She used the “L” word but I still want to help her

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I want to help everyone — even readers like Becci Cox.

Even though she used the “L” word.

As in “loyalty program.”

As many of you know, I think loyalty programs are pure evil and should be stopped. But that’s unlikely to happen in the near future, although I’ve gotta say, Delta Air Lines, I love your work!

Point is, I think Cox deserves help, despite my long-standing rule against getting involved in loyalty program cases. But I need your permission. Stay tuned for the poll.

Almost three years ago, Cox and her husband answered an invitation to attend a timeshare presentation in Orlando. “They were not gracious about our lack of interest in purchasing that day,” she says. “They grudgingly issued us a voucher for the 15,000 Hilton HHonors points that had been promised us.”

But the voucher didn’t work as promised.

“Since then, I have not been able to get anyone at Hilton HHonors or Hilton Grand Vacation Club to add the points to my HHonors account,” she says. “Every so often, I will try again, ever the optimist. However, after trying again yesterday, being transferred three times, and scanning and sending the voucher, they again refused to honor it.”

She adds, “Can you help me?”

OK, technically this isn’t a points case. It’s a promise made by a timeshare salesperson that wasn’t HHonored. I mean, honored.

Look, points and miles are scammy enough as it is. They entice you into making purchases you shouldn’t, needlessly divide consumers into “haves” and “have-nots,” and encourage bratty, entitled behavior among the elites. But baiting and switching a customer with points, as this timeshare company appears to have done — well, that’s almost Kafkaesque.

But I also have a firm rule about staying away from loyalty program disputes. To even acknowledge them is to legitimize them, like recognizing North Korea. And remember, they wouldn’t return the favor.

See section 18 in the HHonors terms if you don’t believe me: “Accrued points and Reward Certificates and Confirmations do not constitute property of the Members.” That’s right, the points don’t even belong to you.

So I’m asking you, dear readers, for a waiver. Let me make this right for Cox. I know, I know. She’s asking me to recover her points. But I don’t see it that way. I want her lying timeshare company to keep its promises.

May I take Becci Cox's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • fs2013

    Is there any evidence the timeshare company was authorized to offer the points in the first place? I can see the come on now, “you get 1,000,000,000 award miles on XYZ airline. Just come hear our pitch. No purchase required.”

    Cox was scammed, but we have nothing to go on to say that Hilton had anything to do with it.

    I suppose any company can be bullied into granting the points even if they had nothing to do with the promotion.

  • KanExplore

    I think you’re right. Scammy timeshare company may have made a promise they never could keep. Loyalty programs are awesome. I just got back from a wonderful trip to Tanzania thanks to Delta SkyMiles, probably the worst of the airline bunch, but still of real value!

  • Tom McShane

    You should take the case to see why HHilton would not honor the points. Were the points not legitimate in the first place? Then it would be fun to read about your interactions with the time share folk. How many times have their changed their name in the 3 years that have elapsed?

  • Annie M

    Take the case. This really isn’t a loyalty issue, it’s another time share scam. I’m sure they had to go through hoops to even get out of the room when they wouldn’t purchase, they deserve those points.

  • MarkKelling

    So if they offered $15,000 and the check bounced instead of a points voucher that is apparently worthless it would be different how?

    This is about a company not honoring a promise made. It doesn’t matter what was promised.

  • Pat

    Let’s see. Points given at a timeshare presentation almost three years ago. Considering the words timeshare and almost three years have passed, that is an easy no. If this was important to the person, they would not have waited almost three years to ask for this to be advocated. Also isn’t anything given or promised at a timeshare presentation worthless?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Since it’s related to a timeshare presentation the odds are high it was just a lie to get people to attend the pitch. It also never says what exactly they have been told by Hilton. They’ve tried multiple times over three years so surely there have been some details shared. If the response has consistently been “This voucher is a fraud” then there’s no way to help them.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    That’s something that sort of bugs me about these voting stories. He likely already knows what Hilton has told them. There are plenty of other details shared here so it makes sense the OP has shared those details, as well. And if they haven’t, that would suggest the answer was along the lines of “this voucher is a fake.”

  • Rebecca

    I was at first inclined to agree with the other posters that the offer was fraudulent. But based on the description, it appears she stayed at a Hilton timeshare property. Hilton owns lots of timeshares, based on a points system. It sounds like she went to a Hilton presentation and they’re giving her the runaround.

  • Peter Varhol

    I was a Delta platinum when I took a laughably inept mileage run at the end of last year, getting home almost a day late on what was supposed to be a 30 hour trip. I asked for and got a hotel for the night, and emailed Delta, and was given an additional 15,000 miles (not medallion qualifying, of course), for the five minutes I invested. Using them can present its own challenges, but there is some value there.
    I am a Marriott gold, thanks to working in Atlanta for two months last year. I had given away some of those points to enable my sister and her daughter to vacation for the first time in Europe, and in subsequent stays at Marriott properties I have always been upgraded. If you don’t have outsized expectations, rewards programs can be a welcome benefit.

  • Ward Chartier

    Don’t advocate for Ms. Cox. If you do, it might be an inducement for others who, after attending time share sales presentations, might also seek redress if or when they have a similar experience. By not advocating for Ms. Cox, you send the message that the good folks behind this site encourage not attending time share sales presentations. If consumers don’t attend the presentations, then the time share market will shrivel for a time until the marketers find some other way to encourage buyers.

  • AAGK

    Isn’t a day of the vacation you are actually on worth more than 15k points towards a potential future one? I don’t get it. So she ruined 3 hours of her trip for points that will cover 3 hours of another trip.

  • Ben

    Yes, the Hilton Grand Vacations marketing folks can and do issue Hilton HHonors points as an incentive for attending their sales tours. Source: Recently received some myself (among other incentives)

  • flutiefan

    i agree it’s not a points case. it’s an honoring an offer made in writing case.

  • flutiefan

    just because they have before, doesn’t mean this particular timeshare company was authorized to this time.

  • flutiefan

    exactly what vacation did they ruin???

  • Jeff W.

    This is a timeshare scam, not a loyalty scam. The voucher was not valid — either a counterfeit or was a copy of previously used one. Maybe the timeshare company was not authorized to issue them. Or the check the company used to pay for the vouchers bounced.

  • AAGK

    They wasted half a day of their trip sitting in a conference room for a presentation on timeshare they had no interest in purchasing.

  • Michael__K

    If Hilton is really saying that the voucher promised by Hilton Grand Vacation was a fraudulent voucher, that would only make this case crazier and even more worthy of Chris’ efforts.

  • Michael__K

    You mean, is Hilton Grand Vacations (a.k.a. “the timeshare company”) authorized to offer Hilton Honors points??

  • Jason Hanna

    I say yes, ONLY because the timeshare company is part of Hilton. If this were some independent timeshare company, i’d still say yes, but only for going after the timeshare company, not bullying Hilton into accepting.

    I checked the Hilton Grand Vacations site.. Wonder if this has anything to do with the problem.. http://www.hgvclubprogram.com/content/FAQ2-26-16.pdf

  • Melissa Ballard Jones

    I said yes because he seems to want to take the case.

  • Naoma Foreman

    LET US KNOW THE RESULTS OF YOUR INTERVENTION. YOU ARE GREAT!!!!!

  • Naoma Foreman

    Years ago at a Timeshare Presentation I threatened to SCREAM if we could not leave the “presentation.” I finally (with my husband) simply got up and walked away. They tried to keep us be we just LEFT.

  • Mark

    Having been involved with timeshare ownership personally since 1985 and attended many t/s presentations, I’ve found very few salespeople who truly present the facts. Most, unfortunately, make statements without merit, misrepresent facts and fail to advise buyers of important details, i.e. rescission rights. The State of Florida has a consumer protection division, DIVISION OF FLORIDA CONDOMINIUMS, TIMESHARES, AND MOBILE HOMES, that responds to consumer complaints where timeshare sellers are involved. Suggest filing a complaint form found at http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/lsc/documents/complaint_english.pdf

  • Fishplate

    I can’t vote until you reveal what Hilton cited as the reason for not honoring Ms. Cox’s points. Surely Ms. Cox shared that information with you…

  • jim6555

    I will usually vote YES on “Shall I take this case questions”, but I just can’t bring myself to do it here. Timeshares are a scam and the people who sell them don’t have a conscience. They will make every promise possible without regard as to the veracity of those promises. To me, you should not be wasting your time and energy helping someone who is greedy and naive enough to fall for the come-ons of the time share industry. I voted NO.

  • Peter Varhol

    Just had to change a reservation at a Marriott property. When I got the email confirmation, it referred to my status as ‘OLD ELITE’ (rather than gold elite). I suppose it’s true, but they didn’t have to point it out to me.

  • judyserienagy

    Absolutely take the case, Chris! If this woman had come to the Forums, we would have instructed her on how to handle this situation. Repeated phone calls aren’t very effective. So please help her now.

    You know my stand on loyalty programs …. they are very positive travel loyalty rewards. I enjoy many perks from my involvement. What so many people don’t grasp is that the traveller must read everything about a loyalty program and understand how it will work to her advantage. You have to keep up on the “news” from your loyalty programs. If you are willing to do that, loyalty programs from airlines and hotels are extremely beneficial. If you don’t pay attention, then you don’t benefit. I always use the example of a suite at the Evian Hilton in France, overlooking Lake Geneva, to which I was upgraded … an accommodation that I could never afford. The look of delight on my husband’s face stays with me to this day.

  • Byron Cooper

    If it was Hilton Grand Vacations Club that made the promise, it would be one thing, but we do not have the name of the timeshare company that made the promise. Hilton should not honor any entity not affiliated with them. This is not a question about the value of loyalty points, but about who should be responsible for an unfulfilled promise. The OP should be happy that he or she did not make a purchase.

  • Carchar

    I always am bewildered by your “need” to ask our permission to advocate. This is your column and you certainly know what you would like to do. So, why ask us for permission? We’ll either read it and perhaps comment or we’ll move on to the next subject.

  • MarkKelling

    I am right there with you on your opinion of loyalty programs — they are useful as long as you don’t expect too much from them. The simple perks, like breakfast included or no charge wifi at the hotel where you would normally spend $30 a day for each or no charge checked bags and access to the premium seats on your airline, really do provide benefit to the program members that don’t require you to spend a ton of money to get.

    While I agree with Chris that some people expect too much, spend too much, and get too little from their participation in these programs, I also believe that most of us are smart enough to know they will not always get that upgrade to the presidential suite or the free round the world 1st class trip and can control our chasing of the miles. Just getting the little extra help on rebooking or more generous cancellation policies because you are a member of the program makes it all worthwhile.

  • flutiefan

    I didn’t realize they were on a vacation in the first place. Just thought they’d gone to a presentation on their own time, not on a trip.

  • Pegtoo

    You didn’t say “captain may I” !!!!!!!

  • LostInMidwest

    No, don’t take it. I mean, dear Jesus! When will people smarten up and stop attending any sales-pitch anything no matter what is promised to them? And, even past that, you want reward in HOTEL POINTS? I believe people are more than ever in need of reality school – that’s how far they are detached from it and bamboozled by marketing.

    No, lesson needed to be learned. Next time, just say NO and leave those “seminars” with empty seats. There are way more honest ways to make money – picking tomatoes in Florida, just next door to those fabulous vacation properties, inexplicably comes to mind first.

  • Ben

    The article specifically mentions Hilton Grand Vacations, which is owned by Hilton and does issue HHonors points as an incentive.

  • AAGK

    It certainly didn’t sound that fun:)