Silverleaf Resorts / consumer fraud / scam
My husband and I purchased a timeshare week from Silverleaf Resorts at Oak n' Spruce in Lee Massachusetts in December 2009. We were enticed to go by the offers of a prize that was guaranteed to us and a chance to win $50, 000.00. They gave us gas money so we decided to see what it was all about. Now, I am an attorney in Massachusetts and I KNOW that there is a scam element in many timeshares. I KNOW not to trust sales people; and I KNOW that my husband and I have trouble saying no to people. So why did we go? I'm still kicking myself over that answer. They made it seem to good to pass up... Anyway, we went there on a Wednesday and a nice young gentleman gave us the spiel. We were soooo ready to say no. We had absolutely no interest in Lee, MA and none in the other locations that Silverleaf owned. What sold us was the Interval International catalogue. I think my husband and I were both under the impression that once a year we would be able to go to anyplace in that catalog, at anytime. Again, it was too good to pass up. We were told that we were being offered a white week with bonus time availability. We, being the serious informed purchasers that we were declined the offer to buy the white week. We asked for a red week. We should have been tipped off that things were not right when the young man seemed at a loss and that he had to get a manager. Long story short we were not buying the next to worthless week 1 white week that they were suckering everyone that day to buy. The manager did a nice job of making us think that we were getting a special deal on a red week that was being resold. We were pretty proud of ourselves...I'm not kidding you. We were suckers. We knew nothing about timeshares at all. We didn't even understand that we bought week one. In January we were invited to our owners' orientation weekend so that any of our questions could be answered about our timeshare. The owners orientation weekend is a designed sales tactic. They give you the weekend free instead of the $100 or so it would have cost you otherwise. We were sold on a Presidential level week, week number 38, a red week. We were sold because I liked the better accommodations and also the possibility of more options in the exchange company, this time RCI. The sales woman told us that 33% more would be open to us on the exchange market because of the Presidential level (she never mentioned week 38...and come to think of it the first guy never mentioned week 1...hmmmm). She also said (and I believe this now to be a blatant actionable lie) that the unit we were buying would exchange for 2 weeks in the exchange company. We were told that we were boosted to a Diamond level of ownership and that meant we could stay for up to 6 days in a row for our bonus time. Plus the weekdays were free. And we would be able to stay in the nicer accommodations for both weeks we now owned.
We paid off our loans a couple of months later with a refinance. Here's what I know now:
1. Silverleaf's customer service is atrocious unless you are doing what they ask which is to show up for more "owners' orientation weekends to sell you another week which will give you everything you thought you were getting in the first purchase.
2. Most of what you see in the RCI or Interval International catalogues is not available to you for exchange - each has many resorts listed but depending on the week(s) you own you may or may not qualify to exchange for where (never mind when) you want to go (no matter how early you plan). And many of the resorts are offered as "Extra Vacation Getaways" (ie you have access but you still pay full or nearly full price (not $150.oo for the week).
3. Bonus time is not easy to cash in. I have called a half dozen times to get accommodations at Oak n' Spruce on bonus time. Each time I have been told that there is nothing available. Sometimes they call back and tell you that something has become available, but not always. My guess is that they hold a good amount of their inventory for "owners' orientation" weekends and such. Some maybe for the exchange companies...I can't figure it out. All I know is that owners' are the very last on their priority list for rooms.
4. I was almost begged by this woman at Silverleaf to come in April for my owners' orientation weekend. She eventually offered us $100 and told us that we could come up for the day. That was pretty funny. I mean Lee's a nice little town, but seriously I'm not going there for a day to be sold something I can't afford. These people must get some sort of commission on getting people up there for sales.
5. Now I want out. I have been an owner for almost 6 months and I am ashamed of myself at being such a sucker. These people know their business, and their business is sales, sales, sales first. Taking care of their owners' seems to be an afterthought. Vacations and getaways have become all pressures and uncertainties. It is not worth it! It just isn't. I'm willing to take a loss if I even can sell these things.
I hope this forewarns people. I wish I knew more. You aren't getting what you think you are getting. The salespeople will tell you anything to get you to buy.
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