Westgate promises Matt Solum “free” ski lessons, tickets and cruise vouchers as part of his timeshare purchase. But when it doesn’t deliver, should he get his money back?
Question: My wife, Gwen, and I bought a timeshare from Westgate last December. The location where we purchased was in Park City, Utah, but the week we ended up buying was in Arizona at another Westgate property. We had taken a free two-night stay with the agreement we would sit through a presentation at the end of the stay.
As you can imagine, it was a high pressure sales pitch and there were two people trying to get the sale. They offered us all sorts of incentives to get us to buy and they really seemed like quite a good deal.
Among the promises, we were told that we could visit any Westgate resort at any time, even without staying the night there, and use the associated amenities after being a Westgate owner. We were offered five $300 cruise vouchers ($1,500 total) if we purchased a timeshare. A sales representative promised us that he could get us free ski tickets for Canyons Resort in addition to free lessons for our children.
We ended up buying the property for $6,000 on a no-interest loan and we are subject to the maintenance and taxes every other year.
We have been trying to use some of the incentives they offered for the past few months but are coming up empty-handed. For example, my family and I went up to Park City both in January and February to get away for the day. On both occasions we went to the Westgate property to use the pool and both times we were denied because they said they were at capacity and could not allow non-staying owners to use the facility.
I went to try and use these vouchers to book a cruise for my wife and I was told I could only use one of the vouchers per booking, not all five. And how about those free ski tickets? When I called the sales representative in February to take him up on his offer, he said that his connection to get those free benefits no longer works at Canyons Resort. I asked him about his promise to us and he said there is nothing he could do.
I felt like I was lied to and scammed just for them to make a sale. I’d like my money back. Please help. — Matt Solum, Salt Lake City
Answer: I’ve really agonized over this case. The documents you signed with Westgate for your timeshare promised you none of these extras — the “free” ski tickets, cruise vouchers and amenities.
Yes, your representative dangled them in front of you, by your account. But there’s no written evidence that they were ever offered to you.
I’m really offended that anyone would call these things “free.” If they were truly free, then my family could drop by our closest Westgate facility to use the pool. We could ski at the Canyons without paying and take a cruise, gratis.
At best, these amenities were included in the price of your purchase. But at $6,000, the numbers don’t add up. A day of lessons at the Canyons can easily set you back several hundred dollars, and if you rent equipment, it can cost much more. The cruise would have cost you thousands of dollars, if you’d taken your family.
Can you say “too good to be true”?
Sigh. Maybe the company is just misunderstood.
This case has dragged on for almost a year. I contacted Westgate on your behalf to get its side of the story. A supervisor phoned you and answered on behalf of the company.
Westgate sees this as a “he said/she said” thing, according to the representative. The timeshare salesperson doesn’t recall the transaction in the same way you do, which is to say he doesn’t remember offering you the things you claim he did. A review of the paperwork you signed suggests you received the product you purchased.
In a subsequent letter, Westgate says it investigated your claim, and that “allegations of misrepresentation were unsubstantiated.” Oh, there’s a big surprise!
We’ve been back and forth with Westgate for months, and I’ve appealed this to the highest level at the company. Its decision is final.
You may still have legal options — after all, you may have had an oral contract with Westgate that a court could affirm — but I’m afraid there isn’t much I can do, except to issue this warning: Get everything in writing.