Buying a timeshare in the middle of Manhattan seemed like a wonderful idea four years ago.
For only $12,500, John and Monika Dreslin of Stonington were promised seven nights every three years at the luxurious Manhattan Club.
Of course that doesn't include the $11,250 in interest cost over 15 years to finance the time share on top of the annual maintenance fee of about $700.
The Manhattan Club turned out to be as luxurious as promised and its location in the heart of Manhattan couldn't be beat. If only they could use it when they want to, as they said they were promised when they purchased the timeshare.
The Dreslins and hundreds of other timeshare owners discovered that there are so few units available to them that they have to make reservations up to a year in advance.
What frustrates them is that the developer has plenty of units available to rent to non-owners, including those interested in purchasing a timeshare there.
They have filed complaints with the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut and with the Better Business Bureau.
The couple is not new to timeshares. They have owned one in Stowe, Vt., for 30 years and one in Maui for 12 years.
"We never had a problem," said John Dreslin, a retired dentist.
That is until this year when they tried to book their seventh night at the Manhattan Club. Every night was already reserved for the rest of this year.
"This year, despite multiple attempts and phone calls, we have been unsuccessful in securing a day that is due us in 2013. We even went so far to ask for any available date during the remaining six months of the year but every time we call, we are told that the Manhattan Club is fully booked," the couple wrote to Jose Rosario, manager of the club.
"We were advised that we should make reservations nine to twelve months in advance, but then were also told by the reservation staff, that since we only have a one-third share, we cannot reserve more than six months in advance."
However, the couple added, units were available to the general public. "This is inexcusable since dues-paying members should have first choice of units and dates," they said.
Officials of the Manhattan Club did not return a message inquiring about Dreslins' complaint. However, they did respond to the complaint the couple made to the Better Business Bureau.
Louise Church, director of inventory management at the club, wrote to the BBB that they have a separate pool of units for non-owners and that income from those are used to reduce the maintenance fee. She said that the couple was seeking to make a reservation at the busiest time of the year. The couple has been placed on a waiting list, Church wrote.
"The wait list works; we have revamped it and TMC owners are very happy with the results," she wrote the BBB.
Well it might work for some people but it doesn't for the Dreslins. They would love to turn over their timeshare to someone who is willing to take on the remainder of their obligation. But giving it away doesn't seem like an option. Church told the BBB that the club is not interested in refunding the couple. Some owners have tried to sell their timeshare on eBay for as little as $1.
While I recommend against buying a timeshare, if you are going to buy one I have three suggestions:
• Make sure whatever the salesman tells you, get it in writing as part of your contract.
• Try to purchase the timeshare through a discount seller or eBay.
• Pay for it in cash, don't finance it through the seller.