We are always looking for a more perfect fit with the way wenlike to travel. While on vacation we were approached at Wal-Mart in Cabo San Lucas to attend a presentation fornSignature Residence Club. We were told it wasnt a timeshare, but something better. nHaving attended numerous presentations in the past, and always being interested in new ways to vacationnand save money doing so, we decided to attend. nWe were promised 2700 pesos for our time. nThe location where we were taken was not at a resort, but rightnon the Marina adjacent to Mis Suenos restaurant (translation: my dreams) wherenwe had our free breakfast. nAfter meeting Kevin Kurtz, our representative, we were toldnhe had just recently joined the company as a rep and had just completed his trainingnat Signature after retiring from 25 years of service with Air Canada as a pilot. This office had only been at the Marina forn10 days, he said. We were presented a timeshare-like program affiliated with Vallarta Gardens in Puerto Vallarta as thenhome resort where we could own a one bedroom week. But Kevin said the real attraction was Signaturesnaffiliation with GDS, Global Distribution Systems, and all their applicablendiscounts by skirting the middle men in the travel industry. nThat is what Kevin spent most of his time telling us about. It was a jaw-droppingly good program:nSubstantial discounts off of flights, movies, Netflix, entertainment,nrestaurants and of course beautiful resorts and hotels all over the world. He showed us these discounts in real timenon his laptop even asking us where we would like to go and showing us thenrespective rates. He even offered to book us a car rental for our stay in Cabo for two weeks for around $115nUSD. The membership even included discounts on RV hook-ups through Good Sam, 1000 Trails and KOA. Since we own an RV we were very interested in that. We should have known that thendomestic flight he showed us was not right as the air industry is regulatedndomestically as to pricing and not open to unpublished discounts. nKevin showed us much of his polished presentation on the netn revealing his personal travel itinerary on his laptop showing his personal usenof this service through Signature for the past months on almost a weekly basis whilenpromising we could and would use it similarly. nHe claimed to be a member of Signature, not another club by anothernname, for 17 years. He had owned a timeshare like ours previously which he had then upgraded to this system. We were also told later that Signature Residence Clubhad been around under that name since 1980. nIn addition to Kevin, we met his manager, Remy, a gentlemannfrom Croatia who confirmed everything Kevin had told us.nFor the privilege of owning a 1 bedroom week at VallartanGardens we would pay $23,950 which could be applied at any time over the nextnten years to equity in real estate in any of the developments associated with VallartanGardens and their owner/builders. We were informed that there would never be any additional out-of-pocket paymentnever again – no maintenance fees, no dues, etc. at Vallarta Gardens. The rest of the Signature program would alsonnever require any additional fees, just the weekly or daily reduced rates along with all the other perks. Completentravel concierge service was also part of the package. During that initial presentation, Kevin dialednthe number to show us that they always picked up within three rings. nThis was interesting, enticing and most importantly a perfect fit for us. But, its not likenwe have almost $24,000 sitting in our bank account waiting for such annopportunity. The cherry on the cake, and ultimately what closed the deal for us was them offering us $33,500 for ourn35,000 Worldmark by Wyndham points. nWe have been offered money in exchange for our creditsnbefore. The most we have been offered is around $20K. Even that price wasninflated much as one would experience when trading in a used car and buying annew one, for example. We have purchased after-market Worldmark points in the past through Redseason.com. The current retail price through Redseason,and what people pay for after-market Worldmark credits on the net, is less thannhalf the $33.5K for a comparable package. Substantially less than that is being paid wholesale to owners like us whonare selling their credits to Redseason. We were being offered close to a dollar a point from Signature while Redseasonnwould have paid us around a quarter to a third of that amount. That is perhaps a better measure of what thencredits are actually worth. nWe were guaranteed no additional fees related to thisntransaction either. There was no termination date on the Signature product and our relatives would get their ownnmembership cards with full access to the web site and full membershipnprivileges. It seemed a screaming deal for us!! We mentioned numerous times tonKevin that it seemed too good to be true. nEach time we were told that it was true, and that they would take somethingnaway from the program if we preferred. That was intended as a joke nWhen we asked about why we were getting so much for ournWorldmark points, we were told that Signature would use that payment to us fornour timeshare as a write -off while essentially trading our points back tonWyndham and getting 40 weeks of use at Worldmark, Wyndham and RCI resorts in thenCabo area in exchange. Wyndham could then turn around and sell these old credits as new and get the going marketnvalue for them. Signature would then use those 40 weeks to lure potential clients to Cabo for less than $500, includingnairfare, stipulating that they must attend a similar presentation to the one wenwere experiencing. Kevin said that there was an ad in the Alaska Air magazine offering that, and we thought we had seennit on the trip to Cabo. (A later search online revealed no such ad that we could find.) nThey would use the weeks for marketing and stressed that they had a muchnhigher closing rate when using this arrangement. Itnseemed like a win-win for everyone and a decent business model. So when all was said and done, we would net more than $10,000 from the transaction involving Signaturenand the company purchasing the time share. We never met anyone from this company, PremiernProperty Management, although they did call us after we returned to the states.n (Once it was determined that we no longer wished to purchase Signature, the buyer for our Worldmark pointsnchanged their mind about purchasing.) The whole transaction at point of sale wasndone through Signature. We agreed to waive our 2700 peso gift for attendingnthe presentation in exchange for an additional $950 discount. Itnwould be our points ($33.5K) less their membership cost ($23K) with thentransaction all resolved in less than 180 days, which they said was the worstncase scenario. We would immediately putnthe $23K on our credit card and the rest would be resolved later. Who wouldnt take a deal like that? nIf it were legitimate, that is nWe signed up, put the $23K on our credit card and floatednback to our resort dreaming of awesome vacations at a fraction of what wevenbeen paying since we bought our first timeshare in 1995, and for less than whatnwed been paying in maintenance fees alone through Worldmark. Then we began exercising our due diligencenduring our 5 day Mexican buyers remorse period, and things got clearer and more interesting nThe first red flag, among many, was the brochure we received. One of the big selling points was that thisnwas an American company based in New York City. nThe brochure was in both English and Spanish, but the English was fullnof typos typical of most Spanish to English translations in Mexico. nCurious, I went on Google to find out more about the actualnlocation in NYC. All I could uncover was a mailroom at that address while several other small businesses were alsonassociated with the same address. We were assured by numerous folks at Signature that there was an actual office innNew York City at that address. A Mexican man named Jose Gomez who is their accountant, told us about visiting thisnoffice in NYC on numerous occasions, and that it was at that address on the third floor. nI contacted one neighboring business, a video store I saw onnthe Google street view and another one I found on the net at the same ornsimilar address. After multiple email exchanges I discovered that 1710 1st Avenue was indeed a mailnforwarding office offering a service called Opus Virtual Offices. For $99/month they would set up a company withncall and mail forwarding, and an address in the US. This is by no means illegal, but how it wasnbeing used by Signature was completely misrepresenting who they are. nMy contact at the video store next door confirmed withoutnquestion that 1710 1st Avenue is ONLY the address for the mailncompany, not the rest of the building, which is a business hi-rise building, sonthere was no way that the Signature address could be anywhere but in the groundnfloor mail room location. I later confirmed this in a conversation I had with the owner of the mail facility. nA few days later after returning to the sales location with ourngrowing list of questions and concerns, I had a phone conversation with Heidi,none of the Signature concierges who told me a bit about the facility where she saidnshe worked in New York City. She told me that she worked with three other concierges at that office (there are alsonsupposed to be others at a separate office in Mazatlan) on the ground floor ofnthe building at 1710 in Suite B. Kevinnlater told me he had also visited the facility and that it was on the thirdnfloor. They had a difficult time keeping their story straight. nThis was a huge red flag. nIf they were willing to lie to us about an office in the US repeatedlyneven after being questioned about our findings, what else were they misrepresenting? nOne of the links on the net which came up for us when wenGoogled Signature Residence Club reviews was a scathing TripAdvisor.comnreview of a company called Grand Weeks. They had been accused of a serious scamnaffecting scores of people, and that was just the folks who had responded tonthe review. Apparently many who had traveled to Cabo and had purchased Grand Weeks service had experienced troublengetting all their money back from transactions similar to ours. nThe similarities with Grand Weeks were eerie: a company associatednwith a restaurant in the Marina, offering to buy timeshare memberships forninflated dollars, a US location determined to be essentially a PO Box,netc. Then the reviews mentioned thatnafter getting their money for their discounted travel service, the purchase ofntheir timeshare was never completed nor was any access provided to the criticalnweb site for all the travel access. When we looked at our Visa account onlinenthe payee in the pending sale was Grand Weeks. nUpon looking closer at our charge receipt there was also the name Grand Weeks! nWe also thought it odd that we could not actually use thenweb site during the mandatory five business days waiting period enforced as anbuyers remorse period in Mexico and were concerned about that, too. We wanted to test drive our newnpurchase. At the presentation we were shown all sorts of info on the net, but were not allowed to really surf on ournown. We did use Kevins laptop to move around on specific pages, one at a time, and given the illusion that we werenusing the site. They told us that people had gotten their user names and passwords and used the web site during the fivenday cancellation period, booked numerous vacations at the discounted rates andnthen gotten their money back. That was the reason they didnt allow that practice any longer. It was a flimsy excuse at best. When I tried to get them to log onto my laptop at their site under their supervision, they quickly changed the subject. nDuring our interactions with Signature reps we sent severalnemails to them at their Signature based and also private Hotmail accounts. The company based accounts were returned undeliverable and the private emails not responded to. In retrospect, the stalling was intended to put us outside the five daynwaiting period. To their credit, we were told at almost every encounter that we could exercise our legal cancellation. It was smoothly incorporated to add credibility to their whole slick package. nWe were also concerned that although the company claimed tonhave been doing business for 17 years there was virtually no information on thennet about them, save for their company web pages. Such a thing would be unprecedented in ournmodern hi-tech world. A company in business that long should have a net presence beyond their own web site withnreviews of all sorts. Kevin showed us that there were no negative reviews and explained that was because they alwaysngave people their money back if they werent completely satisfied. But there were no positive reviews either. They showed us what amounted to their presence: A Yellow Pages listing, a listing through the Daily News and anothernat the NYC Chamber of Commerce. None had any reviews at all. A closer examinationnof the Chamber posting showed that it had most recently been updated 12/12/12,nwhich was probably the time it was also initially created. It was suggested by the Signature folks that we look to Dun and Bradstreet and the BBB for moreninformation. Both had zero info on Signature even after emailing D&Bnmultiple times with names, addresses and phone numbers. So we went back to the Marina and asked fornsomething that would indicate the financial stability of the company. We were told that we could get that on thenfollowing Monday. When we came back onnMonday we were told that in order to get that confidential information wenwould have to engage an attorney. More foot dragging nOur request to speed up delivery of our username andnpassword before we left Mexico was also denied. It was on some unalterable clocknand no exceptions could be made, period. We made numerous requests regarding other items and were told that theydncheck to see if our requests could be honored and told to get back to themnlater. Always upon checking back the answer was not what we were hoping for. nUpon further questioning the folks at Signature hemmed andnhawed and then offered to extend our 5 day cancellation policy to five daysnafter we got our user ID and password, not the standard five days after thensale and were given an addendum to our contract saying that. We felt muchnbetter after that, but continued to ask questions. It got us to leave for another day nWe contacted the folks at Vallarta Gardens in PuertonVallarta and they never said anything to confirm any relationship withnSignature, nor do they currently have any one-bedroom accommodations. They do plan on adding some in the future,nbut that is not what we were told during our interactions with Signature. nIt was about this time where we began seeking advice fromnlocal timeshare salespeople who asked to remain anonymous. We discovered that the addendum we had allnsigned, being counter to Mexican law, would not be honored in a Mexican court,nand that the five day waiting period was the extent of what was allowed. That was the final straw. nAs we were now at the end of our patience with them and ournfive day waiting period we were told that we could buy the Signature/GDSnportion of the package for $6000. This is again a similarity to what many of the complaints on Trip Advisor indicatednthe price was in the range of through Grand Weeks. nWe went back to Signature on day five to cancel ourncontract. We filled out and signed all the paperwork along with their representative, Mr. Gomez. He asked us for all our paperwork which we denied him. We were also told that innMexico they cannot issue a credit on our credit card on the spot and that wenwould have to wait 15 days for the credit. nWe called our credit card company immediately, explained the circumstances and filed a fraud complaint. nIn short, there is no office in New York City and thisncompany is almost assuredly the reincarnation of Grand Weeks. We also discovered that there was an interimnincarnation of the company under the name Royalty Residence Club. We found an unflattering post on Facebooknmentioning Remy. We also found F ratings on Grand Weeks at the Better Business Bureau. nAbout this time we began to share the information we werengathering about Signature at TripAdvisor.com. nAt one point we saw a lady carrying Signature brochures. We asked if shed purchased and she said yes,nshe had. I started to tell her about what Id found out. She began to defendnher decision, but left committed to do more research on her own. She also showed us her receipt and what hadnread Grand Weeks on ours had been changed to Country Club on hers. They were adapting. We also were asked whether Country Club was associated when talking to our confidential sales rep friend. He seemed concerned about that connection atnthe time. nWe also asked for our 2700 pesos we had given up during thentransaction and were instead offered a certificate with a free week to any ofntheir resorts. The name associated withthe 1710 1st Avenue address at the bottom of the certificate? Not Signature Residence Club, but Royalty Residence Club nIt was only a few days later that we received a phone callnat our resort asking us to come back in and sign some more papers. When asked what these papers were about, wenwere told it would be in our interest and that was all. nWhen we went in this final time, we were approached bynRemy. He asked if we had been treated fairly and honestly. Wanting to avoidnany conflict, we lied and said yes. We had been told by our inside sources innthe industry to avoid any conflict at all costs as we could potentially bendeported and denied admittance into Mexico for up to five years since they werentechnically doing business legally in Mexico. nWe were then shown postings on TripAdvisor.com relating to Grand Weeksnand Signature and accused us of besmirching them. They flatly denied any connection to GrandnWeeks offering another flimsy excuse as to why the name Grand Weeks was on ournsales receipt. Although the post they showed us wasnt ours, we denied having posted anything even though wenhad. They asked us repeatedly to remove any negative comments about them and at one point said something about a teamnof 300 lawyers they had. Intimidation tactics? You bet! nWhen something seems too good to be true, it almost alwaysnis including Signature Residence Club. We made the mistake of getting sweptnaway with our emotions. A decision like this should never be made based on emotions. Avoid Grand Weeks/Royalty Residence Club/Signature Residence Club and any company sounding at all like themnlike the plague. They are using feedback from every bad review to further hone their pitch and cover their tracks asnevidenced by the name change on the receipt. nWe are also going to lodge a complaint with Profeco, thenMexican consumer protection agency. Wenare optimistic about getting our money back in full. If that changes we will add that to this information.
1710 1st Avenue New York, New York United States of America