Time to Walk Away

Time to walk away.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

I’d mentioned in Wednesday’s post that I am tired of paying $800 a year in Worldmark maintenance fees, as well an $85 per use housekeeping fee for every stay beyond one per year. I’ve become increasingly unhappy with the annual dues increase, and especially so after booking my trip to Mongolia. Honestly, if I had to make a choice between a week at a Worldmark resort or a week in Europe or Asia, airfare and hotel included, then I choose Europe or Asia. I love Worldmark; the units are fabulous and the staff are top notch. But, seriously, it’s not worth $800+ a year for a one-week vacation. I can stay at an AirBnB for less and still have my overseas vacation! And, without the destination limitations of Worldmark.

Surfside beachSo, one of my goals of this visit has been to talk with the Worldmark sales staff to see what they can do. They either need to reduce my fees, or I’m going to dump my membership. I’d already talked this over with my ex, and we were in agreement: Worldmark is not worth the money. Sadly, we’ve paid, including interest, approximately $16,000 to purchase our membership, plus annual fees averaging $500. Over the past 20 years, we’ve invested approximately $26,000.

Have we received $26,000 in value?

Nope, not even close.

It’s time for this membership to go. Sadly, a financial advisor told me 15 years ago to dump Worldmark, but I didn’t listen to her. I wish I had. Oh, well! Lesson learned.

Driftwood rootsI drove down to the Worldmark sales office in nearby Long Beach late Saturday morning. A salesperson introduced herself and offered me a donut and a latte. I never turn down donuts or lattes! After settling down at a table with my treats, I cut right through the sales pitch and told her what I wanted.

She seemed shocked to learn I have not had any contact with the sales office since my initial purchase in 1999. And why would I?

She told me that she could absolutely help me achieve my goal of reducing–or even eliminating–my annual fees. Sounds good to me! And then she started telling me she could even reduce the costs of my overseas vacations. No, I assured her, I am not interested in that. I am not interested in expanding my membership. I want the original Trendwest membership I had purchased in 1999–my one-week timeshare at regional resorts, with a reasonable maintenance fee. I do not want to use Worldmark or any other resort membership overseas. I do not go overseas to stay in resorts!

Crab shell in the sandFor some reason, this seemed to be a difficult concept for her to grasp.

“But I can save you even more money when you go overseas,” she assured me.

“I stayed in a four-star hotel in Mongolia for less than US$25 a night. You can make it so I can stay at hotel or resort for less than that?”

“Well, yes,” she said. “You just have to upgrade your membership.”

“I don’t want to upgrade my membership, and I don’t want to stay at Worldmark resorts overseas.”

“The only way I can reduce your membership fees is if you upgrade your membership.”

Clamshell in the sandHmm. I smell a rat.

“OK, I’m not interested in using Worldmark overseas, but if upgrading my membership gets me out of annual membership fees, what do I have to do?”

She pulled out her pen and a piece of paper. “I can make it so you never have to pay membership fees again. Or, at the very least, I can reduce them so you don’t pay nearly as much. And you never have to pay a housekeeping fee again.”

She wrote a number down on the piece of paper.

Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought.

For an additional $13,000 plus interest (14.5% interest last time!), I can eliminate the housekeeping fees.

But wait! There’s more!

BeachFor $13,000 plus visiting their sales office every two months to listen to their sales pitches, I can earn points to apply to the now $1,600 a year annual maintenance fee. With those points, I could possibly reduce or even eliminated maintenance fees.

Yes, I have to visit their sales office every two months. And that would earn me points that I could apply to the now double maintenance fee.

That’s one hell of a rat!

“That’s not an option,” I said. Even if the maintenance fees were not double, I would not pay the $13,000.

“We have people who come see us every two months,” she assured me. “They use their points to pay for extra nights here, so really, they stay here free. And the use any leftover points toward their maintenance fees, so they never pay anything. They love it!”

Broken shell in the sandNo.

Even if I never had to pay a maintenance or housekeeping fee ever again for the rest of my life, I would not pay $13,000.

Under no circumstances would I ever give Worldmark another $13,000.

And, I certainly don’t want to have to listen to their sales pitches every two months!

No wonder Worldmark has 11,000 fewer owners now than five years ago.

“I don’t want to pay $800 a year anymore, and I’m not visiting the sales office. What are your other options?”

“Well,” she said, “the only thing we have left is our Ovations program. You can turn your points in, and we’ll give you 30 cents each. So you’d get $2,100, and you would be able to walk away.”

“Sold,” I said. “What do I need to do?”

She handed me a brochure. “Call this number, and they’ll take care of everything. And it won’t cost you a thing.”

Less than ten cents on the dollar was something, at least. Not much, but something. It would pay for another trip overseas or even improvements at River Song.

I drove away sad that the only reasonable option was to turn in my membership. I truly do enjoy staying at Worldmark properties. But, they misrepresented my membership. They changed my original contract, the one I’d signed with Trendwest in 1999. This was not my Trendwest anymore. I feel swindled.

Shipwreck off in the distanceUpdate

So, I called the Ovations number the following Tuesday. The salesperson in Long Beach had “misinformed” me. Worldmark won’t give me one red cent for my membership. They are happy to let me walk away for $400 (half of 2020’s maintenance fees), but they’re not going to pay me anything for it.

Twenty-six thousand bucks down the drain.

Well, more like twenty-six thousand, four hundred bucks down the drain.

Time to walk away.