Cathy wants to get rid of her parents' timeshare. She's heard about an organization called Timeshare Exit Team and wants to know if they're legit.
First off, timeshares may be a boon to the vacation-minded, but I hear nothing but horror stories about people who are buried under maintenance fees and can't get out of their contracts.
There seem to be a lot of timeshare resellers out there, so there's clearly an active secondary market. But you may not get a fair price unloading a timeshare in this way.
Which brings us to Timeshare Exit Team. The company, based in Lynwood, Wash., also is known as Reed Hein & Associates, which describes itself as a "consumer protection firm." It offers what it says is a "100% money-back guarantee."
"We do not sell your timeshare, donate it, buy it or provide any of these other scammy and ineffective methods," the company says. "Our company confronts timeshares with legal action, which compels them to dissolve your contract, legally, forever."
I called Timeshare Exit Team and asked how much the service costs. The woman who answered the phone refused to give me even a ballpark figure, no matter how many times I asked the question.
"We can't give a range or a ballpark," she said. "Everyone's situation is different."
The woman also declined to say if the basis of the fee was what someone originally paid for the timeshare or its current market value, or if it's a flat fee based on how much effort the company thinks it will put into its "confrontation" with the resort.
She did, say, though, that at least a portion of the money must be paid in advance. She declined to say how much. All this would be made clear at my free consultation with a company rep, she said.
I'm not saying this is a racket. There are glowing reviews for the company on Yelp and other sites.
But it felt like these guys were using the same tactic that the timeshare industry uses: Get you into the sales pitch with a lot of promises and not discuss the money stuff until they have you on the hook.
For me, any company that can't or won't talk prices in an up-front and transparent manner is a company I don't want to do business with.
It should be noted, however, that after this post was originally published, Timeshare Exit Team said the average cost of its service is about $4,000 and that customers typically pay the full amount in advance. However, the company said installment plans can be arranged after a customer pays a third or half the price up front.