OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A Kansas family spent thousands of dollars on a vacation rental but say they have never been able to use it.
“You can have it, and then your children can have it,” Muhammad Naseer of Overland Park said he was told by a representative from Westgate Resorts who sold him one week a year in a Branson timeshare.
“You know I’m from Kansas, and my favorite place is Branson,” Naseer said. He was promised by Westgate that using the timeshare would be easy.
The Naseers spent $10,865 to purchase the unit in 2012. Every year since, they've paid a yearly maintenance fee, which is now more than $800.
But in the six years they’ve owned the timeshare, they’ve never been able to use it. Not a single time.
The first year, Naseer said he called a month in advance but was unable to book his week in Branson.
“You are giving us very short notice,” he said he was told by a Westgate booking agent.
The next year, he called six months in advance.
“You are calling too early,” Naseer said he was told.
The following year he called two months in advance -– no success.
“You should have called much earlier,” Naseer said he was told.
However, the Westgate booking agent said the Naseers could stay at the resort, but would have to pay full price.
And so it went, year after year. In total, the Naseers have spent about $15,000 for a timeshare they have never spent a single night in.
When the Naseers complained to Westgate, they said they were told they would have an easier time using their timeshare if they upgraded to
a better plan. That new plan would cost them an additional $15,000.
The Naseers refused and decided to sell their timeshare, but couldn't find a buyer interested in paying even close to what they had paid.
“Westgate promised us it would go up in value and would be easy to sell,” Naseer said.
The Naseers aren’t the only ones complaining about Westgate Resorts, a Florida-based timeshare company with properties across the United States. FOX4 Problem Solvers found dozens of complaints online.
Plus, a Tennessee couple won a $500,000 judgment against Westgate after accusing the company of using high pressure and misleading sales tactics. Westgate was also slammed with a $900,000 fine by the Federal Trade Commission for illegal robocalls.
Problem Solvers paid a visit to Westgate’s Branson Woods Resort. We tried to find the rental unit the Naseers were deeded one week a year. According to their mortgage, it’s in building 11, apartment 443 A.
Despite exploring the entire property, we never found that exact address. We even asked an employee for help. He verified that the address doesn't exist.
We learned that, despite what the Naseers’ mortgage said, Westgate said other paperwork states that Naseers’ unit is a “floating unit,” meaning it can anywhere on the property.
The Problem Solvers were then sent to the sales office for more answers. We asked employees there why the Naseers had never been able to book a room but were told they couldn’t release information about their customers. They instead referred us to the 1-800 number for Westgate Resort’s corporate headquarters.
A spokesman for Westgate assured FOX4 it was the Naseers' own fault they hadn’t been able to book a room in six years. He said the Naseers
had misunderstood the booking process and that Westgate would be happy to help them use their timeshare -- all they needed to do was contact him.
That explanation didn’t ring true to the Naseers or Branson attorney Russ Schenewerk who has spent much of career suing timeshare companies, including Westgate.
“I think it's all a game to sell the same amount of inventory to so many people that it can't be used by everybody,” Schenewerk said.
He said not being able to use a timeshare is one of the most common complaints he receives from clients.
Schenewerk said there are multiple timeshare companies in Branson that he considers “bad players” in the industry. He said he has received more than 200 complaints about another timeshare company, which he wouldn’t identify to FOX4.
Schenewerk said he has referred many of the complaints to Missouri’s Attorney General, but has yet to hear of any action taken against timeshare companies by the state.
“It’s buyer beware,” Schenewerk said.