The Travel Troubleshooter: A broken Disney Vacation Club promise

Question: We recently purchased 350 points in Disney Vacation Club, Disney’s timeshare program. New members of Disney Vacation Club are given help with their first reservation, and salespeople can go into Disney’s cash inventory, if necessary, to get a better selection.

About six weeks ago our salesperson promised to help us with our second reservation as soon as we had our dates decided, because we had booked our first reservation on our own.

When we called, we found out he is on indefinite medical leave, and were directed to speak with another salesperson about the reservation. The second salesperson said she couldn’t help because Disney only offers to help on the first reservation.

We tried to appeal to a supervisor, but she also refused to help. And her tone on the phone was not what one expects of a Disney representative — very negative and condescending.

It is not our fault that our salesperson is on medical leave and we feel Disney should honor what he told us. The longer they delay, the less chance any villas will be available. Can you help us get that magic that we expected from Disney? — David Willard, Newtown, Pa.

Answer: Disney’s policy may be to give priority to first-time reservations, but it is not something that is openly promoted, as far as I can tell. Nonetheless, if your timeshare salesman promised you could use your first-reservation credit on your second reservation, it’s something Disney should make good on.

I’ve attended the Disney Vacation Club presentation here in Orlando, and it’s a pretty impressive program. Disney offers a lot of properties, and the rates were reasonable enough that I even considered buying in. Why didn’t I? Like a lot of Americans, I don’t have nearly enough vacation time to use it.

The problem with the agreement you had with your first sales representative is that it was verbal. Of course, you had no way of knowing that he’d go on indefinite medical leave just when you were trying to make your reservation, but what happened to you underscores the importance of getting absolutely everything in writing.

Even a brief email from Disney, agreeing to help you with the second reservation, would have prevented this from taking away the magic of your vacation. If you didn’t have something in writing, you could have started a paper trail — or in your case, an email trail — with your request.

Disney would have been compelled to respond to you by email, and it may have answered differently (and almost certainly without the attitude you got from the supervisor).

I think the Vacation Club staff you dealt with could have done better, from finding a new salesman who had been properly briefed on your needs, to ensuring that all of the promises he made to you were being kept, even if the promises weren’t necessarily in line with stated company policy. And, of course, there’s no excuse for being unpleasant with a customer — ever.

I contacted Disney Vacation Club on your behalf. A representative called you and helped you make a reservation at the timeshare you wanted.

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 Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • sirwired

    Personally, I’d never buy a timeshare from the developer.  The mark-ups (vs. the “used timeshare” market) are 40+%.  That, and the ONE timeshare sales presentation I went though (Fairfield, now Wyndham) could have been used as an exaggerated consumer awareness video for sales techniques to watch out for at a used car dealer.  The whole presentation was like a freaking checklist for sleazy sales techniques:
    1) Rushed
    2) Not making the full terms available prior to sale
    3) Passing off from one salesman to another
    4) “It’s only good today”
    5) Rapidly changing from one sales package to another
    6) The “four-square” financing sheet

    The only thing missing (because we didn’t get that far) was the “the manager won’t go for the deal” trick.

    I felt like taking a bath afterwards to wash off the slime.

  • Heidi

    We’ve been DVC members since 2003. We were never offered ‘help’ in booking our first reservation nor would we have expected it. I do find it interesting to read that Member Services will go into ‘cash inventory’ to ‘get a better selection.’ Members frequently hear that this never happens when they question why there is no availability for a villa to book with ‘points’ yet they can clearly see on Disney’s website that there is availability for ‘cash.’ They are told that the inventories for ‘cash’ and ‘points’ are clearly delineated.

  • Asiansm Dan

    He get scammed twice, period. Wake up ! It’s a Time-Sharing, what do you expect. Never heard of somebody boast they are happy about time-sharing or vacation club membership. Most of unsatisfied folks are too embarrassed to admit they are scammed by time-sharing or vacation club membership.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    Disney, like so many others out there, are becoming snake oil salesmen.  Walt’s probably rolling in his grave at what Disney has become.  I don’t think this is what he intended…

  • Therese Meuel

    My parents own 9 timeshares so I really didn’t need one but bought into Disney 11 years ago when my daughter was small.  I asked my salesman about becoming a member of Interval International at the time of purchase as it is usually standard to have membership in the trading company when you purchase a timeshare(1st year included with purchase)  I was told I could join on my own as Disney didn’t do that.  A few years later when I tried to join Interval I was very disappointed to find out I couldn’t join as Disney was not actually a full member if the trading company.  While I enjoy my Disney Vacation Club membership it has left a bad taste in my mouth that I was lied to from the beginning of my relationship with them…

  • Mbods2002

    That doesn’t sound very good to me.  Do you ever get the villa you want at the time you want it or do you always have to “settle”?

  • Sasha

    No customer should ever have to go through this, especially with a bad attitude.   Businesses behave as though we are a problem when in fact it is we who make the wheels go around.

  • Andi330

    My Aunt and Uncle happily owned a time share for close to 20 years. They used it every year for their regular summer vacation. My family went several times. They enjoyed the relatively peaceful area, and the kids liked knowing what was available for them to do there, without having to constantly run around trying to find new activities. I never heard them complain about the program. The first time we went to Disney they were able to do a swap to another non-Disney property (they didn’t have DVC then). 

    As I understand it, the only reason they finally sold their time-share was because the kids had grown up and moved away. They decided now to do other vacations that were off-property. Rather than renting out their time to other vacationers, they decided to simply sell. My cousins and I were sad when they told us but understood their decision. Based on their experience (and my own staying with them) I would certainly consider joining a time-share program. After carefully researching the company and the terms of course.

    I think it all really depends on what kind of vacation you want. The benefit of the DVC is that you don’t own a specific week at a specific home (which is what my aunt and uncle had), so that you can schedule any of their properties for a time that is convenient to you. (Provided of course that there are properties available in the place you want when you want it, make sure to schedule ahead.) I like being able to decide where to go without having to either rent out my DVC points (or timeshare or whatever). I like staying in hostels and more out of the way places where you get a better feel for the people in the area, so for now timeshares aren’t for me. Maybe when I have a family I’ll feel differently. Certainly, there is a convenience factor if your family wants to go to the same place every year, in having a week in the same home already available.

  • web/gadget guru

     Huh? My wife and I own three timeshares and we use them as often as we can. I personally believe that Timeshare vacations are the best way to vacation.
    If you doubt timeshare vacations, make a visit to or find a copy of TimeshareToday and read about how people really use timeshares!

  • Cliffordpwoodrick

    Write a letter to the COO with copies to you. This is a timeshare and the Disney people should be happy to see you. If not – wear a sign stating your problem in front of the sales office. Rest asured that someone will speak to you ASAP.

    Good Luck & Have a wonderful day – Cliff 

  • Cliffordpwoodrick

    I own 23 weeks and love it!

    Have a wonderful day – Cliff

  • The World of Deej

    We have been DVC members for 5 years. I don’t recall being offered “help” with our first reservation. It is a very self explanatory process, and why anyone would need help anyway is beyond me. All the time they were “waiting” on their sales rep, they could have called member services and had the reservation long done…

  • Clare

    The same exact thing occurred to me, Nancy, that Walt’s probably turning in his grave… except didn’t he arrange to have his body frozen in some cryogenics lab after his death instead?  LOL 

  • djp

    Actually Time-Shares do work for some people.   It is a cost-effective way of traveling.   If you go into a time-share its best if:

    1.  You are purchasing it at a location you regulaly can go
    2.  You can afford to travel there.

    You should not do it just for the ability to exchange.  That system is very unreliable and you will likely get screwed over if you arent lucky.

    You can purchase them for every other year at your favorite beach town, or a favotite ski town.

    That whole point echange system has gotten even worse where they allow membership to those who just purchase points and not real estate so there is alot higher demand than supply so in order to get that prime piece you need to look diligently.

  • Martin

    “I personally believe that Timeshare vacations are the best way to vacation.”

    Not just something that works for you, or a good way to vacation but THE BEST way to vacation.  Way to take it over the top.  I hope you sell a ton at your next seminar.

  • Martin

    Resale timeshares can work. I know people who have been happy with those. But if you’re an original buyer, you were totally hosed.  Do the math on what the timeshare cost in totality with all the upfront costs and continuing fees added in, then price out a normal vacation to the same location. The normal vacation will always be more affordable. Plus, of course, that gives you the ability to go absolutely anywhere you want, at any time you want, and if you decide not to travel for a year you won’t be out any money. 

  • Phil

    I have 52 weeks a year for my time share. My own time, where I want to go, when I want to go, where I want to stay. Time shares may be fine for those that are hesitant about making their own travel plans, it’s my money, my time, and I am not going to share it with anyone else.

  • Mantu Sarker
  • Eric

    Considering some of the things I’ve seen about Disney, that sales rep may be on “medical leave” at the bottom of Lake Buena Vista.

  • Azeem Ahmed @ travel tamed

    Hmm. Its very unpleasant to hear big brands like Disney show these kind of arrogant behavior. This makes even new visitors like us double think whether to book or not, better to be safe than sorry later. They are killing their reputation in their own hands.

  • cjr001

    I know people who are DVC members, and they are very happy with it.

    Time-shares are not for everybody, and while I don’t know about other companies, Disney tells you this up front at their presentations.

  • web/gadget guru

    Huh? I don’t get it…I don’t do any seminars and I’m not affiliated with any timeshare organization…What a sad person you must be to immediately come to the conclusion that someone can’t be “pro” something without having to be a shill…
    Look, there are two ways to enjoy a timeshare. Stay in a unit you have purchased in a resort you purchased in, or trade your timeshare to another location. Either way, you can be assured that the other people sharing the resort with you have been vetted to not be scum of the earth (there is a minimum income to purchase a timeshare)
    If you go with option 1, and you go every year to the same resort, you begin to know fellow timeshare owners who share the same week you do. Plus, you know what to expect from the resort because you have been receiving newsletters all year from your resort. This is, in my opinion better than picking some arbitrary hotel in some area that may or may not be in the area you want to stay in.
    If you do option 2, trading for another resort, you still are amongst fellow time-sharers, so you know you’re not sharing your vacation with scum. Timeshares are regulated by multiple organizations like inarda and various trading companies like II, RCI and Trading Places. These organizations use customer cards to identify the amenities of the resort and display them prominently on their trading websites so you *KNOW* what you are getting…and these are *NOT* submitted by the resort, but by the people staying at the resort…so you *KNOW* they are more honest than  the reviews you get at places like or other online review sites…Plus, timeshares exist in almost every resort known in the world…They are an affordable way to vacation, and it forces you to consider taking a vacation at least once per year…what’s *NOT* to like?

  • Martin

    Since when is staying with “scum” a problem at any decent rental property?  It seems like you have a very dim view of your fellow vacationers.  And your experience with timeshares seems a bit outdated. Virtually all the more modern timeshare resorts also rent units out to just anybody off the street (even Disney does this as it is referenced in the article) so you could still have “scum” staying right next door. Except they’ll likely be paying less for their stay while enjoying the exact same amenities as you do. And they won’t be on the hook for the rest of their lives.

    I can pick out any property in the world and stay there at the same time every year without any additional fees beyond the room rent. And if I want to move my vacation date or go someplace different, I don’t have to give any more than a couple day’s notice–no penalties, no having to trade dates or properties. 

    A good test of anything is if it is on the up-and-up, it can be sold in a respectable manner. Timeshare sales presentations are endless strings of half-truths and outright deceptions. (“It’s deeded property you can leave to your children!” Except it has almost no resale value and your kids may not be tickled with the idea of being on the hook for life.)

  • Charles B

     I am happy with my vacation club membership. There, now you’ve heard it. (DVC since 2001)

  • Lucy Roach

    Jeez Louise, a cautionary tale indeed.

  • Rae A

    There are a lot of online resources if ones needs help walking through the DVC reservations or purchase process. Google is your friend. Check the DVC sections of or, or there’s which is exclusively for DVC. 

  • Guest

    Disney Vacation Club has become one of the Top vacation destinations in the world . People prefers to visit there to have the enjoyable holidays ever with kids, family and friends.