collection.
One of the prime benefits buyers of timeshares get tricked into believing is that they can "trade" their timeshares for properties anywhere in the world. Some management companies, like Marriott Vacation Club, live up to this promise. Others, Vacation Resorts International in particular, make it impossible for owners to trade their resorts into a comparable property.
After VRI took over management of Cedar at Streamside, it ended the resort's decades long relationship with Interval International, a premier timeshare trading and vacation company. VRI instead prefers that its owners trade only into its other properties, most sub-par, I can only assume, based on their antiquated website and the limited information available on the properties from VRI.
VRI also makes it impossible to deal with their customer service. No 800 number, a phone that rings and rings and rings, uneducated customer service people, and more "No you can't do thats" than any "vacation" company in the country.
Should an owner of a property fall on hard times and need some assistance in financing their runaway maintenance fees, VRI is happy to offer a payment program, but they'll tell you: "We won't remind you when your payments are due, and if you don't make one, you will be considered in default and lose the use of your property, incur additional fees, and be subject to harassment by our attorney."
Most reputable timeshare management companies allow owners to deposit their unused week prior to its use and hold it for future trades into other properties. Reputable timeshare management companies provide quarterly installment options on the maintenance fees, allowing these deposits even before maintenance fees have been paid. Reputable vacation companies also will not allow a trade to occur until the fees have been paid, so there's never a question about an owner paying for what they get and getting what they pay for.
VRI rips customers off. If you choose to deposit your week for future use, they will pull it out of the deposit inventory. Months before your week should be available for your use, they will tell you that you haven't paid your fees and can't use it. They steal maintenance fees and provide no service to hundreds of owners every year.
BEWARE. There once was a time when timeshare purchases made sense. That was a time when annual maintenance fees were less than what it would cost you to go to a five star resort. Today, VRI's slumlord ghetto properties rent for less than a Motel Six per night if you're coming in off the street, but owners are charged hundreds of dollars per night.
VRI is lining its pockets with the hard-earned vacation dollars of American citizens. They provide nothing to the owners and only smoke and mirrors to the board of directors, along with continually escalating fees.
If you own a timeshare, pay attention to your annual board meetings. If VRI is ever mentioned as a candidate for the management of your timeshare, vote against it. If VRI takes over your time share, get out from under it as soon as possible. Dealing with VRI is somewhat like dealing with the Sopranos. If you want good service and value for your money, "forget about it."
This "family owned business" is the worst timeshare company in America. VRI is a rip-off. If you hear the name Vacation Resorts International associated with a timeshare you are considering buying, run, don't walk to the exit. Don't even stop for your free Sea World coupons. Get out while you still can.
Extortion and Thievery: that's the VRI promise. You can find out more at www.vriresorts.com. Photos of the thugs running the show are listed on the tab "Executive Team." I've dealt with some of them. They are a heartless, ruthless bunch. Roy Fraser, owner of VRI, leads this mob. Avoid Vacation Resorts International timeshares at all costs.
You have been warned!