I spent the weekend doing something I would not ever advise anyone do.
I don’t know why we do this. Everyone has their quirk. I guess this is ours.
We agreed to attend a timeshare presentation – again.
If you’re tired of me railing against timeshares and want to jump straight to the tips for doing the timeshare thing right – feel free. Otherwise, I did have a rather interesting experience that doubled as “updated research” for why timeshares are a mostly bad idea.
Silverleaf Resort is an off-the-grid timeshare “resort” in Southern Illinois; situated on the very muddy Fox River. It’s about 90 minutes from Chicago – so not a bad drive for a quick, inexpensive getaway. However, this getaway is only inexpensive if you don’t return home tethered to a timeshare.
For the weekend, we paid $55 to stay in a clean and comfortable enough hotel with a full kitchen. We received 4 passes to the quite enjoyable indoor water park, and $40 spending money compliments of a Visa gift card. Since we brought food from home, money spent on meals was less than $10 for the weekend.
What did we give up in exchange for this very budget-friendly weekend outing? Four hours fending off sales people and cajoling toddlers in a crowded, noisy sales room.
Was it worth it? Since we walked away with gifts and no timeshare – I’m okay with the time sacrificed. The added bonus – I can share the dirty details because they are still fresh.
Our appointment was 12 pm and we arrived 30 minutes early. I don’t think they called us until at least 1pm. During your wait, you have cookies and popcorn galore – I guess to sweeten you up. There was also an inane game of bingo going constantly. During this time, my toddlers gave me an appropriate excuse to leave the building, walk the grounds and interact with other potential customers. I did have the opportunity to heavily suggest to a few people that they not buy but look at renting if they liked this place. Interestingly enough, looking at the reviews on Trip Adviser, Silverleaf doesn’t get high marks. Now that I’ve stayed there, I’d say the reviews were appropriate.
It turns out, timeshare sales people are working the malls, sporting events, casinos, and a few other social gathering holes. My husband said he thinks he filled out a raffle at a Bulls game – that’s how he got a call.
After being called, the sales person goes through her spill. Afterwards, we embarked on a guided tour. This part did take about 90 minutes. In a timeshare presentation, nothing is pretyped. All the information is scribbled on forms. I noticed the sales gal did a lot of circling and crossing out stuff. This seems designed to keep your eyes shifting – that’s the only thing I can infer.
So here’s their initial pitch:
If we vacation every year given the info we provided over 20 or 30 years (I can’t remember which), we’d pay $90,000 on vacation.
If we signed up with them, for 20 years we’d have access to their properties – in 7 locations across the U.S. – for just $28,000. Really!!!
I’d forgotten how big that initial number is. I’m not sure if there’s an expectation that someone will jump in at that number or it’s just so high to make you feel at ease when they offer you a “deal”.
After the first no, the “manager” comes in to offer a just in deal: $15,000 for different times of the year blah blah blah.
After the next no, the offer collapsed to $9,995 for every other year.
Thankfully, they relented fairly easily and we moved on to the rest of our quite pleasant weekend.
1. Use a friend’s timeshare. We all know someone with one – unfortunately. One of the cool things about having this type of friend is you can generally buy extra weeks or use the last minute deals to find a decent deal if you’re flexible and willing to read use reviews. It’s a lot of work, but if you want something larger than a hotel room, it can be worth the effort.
2. Search online for owners willing to rent their week or points out. Sites like Trip Adviser, Red Week or even Timeshare Users Group can be very helpful.
3. Using sites like VRBO, HomeAway, or now AirBnB (although I haven’t tried this particular one myself yet – I hear good things) can get you a great deal, larger units than hotel rooms, and I find more flexibility with location and better quality amenities.
Above all, this is just another reminder to avoid the timeshare where ever possible. Pay for your vacations when you are ready to take them. Come home with no strings attached!