If you get tired of reading this.... go to the bottom for the summary and an example of how much a vacation package would cost with and without Silverleaf.
My wife came home with a brochure she got at the mall one day. Attached was a credit card receipt for $40.00. When I asked her about it, she said that it was for a 2 night stay at the great wolf lodge for 6 people. I was amazed, because the last time we stayed there it cost us over $450.00. "So what's the catch?" I asked. The catch was, we had to sit through a timeshare sales meeting for Silverleaf resorts. She was told the meeting would last about 45 minutes. At the end of the meeting, we would receive a visa card with our $40.00 on it. We would also be able to book our Great Wolf Lodge trip.
Here is an account of the meeting.
Our meeting was scheduled at 12pm. We arrived a few minutes early to the Irving Silverleaf sales office. Upon entering the parking lot we noticed that there were only 3 empty parking spaces out of about 150. We looked at each other and my wife said "I wonder if they are all here for the presentation."
We walked inside and handed one of the many desk clerks our pamphlet. He gave us a small questionnaire to fill out which we did and promptly gave back. He asked us to have a seat and someone would be with us shortly. I looked around the waiting room and saw no less than 40 people. Some with kids, some single etc.
After about 20 minutes, someone came up and introduced themselves as our guide. I omit his name on purpose. He took us to another room filled with well over 100 tables. All but one table was filled with people sitting and talking. We were escorted to the one empty table.
In the beginning, the "guide" A.K.A. sales person was giving us some relatively meaningless chatter about how we like to vacation and where we like to go. He also wrote down how much each vacation was going to cost. For example, we told them that we would be going to Las Vegas to visit my family. We were honest and told him it was costing about $4,000.00 as we had already bought airfare and amusement park tickets and a van rental. We gave a little room for food and shopping. We also advised we were going to do the same in the fall for a trip to Maryland. That trip will cost around $3,500.00. He then asked us to include all of our "stay-cations" etc. He asked if it was fair to assume that we would spend about $10,000.00 this year on vacationing. We agreed and continued with the presentation. He then asked us for a list of "dream" vacations we would like to take in the next 3 years.
During the presentation, the "guide" showed us pictures and amenities offered for about 16 different resorts. 6 of them located close to us in Texas. Keep in mind, this is all presented in an over-enthusiastic pitch. All of it was presented as being nearly (nearly being the key here) free of charge if we were members. Everything from camping, fishing, and horseback riding to beaches and skiing in the mountains. I am going to insert a spoiler here...(all of the amenities cost money even if they might be discounted)
Our guide then took us on a tour of a mock suite... set up right there in the strip mall! I couldn't help but think how weird it was to have an actual 2 bedroom suite built into a sales office at a strip mall. The halls we walked through had vacation pictures carefully placed throughout. Our guide excitedly pointed out each one and an experience he had had at most of them. It was also a carefully laid out maze for herding group after group through. Which ultimately ended back at the big room full of tables.
Now the set up has been laid out... get ready for the real pitch. Keep in mind, my wife at this point has diamonds in her eye's and a checkbook burning a hole in her adventurous soul. I on the other hand am wondering how this 45 minute presentation has evolved into an hour and a half already. I am also listening to the people on the sides of me noticing familiar memorized lines that I had just heard, most of which are verbatim. I also forgot to mention that every time a sales person closes a deal, someone gets up in the center of the room and interrupts everyone to welcome the new "owners". Which happened 12 times when we were there. This is obviously to try and increase the momentum and hype.
"So, what is the bottom line?" my wife asked. The guide would thank us for any questions we asked and readily have a rehearsed answer for them. Always above and beyond our expectations. I say rehearsed, because before we got out of there we went through 4 different sales people with bigger and better offers with the same rehearsed answers, but I'll get to that in a minute.
The bottom line.... There are 3 tiers to their time share system. Blue, white, and red. I think they are carefully picked colors to pry at the loyal Americans' heartstrings. The first 2 have blackout periods and the final having no blackout periods. All of them are for a week of "nearly free" vacationing at one of the 16 resorts or the option to trade your week with RCI to stay almost anywhere in the world. (not mentioning that none of these include meals, travel expenses or airfare, which is most of the cost of going on vacation anyway) They also all come with bonuses and other benefits that come with being a card carrying member. For example, we were told that we could book anytime with any of the resorts even when it wasn't our week for a 2 room suite for a mere $75.00. That is a killer price, I would agree. They also said that we could go to any of the resorts at anytime to enjoy the countless amenities they had to offer even while not staying there. They made it sound like we could just walk into one of the resorts anytime we felt like it and do anything we wanted to. I did notice however, that every single sales person made sure to tell us that many of the amenities are not completely free.
The first package is presented to us as the bottom "blue" package. It included all of the bonuses, and a 1 week of selected dates vacationing for $15,500.00. They needed 25% down today and $486 monthly for 3 years. After that all we would have to pay is the $76.00 monthly maintenance fee. (to upkeep our timeshare) I start calculating in my head and notice my wife is going online on her phone to look at our bank account. The "guide" keeps on talking and going over all of the bonuses as I try to calculate and pretend to engage in conversation. I then notice how loud it is in the room, with all of the excitement of the other sales people. I also notice a panel of sales people waiting and watching from the front of the room.
I turn to my wife and say "honey, I don't think we can squeeze $4,000.00 out of our savings right now." Knowing we only had about $400.00 in the bank till payday anyway. She turns to the "guide" and asks if we have to come up with it now, or could we pay ion 1 week. He advised us that we could come in tomorrow, but that the deals would be a lot different and more money. I don't like it when anyone says I have to buy now or lose out. It makes me very apprehensive and suspicious. The "guide" tells us he can't do anything about the price, but maybe one of his friends in another department can do something. He calls over this girl with a single gesture of 2 fingers. In a busy, noise room with people moving around and some even flailing their arms. That's when I realized that the panel of sales people at the front were 2nd level vultures. Not to skip ahead, but the next time he signaled a person he used 3 fingers.
The 2nd sales person was above average looking, had an accent, and was even more excited than our "guide" AKA first sales person. She teamed up with the guide and went over much of the same sales pitch we had already heard. She then went over her "position" in the company was actually in upgrading, not initial sales. Several times she would actually run off saying she had an idea and run back with another special offer to throw in. The thing that really set me on guard was she explained that when a customer moves from one tier to another they roll their already paid equity in the time share week up to the next tier. This makes sense, right? Then she says that she takes the lower deed and can resale it at a lower cost because it has already been partially paid. It got me thinking about the house we just bought. Basically this sales person was saying that we could take all of the equity paid into this time share and use it to knock down our payments. Not only that, but the monthly fees would be lower because it was bought on a different plan than they offer now. Wow, I wish we could have gotten that deal when buying our house. Imagine that... a $200,000.00 house we get for $120,000.00 because the previous owners had paid into their mortgage. We would even have lower property taxes because the house was originally purchased when the taxes were lowered and she can guarantee we would be grandfathered in. So our new down payment on the "red" vacation week with no blackout dates and more bonuses and a lowered monthly fee would be only $1,700.00.
I wont even bother to tell you about the other 2 sales people that came over to offer even lower cost deals. The lowest being 1 free week with no down payment for an 18 month contract as a thinking period for just $76 a month. (yes, the free week would cost over $800.00) I will say this.... every time I asked for some time to talk it over with my bedazzled wife, they would leave for less than 30 seconds, and be right back with something else for us to think about. So I finally looked her straight in the face and said "NO" that is my final answer. I know we wont use this vacation package like you want to use it.
Finally, after around 3 hours and an intense litigation with my wife, the sales people led us into a room to claim our "free" gifts. We were given a visa card with our $40 on it. (which was legitimate) we were also given a scratch off ticket that we could have won a car or a lot of money on. (it was also legitimate) You can only scratch 5 out of 25 squares to win the big prize they all have to be the pot of gold. After I scratched the 1st square which was not a pot of gold, I scratched the rest of the card and saw there were indeed 5 gold pots on the card. We then moved on the Great Wolf Lodge package that my wife had been sucked into this whole thing for in the first place. We were then told that it was only for 4 people, not 6. We would also be responsible for all of the taxes and surcharges. It would end up costing us around $120 for a 5 person 2 night stay at the Lodge, which is still a tremendous deal if it pans out. My wife argued with the person saying they promised it for 6 people. She stapled a card to the flyer and asked us to call the person to see what they could do. I told my wife later not to bother. I didn't want them getting our phone number or anything.
Finally, onto the summary.
The best vacation package Silverleaf offer us was $13,000.00 plus $76.00 per month after the initial 38 month mortgage was paid. In the first year alone you would spend about $5,300.00 including your initial $1,700.00 down payment. This is only for hotel accommodations for 1 week (subject to availability) plus the right to go to any of the 16 US resorts and pay for amenities and/or accommodations at anytime.(I don't know if you can get in if you are not a member because most of the sites have the same free things pitch to sign up for.)
Let's see a breakdown of 2 like vacations. One in the US and one outside the US to see how the compare.
A 5 star hotel room in Galveston would run about $800.40 for a 5 night stay.Silverleaf would allow this week to be used for your 1 free stay.
You can buy an all inclusive package for either hotel including food etc for another $50 a person per night. Or, you can eat out or purchase groceries for less.
Any amenities of either hotel and surrounding area would cost you full fare price.
Both vacations you would have to add gas/travel expenses.
If you did this twice in the same year, the Silverleaf would allow you to stay the second time for $75.00 for the whole time. (at least that was what was told to us) Which would give you an added savings of $725.00.
All said and done from your 2 vacations, not including the travel expenses, food, or entertainment would be the following totals.
Silverleaf for 2 weeks of vacationing = $5,375.00
5 star hotel for 2 weeks = $1680.00 (discount for whole week included)
Cut-rate beachfront hotel for 2 weeks = $1063.00 (no discounts included)
Judging by the fact that I don't spend a lot of time in my hotel room other than to crash... I'd take the third option and save $4,312.00 the first year.
Now, let's take a look at a trip to Paris.Again, keep in mind this is WITHOUT airfare, travel expenses, amenities, and food.
Silverleaf will let you "trade" your 1 week hotel accommodations for a fee of $199.
5 star hotel in an executive room for 6 nights = $ 3,220.94
Cut rate nearby hotel for 6 nights = US$ 513.34
My family would take the $513 room and save $5,060.00
So, lets say we alternate US vacationing for 2 weeks and foreign vacationing for 1 week for the first 4 years we are paying off our Silverleaf deed. Below are the known totals if no price changes happen in those 4 years.
With Silverleaf = $21,500.005 star without = $9,802.00Without Silverleaf = $3,153.00
A savings of $18,348.00
After 4 years the cost of Silverleaf would go down from $5,375.00 to $912.00 per year dues. Plus 2 more sales meetings per year with aggressive up-selling tactics explained on many websites. If you miss payments it is like not paying your mortgage... you'll lose bigtime!
For the next 4 years if you follow your same vacationing scheme as above it would look like this.
Silverleaf = $4046Without = $3153
Still saving you $893.00 for the 4 years. With nothing more to buy and no obligations or contracts. This doesn't even include those things that happen in life that make it so you can't go on vacation. With Silverleaf you would still owe the money regardless.
So, for the final 8 year summary.
With Silverleaf = $25,546.00 With monthly contractual obligations.5 Star Without Silverleaf = $19604.00cut-rate Without Silverleaf = $6,306.00
If you vacation like I do, over 8 years without Silverleaf you could save up to $19,240.00 with no sales meetings to waste your valuable vacationing time, and no restrictions on where and when you stay. No further obligations of $76.00 a month for as long as you wish to be suckered for the rest of your life or children's lives. (They kept mentioning you could pass your week timeshare down to your kids) You would save a lot of money if you didn't go on a full fledged vacation twice a year or even book through a travel agency for package discounts.
Has the wool been lifted? I hope so!!!
Product or Service Mentioned: Silverleaf Resorts Customer Care.