Why Can’t You Ever Use Your Timeshare?

If you find yourself with a timeshare that never seems available to you, that could be because your bookings are competing with non-timeshare-owning customers.

A woman who's walking outside gives her phone a frustrated look.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you have been kicking yourself and considering a name change to “sucker” for buying a timeshare while on vacation at that nice resort — but you can never actually book a hotel stay — then today’s story will make you feel less guilty.

As I have written over the past several years, when you are having the time of your life at a lovely destination, attend a sales presentation and buy a timeshare, thinking, “How nice it would be to come back here again and again,” this is often the single worst financial decision you could ever make.

Buy it today, new from the developer, for $25,000, and tomorrow it is virtually worthless, a gleaming white elephant that you can’t give back and no one wants — and you are stuck with the yearly “maintenance fees and assessments” that never end and are well over $1,000.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

(I will point out that timeshares are available on the resale market today for a tiny fraction of the original selling price — even for $1 — if you really want one.)

As a result of the morally bankrupt companies that run many timeshares and one enabler — the Better Business Bureau gives some of them an A grade— when you try to book a resort stay, nothing is ever available. In a moment, you’ll see why.

Won a trip to Las Vegas

Today’s story began late last year when two sales associates and their families from a Midwest industrial paper supplier were awarded a week’s stay in Las Vegas. Their employer phoned me, explaining, “I had to fire one other sales associate for dishonesty, and he was a friend of the two guys. After being let go, he returned home to Las Vegas. When my employees checked into their hotel for their stay, who should they run into, but the jerk I fired, and he was selling timeshares at their hotel! He conned them both into buying a timeshare! And they have never been able to book a resort stay. Why is this, Mr. Beaver?”

Owners can’t book a stay, but others can on travel sites

In a 2022 class-action lawsuit filed in the Delaware U.S. District Court against Wyndham Vacation Resorts — the world’s largest vacation ownership business — a former executive, Danielle Henderson, turned whistleblower on why its timeshare owners were often unable to book a stay. Her position was eliminated after bringing “this integrity concern” to the attention of the company’s CEO.

I have summarized her sworn declaration for length: Wyndham misappropriates owner inventory for its own financial gain, severely reducing the availability of accommodations and resulting in an inability to reserve on its website, but giving it to other, publicly accessible booking sites, like Expedia. Senior leadership is aware of this issue, yet continues to force owners to remain in their contracts even while knowing these business practices are the direct causes of the problems being experienced by owners. None of this is disclosed before timeshare purchase agreements are signed.

Blatantly fraud

“Throughout the timeshare industry, this fraud has been known for years,” observes attorney Mike Finn of Finn Law Group in St. Petersburg, Fla. Finn is one of a handful of attorneys in the country who concentrate on timeshare law. “As access to your timeshare is based on availability, this means that you are competing with members of the public to use something that you’ve (already) paid for, but the public have not paid a thing for (yet) — they can get it, and you can’t because it often is not available to the timeshare owner!

“So, when they realize what’s going on and that their first chance to use the timeshare could be a year or two away, people try to cancel. But (by then), it is well beyond the cancellation period spelled out in the purchase agreements! It is truly maddening.”

OK, so I’ll just hire a timeshare exit company

We’ve all heard the ads for timeshare exit companies. Finn correctly warns that virtually all are not run by attorneys and that people should steer clear of them — a point I agree with. Each one I looked into proved to be a scam.

Chances are, you’ve heard a catchy but misleading radio spot by Chuck McDowell, CEO of Wesley Financial Group, who incorrectly tells us “the ugly truth about timeshares.” He states in the ad, “Even when you die, your family will be stuck with this burden.”

The truth is that anyone who receives a timeshare through an inheritance or gift can decline to accept it, in writing.

A day of reckoning is coming for timeshare companies

If you’re thinking, “Why has no one gone after timeshare developers with class actions?” Well, the Timeshare Law Firm, a national law firm based in Melbourne Beach, Fla., is filing a class-action suit against some of the largest in America. Its website shows which ones they are.

To see how the BBB grades the timeshare companies on the Timeshare Law Firm list, visit www.bbb.org and do a search. Some of the companies have been given D or F grades or are not rated, but others have gotten A’s.

See my article Best Way to Exit Your Timeshare: Never Buy One in the First Place for some advice on how to best buy a timeshare if you really want one and how to go about getting out of a timeshare you’ve already bought.

Related Content


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.
Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift."