Author Archive for Mark Rowe

Blue Green Vacations Mixed Messages

Bluegreen Vacations is a leading vacation ownership company, based in Boca Raton, Florida.  They market and sell vacation ownership interests (VOI´s) in top leisure and urban destinations. Bluegreen Vacations have approximately 216,000 owners of their points based, deeded vacation ownership plan.

They have recently been honoured by receiving three awards at the annual American Resort Development Association (ARDA) in April of this year.  These awards are considered the industry gold standard and recognise excellence in the vacation ownership industry.

As you can imagine the Bluegreen Vacations President and CEO, Shawn Pearson, is extremely proud of their achievement, stating that their associates “are a shining example of excellence and the embodiment of our core values”.  On their website they specify eight core values which should provide their owners and guests with a great vacation experience and act as a guideline for their associates, amongst these core values they state:

“Integrity

We do what is right, even when no one is looking.”

Interesting, as Bluegreen Vacations and Bass Pro, in December 2007, entered into an agreement allowing Bluegreen to put kiosks in some Bass Pro stores to enable them to peddle their wares! Bass Pro, obviously aware of the reputation of timeshare industry throughout the world, insisted on a clause in the terms of their agreement that prohibited Bluegreen Vacations from using “high pressure salesmanship” when they were selling timeshares from kiosks inside the Bass Pro stores as they understandably thought it might have a negative impact on their own business model and impact upon their stores and customer base .

Bass Pro are now suing Bluegreen Vacations for breach of contract.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court, as the agreement was that Bluegreen Vacations would pay Bass Pro commissions on the resulting sales.  The lawsuit claims that Bluegreen have failed to pay these commissions. It also appears that Bass Pro also feel they were not paid enough commission and are asking for “not less than $10million”.  In addition to not paying the full commissions due to Bass Pro it appears they used the age-old timeshare trick of “clawing back” commissions from Bass Pro when a customer defaulted or canceled years after the original sale!

Seems someone in the company must have failed to read the core values, or maybe misread it as

We do what we want and hope no one is looking”.

Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) Update

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) the UK´s official expert in sorting out problems with financial services between consumers and vendors. In their own words “They were set by Parliament to sort out complaints between financial businesses and their customers, to help with most financial services – including banking, insurance PPI, loans, mortgages, pensions and investments. If somethings gone wrong, we have the power to put it right.

Unfortunate terminology, as it seems it is the FOS itself that has gone wrong and they do not seem to have the power to put it right! In fact, MP´s on the Treasury Select Committee have launched an inquiry into the Ombudsman ever since a damning programme on Channel 4, Dispatches, was shown in March 2018. Allegedly a whistleblower has told the committee that 30,000 people are still waiting to have their cases assigned to an investigator and its chief executive admitted that as many as 8000 consumers were still waiting for a decision on their cases.

The “service” was apparently revamped in 2016 and now there are three times as many cases waiting to be heard than there were before. Caroline Wayman, the Chief Executive tried to defend the backlog by stating that it has come from “mushrooming in the number of cases”. Admittedly complaints about payday loans and the collapse of Wonga, closely followed by TSB´s IT meltdown have done nothing to help them as this has added approximately 60,000 additional complaints to the pot – she unsurprisingly states that the backlog is due to getting a lot more cases!

Employees of the FOS have themselves complained about the service they have been offering, that they are being pushed to rush cases through, resulting in rulings that are in favour of the banks as it is easier than trying to persuade them to pay compensation. Others have been leaving negative reviews about the service and about the FOS as a place of employment, with them receiving 34 one-star ratings between January and April 2017. Statements have been made by employees that the service has “well and truly lost its way”.

The review is now complete, and the findings have made several recommendations unsurprisingly it recommends employees are given more support, development and training. They must focus on continued improvement to ensure employees thoroughly investigate complaints, that there is no emphasis that they must be bias towards a particular outcome and that they need to make further investment to improve their technology systems so that staff can draw appropriate conclusions. Hopefully the implementation of these new systems will give the FOS the opportunity to rebuild customer confidence and speed up their service.