Ask RedWeek / March, 2016

What happened to Wyndham's Ovation Exit Program?

What happened to Wyndham's Ovation exit program? Can owners really get out of their timeshares without getting scammed?

Many readers have asked us for more information about Wyndham's exit program, known as Ovation, which we featured in an Ask RedWeek article in April 2015. They want to know whether it is working and, just as important, whether other timeshare companies will offer a similar exit strategy for longtime owners.

To answer this question, RedWeek's Chief Correspondent, Jeff Weir, interviewed the Wyndham executives who run the Ovation program: Adam Schwartz, Senior Vice President, Brand and Communications; and Kim Thompson, Senior Vice President of Legal Services. Here's the update:

One Year Later: 10,700 Wyndham Owners Have Used Ovation Program to Get Out of Their Timeshares

After a very soft launch in 2015, it seems clear — one year later — that Wyndham's exit program, known as "Ovation," is gaining traction with owners. It may also be trailblazing a path that other major timeshare companies emulate as owners seek legal and dignified ways to get out of their timeshares.

According to Wyndham's top executives, more than 10,700 owners have used the Ovation program to get out of their timeshare obligations. Overall, the company has received inquiries from more than 25,000 owners (out of an overall pool of 900,000). Of that number, Wyndham says it assisted 12,827 owners who were seeking an exit plan.

But it hasn't been an easy road. Forums on RedWeek.com and other sites are full of good-and-bad Ovation stories from owners who tried to use the program. It is also clear that some third-party timeshare-relief companies have invaded the program (probably without Wyndham's permission) by reaching out to Wyndham owners and offering pay-upfront schemes to dump their timeshares.

What Exit Options Does Ovation Offer?

Ovation, which was created in part to protect Wyndham owners from being victimized by relief-company scam artists, is a no-fee program that offers qualifying owners three exit plans:

  • For owners who want to sell their timeshares, Wyndham will provide referrals to licensed realtors and other resellers that abide by the "no upfront fee" mantra. Wyndham does not keep track of what happens to those owners who use the preferred list of resellers. So far, this option appeals to less than 1 percent of the owners who contact Ovation.
  • Qualifying owners can also transfer their club points or deeds back to Wyndham under what is called the CAP program. This is the most popular Ovation program by far, appealing to owners who simply want to get out, relinquish ownership and stop paying annual maintenance fees.
  • A third option, called the Limited Edition program, enables Wyndham Club owners to surrender their Wyndham-purchased points back to the club while retaining user rights to travel, with no maintenance fees, for three years. This option is favored by roughly 10 percent of the Ovation participants.
  • Wyndham also offers a hardship exit program for people under financial stress, but it is not technically part of the Ovation umbrella. Most reputable timeshare companies offer similar-sounding hardship programs, but they are reluctant to publicize them — and for obvious reasons. Their business models hinge on selling new timeshares, not taking back old ones.

Wyndham executives say, in fact, that the company incurred a cost of approximately $20 million over the past year by taking back unwanted timeshares through Ovation, and paying off their maintenance fees and taxes. This so-called carrying cost should come back to Wyndham, eventually, when it resells those deeded-back club points on the retail market to existing or new buyers at the rate of $20,000 per week-equivalent (approximately).

What Other Timeshare Brands Can Learn From Ovation

So, on paper, Ovation appears to offer a win-win scenario, enabling owners who are aging-out to divest themselves of their timeshares. Wyndham, meanwhile, increases its inventory at preferred resorts (at low or no cost) and reaps the public relations benefits of launching a consumer-friendly program for longtime loyal owners. And, as the world's largest timeshare company, Wyndham is setting a standard that the rest of the industry will either follow or, perhaps, improve upon. One thing for sure: major brand timeshare companies cannot afford to ignore Ovation. They all have similar issues with owners who want to get out of their timeshare obligations. And the demand for exit strategy answers will increase as the owner base continues to inflate.

"This is important for our company and it's an industrywide issue," said Schwartz. "Many companies are without a solution."

(RedWeek.com, with nearly one million timeshare owners signed up, is a testament, all by itself, to the need for industry exit programs. These subscribers are trying to sell or rent their weeks, not use them or keep them.)

Ovation, while a yearling, is still an open experiment. The company is committed to tweaking it as necessary to meet demand, but the overall goal is to generate a sustainable program that is transparent, easy to use and workable.

"A big part of why we are doing this is the incessant barrage of attacks that owners are under from third party scammers," Schwartz said. "We see the prosecutions about this around the country. We want to make sure our program is well enough known by owners that they call us first before they seek alternatives that leave them holding the bag."

Still, there are issues with getting the word out on Ovation. Owners who participate in social media platforms, including RedWeek.com, are already airing various grievances about Ovation. Examples: Some owners don't qualify for the program. Others own resorts that Wyndham does not want to take back. A third group of owners are interested in Ovation, but can't find out much about it on the Internet or Wyndham's Web site. Another group of Wyndham owners are totally suspicious of Ovation because of their prior experience with Pathways, a Wyndham exit-program where transfers were tied to upgrading ownerships.

Wyndham, with an extensive web-monitoring operation, knows all about the owners' issues. The company readily concedes that not all owners will qualify, such as those who have not paid off their mortgages or belonged to other timeshare clubs that were subsequently bought by Wyndham. The company also deliberately prioritizes the inventory that it is willing to take back into the system --- which means this: if you own a shoulder season week at a legacy resort in a condo-glutted beach town, Wyndham may not want your interval back.

Wyndham has increased its owner-outreach in recent months to educate owners about Ovation, but it's not a full-throttle campaign. For example, as of this week, the company would not release to RedWeek the names of the resorts that qualify for Ovation because, as a spokeswoman explained, the list changes depending on time, season and inventory needs.

Even with its caveats, Ovation appears to be providing serious services to thousands of Wyndham owners who might otherwise get ripped off on the resale market. But is it strong enough to really meet demand? Will others follow suit? Stay tuned.

"This program brings peace of mind to owners," Schwartz said. "Now they know, 'I've got a way out of this.'"

To get more information, Wyndham Club owners must log in to their password-protected account on wyndham.com, then search for Ovation. There is no detailed information about the program on Wyndham's public web pages. Owners can also e-mail wbwovation@wyn.com or call the Ovation desk at 855-312-9040.

About the author

This answer was provided by RedWeek's Chief Correspondent, Jeff Weir. Jeff is a California-based journalist who has covered California, Congress, and the White House. He also has roots in Silicon Valley, where he directed public relations and marketing programs for high-tech companies. He is also a timeshare owner and member of RedWeek.com.

Leave a comment

    8 Comments

  • Avatar for nonnies
    nonnies
    Jul 22, 2016 (9 months ago)

    The referral program is a joke. Check out Timeshare Brokers. If you click on their 'listings' nothing comes up but a referral to ebay. I have tried to find them on ebay. I searched for Wyndham listings and found 124 Wyndham listings (as of July 2016). I clicked on every single one of them and NOTHING comes up as being sold by Timeshare Brokers. RPMI, the other 'referral' by Wyndham, has 3 listings currently on ebay, but their seller name first comes up as timeshare_resales with a different phone number than what Wyndham gives you. RPMI (Resort Property Marketing International) is formerly RPM and is run by Jeff Fudge, a very long time associate of Wyndham. I checked them out with BBB and they are accredited by BBB and have no complaints for last 12 months. I am going to try listing with them and will keep you posted on my experience. Just for the record, buying a timeshare was the dumbest financial investment I've ever made.

  • Avatar for jeff_reports
    jeff_reports
    RedWeek.com Team
    Jul 22, 2016 (9 months ago)

    Your experience fits the profile for most people inquiring about Ovation. Overwhelming majority of owners just want to exit the program and are not pursuing the sales referral options (due to fact that many already tried to sell their timeshare, unsuccessfully, and/or paid money to upfront-fee listing companies that did nothing but take their money). These are folks who already feel like they've been burned and now, finally, want out. That's what Ovation seems to offer.

  • Avatar for wer4
    wer4
    Jul 24, 2016 (9 months ago)

    This applies to Wyndham but what about Worldmark? Worldmark credits are not based upon a contract for say 20 years- instead it is lifetime ownership. So "ending the contract" before the expiry date doesn't offer relief. Is the only option going to a reseller? Or privately selling/transferring credits to other?

    I'm trapped and out about $72000 if that is the case

  • Avatar for bettyloua2
    bettyloua2
    Aug 10, 2016 (9 months ago)

    I am about to try this method of exiting my timeshare at Kona Coast, Hawaii. any advice?

  • Avatar for mjj700
    mjj700
    Jan 02, 2017 (4 months ago)

    I researched Ovation once I heard about in the summer of 2016. It took me a few times to get to the right parties at Wyndham however, on September 25, 2016, I finally was able to relay my week's information and "start the ball rolling". I waited 30 days, having gotten no response from Wyndham, I called the Ovation desk on October 25, asking how things were progressing. A very friendly customer service representative told me the week was in "search" mode and I should hear something in 8 or so weeks. That would have enabled a response from Wyndham around Christmas. Here is the response I've gotten so far from Wyndham on my request - ___________________. That's correct, nothing. No email, no snail mail, no phone call, not a word, just crickets. They did manage to find me to inform me that my new monthly maintenance amount would go up by five or so dollars a month but they can't seem to find me to tell me about where I'm at with the Ovation program. I'm hoping my public griping about their non-response will be seen by their "extensive web-monitoring operation" and they will get back to me. How about it Wyndham? You can email, call or text me, you've got my information.

  • Avatar for andrews480
    andrews480
    Feb 21, 2017 (3 months ago)

    Just wanted to see if anyone has had luck with the resale option?

  • Avatar for carolw533
    carolw533
    Feb 22, 2017 (3 months ago)

    I am concerned that I have been scammed by an Hilton Head resort. What can I do?

  • Avatar for catherineh203
    catherineh203
    Feb 27, 2017 (2 months ago)

    We spoke to an Ovation representative on Feb 27, 2017 to initiate the "give back" (their words) of three contracts and participated in a pleasant straight forward explanation of options. During the conversation, we repeatedly verified that no fees were required to return the contracts. The process is supposed to take anywhere from 3 to 6 months dependent on:

    1) how quickly Wyndham can address the process on their end due to a high volume of return requests. 2) how quickly the three different counties where the properties are located respond to Wyndham's request for a new deed.

    During the 3 - 6 month wait, all maintenance fees and any Special Assessments are ongoing. We no longer have use the the points from this day forward...no matter how long the process takes.

    We opted to return all three contracts and declined to attempt selling the properties. For surrendering all three properties at the same time we were offered the use of the returned points on an annual basis with no fees, monthly maintenance, booking, housekeeping or Special Assessments for a three year period. At which time Wyndham receives the three deeds from the respective counties, a new contract and associated number will be issued which allows us continued use of the points for three years. During that time, it is required that we make reservations through their office as online access and booking will no longer be available to us.

    When asked, the representative stated we will not receive progress updates, and we would not hear from them again until the new contract is sent to us for review and signature, but we are welcome to call anytime to check progress. We opted to have the new contract emailed to us and will have an attorney review content. Not our first rodeo with Wyndham. Tick-tock.