Madeleine Forte of Hamden now knows she's one of the thousands of people who handed money blindly to Global Resort Management to sell a timeshare.
"There were 4,000 idiots like me who gave them money," she says.
Forte, a concert pianist, and her husband Allen, a retired professor of music theory at Yale, no longer use their two timeshare weeks at Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort in Aruba. As far back as January 2011 they were so eager to sell that when someone from Global Resort of Orlando, Fla., cold-called them, they listened.
Madeleine Forte , 73, says she agreed to pay $699 in "administrative fees" for each of the weeks upfront after the salesperson promised a quick sale. For that $1,398, according to the contract, Global Resort would sell the two weeks for $38,000. It didn't matter that the Fortes had paid $51,000 for the two weeks, either.
"I would be ready to sell for less," says Madeleine Forte. "They said they had so many conventions in Florida that there is no doubt they would sell immediately, that they had buyers. People would go to conventions and apparently they would present my timeshare to people at the conventions. That's how they got me."
By the time she contacted The Bottom Line after reading about another dispute with a timeshare reseller, it had been more than a year since she had heard from Global Resort. Forte was required to renew the agreement, no fees, every three months but she could never reach the company. She called repeatedly, even faxed, before finally giving up.
"I had to call them to remind them that I wanted to sell," she says, "but now I can't sell because nobody answers, ever. Nobody answers."
Forte didn't know it, but in January Global Resort settled an investigation by the Florida attorney general's office into allegations of unfair and deceptive practices. As part of the settlement, Global Resort agreed that it would not misrepresent to consumers that it was actively matching buyers and sellers, make clear its refund policy and pay $23,600 in restitution to consumers and $100,000 in civil penalties.
Two weeks ago, Forte says she received a letter from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services indicating it could not act on her complaint against Global Resort because "this firm is no longer operational."
The department confirmed the status after TBL noticed Global Resort's operational website and phone system. Back at the Florida attorney general's office, however, Global Resort remains listed as an active business.
Dead or dying?
It probably doesn't matter anymore. The Fortes' money is gone, they still owe the timeshares and they're still paying close to $1,600 a year in maintenance costs.
"I paid $1,398 for them to pretend to sell my timeshares," says Madeleine Forte.
Universal Timeshare:An Update
Lincoln Bertaccini, like the Fortes, is still looking to get his money back from a timeshare reseller. Bertaccini, a Morris resident featured in a May TBL, paid $1,600 to Universal Timeshare seven months ago after being told it had a buyer for his timeshare at Wyndham Bonnet Creek in Orlando.
Universal Timeshare, listed as a Beaverton, Ore., business despite being operated from the Dominican Republic, first told Bertaccini the buyer would attempt to get a loan after Christmas.
When contacted by TBL, a Universal Timeshare manager said it would tell Bertaccini by May 31 when it would be a "done deal."
Meanwhile, TBL had suggested Bertaccini attempt to recoup the money from his credit-card company. Bertaccini eventually called, ecstatic, with news that a $1,600 credit just appeared on his credit-card bill.
Unfortunately, it didn't last. The credit-card company withdrew the credit, Bertaccini said, because he had signed a contract with Universal.
Bertaccini did not hear from Universal on May 31, but he did speak to a Universal representative twice in June. After being told the company would contact him in 10 or 15 days, he called again last week. This time, he was told the buyer wanted a fixed-rate instead of a variable-rate mortgage. Another delay.
He can now file a complaint with the Oregon attorney general's office or attempt to terminate his contract with Universal and collect whatever amount the company says is left of his $1,600.
At the end of May, Universal says it was $600. What now, with the meter still running?