“How much money will you spend vacationing over the next 20 years?” we were asked yesterday when we attended a Silverleaf Resort Vacation Ownership Tour. They estimated $90,000 for us, but that number was so incorrect on so many levels. The fact that we travel for free based on points and mileage really threw the salesmen for a loop. They really just didn’t know what to do with us.
Why were we there you ask? Well, we were at the Texas State Fair last Sunday and while we were walking around and looking at the vendors, a young man came up to us and told us that if we would go to Tyler, take the tour, spend the day at the waterpark we would get 2 nights, 3 days at the Grey Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas for free, waterpark passes, and, a $40 Visa gift card and a $25 Darden restaurant gift card (they own Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, etc.). All we had to do was make a $20 deposit on our credit card and if we went during the week, we would get refunded that $20 plus $20. Confused yet?
The man at the fair explained that all we had to do was spend the day at the waterpark, show up at 2:30 for our appointment, tour a condo and the resort and then we’d get our free gifts. The tour would only take 90 minutes and we wouldn’t be pressured.
I knew from the minute the man explained this convoluted situation to me that we were going to be visiting a “timeshare” or “vacation ownership” concept. We knew that we were going to have to sit through some sales pitch and take a tour of a place that we weren’t going to purchase a membership to, but a part of me insisted that I take “advantage” of this opportunity to expose the truth behind the entire situation.
I’m not going to call them “lies” because we weren’t really lied to, we were just given inaccurate information and somewhat misled.
1. Spend the day at the waterpark – When they called to confirm the reservation, they were slightly confused why I asked if we could come early to the waterpark. That was because nobody can come early to “spend the day” at the waterpark, because you can’t access the waterpark until after the tour. The waterpark is open to the public by the way and even members of the program have to pay to use it.
2. 90 minute Tour – Yeah right! We spent 3 hours! We were there from 2:30 until 5:30pm! Even if we were going to spend time at the waterpark, we didn’t have a chance to. We had to go to the store and drive home an hour (we have to make our time in Tyler count if we’re going to go all the way there from Lake Fork). We were totally misled here. The entire sales pitch, the tour, it was way longer than 90 minutes.
3. Free Gifts – They were partially right about the free gifts. They gave us the restaurant gift card and the $40 Visa gift card. I trust that we will be refunded the deposit plus the $20. If not, my credit card company will back me up on that one, but the free vacation was a bit of a hustle. For the 2 nights at the Grey Wolf Resort, you have to pay a $100 reservation fee. So, it’s not free, it’s $100. Talk about misleading. At the end of getting the gifts, I was given a scratch off card that gave me the opportunity to win cash or a shopping spree. Of course I didn’t win either of those, I won a 4 day Island Getaway, I just have to pay a $50 registration fee and cover my own plane tickets. Sure, what a deal! Actually, there’s some odd language in the small print on both of the “free vacations” that I need to investigate further, as I have a feeling there are more hidden charges in there somewhere.
All in all, we ended up with a restaurant gift card a Visa gift card. Not bad gifts, but it certainly doesn’t pay the 3 hours of my time I spent there.
The only true statement there was that they didn’t pressure us, because well, they couldn’t. They couldn’t justify us spending $15,000 to $13,000 on “vacation ownership” when we already travel wherever we want, however we want, and whenever we want. I also explained that I have a travel review website, so I try not to stay at the same places time and time again if I can help it. Plus, there’s a monthly “maintenance” fee you pay the entire time you’re a member.
We don’t spend a week in one place, we move around a lot. We also use points and get a lot of our travel expenses for free through our credit cards, so it really just didn’t make sense for us to become “new owners.”
The Villages Resort
The resort that we toured was The Villages Resort. It is based in Flint, Texas near Lake Palestine. The resort does have a small marina and dock area for the membership to use, but it’s not that big.
The “units” are called condos, but they are really just furnished two bedroom apartments, they aren’t really what I would call a condo. The condo that you do see is just a sample building that is all set up like someone is living there. Nothing in it is real and it doesn’t even have plumbing. It makes me wonder if the actual units are as nice as those since you don’t actually see them. None of the units were overlooking any part of the lake either.
The resort does have several amenities such as putt-putt golf, tennis courts, and a large pool. There are actually 5 pools on the grounds. One pool looks really nice while the others are pretty typical.
The waterpark is open to the public and members do have to pay to use it. It includes a food court as well. It is enclosed and while not huge, a very nice and modern looking waterpark for a small resort.
The member’s activity center features pool tables, a movie theater and games, as well as a food court and gift shop.
I’m sure that this type of vacation situation is ideal for some families. I know that we have friends with several kids who would be able to make use of the amenities and this type of program would work well for them. For us, we’re not ones to stay in one place for long. We just went on a 10-day road trip and hit eight different cities. We only had seven locations to choose from and three of them were in Texas with an hour to an hour and a half from us. That’s just not a vacation to us.
The other kicker was that they don’t have Internet in the units. As owners of an online business, that’s not really an option either. We can use our phone as a modem, but I much prefer speedy Internet when it’s available and I can’t get any work done in a public area, such as a food court.
Now I’m off to see how not free these vacations are that I “won.” We will be visiting the waterpark at a later date to review it on it’s own, as we do have the passes that were given as gifts that we must use in 60 days.