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Elderly Claim Wyndham Scammed Them
By Jennifer Kraus. CREATED Nov 17, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When you think of vacation timeshares, you may think of high pressured sales pitches.
But NewsChannel 5 Investigates found dozens of senior citizens who claim Wyndham Vacation Resorts goes way too far during its sales meetings.
Some of these seniors who are now suing Wyndham say they used to enjoy their Wyndham vacations, but then Wyndham changed its sales tactics.
Everytime they went on a trip, they were forced to attend what the company calls owners update meetings — and that’s when, these seniors tell us, their dream vacations and their lives turned into nightmares.
Among those victims: Mildred Folds.
“Nobody in my family knows — nobody,” Folds told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
That secret is that the 76-year-old widow is deep in debt and owes more than $175,000 after she claims she was repeatedly tricked and harrassed into buying ttimeshare points through Wyndham Vacation Resorts.
The company locations around the world, including here in Nashville, Crossville, and the Smokies.
“I won’t live long enough to pay it off,” Folds said.
Houston and Brenda Garvin said the same thing happened to them.
“If I had it to do over, I’d never do it again,” Houston Garvin said.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, “How much do you think you lost?”
“Over $600,000,” Brenda Garvin answered.
Both the Garvins and Mildred Folds are now suing Wyndham, the world’s largest timeshare company, alleging fraud, theft by conversion, negligent misrepresentation, along with violations of the Tennessee Timeshare Act and Consumer Protection Act.
They claim they were pressured into buying more timeshare points than they could ever possibly use or afford.
“So how many points did you end up buying?” we asked the Garvins.
“Two and a half million,” Brenda answered.
And Mildred Folds?
“3 million, 266, I think,” she told us.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked attorney Ben Gastel, “So why are they buying more points than they need?”
“I think that’s really the basis of our lawsuit,” he replied.
Gastel now has 70 clients with claims against Wyndham, including the Garvins.
“Certainly, most of our clients are elderly. There’s a substantial number of them that are on social security. Certainly, most of them are pensioners,” Gastel explained.
And every time his clients took a vacation at a Wyndham resort, he said, they were forced to attend high-pressure sales meetings that lasted hours on end.
Mildred Folds insisted those meetings were nearly impossible to leave.
“I’m sitting there literally like this saying, ‘I’ve got to go.’ ‘Well, just go ahead and sign this. Go ahead and sign this and then you can go,'” Folds recalled.
Folds also claims in her lawsuit Wyndham sales reps told her things to convince her to buy more points that ended up not being true.
“If I would just sign it, then they could lower the interest rates,” she stated.
“Is that in fact what happened?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
“No, no,” Folds replied.
She said Wyndham’s salespeople also told her the company would buy back any extra points she didn’t use. That too, she later found, wasn’t exactly as it had been explained.
“Were you surprised to discover that?” we asked.
“Very surprised!” Folds answered. “Not only surprised, but — he may need to bleep this out — I was mad as hell that they would pull this trick!”
And the Garvins described similar meetings.
“Every time you’d go, it was something different. They’d tell you, ‘Why did you do this? Why did you do that?’ Well, we did it because we trusted ‘em and thought they were telling us right,” Brenda Garvin said.
Every Wyndham rep, the Garvins said, recommended changing to yet another plan which brought with it, higher costs.
“Would you say these salespeople are saying and doing whatever it takes to close the sale?” we asked the Garvins’ attorney.
“Well, it would certainly appear that that’s what is going on,” Gastel answered.
In fact, a whistleblower lawsuit filed in California by former Wyndham employees claims that that’s exactly what Wyndham tells its salespeople to do, though the company denied the allegations in court.
“It done about broke us,” Brenda Garvin shared.
She and her husband recently had to simply walk away from their timeshare points, losing their entire investment, after they could no longer afford the $3,500 a month payment.
“It makes you feel bad when you think you’ve done something this stupid,” Houston Garvin said.
And Mildred Folds said, “Yes, I’m embarrassed that I let myself get caught like this and then I get so angry at Wyndham for putting me through this.”
Folds gets $2,300 a month from Social Security and her pension, yet her payment to Wyndham is a staggering $3,800 a month.
“How am I going to make it? What am I going to do next?” Folds wondered aloud.
She has resorted to selling her homemade jams and jellies as well as her mother’s secret recipe yeast rolls.
But it’s becoming clear to her that it’s simply not enough.
“Am I going to lose my home? Am I going to lose everything I’ve got?”
NewsChannel 5 repeatedly reached out to Wyndham to get some comment or statement. We started last week with the corporate office in Florida and even contacted their local attorneys here in Nashville.
So far, there’s been no response to any of our calls or emails.