NORTH HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — Chances are you’ve been approached on vacation to attend a timeshare presentation.
One California couple who visited Puerto Vallarta says the salespeople took it too far.
Pete and Susie High, of Auburn, Calif., say they offered $450 by Puerto Bahia Villas and Spa to attend what was supposed to be a 90-minute timeshare pitch.
It turned into eight excruciating hours: “That was the start of the nightmare,” Pete said.
Susie said the salespeople, “were persuasive and they kept pushing us and pushing us. We kept saying no and they’d say something else.”
When asked why they didn’t leave, the couple says they were holding out for the $450.
They say six hours into the presentation, completely unsolicited, Susie was served a glass of red wine and Pete was given an already opened can of beer.
He said he drank it because he was thirsty.
Soon after, Susie said she started feeling sick and her husband appeared to be “in a trance.”
Next thing they knew, they were initialing page after page of a contract for a new timeshare.
Rafael Kosche is a former employee who sold timeshares at Puerto Bahia: “I feel dirty and ashamed.”
He says he and other sales representatives were instructed to tell customers anything to close the deal.
Kosche even recalls salespeople pretending to be buyers and staging contract signings. As part of the fake celebration, he says champagne was passed out to everyone in the room, even non-drinkers.
He confirmed that alcohol was served at these presentations: “After four hours of not drinking and not eating after half a beer you’re starting to feel buzzed.”
“They purposely use alcohol to get people to a point where they can’t think straight anymore. They’re tired, they’re exhausted, can’t think straight – that’s when you zero in like a vulture and take advantage of them,” Kosche said.
People have posted similar stories online about other presentations in Mexico, according to Brian Rodgers, whose website claims it provides the truth about timeshares. Some even claim they were drugged, like one person who said, “the room spun a little and everything became vague and kind of numb or zombie-like.”
KCAL9’s Kurtis Ming traveled to Mexico to investigate how far Puerto Bahia goes to get vacationers’ signatures.
Profeco, Mexico’s consumer protection agency, say they’ve received numerous complaints about Puerto Bahia.
“The salespeople are very aggressive,” said Gabriela Cervantes of Profeco. “The process for canceling, in my experience, is not that easy with them.”
The day after the High’s signed for the timeshare, they went to Profeco’s office in Puerto Vallarta, where they learned they had five days to get out of the deal. They also called the credit card company to explain what happened and canceled those cards.
The couple hand-delivered a cancellation letter to Puerto Bahia which Profeco wrote for them in Spanish.
But once they got home, they began receiving dozens of collection calls threatening legal action if they didn’t pay.
Ming visited Puerto Bahia, which is a 30-minute cab ride north of Puerto Vallarta and tucked away in the jungle.
Salesperson Elizabeth Rocha told Ming alcohol is only served once people sign their contract as a celebration.
“Do you ever try to get people drunk to get them to sign?” Ming said.
“No,” Rocha replied.
“Do you think these people are making this up,” Ming continued.
“Geez, I don’t know. I’m not in their head. I cannot answer for you,” Rocha said.
Ming showed her the cancellation letter the High’s delivered to Puerto Bahia back in 2013 and asked why they’re still being asked to pay. Reminding her of the cancellation law in Mexico, Ming pressed her to fix it.
“Now that we brought this to your attention, will you help these people?”
Rocha affirmed she would.
Susie High soon after told Ming that this investigation did more to help them in two weeks than what the couple was able to do in 17 months.
The couple’s relief was the same feeling Kosche got leaving his job at Puerto Bahia after just one month: “I feel dirty that I even participated in it. And if I could go to all the people who I sold timeshares to I would apologize to them.”
Puerto Bahia did end up giving the High’s their $450.
Ming asked the couple if what they went through was worth the money.
Susie High quickly and emphatically replied, “No.”