Archive for the 'Consumer' category

Diamond Resorts Second Chance

 | June 14, 2010 3:24 PM

Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort - Diamond Resorts

Several months ago I wrote about my first experience with Diamond Resorts.  What I did not expect was that Diamond Resorts Chief Experience Officer, Patrick Duffy, would comment on that post within hours of it being published.

Patrick Duffy and I spoke on the phone about my experience.  To make amends he offered to let us and our family friends who were supposed to come with us the first time to stay again at the same luxury resort in Tahoe for free for three nights.  He even included free parking.

Patrick’s assistant, Linda Krakower, took care of all accommodations.  We called the resort to book the only weekend that worked for both of our families.  When the resort said no room was available we asked Linda and she booked top floor rooms close to each other with balconies.

During our stay we were treated very well but more importantly as Patrick promised there was no hard sell for either family.  The rooms were very comfortable, the experience of swimming in a pool during a snow fall is special and the view is beautiful.

Patrick Duffy provided us with outstanding customer service and I want to thank him and his staff.

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Diamond Resorts Hard Sell

 | January 7, 2010 9:09 PM

Diamond Resorts One family that we are good friends with, especially because our children get along so well, told us about an offer to stay at a luxury resort in Tahoe for only $140 for three nights.  This offer actually came through another good friend who has a timeshare at this resort.  The only catch is you have to listen to a 90 minute presentation about purchasing a Diamond Resorts timeshare.

Now I am pretty frugal but I never take these offers because I so dislike the hard sell.  But in this case I thought it would be a good idea because we get to spend time with this family, we wanted to go to Tahoe this winter and the price was good.

Two days before we were about to go our friends had to cancel because of a family emergency.  The trip was not nearly as appealing anymore but we had already paid and it was too late for us to cancel.

We arrived at the resort Wednesday evening and I started becoming unimpressed.  The concierges were not very helpful, check-in took an inordinate amount of time, they charge $7 a day for slow WiFi internet access and there is almost no parking so you have to valet.  On the other hand the suite, a one bedroom, is quite nice and it’s not even in the renovated wing.

Our presentation was scheduled for today, Thursday, at 11:30 AM.  Because it was in the middle of the day we asked if we could reschedule.  They said we could not.  We then asked what we should do with our kids and they said kids are welcome at the presentation.

*Time* Ticking away... on Flickr 11:30 AM we arrive for the presentation and the presenter suggests we put our children in the child care center free of charge.  After doing that and giving us a tour we sit down at a table while music blares over the speakers.  Our presenter notes that it’s 11:45 AM and that we should expect that the presentation will end at 1:15 PM.  I found that a little strange since she had just led us on a tour and we were told kids were welcome but now we were being penalized 15 minutes for bringing them.  But I did not complain.

Our presenter starts off by saying this is not a hard sell, it’s a soft sell.  Of course we don’t buy that because if it’s not a hard sell then why is she presenting just to us instead of to a room full of people so we can inconspicuously leave once it’s done?

She then begins to ask us many questions to get a sense of what kind of vacationers we are.  Then she starts talking about how expensive hotels are and how you are stuck in a small room instead of a nice one bedroom or two bedroom.

The presenter tries, as I imagine a good saleswoman would, to try to use whatever we say as selling points.  When I said once that vacations can be stressful because of small children she kept pointing out how less stressful being in a one or two bedroom would be.  When we said how family is important to us she talked about how vacations are so important for family time.  She even talked about the 50% divorce rate and how we should vacation so we don’t divorce!

O ooo on Flickr The hard sell continues.  We see a video where people give testimonials about how wonderful Diamond Resorts is, a home away from home, relaxing, “destressing”, best service in the world, something you can pass on to your children.

During this whole time she refuses to tell us just how much a timeshare will be.  She takes us on a tour of the renovated suites.  She then has us enter into a computer program how much we spend on hotels, how often we vacation, what we expect is the rate of inflation, how many years we plan on vacationing.  I enter in $125/night, 10 days a year, 3% inflation, 25 years and get a nice output of about $50,000.

Now the presenter finally tells how much the timeshare will cost.  For 4000 points a year the cost is $24,000 plus $840 a year in HOA fees.  Apparently that’s a fantastic deal, at least according to her.  We can pay it all or for about $4000 down we can pay the rest with interest at 22% a year.  I was amazed they could offer a 22% interest rate with a straight face.

Also the presenter offered us all these first time visit perks which I did not really see as being that valuable except for of course the waiving of the $3000 membership fee which she never mentioned before.

174: I would quite like to decline the concept of time. on Flickr We politely decline.  The presenter acts flabbergasted.  At this point the presentation has gone on for 150 minutes, 60 minutes over the amount of time they said they would.

The hard sell continues.  The manager comes over, asks a few questions, asks us to sign a few things.  Then he says he has to go do some other stuff.  When he returns he offers 3500 points a year for $10,000, an owner’s only offer.  I am not sure why 500 points costs $14,000 more but after a little bit of hesitation we decline again.

After the manager leaves the presenter then says she will give us 7 days in a two bedroom suite for free if we take the offer for 3500 points.  We again decline.  At this point I probably said for the fifth time we just want to go back to pick up our kids.

The hard sell continues further.  Our presenter says she needs to get some more things signed.  Then this elderly lady, who had been sitting in the corner the whole time, pops up and says she can sign us off.  She comes over and asks more questions.  She asks why we won’t buy it.  We say we don’t like to make quick decisions.  She replies that she buys whenever she sees a good deal and that she only regrets not having bought more things in life.  I am now annoyed with her too.

The lady then offers to let us decide for the next 12 or 18 months.  The catch is we have to buy a vacation package.  We again decline.

Clock on Flickr Now they finally take us over to where we are supposed to get our two free lift tickets and a $25 Visa card.  Of course though things don’t work out.  The $25 Visa card is not given to us because they say we are not supposed to get it since we got the lift tickets instead of the dinner and dance show.  Though the reasoning might be legitimate I just found it amazing that a company that is asking you to spend between $10,000 and $24,000 would nickel and dime you for $25.

It is now 2:30 PM when the presentation is finally over, twice as long as they said it would be.

I hate the hard sell.

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The Better World Shopping Guide

 | November 6, 2009 2:34 PM

I first mentioned The Better World Shopping Guide in my first Not For Sale study notes. It is “the only comprehensive guide for socially and environmentally responsible consumers.”  Their guide is based on research from these sources.

A few weeks ago I borrowed this guide from the library and have enjoyed perusing it.  You can also see the rankings online or on your iPhone.

The guide ranks companies from A to F.  They are ranked based on their record on the environment, human rights, community involvement, animal protection, corporate crime, discrimination, employee treatment, philanthropy.

Here are some highlights from the guide.

The 10 Best List The 10 Worst List
  1. Seventh Generation
  2. Patagonia
  3. American Apparel*
  4. Eden Foods
  5. Tom’s of Maine
  6. Ben & Jerry’s
  7. Working Assets
  8. Clif Bar
  9. Stonyfield Farms
  10. Aveda
  1. Exxon-Mobil
  2. Altria (Philip Morris)
  3. Wal-Mart
  4. Chevron-Texaco
  5. Pfizer
  6. Nestle
  7. Tyson Foods
  8. General Electric
  9. Archer Daniels Midland
  10. General Motors

Nestle

  • Baby formula human rights boycott
  • “Most Irresponsible” corporation award
  • Involved in child slavery lawsuit
  • Aggressive takeovers of family farms

Altria (Kraft, Libby’s, Nabisco, Planters, Post)

  • MM’s “Worst Corporation” list for 5 years
  • Currently target of 2 major boycotts
  • Greenwash Award for public deception
  • Named global climate change laggard

M&Ms (M&M/Mars)

  • On MM’s “10 Worst Corporations” list
  • Suppliers use child slave labor
  • Target of fair trade campaign

I wrote a letter to the author Dr. Jones protesting American Apparel’s A+ rating because of their pornographic ads and the sexual harassment lawsuits against its CEO, Dov Charney.

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Lowes or Home Depot

 | May 25, 2009 10:21 AM

Lowe's image When we were in Cambridge, MA we always went to Home Depot because it was not too far away.  The next closest home improvement store was also a Home Depot, a larger one we could visit when we couldn’t find something at the closer Home Depot.  Lowes was just too far away, out in the suburbs.

Home Depot did not impress me too much with their poor customer service and poor quality products.  But it seemed good enough.

When we moved to Sunnyvale we started to go to Lowes because it was literally across the street.  Our experience with Lowes has been so much better, both in terms of customer service and product quality.  We had heard about this from others but now we have experienced it firsthand.

An example of their excellent customer service occurred today.  I had a $10 off coupon that expired a couple of weeks ago.  I asked customer service if I could still use it and they authorized my use for today.  Maybe they were also persuaded to do so after I honorably returned a packet of cilantro seeds I had inadvertently stolen a few weeks ago. 🙂

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Comcast Extreme Support

 | January 11, 2009 3:34 PM

If you are having problems with Comcast and no one is helping you then contact Rick Germano, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations, directly.  Comcast recognizes they have customer service problems which is why they hired Mr. Germano.

We are writing this letter to update you on the steps we have taken to provide better service to you. We are putting a tremendous amount of resources into making it easier and more convenient for you to do business with us. This is part of a company-wide effort to improve service that will continue for several years.

Customer Care Improvements

This is recommended by the San Jose Mercury News Action Line and worked for Ms. Pham.

He reported that Comcast set up a direct link to Germano’s headquarters office in Philadelphia. To get to that back door (after you have exhausted the regular customer service channels), do a Web search for “Vindu Germano e-mail hot line.”

“I used the link to Rick Germano’s customer service hot line, and surprisingly, the e-mail was answered the same day from someone on Mr. Germano’s team…”

Action Line: Comcast complaint? E-mail the boss – San Jose Mercury News

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Thanks to Topher I listened to this NPR interview Fees, Cheats and ‘Gotcha Capitalism’.

It is neat listening to NPR through the internet. Though I did not catch the whole interview I basically came to the conclusion there are a lot of fees that are unfair and there is not much consumers can do. And the government, FTC, has not been able to help much because they have more work to do but their department has been halved. I am all for reducing taxes and government budgets but I would double regulatory budgets, I think they are so important.

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There is this great Video Tutorial: How to Get Out of Your Verizon Contract Without an Early Termination Fee by Ely Rosenstock of Crastinate.com.

I enjoyed watching it, it is just over nine minutes long, and learning how, by using Verizon’s own wording, you can get out of your contract.  However it sounds like a lot of work, i.e. Ely Rosenstock said he spoke with five different people before his contract was terminated.  But I do want to get out of AT&T soon and use the lovely iPhone 3G.

Crastinate.com has a series of articles of Ely Rosenstock trying and eventually canceling his contract.

Verizon Ignores Customer Agreement, GameFly Does it Right – July 18
Verizon Update – July 20
Verizon Finally Agrees to Follow Their Own Contract – July 21
How to Port Your Number Without Paying the Early Termination Fee – July 29

Finally there is the AT&T Refer-A-Friend program.  Every time an AT&T person refers a friend, that person gets an AT&T $25 gift card and the friend does too.  If you don’t have a friend, email Ely Rosenstock to refer you so that both you and he get the $25 gift card.

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Rebate Problems

 | July 23, 2008 3:06 AM

When I was buying a digital camera from Circuit City I noticed that I could get a free Canon photo printer after rebate with the purchase of any digital camera.  They didn’t have the printer in stock but the salesman encouraged me to special order the printer so I could get the rebate.

Over thirty days later and I still hadn’t received the printer.  I checked the rebate and noticed it said that I had to postmark the rebate within thirty days of the original purchase which means the rebate was no longer valid.

I went to Circuit City and complained.  Fortunately, which almost never happens, the manager was willing to accomodate me.  He said, though unhappily, “What do you want me to do?”  I said “I want to get credit for the printer and I also want refunded the portion of the coupon that was used for the printer.”  He did all this and in fact I think I ended up making $2.  The manager also informed me that my rebate wouldn’t have worked, that the rebate is only for purchases on the web, which it doesn’t say anywhere on the rebate.

Lessons learned.

  1. Don’t special order anything that is tied to a rebate offer.
  2. When purchasing products at a brick and mortar store, make sure that the rebate is given to you by that store.
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Chavez vs. Netflix settlement

 | July 21, 2008 4:22 PM

I was awarded a free month of Netflix because of the Chavez lawsuit.  I didn’t even know I was suing them. 🙂

Dear Frank,

As a member of the Chavez vs. Netflix settlement class, you are eligible for a free month of Netflix on your choice of the 1, 2, or 3 out at-a-time plans.

I am glad Netflix lost, they were doing misleading advertising and giving worse service to their higher volume customers.

Netflix’s allocation policy—referred to by many as “throttling”—gives priority shipping and selection to customers who rent fewer discs per month. Higher volume renters may see some of their selections delayed, routed elsewhere, or sent out of order.

Netflix – Throttling

The problem is we never have time to watch movies.  Maybe I will give it to a friend.

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Freecycle

 | June 23, 2008 12:59 PM

The Freecycle Network

I have been freecycling for about 6 months. My reasons for doing it are:

  1. cut down on consumption
  2. be greener by using items that other people do not want
  3. save money

After six months these are the things I have received from freecycle users.

  • two welcome mats
  • various toys including Toy Story, Leapfrog Learn-Along Lily, etc.
  • VHS player (doesn’t record)
  • 2 indoor ceiling light fixtures (not installed yet)
  • 1 jogging stroller
  • 2 strollers
  • desktop computer
  • computer speakers, keyboard
  • Linksys wireless router (replaced my flaky one)
  • glass patio table
  • IKEA $25 off coupon
  • 19″ CRT monitor
  • 12 Christian framed landscape photos with Bible verses (not hung up yet)
  • disposable diapers
  • Melissa and Doug table top easel
  • electric lawnmower
  • plastic turtle sandbox
  • cloth napkins and kitchen towels
  • super soaker guns

These are the things I have given away to freecycle users.

  • multimeter, needed new batteries
  • Linksys wireless router, flaky
  • valances
  • moving boxes
  • various toys
  • 1 jogging stroller (got on freecycle)
  • 1 stroller (got on freecycle)
  • Consumer Reports 2008 buying guide
  • wrist watch, broken strap
  • broken halogen desk lamp

After six months of freecycling here are my conclusions.

  1. I have received a few items of value (glass patio table, electric lawnmower, PC, strollers, disposable diapers) but nothing of necessity.
  2. I appreciate being able to give away things that would have ended up in the trash.
  3. I think I am going to stop acquiring things via freecycle. 🙂
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