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The list of complaints against the Mahindra group company from members is increasing. But they are not being addressed appropriately
There appears to be little respite for Mahindra Holidays and Resorts, as the list of complaints from dissatisfied customers continues to grow. The complaints range from unsatisfactory practices and deficiency in services to unfulfilled promises. While very little is known about how successful the company has been in redressing the complaints, a letter addressed to Mahindra Holidays managing director Ramesh Ramanathan recently raises the lack of clarity over the business model that this Mahindra group company follows.
"Overall people are not very clear on the business model Club Mahindra follows. There is no one reference document to it and the typical timeshare model does not apply in this case," Bhupesh Gupta, who has been a member of Club Mahindra Holidays since 2004, wrote in his complaint. "Bits and pieces of information come to light, surprising me every time. I am surprised why Mahindra Holidays reports resort occupancy levels at the time of quarterly report to shareholders. What significance does this have to its timeshare business? Who will take the hit of this under-utilisation, the members or the business?"
Mr Gupta says that he has not received a reply from the company for some time and so addressed a copy of the letter to Moneylife, which raised the issue with the company. However, the explanations by Mr Ramesh and chairman Arun Nanda were not very enlightening. Without answering the issue raised directly, both tried to describe how "customer centric" the company has been.
Mr Ramesh says, "Our surveys done both internally and independently prove that we have a very happy set of members who rate the experience at our resorts extremely high. I am happy to share with you that RCI have awarded the Gold Crown status to 10 of our resorts… more than 25% of our new members sign up through referrals by existing members, denoting a high level of delight with the brand." RCI is the largest timeshare vacation network in the world.
Strangely, in a recent interview with MoneyControl, Mr Nanda had admitted that an internal check has revealed that the company was lacking in many aspects and that it required some cleansing operations to contain the damage to its membership base. Club Mahindra is said to have experienced a 30% drop in membership sales revenue over the past few months.
It is very likely that this is the outcome of the numerous complaints of members that appear to go unresolved. Consumer review websites like mouthshut.com and www.consumercomplaints.in list some of them. In one recent note, Devyani Chakraborty says she is still awaiting a refund on cancellation of her membership, which was sold to her a few days before during Durga Puja. In one post today, Mr Sandeep said he has failed to encash a free holiday voucher coupon after he was told that there were no rooms available in any of the resorts in any destination.
Other complaints refer to lack of proper exit options, which, the Mahindra Holidays chairman said were very few. However, there is no explanation as to why members have to go through an excruciating exit mechanism and lose 30-40% of their membership fees in the process.
Many of the timeshare membership holders have complained that the "flexibility" option, which enables the users to transfer, exchange and split their holidays, have led to under-utilisation of the resorts. Moreover, they accuse the administration of favouritism, which enables only some particular members to avail good reservation dates and facilities.
But while members are allegedly denied facilities, resorts and rooms are used for other events and availed by outsiders. Many members, after repeated failures, give up on making reservations, which leaves many resorts with vacancies. There are complaints about unsatisfactory services, inadequate inventory and other unfulfilled promises.
It appears from inquiries Moneylife made with some members that there is no proper grievance redressal mechanism and neither are members aware of how they can get their complaints resolved, nor are the staff equipped to deal with such situations. Another repeated mention is that staff members engage in dubious practices like lotteries, misleading members about offers and not providing proper information about the terms and conditions.