Monday, December 8, 2014

Just when Park Resorts thought it was safe to go back into the water

Well after much travelling the world in recent months the time has come to settle down.  I have decided to base my various business ventures and blogging activity from Canada.  I like Canada, it has all the good things about America with few of the bad things.

I have been rather lax in my blogging activity in recent months due to my travelling about and as such have lost touch with what has been going on in Park Resorts Towers in Hemel Hempstead.  So if anybody wants to post (anonymously of course) an update as to what is going on then please do so. Alternatively, you can email sharkresorts@gmail.com with the latest antics of David, Michael, Craig and their merry band of site general managers.  I promise to publish anything that does not contravene the Defamation Act of 2013.

Of course, David, Michael, Craig et al are more than welcome to comment on any post on this blog, just remember to hit the speed dial to Clarke Wilmott before commenting to check that you are not digging yourselves a big hole.

Whilst on my travels, there was a significant milestone for this blog.  It achieved 10,000 page views.  As almost every page on the blog is a post relating to the activities of Park Resorts then these pages have been read 10,000 times (note this does not mean that 10,000 people have visited the site).

The blog also achieved something else - if you search Google for "Shark Resorts" then the blog is number 1.  Of course, Shark Resorts is a very specific search but if you Google "Park resorts complaints" then the blog is in position number 5 on the first page - some result considering there has been no real efforts to promote the blog.

I guess in that respect, it is no surprise that the post on how to complain to Park Resorts is most popular with 353 views since it was published in August.  There is clearly some serious discontent out there with Park Resorts so I will now also be resuming the Twitter campaign to promote the complaints page to unhappy owners and renters.

Sharky the Blogger is back!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How to complain to Park Resorts

Whilst this blog has documented the trials and tribulations of owners of holiday homes on sites either owned or managed by Park Resorts, it would seem that there is a growing number of holiday home renters who are less than happy with Park Resorts.

Many of the unhappy holiday makers seem to be voicing their discontent on Twitter - just search "parkresorts" to see some of the posts.  To the credit of Park Resorts (did I really say that?) they do seem to respond to Twitter posts - good and bad.  However, the usual response to a bad Twitter post is to refer the unhappy holiday maker to the local site manager.  What the twitter customer service person seems to miss is that most folks have already gone down this route and ended up nowhere.

So, here are some tips on how to complain to Park Resorts and possibly get some form of reaction.

  1. Each site has a General Manager - if you are going to complain go to reception and demand to speak with the General Manager to try and get your issue sorted as soon as possible and before you leave.
  2. However, you are probably reading this after you have returned so point 1 above does not really apply.  You should now email the Chief Executive Officer of Park Resorts - David.boden@park-resorts.com and also the Operations and Sales Director of Park Resorts - Michael.clark@park-resorts.com.  Do not get fobbed off by Customer Services.
  3. You may also want to copy your email correspondence to Alex Fortescue (afortescue@electrapartners.com).  Alex is the Chief Investment Partner of Electra Partners  - a private equity company that has invested around £100 million into Park resorts.  He should really be interested in how Park Resorts are treating their customers.
  4. Facebook - each site within the Park Resorts Group has a Facebook Page which also has a review section.  Make sure you go onto the review section and post why you were dissatisfied with your holiday and rate the site froem between 1 and 5 stars.  You can of course post your criticisms onto the Facebook page itself but be prepared to be blocked from making future posts by Park Resorts.
  5. Trip Adviser - as with Facebook, each site is listed on Trip Adviser.  Rate your stay on Trip Adviser and include as many facts as possible.  Be prepared for some form of response from Park Resorts in the name of the General Manager.  However, the response will in all reality be have been written by a PR Agency - such as here.
  6. You can also contact the Trading Standards Department of the Council where the site is located.  All holiday home parks should operate under a licence from the local Council so there may be something to be gained from this route.
If you are going to complain, then make sure you stick to facts and always if possible keep some form of evidence such as photos or even videos to back up your complaint.

Good luck in your efforts to ensure Park Resorts to behave in a  responsible manner to their hard working customers.
     

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How safe is your investment?

A very good question you may ask.  Most investments made by individuals are covered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and are also accompanied by the obligatory health warning - "the value of investments can go down as well as up."  The other thing about most individual investments is that the performance is measurable.  The value of shares for example are easily tracked and most other investments have some for of on line performance reporting.

However, that level of scrutiny and control does not seem to apply to the private equity market.  As you may be aware, Park Resorts are currently in the hole to the tune of about £100 million to Electra Partners and Investec. The problem for Electra and Investec is that they have no real way to monitor how well their investment is going.  The only real measure is how much of a return they can get by siphoning off any profit or when they sell the business they have invested into.  The theory goes that the business will be worth more than what they paid for it.

The picture with PR/Electra/Investec is slightly complicated by the fact that Electra have invested in Park Resorts as a business and then also purchased South Lakeland Parks (SLP) and then installed Park resorts to manage the SLP business on their behalf.  And on paper that makes a lot of sense. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?  However, there is more to making a good investment or business decision than just how good things look on paper.

Warren Buffet, probably the worlds most successful investor, considers the management of a company to be one of the most important criteria when making an investment.  How well the company is run is just as important as the product or position in the market.  It would seem that such consideration has gone out of the window when Electra invested in Park Resorts.  Top management seem to be better at racing cars than sorting out the basics such as sending out incorrect and probably illegal invoices for private sub-let charges.

It would seem that Park Resorts have quickly latched onto the fact that they need to sell more lodges to keep their paymasters at Electra and Investec happy, especially as they have underestimated the level of resistance from owners to their various tactics to extract as much money as possible from the owners.  However, it seems that they are also starting to meet resistance in this respect as well.
This is a post on the Shurland Dale Holiday Park Facebook Page made by an unhappy owner after Park Resorts revealed plans to sell lodges on an area of land that current owners had been assured would remain as green open space.  As you would expect, the comment has now been removed from the Facebook page but not before lots of other owners commented and voiced their opinion.  Another setback for lodge sales came when South Lakeland Council insisted that the touring caravan area at Fallbarrow could not be used to site and sell lodges.

This actually puts PR/Electra/Investec in a bit of Catch 22 situation.  They need to sell lodges to meet the return on investment demands of their investors.  But every time they sell a lodge it diminishes the asset value of the business.  Selling a lodge give a one off boost to the bottom line but asset value of the business reduces accordingly - reducing the attractiveness of the business to a potential future purchaser.

So to summarise this quite long post.  Electra and Investec have invested into Park Resorts and South Lakeland Parks with very little chance of achieving the 10-15% return per year to their investors and very little chance of selling the business on at a profit due to the diminishing asset base.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Welcome to the nest of vipers Mr Richards

Since the departure of Park Resorts marketing director Richie Jones, the hip West Coast surfing dude, I have eagerly been waiting for news on his replacement.  Well my wait is finally over!  Welcome Mr Ian Richards as Sales and Marketing Director of Park Resorts.

Does he really know what he is getting into?



He does seem to be bit more mainstream than our Richie, but then most people probably do.  His previous career is definitely more mainstream reading the above press release.  However, it seems that either the media and comms folks at Park Resorts or David Boden are not quite sure if he is an "Ian" or an "Iain".

It is also interesting to note the ringing endorsement of Ian/Iain Richards social marketing cojones from David Boden -

David Boden, CEO, Park Resorts, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Iain to the Park Resorts team. He has a wealth of experience in marketing, yield management, social media and digital and I am sure he will drive forward the marketing strategy for the Park Resorts Group.”

If David Boden said and understands a word of that then I am a Dutchman. Now where did I leave my clogs and tulips?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Lack of transparency

Recently it would seem that our friends at Park Resorts Towers have started to insist that any work done on a Park Resorts site should be through one of their approved contractors.  This is all well and good providing the process to become an approved contractor is open and transparent. 

The issue for owners of course is that they have no real way of knowing if the list of approved contractors offers them the best value for money.  One of the additions to a caravan that comes under this restriction is decking.  All decking now has to be fire retardant UPVC and can only be installed by approved contractors.  This issue with this is that it seems very expensive with owners being quoted many thousands of pounds for relatively small areas of decking.  From a health and safety point of view I can just about understand the logic of fire retardant UPVC (it looks bloody awful though) - at the least the owner can stand on the non-burning deck as their caravan goes up in flames.

At the very least, the process for selecting the "approved" suppliers/contractor should be open and transparent.  Unfortunately, unless I missed the announcement, the process seems to shrouded in mystery.  Of course, as a private sector company, then Park Resorts have no obligation to be open and transparent - but they should be.

But then again, perhaps the process is not that mysterious.  Here is a photo from a Jonathon Palmer motorsport day organised by AB Sundecks who supply and install UPVC decking for holiday homes.  One of the customers listed on their website is Park Resorts.

Couple of names on the list seem familiar  - I will leave you dear reader to draw your own conclusion.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Targeted abuse?

Twitter have finally swooped down from their lofty perch of high righteousness to respond to my request for an explanation as to why my twitter account has been cancelled.  The response I received was sort and not so very sweet - 

Hello,
Your account was suspended because it was found to be violating the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules), specifically our rules around participating in targeted abuse.
Your account will not be restored.
Thanks,
Twitter Trust & Safety


Now I must admit this was a little bit puzzling to me so I followed the link to see what they define as participating in targeted abuse.  To save you the trouble of following the link it states - 

 Targeted Abuse: You may not engage in targeted abuse or harassment. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be targeted abuse or harassment are:
  • if you are sending messages to a user from multiple accounts;
  • if the sole purpose of your account is to send abusive messages to others;
  • if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats
And their definition of targeted abuse is - 

Threats and abuse
Users may not make direct, specific threats of violence against others, including threats against a person or group on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, or disability. Targeted abuse or harassment is also a violation of the Twitter Rules and Terms of Service.

To me the key word that seems to be cropping up here is "Threat(s)".  From my recollection of what I tweeted on @sharkresorts I never made any threat against anybody.  I did suggest to anybody on Twitter who had a complaint against to Park Resorts that they should email the Operations Director - Michael Clark (michael.clark@park-resorts.com) or the MD David Boden (david.boden@park-resorts.com).

However, I suppose the "behaviour" was all one sided as nobody from Park Resorts ever had the consideration to reply to any of my tweets, so perhaps that is why I got banned.  If Park Resorts would actually enter into some form of meaningful dialogue with the owners of holiday homes on the parks they manage perhaps I would not have to resort to Twitter and this blog just to make my points.

Now the interesting point about all of this is that readership of this blog is growing without any promotion from Twitter, so do I or don't I create another account?







 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The best laid plans

Craig "it is my foot and I will shoot it if I want to" Hulme is the grandly titled "Northern Operations Director" for Park Resorts.  This blog has already pointed out to you dear readers that Park Resorts are geographically challenged. Now this is only a minor point but, but how can Craig really strutt his "Northern Operations" stuff when he is based in Park Resorts Towers in Hemel Hempstead.

But such trivia is not really point of this blog post.

It would seem that Park Resorts have big plans for Fallbarrow Park.  Rumour has it that they want to get rid of the area for touring caravans and site some shiny new expensive lodges - profit from selling those lodges will go some way to repaying the £47 million pumped in by Electra Partners and Investec.  They also want to install a spa (just like at White Cross Bay).

At the same time PR have also been successful in getting planning permission to increase the Fallbarrow season from 10.5 months to all year round.  Now based on the last time that the season was extended then there will no doubt be a corresponding increase in site fees of 11.5%.  This increase will be on top of the planned annual increase which if White Cross Bay is anything to go by could be 9%.  Now I am not suggesting that even PR would be stupid enough to try for a 20% plus increase in site fees but I am sure they will try to combine the two increases to make it look like "good value".  The problem is of course that none of the owners have been formerly asked if they want the length of season increasing or if they want the suggested spa as well.

There is an interesting sting in the tail.  One of the conditions of granting the permission to extend the season at Fallbarrow is that the touring park must remain.  So whilst PR may try and get some extra income from site fees, the real kicker to their bottom line is selling lodges, and South Lakeland District Council have put a spanner in that works.

So getting back to Craig, he must have been feeling pretty pleased with himself to get the season extended and of course they can put the fees up as much as they want as that is in the licence agreement - owners will still kick off though.  But Craig, I assume you have read the planning consent and now realise that you won't be able to put all those shiny new lodges on the touring park.  I also assume you have told Michael Clarke and David Boden as well.  Don't worry if it slipped your mind, I am sure it will be brought to their attention and that Electra and Investec will also get to know about it as well.

StB