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”

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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.

Latino family humiliated when manager in Branson, MO refuses to do business with people who don’t speak English

Luis Diaz and his family traveled from Oklahoma City to Branson, MO a few days ago to attend a national dance competition for his sister.  Diaz thought during some downtime he and his family could see a few shows in Branson, known as the city with great entertainment.

On Thursday, Diaz and his mother, sister and brother walked into the Visitor Information by Westgate Resorts store to ask about show tickets. Diaz told me by phone that at the store he met a very helpful salesman who started offering tickets for good prices. Diaz turned to his mother and asked her in Spanish what shows she wanted to see. At that moment, the manager interrupted and suddenly Diaz says the conversation got ugly.

Here’s what Diaz posted on his Facebook page.

While we are finalizing our package (picked out a show we wanted to go watch and tickets to Silver Dollar) and getting ready to pay, the manager (in the baby blue shirt on the video) stepped in in front of the sales person and advised us he would not be granting us the discount because the discount did not apply to us. The manager then begins to yell at me and my family that we are not welcome in the store because my mom does not speak English. He than threatened us to call security if we did not leave his store. My family and I walked out of the store with my little sister crying because she was scared of the manager screaming at us. I than walked back alone to get him on video and this is what he tells me, he stated he could sell me the tickets at regular price but not discounted tickets because my mom doesn’t speak English.I believe he changed his demeanor when he realized I was recording him. Spanish-speakers don’t get access to discounted tickets or even Westgates Time shares because hey don’t speak English.

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

You can see Diaz’s entire uncut video version on his Facebook page. In the video you see Diaz inquiring about tickets when the manager says “Do I speak English sir?”  The manager admits in the video that there is some kind of policy where both a “husband and wife” have to speak English to get tickets. Again Diaz was with his mother. Watch the video.

Diaz told me on the phone that the salesman never got to the point of selling any kind of timeshare if that was his objective. He also told me that his mother speaks some English and understand it, but feels more comfortable communicating in Spanish.

After his angry exchange of words with the manager, the Diaz family walked out of the store feeling embarrassed and humiliated. The salesman found them outside the store and told Diaz “Man! I’m really sorry.”

ARE NON-ENGLISH SPEAKERS NOT WELCOMED?

I have contacted Westgate Resorts via its social media pages to find out if it’s true the company has a policy not to do business with people who don’t speak English, even though they understand it. I also went to the company’s website in an attempt to contact the owner, David Siegel.

UPDATE on Monday: COO for Westgate Resorts responds

I guess Westgate Resort managers must not be communicating with each other, because  I found that currently the company has a Facebook page called Westgate Resorts Español. Everything on there is posted in Spanish. Obviously someone at Westgate realized the importance of having Spanish-language marketing material on social media.

I also learned when I called Westgate Resorts 800 Customer Service number that you’re given the option to talk to an operator in Spanish if  you punch the #2. I couldn’t get any answers there because customer service is closed on weekends.

Screenshot courtesy: Facebook
Screenshot courtesy: Facebook

It’s very sad that Diaz and his family had to endure such harsh treatment. And by the feedback that he is getting on his Facebook page, the incident has hit a nerve with Latinos.

It’s also sad that this manager had such an ugly attitude towards a family that just wanted to see a few shows for a good price in Branson. I’ve always heard people in Branson are a friendly bunch.

I hope I get answers from Westgate Resorts, because today I don’t think any business can afford to turn away the buying power of Latinos. But you only get our business when we are treated as equals and with respect.

Update Monday: The COO for Westgate Resorts gave me a response. >>Full Story

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.