First of all, I purchased my first timeshare from Silverleaf in May of 2007. It was week 52 at Hill Country. The payments were reasonable and I thought it was a good thing to do for family vacations down the road. The sales' people really put on the glitz and glam of how much more affordable this option is and how great it is to do an internal exchange if we chose not to use our week. Plus I thought it was a good deal because it was week 52(!) and the amount paid for it was around $7000. I got sucked in.
A few months after the purchase I received a phone call inviting me to stay at Hill Country for a "VIP" stay and enjoy time at the resort. So, I packed up the family and drove out there. Upon arrival, I was told that I needed to attend an "Owner's Update Meeting" sometime during the weekend in order to stay for the VIP weekend. I agreed. When I showed up to the "Owner's Update Meeting" it wasn't an update on anything other than trying to get you to buy more. I didn't purchase anything that time, but did later after being sucked into first of all the "Diamond Program". When buying my second week, I asked the sales people if there was anything above the "Diamond Program" and was told "no". Well, that wasn't true, because lo and behold a few months later, I was invited back for another "Owner's Update Meeting" to purchase another week for the "Diamond Plus Program". I gotta say these people are very good at blowing smoke up your fourth point of contact, if you know what I mean. Needless to say, I ended up with 3 weeks total. So far up to that point, I thought everything was fine.
Then in February 2009, I stopped by Fox River in IL. We were really just stopping by here on the way back from a funeral in Minnesota. Our sales person, told us after reviewing our accounts, that we would best benefit from being Presidential owners. They offered up week 14 (Presidential unit) and week 6 (Chairman unit) at Holiday Hills in Branson in exchange for our 3 weeks we already had. This sales rep continued to tell us that we were going to "luck out" on this white week because Branson had recently just opened an international airport and that week would soon be turning red.
Our payments wouldn't change, however, we would have much better accomidations available by being Presidential owners and "be in the top 5% of their owners". We told her we have no desire to vacation in Branson and didn't care for the weeks either due to having children in school. She said, "You can easily exchange them. You will be guaranteed to stay in a Presidential or Chairman depending on the week you are exchanging or when using bonus time. We were also told that we would be pretty much guaranteed the exchange of our choice during almost any time with the exception of Orlando and the Pinnacle Lodge in Colorado. This was due to the ownership of the Presidential and Chairman. Her and her "manager" went on and on to tell us what a great deal we would get if we upgraded to these units. My husband and I thought we were getting a good deal. We noted however, that upon signing the paperwork, the week was not week 14 but week 15 instead. We asked the sales rep this and she stated it didn't really matter what week it was as long as it was red because we were going to trade it anyways.
Up to this point we hadn't really used the resorts, so didn't know the hassle we would soon be entering our selves into.
After the purchase of these units, we stayed one night during the middle of the week the end of September at the Villages. Upon arrival, we were placed in a regular unit. I complained and this was changed so we could stay in a Presidential. SInce then I had requested several exchanges/bonus time usages of my banked former weeks and was always told that they had no availability at any of the resorts or during any times (various times of the year from October-March then May-Sept). I asked a rep one time when our white week was going to be turning red as I explained we were told that it would change due to the international airport opening thus increasing tourism to Branson. I was laughed at. I last called for reservations to Seaside in Galveston for any availability this summer. I was told they are booked May through October. I asked about what our sales rep about guaranteeing availability and was told by the reservationist that exchanges are on a "first come, first served" basis. What?!!This conflicts what we were told. I then asked if they had availability at Hill Country. They said they did. I then asked if it was a Presidential unit and was told they don't have that information. How then, do they fairly make reservations without knowing what type of unit it is? Obviously they aren't going to put a "regular" owner into a Presidential or higher unit. I then called corporate.
First of all, Shirley in "Customer Service" which I later found out is "Legal" was very condescending when I talked to her. She told me I didn't know "how to use the timeshares" and that "the only availability you are guaranteed and type of unit is in your deeded week". I told her that the sales rep had told my spouse and I a different story. I then told her that why then were we paying over 800 dollars a month for something that we can use. She stated then, "You can use it". I asked her, "How? Everytime we call to use our exchange, there is no availability." Again we went round and round about how I told the sales person I had no desire for the location or weeks but were really buying the "exchange power". My spouse and I put a stop payment on the account. When we told her about the stop payment, her story changed to, "Well, I can offer to change your week and location to something you desire more." I asked her how she could magically do this considering that this wasn't done when we first purchased the units and expressed our concerns. She didn't respond to this. We told her that we felt that we were paying for something we can't use and want out. We also found out that there is a charge to use the exchange program. $75 per exchange. This was never disclosed to us. No where in any of the paperwork we found we had signed did it discuss this at all.
Needless, to say, I have filed complaints with the BBB and the Federal Trade Commission just 3 days ago. Today, I received a call from Tonya offering me a release from the contract and Silverleaf will pay off the remaining balance of the loans. She stated that nothing would be reported on my credit. While this is desired, my spouse and I looked at getting some of our money back because we felt we were misled into what we were getting/able to use.
So, here's what I recommend if your story is similar...file complaints with the right people (BBB, Texas Attorney General's Office, Federal Trade Commission). Send a certified and registered letter describing your encounter to Silverleaf and your wish to be released from the contract. I don't know about these groups that "guarantee" to help you. But I know one thing...they are expensive (upwards of $3000 up front) to assist you in releasing you from the timeshare. Also, most of them are not attorneys. They are regular guys like you and me that know the right channels. Hope this helps some of you. Buyer beware!
Product or Service Mentioned: Silverleaf Resorts Vacation Ownership.