Sunset Coco Sharing / Timeshare Scam
Time Share Scam in Playa Del Coco,
Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
We exchanged through Interval International for what was to be our bucket-list trip and it turned into a nightmare. Bahia Turquesa is apparently a collection of condo/timeshares which has been renamed to avoid association with time share scammers who have operated in this area for at least 5 years as noted on the web.
CHECK-IN: Perhaps because of that, Bahia Turquesa, was not well marked and we drove by it several times before finding the registration office. My Passport was immediately scanned, and then after a wait of at one half-hour we were escorted to another unmarked office in the complex, where “Leonardo” was to “check us in”. “Check-in” consisted of inviting us to attend a complimentary breakfast at the Café de Playa and spend the day at their private Beach Club. I said we weren’t interested, we already had timeshares, and my husband jokingly asked if he would like to buy ours. It was hot and we were tired. We just wanted to get to our room, eventually we agreed. Along with several other cars, we were finally escorted by golf cart to our studio unit, on the hillside overlooking the pool. The PARKING was free, but there was not enough space, placing vehicles in peril.
Our studio turned out to be 3 stories up, with a back entrance. My husband uses walking sticks. This was a difficult climb as there were 2 flights of stairs just to get to pool level. A staff member carried one suitcase, handed me an inventory sheet to sign, pressuring me to sign, without checking to see if the items listed were actually there. The inventory sheet states that a staff inspection will be done before you can check-out. I insisted on checking to make sure all items were in the room. Several items, including a toaster and wine opener, were missing and the safe needed a battery. He said the missing items would be delivered and did not offer to carry the remaining luggage up to the unit. Although the safe was made operational within the hour, the items were not delivered after repeated requests. The room appeared old, in need of paint and update, and the floor covering had shrunk with ½ gaps between tiles. There was a bed and a couch for sleeping. The bathroom was very small, with only a shower, and had mildew/dirt around the edges of the floor. Supplies are limited and communication with the office is difficult as there was no house phone. The walk is long when the small roll of toilet paper runs out. The Internet is spotty and never worked in our unit. The shared roof top balcony had one small, broken plastic table and a couple of chairs, but no BBQ. Great for watching the sunset; not a pleasant place to eat.
COSTA RICA PRIVATE RESIDENCES: We were escorted to the “presentation”, assigned to a “salesperson” (Ray or Ricardo?) for a nice breakfast, immediate arrangements were made to move us to one of “our nicer” units, and then we were taken to a table in their “club office”. Costa Rica Private Residences is supposedly an exclusive residence club membership with greater access than traditional time shares. Though it has been marketed for at least 2 years, they are “waiting for final permits” and have yet to break ground. Their main focus was to relieve us of the four deeded time share we have owned for decades, maintenance fees, and the need to deal with RCI and Interval. Within minutes, Lloyd Parrish, who described himself as the developer/contractor and seemed to be in charge, came back with all the information about our ownerships. Eventually, he offered us over $90, 000 for the four. In return, we were to purchase 8 weeks/year share of Costa Rica Private Residences at a “discounted rate”, allowing us a sizeable sum leftover. Instead of maintenance fees, we would pay $895/occupied week and unlimited opportunity to exchange for exclusive hotel stays throughout the world thru a Life time membership in Holiday Systems International (HIS). Finally, for only $99/year, we would be assigned a concierge to help coordinate travel, meet us at the airport and transport us to our resort/hotels around the world without additional charge except tips. Other perks included a guarantee to buy back after 2 years and their right of first refusal, should we decide to sell, for the next 5. They even guaranteed, in writing, that we could continue day use at our local resort for 5 years. Our local resort denies that could ever happen when we called them after returning to US. The promises were very attractive and their “affiliated US companies included Stewart Title, Corporate Capital, and HIS” all rated “A+” by BBB web search on the computer they provided.
The short story is that we were pressured to sign and pay several thousand dollars that day before completing the contract on the following day. Unfortunately, we did so with misgivings and left with a list of phone numbers and emails to contact if we had questions or buyer’s remorse. As soon as we left, we realized the document we signed was not exactly the same as the verbal presentations. Major was the fact that the credit card charge was not to the residences, but to Sunset Coco Sharing––after they had denied all association Sunset Coco and their “shenanigans”, the HSI membership was paid for only 1 year, and, and according to Cynthia, the signing agent, the fee for “banking” was also $895/wk. My “down payment” which did not go to any of the US companies listed, or to the Residences—had to be made today, but details about their payment to us was vague and would take at least 3 months. I immediately contacted Chase to dispute the charge. We were unable to reach any of the local numbers we were given and emails were not answered. Next day we returned to the Club stating our desire to end the contract, declaring we would not sign further papers, and declining the offer to move us to a nicer unit. Suddenly they were scarce. After hiring a local attorney to prepare and deliver a legal withdrawal, we returned the paperwork as demanded in the contract and were told by Cynthia Urena, who signs all contracts, that our money would be refunded and that she would contact us on Monday-March 14, 2016, after our return to the US. There has been no communication from anyone, since. They do not respond to repeated emails or telephone. The Chase charge, first disputed on the day of signing, has been sent to Chase’s special “time share investigation department” and the charge remains on my statement. We are professionals in our 70s, survivors of many time share presentations, and are embarrassed to admit we did not survive this. A warning anyone who travels to Playa del Coco, BEWARE.