Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'll Admit It - I'm an Idiot

Welcome all who found this embarrassing story via the Carnival of Money Stories: August 2, 2010 at Money Beagle. I'm glad you stopped by to see why I'm an idiot. It's a long story, so get comfortable. And when you're done, feel free to stick around for a while.

So, last week I discussed why we had to unexpectedly send the IRS $1700 this month, which really put a damper on our lifestyle and debt repayment process. But, we were able to do it. No credit card needed. We did have to dip into our emergency fund a bit, but that's what it is there for, right? About a year ago it would have gone on the credit card because we had no choice (and we probably wouldn't have blinked twice to do it).

However, our financial life is different now. In such a good way. No, we don't do as much eating out, shopping, or entertaining as we did, but we also are knocking down our debt and spending with cash only. I can't wait for the day that we can feel liberated because we owe NOBODY!

That doesn't mean we don't do stupid things still. Correct that...I do stupid things. This one is entirely on me, and I won't even TRY to pass any of it off onto Chip.

Sit down...this is going to take a while. In fact...go ahead and get something to drink and go to the bathroom. Go ahead.

You back now? Good. Let's proceed.

One of our debts is a chunk of change that we owe to a timeshare company.

Yep...we own are paying for a timeshare. We bought into the idea when we were living in Mississippi and made a visit to Charleston. Chip is originally from Charleston and we got talked into the sales pitch with the idea that it would give us an excuse to come back to Charleston every other year. So we signed another note the papers thinking more about the monthly payment than about the overall cost.

Guess what? We now live 1-1/2 hours from Charleston, so we have no reason to visit for a week at a time. And yes, we can trade our points for another location, but guess what else? We have two small children and no money because we are trying to pay off debts like this one. So, no vacation for us.

So we aren't using this timeshare. But that's not the real mistake that I was planning to discuss with you.

We want to sell it. Not that we won't use it one day, but right now, it really isn't doing anything for the money we're spending on it, so I'd rather it just be gone.

There are companies all over the internet who offer to sell your timeshare. You know the idea that you aren't supposed to pay anyone up front to list it for you? Well, I did. On a credit card. I know...stupid. So we were out $634.00. Because this company did list our site on its site. But it doesn't do any active marketing. And there really is no need for them to because they already have our money.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, Kaye.

So a few weeks later I received a call from another company. I didn't recognize the name, but I filled out a few forms online to "contact me" while looking to sell it, so I didn't think a lot about it.

They wanted to actively market our timeshare to customers who were already interested in vacation rentals and purchases. They had professional presentations and all of the bells and whistles. Well, that's what roped us in when we signed the papers, so why not?

Then they told me that they would charge me to list it.

No. No, I said.

I've already done this with another company and got ripped off, and I'm not doing it again.

Then not just the hook...and line, but also the sinker...they would get me my money back from the other company.

How?

Well, they explained, they are a brokered company who is licensed (yes, they provided me with a license number and I verified it) to sell the timeshare themselves...not just list it. Because the other company is not brokered, by law in Florida (the state where both companies are located) the other company must surrender the fees I paid them because I now have listed it with a brokered company.

So I could get my $634 back if I paid them $400.

I know...I sound like a moron right now, don't I? I promise it sounded more plausible in real life.

So I paid them (via credit card...again). That's a total of $1034 if you haven't been keeping track so far.

And I saw the listing. And I called to check on my listing. And they send me emails talking about all of the marketing they were doing in their touristy town during touristy events. There were always people interested but no one making an offer. One lady wanted to make an offer, but her husband wasn't with her, so she couldn't (both parties required--typical in timeshare sales).

It was heartbreaking and could have been conceived as suspicious, but I knew the things weren't easy to sell, so I didn't think much of it. About 6 months has past since they initially listed it.

Then Wednesday, July 7th happened.

What was July 7th, you ask?

I tried to call them that morning to check on our listing. It had been about a month or so since I had spoken with anyone from the office and wanted to check in. I called and got a message that no one was available, and I needed to leave a voicemail. So I did.

Nothing by that afternoon. I called again and left another message.

You see where this is going, don't you?

On Thursday and Friday of that week I did the same thing, leaving messages on every extension I could. By Friday I was approaching livid and told them that if I hadn't heard back from SOMEONE by the following Monday afternoon I would pursue further action elsewhere.

Nothing on Monday, so I called again on Tuesday. Nothing this time, but it seemed that the voicemail boxes must have been filling up because I couldn't leave a voicemail...I just got a circular loop of messages telling me to leave them without ever prompting me with a "beep." So I found one extension where I could leave a message and did so. I told them that they would be reported if I heard nothing else by Friday of that week.

Friday came. I called.

Guess what?

Phones disconnected.

Seriously.

You know what I did? The first thing I did was called the city's police department. I was told that they were aware of the issue but were not involved because the state was running an investigation. Wow. I started getting in touch with the BBB of central Florida. I wrote the Attorney General of Florida's office. I wrote the Dept of Agriculture of Florida (which is where their consumer affairs division is located). I was FURIOUS! I filled out all of the forms and attached all of the documents and correspondence I had with the company to the Dept of Ag form (there was space to do so).

I was in tears. There is nothing in the world like feeling stupid. Feeling like the picture was obvious and you still didn't see it. Knowing you threw away money you didn't even have to throw away. All for the dream of getting rid of something that, in hindsight, you really didn't need in the first place.

On Monday following that Friday, I received a letter from the AG's office that was an affidavit. I filled it out and attached pages and pages worth of correspondence that would prove my case.

So, here we are. $1034 (plus interest) poorer. Feeling duped. Being duped. Feeling stupid.

It's amazing how naive and stupid a well educated professional can act.

That has been my financial heartache of the last few weeks.

We'll just wait and see if anything happens now.

In the meantime, do you know anyone who wants to rent a week in Charleston, SC? It's a really nice 1 or 2 bedroom (we can do either), fully stocked place that overlooks the open market in the historic district (seriously...the balcony looks straight down onto Market Street). Walking distance to anywhere in the historic district and lots of great food.

Since we can't use it, someone should get to.

We'll give you a good nightly deal.


Photo credit: kmakice

3 comments:

  1. Kaye,

    I'm so sorry you fell victim to one of these scam operations.. Thank you for having the courage to share your story! Perhaps you will save someone else from making the same mistake.

    I would recommend you visit www.timeshareforums.com. It's a free social network site of timeshare owners where advice, help, and strategies are shared. You may find some helpful info to use, rent, or possibly sell.

    I also have a newsletter that I distribute that deals with timeshares and vacation properties, www.vacation-times.com.

    I can imagine that the industry has left you with a pretty bad taste in your mouth- but there are some good points to timesharing- they just seem to have gotten much harder to find!

    I look forward to reading your blog!

    Best of luck!

    Rich

    ReplyDelete
  2. Since you paid for both by CC, don't you have a case you could have appealed with the Fair Credit Billing Act? Did you try that? I think the window is only 60 days though...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Honestly, I don't know. I will certainly look into it though!

    ReplyDelete

 

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