Western Horizon Resorts - Ponzi scheme?
We recently visited WHR Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch in Gunnison, CO in 2009 because we received a package with our new camping trailer from the dealer in Denver offering 25 free days of camping from WHR. The initial stay was also supposed to include a free dinner, horseback ride, tickets to the Gunnison Pioneer Museum and a free gas ticket. Our initial reservation could include up to 5 days/4 nights but we reserved a site for 3 nights only since we were very skeptical about membership campgrounds. We have never attended a sales presentation at a time share or membership campground because of all the bad publicity and things we have heard from friends about the high-pressure tactics and deception but figured why not try one since we have driven by the Gunnison, CO facility for years and were a little curious about the 25 day free camping offer. Should have gone with our preconceptions!
It was early in the season and we had our choice of sites, the check-in personnel were pleasant and the views from the campground were nice so we were still somewhat optimistic. However, the next morning we had our sales presentation and everything changed! The only facts presented by the sales lady were that everyone here is like family and that camping here is much cheaper than other campgrounds such as the KOA in town. We mentioned that we wanted to become more familiar with this and other WHR resorts before buying a membership and our intention is to use some of the 25 free camping days during our upcoming trip to the NE USA and Canada.
She immediately tried to discourage that idea. She informed us that we could use only 5 of the remaining 20 days per WHR region, there must be 30 days between each stay with at least a 30 day advance reservation and we now could no longer stay in their biggest Western Region because of this stay. She said we definitely would not pay their usual membership rate of $12,000 so we should buy at today's special introductory rate of $7,500 available only today.
She had not presented any details about WHR membership or members cost to stay or even given a tour of the facilities. She just wanted an immediate decision and check for $7,500 now. When I said I will not pay anything during this visit and not until I could find out more about the membership and other WHR campgrounds, she decided to end the sales presentation. I asked for the additional night promised with the WHR package we got with the new trailer and was advised it was not available since there are limited promotional sites available although the 300+ site campground was mostly empty. The free horseback ride was not available since the horses were not there yet. The free Pioneer Museum tickets were not available since it's not open yet (We often drive through Gunnison and would have used them later). Also the free dinner was rescinded since she had only the $250 gas coupon application and was "out" of the $200 gas coupon application. Gas coupons are practically worthless because of the extensive restrictions.
We left the campground a day early. Other observations picked up during our visit:
At check in we were given a paper listing the new surcharges members must pay starting this year due to the Recession and needed to stay open. Those included a Reservation fee, TV fee, 50 amp service, etc, etc. The sales presentation lady was IRATE that we had this sheet and quickly grabbed it from us saying only members could have it. Obviously she didn't want us to know about the new surcharges.
We heard from someone in town that this facility had changed owners just last year and possibly back in 2000.
Cable TV (extra cost) provided 3 channels - ABC, FOX and a religious station.Cell reception was spotty and only 1-2 bars was available in the front of campground.
WHR is 12 miles from town - a nice public campground is across the road on the shore of the lake.
They seem to be selling concrete pads with storage buildings in spaces that will be dedicated to members willing to pay the extra price. This will reduce the available campsites to "regular" members.
They rent sites to other membership groups such as Passport America, further reducing available sites to WHR members.
Everything is in disrepair. There are many park model trailers around the perimeter of the grounds that have rickety decks and sorely in need of exterior stain and interior carpet. They are asking for volunteer members to fix up the place. The camp sites are very dusty and with any rain will become very muddy!
Their clubhouse provided cooked meals but you have to bring your own dinner service!
Security consisted of an unmanned entrance station with a card on a string that activates the entrance gate. Desk personnel indicated the card is there 24 hr.
We visited that KOA and town and found they charge only $33 for full hookups in beautiful grassy sites with full Cell service and "real" cable TV.
Summary. Why would anyone buy a membership WHR. Their sales practices are extremely deceptive at best (no surprise). With the new surcharges, it will likely cost members at least $15/day to stay there with the amenities that should be included with a membership and surcharges and the daily rates are sure to increase. They can't keep operating and meet increasing maintenance needs unless they get new members. Without those new members how can they get the needed money except for increasing fees to members, selling more and more sites to full-timers and opening up sites to non-WHR members. They must oversell memberships to get cash flow which also leads to overcrowding and full conditions just when you want to camp.