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.

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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.