This posting could save you thousands of dollars and hours of grief. Please read it through to the end.
"We have just deleted one of your Kijiji Ads for violating one or more site policies. We have deleted one of your Kijiji ads because it was supplying an opinion or warning. Opinions and warnings are not permitted to be posted as classified ads. Ads on Kijiji must be for the purposes of buying and/or selling goods and/or services."
Since I recently received the notice above from Kijiji and want to be in 100% compliance of all policies, I have a booklet for sale entitled "How to Avoid Fraud in Mazatlan at a Punta Pacifico Presentation."
My booklet is a summary of my recent personal experience in March, 2016 while attending a "vacation club" sales presentation at the Punta Pacifico Hotel (formerly La Jolla Residence) in the Cerritos area of Mazatlan, Mexico. I also include other relevant observations and personal opinions from timeshare presentations in previous years from other locations in Mexico.
Included in my booklet are the following topics and practical tips:
1. Vacation Club vs Timeshare: Is There Really A Difference?
Maintenance fees or reservation fees? A recurring fee is still a fee, am I right?
We were sold a vacation club membership at the Punta Pacifico Hotel with a company called Odyssey Premier Elite (my research shows that this group used to operate under the name Amazing Memories and different cells of this scam are operating in other Mexican resort cities). The fraudulent group sells you "exchangeable" vacation weeks that can supposedly be used for condos, flights, cruises, and excursions. They use a glossy sales brochure that prominently displays the names and logos of top vacation service providers (Fairmont, Marriott, Air Canada, Westjet, Disney, Princess, Carnival, etc.). They include their name by the legitimate companies’ names hoping you will believe that they have the same high standards of honesty and professionalism; they do not!
Timeshares are a lot like smoking: the best way to quit is to not start in the first place. The best way to prevent time share/ vacation club fraud is to NOT attend a presentation in the first place.
If you are approached by a friendly Mexican cab driver or a grocery store greeter who asks you to help him/ her out by attending a short 90 minute breakfast presentation, just say "no, gracias" especially if they say it is at the Punta Pacifico! They may offer you money and/ or excursion tickets to attend a presentation. Just say "no" because if you go, it will cost you many, many times that and more!
Did we really come to Mexico to buy a timeshare or vacation club membership? Do we understand the limitations, restrictions and lack of consumer protection in Mexican contract law? Why would we want to waste even one hour of our precious vacation time in a sales boiler room?
Many of these people are professional liars and scam artists who use professional sales techniques to build your trust and take your money.
They have professional legal and accounting training and know how to manipulate the law and use it to their advantage.
THEY ONLY HAVE ONE PURPOSE: TAKE YOUR MONEY AND GIVE YOU NOTHING IN RETURN!
They will tell you one thing and imply others. They will then ask you to sign an agreement that states NOT to believe ANYTHING that their sales representative has said.....who does business like this? Time share fraudsters!
If you really have your hearts set on lightening your wallet and receiving nothing but grief in return, do some due diligence first.
Ask exactly where the presentation is being given (name and address of hotel). Do some research on the hotel at the meeting location and the resort; it may not be as reputable as you think. Has its name changed recently? Red flag!
Get a good night sleep and avoid anything that may dull your mental abilities or your sense of perception.
Bring some cash to pay for your own cab ride back to your resort. Times share forums are full of examples of how people were left to find their own way home after declining an offer to purchase.
Bring some snacks and beverages with you. Time flies when you are having fun and more so when you are not. You probably received some kind of breakfast early in the sales process but it could be hours before you can obtain or are offered anything to eat or drink. The 90 minute presentation time frame is a fantasy; plan to be away from your resort for a minimum of 3 hours and possibly up to 9 hours. Ask to see the ID of your salesperson and take a picture of it with your cell phone. You can bet they photocopied your ID and credit card.
Sit at the back of the room if you are in a group setting so you can watch the flow of people in and out of the room. You and possibly another couple will be the marks. You will be asked to keep an open mind. What you really want is a highly critical state of mind. Do not believe anything said or written unless you can independently verify it from several different sources. Bring a device that has internet access so you can look things up for yourself. Watch out for "plants" who are people who appear to be like you. Their purpose is to tell you how great the program is and how well it has worked for them. They usually show up around decision time, especially if you show any interest and appear to be "sitting on the fence." They will smile and hug your sales person like they are old friends from way back!
Do not SIGN anything if you do not agree with it; leave it blank.
Do not PAY for anything until you have read and understood all the agreements. If the sales person appears to get upset, just leave. No deal is better than a bad deal.
Confirm where the payments are being made out to. Our payments were supposed to go to a Mexican company and an American company on a 90/10 split but went to two Mexican companies on a 75/25 split. Suspicious?!
The agreement we signed was written vaguely enough that it could be interpreted after the fact as a vacation club or timeshare or high priced travel service. But because they repeatedly told us over and over again that it was a vacation club and NOT a timeshare, we were conditioned to interpret the agreement as a vacation club. Do not sign anything written only in Spanish.
If you have attended a presentation and purchased something, you have 5 days under Mexican law to cancel any agreement and try to get your money back.
This group may have had you sign something to the contrary, but according to Mexican law any agreement can be reversed within 5 days (NB: Saturday is a business day in MX).
If you returned home already, you can still send your cancellation notice by email and registered courier as long as it is within the 5 day time frame.
If you paid by credit card, call your credit card company and tell them you were the victim of a fraud and want the transaction cancelled and reversed immediately!
Keep copies of all your documentation and emails to substantiate your claim, especially payment receipts.
You can also try to file a claim with PROFECO, the Mexican consumer protection agency (but these crooks also know how to thwart the Mexican legal system and results have been mixed in obtaining refunds).
My research also shows some people have been able to get part of their money back by using a Mexican lawyer.
It is totally ironic that the poor beach vendors selling T-shirts, pottery, and silver jewelry need to be licensed (and the local authorities check them regularly), but the timeshare land sharks are not required to present any identification whatsoever and operate on Mexican soil with no consequences. The fraudsters working out of the Punta Pacifico have no conscience and will lie to you with a Las Vegas poker face. There may actually be reputable timeshare operators somewhere, BUT THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM!
I have tried repeatedly to post an honest and thorough account of my experience on Tripadvisor but somehow they always find a reason to deny posting it. I have however been able to post some comments in the forum section but many of these have also been sanitized. This type of “sting the tourist” scam must be very, very lucrative. Our salesperson bragged that he had purchased homes in gated communities around the value of $US 400,000 for all of his children. What a good dad!!!
Don’t make the mistake of thinking it can’t happen to you or to underestimate the downside. You are not playing on a level playing field with these fraudsters!
Please contact me through this Kijiji ad if you would like pricing and delivery options of my booklet "How to Avoid Fraud in Mazatlan at a Punta Pacifico Presentation." All I have to do is sell 22,000 booklets and I will break even!