A Timeshare Scam? In 2008? Will We Ever Learn?

8 October 2008

I’m not a gullible man. I never fall for confidence tricks, I’ve never handed over my bank details to a strange Nigerian following the receipt of an unsolicited email and I know how the rabbit in the hat trick works.

In short, and without wishing to blow my own trumpet too much, I’m fairly clued up. But recently, I almost let myself get stitched up like a bloody kipper, and it was all thanks to smooth-talking horse racing guru Derek Thompson.

Racing's Mr. Smooth, Derek Thompson

A couple of weeks ago, a letter arrived from Seasons Holidays, addressed to my partner, informing us that she’d won a prize to the value of £3,750. Naturally, what’s mine is hers, and as I got her in a celebratory headlock and rubbed the top of her bonce with glee, I was overcome with delight at my, sorry, our big win.

Better still, we’re planning a honeymoon next year and this fitted the bill – what made it more apt was that she’d entered the competition online via a wedding website – this was truly an act of fate.

Hang on, I thought. Is this for real? I’ve never won a competition before so maybe it was just a scam? Maybe, but the letter HAD been sent by recorded delivery – that orange Royal Mail sticker on the front of the envelope legitimised its contents at a stroke.

Plus, as well as the big prize, we’d also been invited to a Seasons Holidays Box at Sandown Park Racecourse to watch the Seasons Holidays Tingle Creek Steeplechase on December 6th 2008 as guests of the company. With free VIP parking and a champagne brunch! Hosted by Derek Thompson, the face of Channel 4 racing!

This seemed too good to be true but I immediately brought my best top hat down from the attic and dispatched it to the dry cleaners that very instant. Now all I had to do was call Seasons Holidays and confirm my acceptance of the prize. This was where I drew breath for a second and cleared my head.

What if I were to spend a moment googling ‘seasons+holidays+scam’? Ah – lots of results there. I put down the phone – I wasn’t ready to make the call JUST yet. Further investigation turned up a few facts – Seasons are a holiday club with an annual membership fee of £367. Essentially, a timeshare organisation. For that annual fee, I’d be guaranteed a holiday at one of their resorts every year until 2069; when I’ll be 97. And I’ll be f***ed if I’m going anyway further than the nearest bathroom by the time I’m that age.

No free holiday for you little Jimmy!

Carmarthenshire County Council trading standards officers had enjoyed a good nibble on Seasons Holidays. Those lucky winners usually found themselves lumbered with a series of admin charges and seasonal supplements, coupled with the fact that their preferred dates of travel were quite often unavailable.

Trading Standards also found that customer complaints were usually ignored and Seasons offered no explanations for their actions. As for the £3750 – that simply reflected the cost of purchasing a timeshare from Seasons Holidays and, once you look at it like that, well, it wasn’t really a prize, was it?

So the moral is, even if your ‘prize’ comes in by recorded delivery, check it out and don’t be taken in by the thought of meeting a bronzed, deep-voiced racing legend at one of the country’s top racecourses.

More specifically, if it’s from Seasons Holidays, it might be an idea to forward the letter to…

Office of Fair Trading
Scambuster Team
Fleet Bank House
No 2-6 Salisbury Square

Mention that Seasons have got some previous and that Carmarthenshire County Council have won a case against them. The spineless and toothless consumer protectors are nothing without us lot badgering them into action.

But if you want to know how the rabbit in the hat trick works, please don’t email me – it’s more than my life’s worth.



TOPICS:   Scams


  • sheila j.
    I was, to say the very least, really surprised to read your comments regarding what I think is one of the very very best deals I and my family have ever made. We bought at Seasons Laughne park about 10 yrs ago and since then our lives have changed so very much for the better. I would back season every time as I and my family have been able to take holidays where I would never have even dreamed of before because of our membership with Seasons. We bank our seasons 1 week intoInterval International which then gives us the access to thousands of places and 12 gettaways per yr for ass litrtle as £99 for 4 star sometimes 5 star luxury apartments. This December I am going to Belamadena in a 2 bed apartment, heated indoor pool 5 star etc for £34 for the week. Seasons arer brilliant I can visit any one of the sefveral they have in this country and have done do for under £60 for 4 days in a 3 bed townhouse, my friends (friends and family also have access) have recently spent a long weekend in the Lake District for £110 from Friday to Monday in a 3 bed townhouse with everything you could possible need. I dont want Season to get a bad name because they really dont deserve it, they are a timeshare company and they do sell timeshare and I believe in timeshare. I have been to Australia - on the gold Coast, again in a 2 bed apartment for £79 per week. I went to live in the USA and spent all of my 14 weeks that I was there in timeshare for under £200 per week for 2 and 3 bed luxury - most timeshare have satelite tv, telephone, dishwasher, washer/dryer.
  • Antony
    I have to agree with the above commentor, although I was incredibly sceptical when my mother "won" the package I have since taken a holiday using them and was highly impressed. Myself, my partner, and two other couples were able to go away for a week in a very nice resort in Scotland for free (well technically for £367 if we had owned the timeshare ourselves). The facilities were excellent and there was even a pool and sauna onsite that was free to residents. There's not many places in the uk where you can go away for that sort of money. We are due to get married soon and my mother has offered to bank her 2009 week so that in 2010 we can take a two week honeymoon. Considering that we can visit any of: N America & Hawaii Caribbean & Costa Rica Mexico Thailand Malaysia & Bali India & Goa China Australia South Africa Egypt Europe It's going to shave quite a significant cost of our honeymoon, ok we've still got flights to pay for but every little helps! Overall, if I won the timeshare cost I would be sorely tempted to consider it - though, like the author of the article, I would do a lot of research first!
  • V
    A complaints ratio of 3:1 speaks for itself.
  • Vince W.
    I must admit, based on the comments above, I'm starting to fall for this one...
  • John D.
    I too got the letter, despite the fact I'm already a seasons holiday customer?! But I agree with the positive comments on seasons - sure they're pulling a bit of a fast one with these letters but I've had some great holidays with them. I've been to a Seasons Apartment in Manly (sydney), the algarve, ayrshire, forest hills resort on the costa del sol, and finally to whitbarrow village in the lakes. All have been excellent and if you use them once a year it's actually surprisingly good value. John
  • Robert S.
    I found your blog and read a few of the posts. Keep up the good work. I am looking forward to checking out more from you in the future.
  • Kerri
    Hello, I found your story to contain quite a few 'generalised' accusations towards Seasons, without any real proof. I too won a week's timeshare, and was really pleased. Their properties in the UK have some fantastic facilities. For the cost of only £195 which is the yearly maintenance fee (discounted), we are getting a fantastic week's holiday. There is no way in this country you could get a week's holiday for anywhere near that price! I would like to say to people, don't be scared of timeshare - yes people are trying to sell you something - that's their job. It doesnt mean you have to buy it. Listen to a presentation and decide whether it is for you or not. It would work very well for some people. We attended a presentation and decided against it. But there was no drama's, the people were all very nice, and nothing was lost from us listening to them. Oh and we got free maintenance for next year for attending. Meaning that we get our week's holiday next year for free! Unfortunately timeshare has a bit of a bad name, but several members of my family own timeshare in Australia, and have done for many years. It works incredibly well for them. Seasons is a legit company - yes they might be using strong marketing techniques to get business - that's what companies do. But as for the comments in the above story about being lumped with "admin charges, seasonal supplements etc" I have not encountered any, and note that the writer has used very generalised comments with no actual evidence, or specific names/cases. Don't be put off by the above story, decide for yourself whether you think it's something that would work for you or not.
  • Tim W.
    I have received a letter today and find it confusing. Basically i dont see the point in paying £367 a year for a weeks holiday and be tied in to a company when you still pay for flights etc. Ive had two recent package holidays, the first in tunisia 4*Hotel for a week which cost me £210. The second in Turkey 5* Hotel, All inclusive for £400. why would i join this company when they hide alot of the costs and have been found guilty on various occasions for breaking law/ misleading consumers. You only have to take a bit of time and patience when looking for a good holiday and the deals come pouring through anyway. Im not saying this is a scam, i just dont see it being a very cost affective deal. I can only summaruse the offer as a gamble, if you can afford to risk £367 a year then give it a go. I'd rather not.
  • Rosie
    I have received my Prize also and I must say how excited I was, it is not often that I have such good luck. It really does seem a good deal. However, I would agree with the previous comments. Our children are now grown up so my husband & I are able to find reasonable holidays both in the UK and abroad, on the internet and we have a few each year. In our case, having to commit the one off fee for one week board only does not seem a good deal for us. I tried to discuss the offer over the phone, to clarify details of the terms & conditions. I found the advisors not very forthcoming and this really helped me make my final decision and , as the Dragons say, "I AM NOT INVESTING SO I AM OUT!"
  • Nigel
    I also "won" a holiday worth £3750 and have since travelled to the lake district to see what it was all about. The first thing to say is yes,it is genuine but you can only take your holidays during the winter,if you want to go at any time then you have to upgrade which costs more money.So the I think the answer is yes it is a win but its also a sales technique but well worth listening too.
  • anguilla a.
    You all make me wish I was in Anguilla.
  • Sell T.
    This is a extreme marker I found your in order to be very beneficial. I'm very soon initial to understand involved with timeshares. I speculation the this is as accomplished of instance as some as I love to vacation with my personal and it bake more sensation to swallow a timeshare at that moment obtainable to hotels and resorts. I very soon would to say credit in lieu of the extreme marker and I'll keep recitation you outlook posts.
  • goa t.
    what up. im just barely about to turn 26 and ive been studying a a wee bit as a student model. Ive been doing yoga for many months now and I want to study in India.
  • Allyduck
    I really wish i'd had the same positive experiences as above. We bought our seasons timeshare years ago. I have found it expensive and poor value for money. The amount we payed could have covered the cost of many holidays (even h/b and a/i) The term seem to change and we no longer have access to the holidays we were initially promised as we havent payed to upgrade. Our mainenance fees have doubled and the staff are unhelpful. When we purchased this we were also told that it was an investment as it had a good re sale value, yeah right!! We are having hell trying to sell it and would be lucky if we managed to give it away. Stay away. We are seeking advice from solicitors now as we feel we were mis sold and mis informed.
  • tinkerbell
    i bought seasons years ago never had a problem with them or the staff ,people need to read things properly so why the complaints i done know i enjoy everywhere we go
  • Anne
    Hi would anyone like my seasons holiday ,you can have it for free , well the maintenance fee is your of course can't afford it anymore , only been used four time in fifteen years Sleeps eight, red week . Thank you Anne
  • Pete M.
    Just returned from a week in Forest Hills with seasons, may be up the hill from estapona , but had great views of Gib in distance..... Weather was fantastic , after such a damp squib of a summner Yup... we "won" the second prize in a beauty competition 4 years ago We've been to Lanzarote , Spain and Portugal with seasons and two unbelievable trips to Florida by exchanging with I.I. we thinks it's been a great purchase, and have always found pleasant and helpful AND not overbearing or pushy with their additional sales If anything they were more than helpful , as the initial offer we purchased cannt be matched by any one..... we somehow can exchange our 1 peak red week for 3 ( yes three) weeks with I.I. Basically that means we can have a 2week summer jolly and a week at a school half term With a teacher and a child of school age , we are restricted Summing up Great purchase for us.... Granted... not always the case for every one else tho....
  • tripper
    Was an Elite member of Seasons and have upgraded to the 52 Keys programme. A good deal having freehold of said timeshare without maintenance charges and able to sell after 15 years or the next 15 years free holidays without maintenance charges. Exchanged with Interval International gives me 3 weeks each year. All the members I have met have been happy with their purchases. The only criticism that I have heard is that when opting for an update on the new Keys Scheme it can be a time consuming hour or so of 'salesmanspeak'. Still the simple thing to do is say no and that's the end of it. Good for us.
  • Christine B.
    We purchased the 15 year membership in 2009 after I won a free holiday to Scotland(Ayrshire). At first maintenance fees were free, but after two years they became payable. Now they are a whopping £507 for a red floating week. Strangely, we have been recently told we cannot go in the school holidays in summer, despite spending £5,300 on the timeshare! We must have been mad! I think they havent kept their promise to us. I`ve banked last years week and this years too with dial an exchange, we can take the weeks anytime in the next three years. Now I`m hoping to sell or dispose of this timeshare before it ruins us. Recently we went for a short break in the lake district, beds were hard, hot water almost nonexistent, kettle disgusting, needed replacing. Hardly the standard we had on the first holiday. We can still buy bonus weeks on dial an exchange for less than half the price of these exorbitant and rising yearly maintenance charges.
  • Robin W.
    We purchased a Seasons red week many years ago and initially we did enjoy using it. Having said that in later years we found the yearly increasing maintenance fees were getting to be a bit of a drain and at the current year are almost £500 for a single week which is a lot considering you can get many package holidays for a fortnight for similar and that ignores the £6000 we paid out initially for the membership. And you still need to pay for your flights etc. Despite many requests to Seasons to sell our week in recent years we always ended up with companies trying to rip us off and some wouldn't even touch it. I began to feel very disallusioned as we were initially told when buying it would be an investment and could always sell it in the future but the actual situation turned out to be very different. Faced with ever increasing maintenance fees for our solitary week we decided to simply hand it back to Seasons which they agreed to as I can see in another 3 years the fees will be over £600. Imagine those owners with more than one week,the mind boggles. We have always been treated well by Seasons but simply can't afford to keep it any longer.
  • paul m.
    Having read all the above comments , I agree in principle to most of them, I have been told that I am one of the longest member of seasons l attended for two days before I decided to buy, originally a fixed week ???? In Cornwall .Ihave upgraded twice since and now own red time.I agree with comments that you can now get package deals, even all inclusive for the same or less than maintenance fees, but if you join ii you have the choice of thousands of destinations, for price of flights and admin costs.Nobody is forced to buy althou,gh there is a hard sell ethos on the part of the sales team, they are after all on a commission for each sale.I have been to all resorts in great Britain and two abroad and found them all to be of very high standard accommodation.I have also found all of the staff (apart from a couple of sale staff) to be very friendly and helpful at all times.Also the entertain on a whole apart from a couple of cheesy acts is not too bad at all.So again the choice is yours take it or leave it, I would always read small print and take time, caution never consider when you are on holiday or have had a drink . Good luck
  • Christine B.
    We have handed our timeshare back to seasons holidays now. They accepted it back. Am still with Dial an Exchange so can still take a cheap bonus week whenever. And I mean cheap, less than half the price of those damn maintenance fees!
  • Jim d.
    I have been with seasons for 12years. I banked 4 weeks 8 years ago and got a 12 week holiday in Oz for £275 . Wow that paid for my time share purchase I believed.my one red week. Talking maintenance fees into account.. However we kept paying maint fees not using seasons because we had property overseas.We lost two weeks because we forgot to use them. Now we have had the hard sell beautifully done at Laugharne. We pay now£505 per annum Maintenance . They wanted us to buy a flexible 16 year deal where you can take all 16 weeks at any time or proportions of that over 16 years for wait for it .....less money than you would pay if you continued with the same maint fee over 16 years ,taking into account their personal inflation rates.... It still works out at over £500 per week if you paid the £8000 they wanted for the deal outright. If you paid the £800o over 16 years the cost worked out at £100 per month for 16 years . £1200 x 16 which costs you in effect £19200 . Therefore each of your holiday weeks would only cost you £1200. .I was nearly stupidly sold . By the way I was given a £5000 reduction for long service providing I signed up there and then.I said I would come back in an hour and let them know . They said well we can only offer you £3000 reduction then!!!wow. Well guess what .this will be my last holiday with them because for the £500 per annum or £500 per holiday week I can have 5 star accommodation anywhere in the world I want.
  • James B.
    We too purchased with Seasons and due to personal circumstances, are finding it difficult to pay the maintenance, let alone take the holiday too. Has anyone had any success selling on their timeshare, or just purely handed it back?
    • Foolsparadise07

      We also won a seasons holiday 2007 used it twice to go to scotland. Stupidly upgraded but was never able to get the dates or places we wanted to visit. In 2009 with redundacy on the horizon my partner and i decidef to get rid ie sell but no we were robbed left right and centre by a company offering to buy, 1 year down the line we found they not genuine so we lost another 3,000 ,and they continued with their phone calls using another company extracting another 150.00 pounds from us . I am sorry the day my partner entered that competition because if wasn't for Seasons years of stress of how do we manage to pay the fees when there is only part time wages coming in alas when we signed i was on sick leave due to major surgery and hey due to the stress of it all i was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. I wish we never heard of Seasons good luck to the ones who say it has worked for them. We now havea debt of 20,000 pounds for something we can not afford and no way of getting rid of.

  • Robin W.
    We had a Seasons timeshare red week until a couple of years ago and ended up handing it back to them as the yearly maintenance fee was almost £500 then god knows what it is now. Seasons were not interested in buying it back or helping us sell it. We had a few rip off companies trying to scam us and finally realised to sell it was impossible. It may suit some but not us I'm afraid.

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