The COO of Westgate Resorts calls treatment of Latino family in Branson, MO “a big misunderstanding”

Mark Waltrip, Chief Operating Officer at Westgate Resorts says his company does not discriminate against anyone, including Latinos who may not speak English. Waltrip and I spoke by phone for 30 minutes this morning.

The COO was responding to my story about Luis Diaz and his family from Oklahoma City. They went to a Westgate Resort information center last Thursday in Branson, MO. Diaz says he and his family were denied discount show tickets because the store manager overheard him speaking in Spanish to his mother. Diaz remembers the manager telling the salesman “That does not apply to them. They can’t get the discount because both husband and wife have to speak English.”

Diaz posted his experience on his Facebook page. He also posted a video of himself going back into the store to get answers from the manager on why they couldn’t get the tickets. The manager is seen in the video saying “a husband and wife must be able to speak English.” Diaz was with his mother.

Waltrip calls the encounter between Diaz and the manager “a big misunderstanding.” He says he not spoken to the manager, but has seen the video and talked to the manager’s supervisor.

Luis Diaz
Luis Diaz

Waltrip blames Diaz for the situation getting out of hand. “It’s an unfortunate situation but the reality is we do not discriminate. There is no discrimination in this instance,” Waltrip says. “He (Diaz) just simply would not listen or understand what the manager was trying to explain to him.”

Waltrip says the manager tried to explain that the discounted tickets were an incentive to take a real estate tour, but the Diaz’s did not meet the qualifications. “In order to take that real estate tour, they have to meet certain qualifications, including age, income, and most of all anyone taking a complimentary real estate tour has to be able to understand, comprehend, read documents and sign off on their understanding of documents. And that’s why…both parties have to be able to speak English.”

Waltrip believes it is important for Westgate management to be upfront about everything involving the real estate tours with possible customers. “It’s not a discriminatory thing, it’s simple if you’re going to conduct business you’re going to be able to communicate, and that is what the manager was trying to explain. We’ll gladly give you a tour of the resort. We’ll gladly sell you tickets, but we can’t pay you to take a tour unless you meet the qualifications.”Diaz told me on Saturday that the salesman never brought up any kind of real estate or timeshare information if that was his objective.

Manager at Westgate store Screenshot: Diaz Facebook
Manager at Westgate store
Screenshot: Diaz Facebook

Waltrip says the only thing his manager did wrong was not handle the situation in a correct manner. “Mr. Diaz is not being entirely truthful, but at the same time our manager is going to get counseling on how he communicates with people. While what he said was factual, it could have been said in a much politer way. But Mr. Diaz, if you listen to the video, was clearly looking for a confrontation.”

Diaz told me on Saturday that he returned to the store to get the manager on video explaining the reason why his family was being denied access to the discount tickets. He says he was upset when he walked back into the store, even after the salesman came out and said “Man! I’m really sorry.”

WESTGATE RESORTS AND THE LATINO COMMUNITY

Waltrip describes Westgate Resorts as a highly diverse company. “I don’t think there is another company of our size with 12,000 team members that can say that 73 percent of their directors and above are women and minorities, and by the way most of them are Hispanic.”

He also adds that Latino customers are important to Westgate Resorts and that’s why it has a Facebook page in Spanish and an 800 customer service number where you can find Spanish-speaking operators. “We have the best track record in the entire industry for promoting, hiring and working with Hispanic families. We take this very seriously.”

Screenshot courtesy: Facebook
Screenshot courtesy: Facebook

Luis Diaz is still in Branson attending a dance competition for his sister. He told me today that he is telling the truth. “I’m not expecting nothing in return. I just wanted to show people what we experienced.” He says the rest of the trip to Branson has been fun and his family has been able to see a few live shows.

A MESSAGE ABOUT YOUR “COMMENTS”

If you plan to post a comment, make sure you sign it. That also can be done through your Facebook handle. I will not approve any comments where there is verbal abuse. I believe in freedom of speech, but not freedom to be ugly.

Rebecca Aguilar is a freelance journalist and founder of Wise Latinas Linked on Facebook and LinkedIn. WLL is a virtual networking group of more than 7,000 Latinas.

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7 comments

  1. This is copied from my comment left on video makers youtube page…
    I can relate to the fact of the idea that Branson, MO in it’s self is somewhat of a racist city. My family just finished up a seven day trip to Westgate Lakes, no complaints at the resort , but once we hit the town , I got a big feeling of being unwelcome from the locals, just an erie feeling, at first I thought it was just me, but for the rest of the trip I felt it everywhere we went. I believe this guy is a product of the city that he lives and not a representation of Westgate. I am a third generation mexican american and my family have been Westgate owners since the early 1990’s. Westgate’s main hub which is based out of Florida is a completely different, most of the staff are Latino, and for most of them english is a second language. There are certain stipulations in order to receive the discounts you have to be eligible to do the spiel. To say that this is a Westgate issue i completely disagree, that man I do believe is racist but because of the city/state that he comes from. He didn’t have to be such an ass but its not a surprise, most of the locals I feel shared the same mindframe. As a tourist destination Branson, Mo in itself was surprisingly not welcoming to our Latino family. Westgate Branson has to get its employees from somewhere. Its unfortunate that theres nothing but A**holes to chose from. Do yourself a favor and visit the Florida location before dubbing Westgate a racist company.

  2. Doesn’t sound like that manager was completely honest about his story to me, and in giving the family some discounted tickets would have had a better ending and possibly a future homeowner at Westgate. I was once
    an owner at Westgate and it is a very nice resort; but that was some years ago. Hopefully it’s still as I remember and I never had any problems back then.

    A past Westgate owner

  3. Are american people getting more racist? Absolutely not!!….they’ve always been!!. They began with the indians ( the true americans, the originals, the real owners), followed with the judes, the irish, the italian, the chinesse and of course the african. So its no wonder they discriminate latinos, even worse when they’ve become the first minority and are steeling out jobs from them. In fact they are also inmigrants, only older ones, the proclaimed americans are nothing more than the 6th or 7th british american borned generation, most of them with no more than 150 years of tradition, and descendents of the darker side of england’s society, the killers, the robbers, the criminals, the unwanted, the rejected, the wild westerns that trumbled and brought war and genocide to america, no wonder carriying racism on their blood. So they too are inmigrants, only older and fewer. Don’t be confused if you see a black president or even a latino one, every now and then, this only shows they are getting smaller, not being less racist, in fact, racism will increase because of this, its a process.
    The thing is, and what hasn’t been realized is that latinos are not conquering the states, are conquering the world…..they are the fastest growing population, doing the states, the whole of europe, asia, for christ sakes even getting into china, and soon to come oceania and africa, left those for last because they are the least to like. We are not only a country, but many of them, we are a race, the spanish speaking race, also called latinos. So americans, former inmigants feeling they belong or own the place, don’t be surprised or overwhelmed by the increasing latino power, those of you who are smart will mingle, the rest will just be thrown out or rejected (ain’t that a contradiction?), not only from the states but from the whole planet, cause this is a very well thought plan, a pacific invasion of the world, a taking over but not by the force or by huge money power, but by demographics, by our own people. We plan to double our population by 2050, you have that time to rethink your postures or better to marry your children with latino, anyhow improving your genetics. So be prepared. You’ ve been adviced.

  4. Let me get this straight—Waltrip, who was not there, is saying that Diaz wouldn’t listen or understand? Really? Then Waltrip says customers must speak English due to necessary paperwork despite the fact that the company seeks Spanish speaking customers through social media venues. Outrageous and, yes, discriminatory.

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