It was a chilly, rainy day, and we had just arrived in West Yarmouth, Cape Cod. We were early, as timeshare accommodations go—it was only 1:00 in the afternoon, and check-in time was listed on the RCI sheet as 4:00. That was fine by us, as we hadn’t eaten our picnic lunch yet, and we figured we could always shop for awhile. It was a fairly crummy day, so sitting on the beach wasn’t really an option—besides, we found out that you had to pay to do that in Cape Cod.
However, we found a beach parking lot, and because the weather was inclement, there was no one working to collect fees. We had a fairly nice view of the ocean, gray though it was, and we proceeded to eat our sandwiches and chips. We were just about finished eating, when someone knocked on our closed car window. It was a man of small stature who was inquiring about how long we would be in town, and would we like to hear about a new travel opportunity? Our first reaction was, “Oh my gosh, these timeshare salesmen are EVERYWHERE!”
We then had an exchange of small talk, and indicated that we already had a lot of timeshares, and we weren’t interested in buying more. So, of course, he indicated that these were not timeshares, but a unique travel club, and for an hour of our time, he would give us $100 and a $50 Expedia gift card. We said we’d think about it, and he headed off to attack another car that had just pulled into the lot.
“Well,” I told John—“we do have a few hours to kill, and we could make $150, AND we could possibly use what we learn as material for our website.” Just about then, the little man came back and we succumbed to his ploy. We followed his car a few blocks to an official-looking, respectable office that said “Berkshire Concepts.” A receptionist took some information from us, gave us some bottled water, and told us that someone would be right with us. Nothing too sinister, yet, we told ourselves.
We were introduced to our salesperson who gave a slick large screen computer presentation. He basically said that he was offering an opportunity to join a travel club, which could handle all of our travel needs like hotels, car rental, timeshare vacations, cruises, etc. He said it was like buying all your travel needs wholesale, not retail. Some examples: Alaska-his price $749 vs $2500, London $759 vs $1650, Caribbean $520 vs $1459, Hawaiian vacation $700 vs $2500 and timeshare hot weeks for $199 per week.
All of these vacations were done with colorful pictures and videos of these wonderful dream trips. He usually followed with “Is that some place you would like to go on your vacation?” Of course, you had to answer yes.
What we concluded was that what they were offering was a full-service travel agency with poor customer service, which we will explain later when we look at our research.
The cost to use the travel service was a $349.00 processing fee to join, and then a yearly cost of $199.00 per year. You could then pick up packages which included so many weeks of vacation for $5995.00, $6995.00 or $8900.00 per year. It worked out that the average cost per week was $549.00 depending on which package you selected. Again, these were their calculations. We found when we checked things out there were several hidden costs when you went to book.
At this point, because of the number of timeshare weeks that we own, they figured the only thing we could use would be the yearly travel service for a $349.00 processing fee and a fee of $199.00 per year. We indicated that we were not interested, and after a few additional attempts at getting us to buy we were let go with our free gifts.
We then went home and did some internet research so we could better understand the idea of the travel club concept and give other folks some direction if they were ever approached to join a travel club like the Berkshire Concepts.
What we found out. It seems like a scam because:
- They are not accredited by the Better Business Bureau. They have received 21 complaints: 14 related to advertising and sales issues, and 7 related to problems with product.
- A couple bought in for $5000.00 and when they got home, tried to exercise their Right of Rescission and asked for a return of the money by Certified Letter, Return Receipt Requested. They never heard from them.
- The Department of Consumer Protection has issued an alert against the company saying that promotional post cards they have sent out are a scam.
- Several people on TUG (Timeshare User Group) have indicated they are a scam.
All in all you should save your money and look to buy timeshares resale instead of joining travel clubs that do not fulfill their promises, or do so sporadically. Keep doing your homework and your research before buying. Read this and other websites to help in planning, and hopefully your vacations will be enjoyable and fulfilling.