On May 17, 2016, my husband and I attended one of the “90-minute” sales presentations hosted by Krystal Resorts, Cancun. We are both educated and intelligent people who have attended such presentations in the past, but when weighing the costs-vs-benefits of time-share ownership, have always opted out of committing to ownership. In this case, however, our salesman German made a very compelling presentation based upon a “vacation package” offered exclusively by Krystal Resorts called the ICE Rewards program. According to German, if we purchased a time share condo with Krystal Resorts, we could also purchase a lifetime membership in the ICE Rewards program for $875. He assured us that this program offers guaranteed lowest rates on airfare (40% off the lowest published rates), cruises (50% off lowest published rates) and hotels ($199 per week if booked one-month or less in advance, and $399 per week if booked three months out from travel). When queried about what hotels this included, we were informed that it included all the international hotels listed on the ICE website (per German this included the Hilton, Hyatt and Radisson). We asked him to show us what hotels specifically were available for $199 in London, England at that particular week and he pulled up a long list of hotels comparable to those listed on Hotels.com. This offer had great appeal to me as I book a great deal of student travel and getting the guaranteed lowest rate would be beneficial to my job. I had no interest in the timeshare contract, however, and indicated this quite clearly to the sales staff.
German informed us that the ICE program was only available if we purchased a time share studio at Krystal resorts for $18, 000 for 25 weeks of rental and with an annual maintenance fee of $625. The full contract was for 25 years at one vacation week per year, but we were given the option to rent up to five weeks annually through their rental agency Latitude 21. We were guaranteed that IF the condo rented, we would receive $1, 250 per week of rental ($6, 250 – the annual maintenance of $625, per German’s math or $5, 625). According to German, the cost of the time-share would pay for itself in rental income. I was concerned by the verbiage of our contract (section 8) which indicated that maintenance fees must be paid in advance for each week of rental. When I specifically asked German, what happens to the 20 remaining weeks of maintenance fees if we rent or use all 25 weeks of our timeshare in the first five years, he assured us that “it goes away.” I clarified, “you mean we don’t have to pay it?” and he assented that this was correct. I also asked if we could book up to nine rooms simultaneously in one year, say for a destination wedding and he assured me this would be no problem. After clarifying the muddied sections of the contract verbally with the salesman, we signed in good faith. We were never informed of how we might extricate ourselves if we had a change of heart on the contract. Less than two weeks after signing a contract with Krystal, we were contacted by the listing agent and asked to pay the “listing fee of $675.” To date, there is no evidence that the condo has ever been listed for rental. Our ICE Rewards program did not activate until 51 days after we signed our contract (over a week later than promised).
All aspects of the sales pitch were a lie. The ICE Rewards program can be purchased separately on an annual basis for just a few hundred dollars a year. It does not offer hotel rooms for $199 and $399 per week in major cities across the globe, nor are the rates any cheaper than Hotels.com or Cheapoair.com. It has a handful of bargain hotels (six when I looked in July) that were offered at comparable low rates, in undesirable locations like Grenada and Gatlinburg, TN. In fact, in comparison, the rates at the same hotel for the same period in London, England were $15 per night higher on the ICE web site than at Hotels.com. When I pointed this out to the ICE customer service staff, they made no effort to match the price but did finally acknowledge my right to withdraw from the program since I was within the ten-day trial period.
I was not so lucky with the Krystal Resort customer service staff. When I pointed out the deception involved with their sales tactics they simply said that I “signed a contract.” I then requested to book nine rooms for January 2017 per my contract in order to extricate myself from the time share as soon as possible. I was told that I could only book nine rooms if there was availability and that I only had priority booking for one room. Furthermore, I would have to pay the $625 maintenance fee nine years in advance to reserve the rooms that I could not be guaranteed. So, German’s assurance that using my weeks in advance would cause my maintenance fee to “go away” was also false. After doing my own math given this situation, I determined that I would be paying Krystal Resorts $200 a year to not use the condominium, assuming that I would be able to rent it regularly, which is doubtful. When I requested to quit claim deed the condo back to Krystal and walk away from the $6000 I had already sunk into the down payment and closing costs, they informed me that my contract said I was responsible for 40% of the remaining cost of the time share or an additional $7200.
It is my interpretation that by international law, a contract is only binding if both parties understand the stipulations of the contract and any explanation involves complete disclosure on the part of the contractor. If deception is used to misrepresent the articles of the contract, the contract is no longer binding. I would assert that Krystal Resorts used deception and fraudulent sales tactics to trick me into signing a contract that I did not fully understand. When I asked specifically for clarification, I was given deliberate misinformation. I fully intend to sue the company for its fraudulent business practices and warn anyone considering purchasing a time-share with Krystal of the dangers of working with this company. Certainly, do not purchase a condominium only to join the ICE Rewards program, however, as you would be far better off with the cheap annual membership than committing to a lifetime membership with time-share strings attached.