About RVtravel.com and our challenges

About RVtravel.com and our challenges

 

By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR
March 13, 2017
I received a letter recently from a reader named Bob, who wrote: “Maybe it’s just me, but the routine negative tenor of your editorial is a bit tiring. Please consider an occasional upbeat topic. Great newsletter though.”

Yes, I realize I have been negative at times. I’ve done a lot of thinking about that. But I’ve concluded that I feel compelled to report to you, as an avid observer of the RV industry, what I know about what’s going on that affects you and me. There’s plenty of good, of course, but some bad, too. And that “bad” will seldom get mentioned in any other website or periodical aimed at RV consumers — except RVtravel.com. And that’s where the “negative” comes in.

We’re the only voice that I know of that honestly addresses the issues of  RVers week after week. We don’t sugar coat what we write to sell advertising. I believe most readers appreciate that, even though I may come across as “negative” at times.

If you have read this newsletter for long, you know that there is no major organization that represents the interests of RVers in Congress and state legislatures. The Good Sam Club used to, but no more. The only organization that even comes close is the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). But its loyalty is to RV manufacturers, not you and me.

Take lemon laws: The RVIA fights to defeat them whenever they are proposed in state legislatures. Why? Because if those laws should pass they’d cost their members a bundle replacing the defective RVs. In most states today, if you buy an RV that cannot be fixed, “tough luck.” You’re stuck! Who will buy it? Have fun paying off your 20-year loan.

And that makes me really, really mad! That’s “negative,” I suppose.

I get letters from readers who have been stuck with lemons. “How can it be right that I bought a brand new RV that is so riddled with defects it can’t be fixed, and there is no lemon law to have it replaced like there is with cars?”

Will you read about this subject in any other RV website or periodical? No way! They have advertisers to please! Do they care, that with close to a half million new RVers on the road each year, there just might be a crisis in campsite availability? I just researched reserving a campsite next week for five nights at the popular Watchman Campground in Zion National Park. Of course, I was dreaming: there was nothing available for five months! The last time I visited (it was years ago), I showed up and easily found a space. Somehow, with 1,200 new RVs rolling off the assembly lines each and every DAY, the RV and camping industries must find a way to increase camping opportunities!

And just as more campsites are needed, KOA, the largest chain of campgrounds, is removing campsites to put in cabins. Why? It’s more profitable to rent a cabin than a campsite! Net result: fewer campsites for you and me. I don’t blame KOA franchise owners for doing this: It makes business sense. But it’s not helping you and I find campsites any easier.

And to get an idea of campsite availability. Consider that KOA, with 500 locations, has a total of only 70,000 campsites. And now consider that about 550,000 new RVs are projected to be sold in 2017. Where will they (and you and me) stay? In this month’s issue of Woodall’s Campground Management magazine, KOA President and CEO Pat Hittmeier advised, “if your experience is that ‘I’m having trouble getting a reservation,’ the thing to do is reserve sooner.” 

That’s real nice for those of us who very often already need to book months, even a year ahead, to get a reservation in popular campground.

I met last week with the leaders of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA). To reverse its declining memberships, it’s likely the club will need to admit owners of towable RVs. In our closed meeting, I lobbied that the organization begin actively representing the concerns of all RVers. For example, fight for lemon laws, not just stand aside and do nothing. FMCA could do some real good, and I think many RVers would join simply to support that voice.

OUR ECONOMIC REALITIES
Two weeks ago, out of the blue, Amazon.com announced that it was cutting its commissions to its affiliates. For us, it means we’re now getting half of what we’ve received for years. It’s a substantial blow. We’ve grown to depend on that income. I am still thankful for the Amazon revenue despite the cut, but the decrease makes paying our bills more challenging. I hope you will continue to do your shopping through its links you see in this newsletter and on this website. Here’s a link to Amazon’s front page if you want to do some shopping after reading this newsletter. Please consider bookmarking it for your future purchases.

We have other ways to make money, but we decline:

•We don’t sell “links.” Every week we receive letters from companies that propose a deal: link to them and they will pay us a monthly fee. For example, they may see an article on our website about RV insurance — the sentence may go like this: “Be sure to check with your insurance agent for advice.”

They’ll propose to us, “We’ll pay you $30 a month if you change the sentence to “Be sure to check with your Farmers insurance agent for advice.” I just used Farmers here as an example. That’s an easy $360 a year for us (and with many similar links we could build a sizable income). But we don’t do it. A LOT of websites do. To me, it’s unethical. 

•We do not sell our mailing list. We could make a ton of money doing that. We get approached all the time. Each time, we could make thousands of dollars. We will not do it. Period!

•And, of course, we could take advertising from RV manufacturers. But the money comes with an understanding:  “Don’t write bad things about our products or we’ll cut you off.”

We will operate ethically or we’ll close up shop.

The bright spot in all this is that about 3 percent of you have voluntarily subscribed to this newsletter. That income has been a huge help, and it’s critical now. Many of you also shop through our Amazon.com links (thank you).

Our goal is always the same: be more valuable to you with each passing week. Who else keeps you posted on RV recalls or tells you about how an RV hot skin condition can severely injure or kill you? I know we have saved lives because of Mike Sokol’s articles about this. As you read this weekend’s issue, pay attention to the nationally known experts who offer their advice. Who else brings together so many highly qualified voices in one place, all to make your RVing better … and, very important, safer?

If you have not pledged a one-time or ongoing monthly subscription to this newsletter, please consider doing so. Click here to see the many options. Sure, you can continue to read for free: But if you really believe we are doing a good thing here, we would hugely appreciate your contribution, big or small. 

And please take a few minutes to tell your friends about us and urge them to sign up for the weekly email reminder.

With close to a half million RVs being cranked out this coming year (a record) you can expect more quality issues with those RVs, more problems getting service, and more problems finding campsites. We’ll do our best to try to affect change that saves you money and makes your RVing lives better.

And for the record, and to end on a positive note, I still love RVing just as much as when I began 35 years ago. I am simply fortunate to be in a position of influence where, with the help of my staff, I can help improve the lives of many of my fellow RV enthusiasts. Sometimes, alas, that may make me appear “negative.”

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50 thoughts on “About RVtravel.com and our challenges

  1. Jane Ayers

    I will add to all the thank you’s. I have made a donation.

    1. RV Staff

      And we thank you, Jane, very much. And a huge thanks to all of our readers who so generously donate, in whatever amount. We sincerely appreciate it and will continue to improve and expand on what we bring to you — while doing what we thoroughly enjoy! 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

  2. Jerry

    If I had read your letter before I purchased my class A I’m sure I would have made better decisions. You are spot on with your articles especially when our safety is concerned. I always thought used car salesmen were unsavory. They can’t hold a light to some of the unethical practices used by the RV industry, from the manufacturers to some salesmen and service providers. I have been lucky, we have a local truck sales and service center that will service and repair RV’s.
    To date I have spent $10,000.00 plus to improve handling and sound proofing.
    Keep up the good work.

  3. Debbie A Hansen

    I got wind of your wonderful RV newsletter. As a somewhat newbie this year will be my second year owner 😉 I find all your information informative and appreciate it ALL the good the bad and the ugly. In these times of “political correctness” I find it refreshing to hear what some folks are calling “negative” in order to make informed choices one needs to hear both sides of the story not to mention that you are advocating for RV’rs . Thanks for what you do I just made a donation a couple of nights ago! Keep being “negative” or what I consider just being honest.

  4. Dan Bakke

    Hey Chuck, I’ve been reading the RVtravel.com newsletter every Satrday for I don’t know how long. There was a problem with getting it starting about a year ago and all of a sudden I wasn’t getting them anymore. I thought that RVtravel ended but the real problem seemed to be when support was lost for Windows XP. We upgraded to windows 10 and I hate it! I checked with our local internet email support and found out that RVtravel was going in the trash every week! Shoot! So finally I’m back on board.
    Wondering how many others have had that issue? One thing is that when I get the email from RVtravel every Saturday morning and open it up ….it is really hard to get [myself] off the computer. So much rich information! Thank You Chuck! Great Job!

  5. Lorin Turner

    We are new to this lifestyle and are very thankful for this newsletter and all of the valuable information on it. Sometimes the truth hurts but we all need to hear it. Thanks for your approach and willingness to deliver the good, the bad and the ugly.

  6. julie schneider

    I wonder if you could charge for sale or wanted ads? I know we had a brand new j couch from our RV that we didnt want and there really isnt anywhere that you can post a RV part or equipment item. Just a thought…probably one you have already had! this is a great newsletter and we will be sending a subscription fee. Thank you!

  7. Austin

    Chuck, you’re doing a masterful job. Keep up the good work.

  8. Donna & Bob

    I have enjoyed your newsletter for a dozen years now. The articles are always very informative. If it weren’t for you and your honesty, we’d have probably went out a bought a new Motorhome. Family members bought a new 2015 and had nothing but problems that the dealer service dept. could never remedy. We have decided to hang onto our 2006 Winnebago 38 foot Adventurer. We love it.!! We make an automatic monthly contribution to the Newsletter.. Thank you for the great Newsletter.

  9. Tom Bender

    Oklahoma is considering closing about six state parks. They cut taxes so much for the most fortunate we have no funds for education, Medicaid, higher education or any program to help the least fortunate.

  10. jerry williams

    Afternoon Chuck. Been reading a lot of your pages. I am a newbie, looking to retire next year. Thanks for good work.

  11. Henry Bradford

    I live and camp mostly here in Colorado. I also look forward to your Saturday post. I don’t feel you are reporting negative vibes. If people can’t understand the shape and caliber of service we are getting today from the R.V. Industry just Google Camping World or another R.V. Company. You can even Google Co. Springs, CO. Camping Word and read the pure anger people have in this area towards Camping World. Had a very bad black mold issue with a used camper after only a month and they refused to help me. I bought as is. That’s your signature isn’t it? Guess you now have a handyman special. Who wants to hear responses like that when your asking for help. I think peoples attitude would be different if they took out a $11,000 used R.V. loan and later find out half your R,V, is infested with toxic black mold. Can’t buy a new R.V. and now I can’t buy a used R.V.
    PS: I tried to set up a monthly credit card donation but couldn’t see which option that would work. Also tried to link to the Amazon Home Page and when I click on my account it stated that the web site didn’t exist.

  12. Nels

    As long as your negativity keeps the industry on its’ toes, keep up the good work. Actually, I find it refreshing to read the truth about these things. I also have the Amazon Canada link bookmarked. Please keep up the great reporting and stories.

  13. Jim & Zona

    Please continue your excellent reporting, it is very welcomed & appreciated. The ‘truth’ is something we all need & want to read & hear so, Thanks
    Jim & Zona

  14. Marilyn Sanborn

    Well Chuck, I never thought of your articles as negative but rather informative. I am the type that likes the honest news and not something that is sugar coated. Keep up the great work Chuck, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, just some of the people some of the time.

  15. Mary Jordan

    Chuck, Bob was right . If you go back and read a year or two of your editorials and than go pull out any printed copy of your RV newspaper we used to subscribe to, you have gotten quite grumpy in your old age. Once in a while something up beat?? Poor Bob you jumped on him with your problems. Is there any joy in your life? Can’t get a reservation, can’t get a pull thru roads are too narrow . Steak overdone? Life ‘s a bitch than you die but I can read that on Fox News. An occasional glimmer of hope, please. Overcome. Conquer. Thrive.

    ..

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      I just don’t see it that way Mary. My life is wonderful. I am no cheerleader for the RV industry, although I am a cheerleader for RVing. I “jumped on Bob?” Did you happen to notice I did not use his last name or where he lives? I simply answered him. Ya want me to make up a little story so I don’t hurt his feelings? I would guess that if Bob read what I wrote in today’s newsletter, he is probably happy that I acknowledged his question. I doubt he feels that I “jumped on him.” But that’s just a guess on my part.

  16. greg

    Thank you Chuck for being our voice reporting the good and the bad news in the RV industry. I will disagree with you on one opinion you had on the Host truck camper. I am in the process of downsizing from a 36 foot fifth wheel to a triple slide truck camper. I am a full timer and I find the truck camper definitely better to suit my needs then a Class C or B. I was considering a 38 foot Class A but I decided I would be happier to try something smaller that would give me different camping experiences I could not do with a Class A. I am keeping my fifth wheel for a while and maybe make it a home base with in case miss the extra space from time to time. Only time will tell.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Greg, My main issue with the Host camper is that you cannot get inside it with the slides in. But if that is not a problem for someone, then it does offer a lot of space, providing one has a truck suitable for carrying it.

  17. elaine ashton

    Just sent a contribution to RV Travels … and sure hope Chuck will be able to continue this publication. Sad to hear what’s going on in the RV industry and even more sad about the parks. Maybe most of all — THANK YOU FOR YOUR HONESTY … and I don’t think you are negative one bit … the truth is the truth … even if we don’t like to hear it.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Elaine, we are fine financially, just not rolling in dough (that has never happened). But we have every expectation to carry on with the newsletter until that day when I lose my mind or get run over by an 18-wheeler. When I finally do step down I hope there will be someone to carry on, as there will always be a need for quality information to better help RVers enjoy their lifestyle.

  18. Bob Reddington

    I’m a big fan of you and your newsletter and have read it for years so I mean this kindly. Watching you asking for donations every week makes me uncomfortable and is somewhat demeaning to you. Your newsletter has value, all the more so since you’ve stepped up your editorials on RV quality, and people should pay for it. I’ve “donated” a couple of times but I don’t remember when another donation might be due and besides, as I’ve said, it doesn’t feel right. Apparently 97% of your readers have a reason for not contributing. If $25 a year from 3% of your readers helps, $5 or $10 as a subscription from everyone would surely make a difference. I’m sure there are reasons you haven’t taken this obvious step but I hope you’ll reconsider. Your newsletter is informative and entertaining and is worth more to me than several other things I subscribe or belong to.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Bob, I understand how you feel. I was reluctant to even ask for “voluntary subscriptions” for 12 years. It was only after we lost our main source of income, RVbookstore.com, that we needed a new revenue stream to keep going. The bookstore had provided about 80% of the funding for this newsletter. My only choice these days is to occasionally prod readers to “voluntarily” subscribe or solicit more advertising, which comes with strings. I’d rather shut down the business than have to water down our articles to make sure we did not offend anyone and risk losing support. I hope you do not feel you need to send us anything more. I appreciate what you have done. Thank you.

      1. Bob Reddington

        Thanks for responding Chuck. But my main question was why not put a price on a product people value rather than leave it voluntary?

  19. Joe Schmidt

    Chuck,
    Sue and I hear ya’! Money is almost always the most common, common denominator. We have a voluntary subscription because we do enjoy your newsletter. It’s time to send in another… but I have something to offer which you are already familiar with, that is actually of much greater value than a subscription; At no cost or strings attached but one …. free publishing rights for one year to “Joe Schmidt’s favorite Winding Roads Cartoon Strips” that I send to you.

    I retired from teaching high school Art/Animation in 2005 and two years ago from almost 30 years of freelance cartoon publishing. The cartoons now just sit on my hard drive. It would be fun to see them out where RVers could again enjoy them… and be another reason for new subcriptions to RV travel.

    “If” you find this to be an agreeable situation, I will pick out an initial number of my favorite cartoons. Hopefully you and your readers will enjoy seeing them. We will all know this verified by publishing them regularly. I will would then send more with the same agreement for free.

    The ball is in your court…
    Joe

    T

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      I will email you, Joe. — Chuck

  20. Ian Anderson

    Chuck, just a BIG THANK YOU from a Canadian!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Dennis

    Keep up the good work Chuck. I have your Amazon links (Canada & US) bookmarked to help with your worthy cause. I look forward to delivery of RVtravel every Saturday morning.

  22. C.P.

    Chuck,
    I more than agree with your Topics and Editorial’s. You are correct in stating that manufactures have been cutting a lot of corners at our expense..
    I just linked my Amazon Prime with your website and saved it in my FAVORITES.

  23. Kat

    Do NOT change Chuck. One “negative” comment from a reader doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. Your newsletter is the best there is and I know there are many, many readers who like you just the way you are, me included.

  24. Tom Becher

    I have been passing around that cute Thor God clip (video) to all my friends and they find it so true. I’m in a park in Benson AZ and to hear all the horror stories about what went wrong and how much it cost to repair it would make sure nobody ever bought an RV. My next door neighbor spent $4400 on slide out repairs on a 14 month fiver. My service writer got a new replacement for a beyond repair fifth wheel that was months old (He and his co. have very good on staff attorneys). I know I will never buy new again and to hear most people in the park, neither will they. By spreading the word about such quality, maybe the makers of new will improve or like so many in recent years, just go out of business.

  25. suzanne

    Geez Chuck, I have never thought you were negative. You are reporting the facts. Been reading you since the paper edition. I make a lot of orders on Amazon so how can I get the commission coming to you? Do I have to come back to the newsletter each time and click on your Amazon link?
    In reference to Zion, when we camped there a couple yrs. ago we didn’t have a problem driving through in the morning (mid-week or even Sunday) as people left and finding a spot. The host there drives around looking for people leaving and directs you to an open spot if needed.

  26. Judy Hanson

    Thank you for your great work, Chuck. Have been following you for several years and think you are the only source out there telling the unpleasant truth about our RV world — RVs are not built to quality standards any more, there are not nearly enough campsites available and there’s just getting to be too many of us! I appreciate that you keep us informed and don’t consider it at all negative. Please keep up the good work!

  27. Rod Juranek

    Do we need to sign up with Amazon for % to go to RV Travel?
    Please inform everyone. Rod

  28. MizB

    K(eep) O(n) A(dding) not our favorite but we might be staying there more if campgrounds close down.
    Your “voice” is good for us!! We dropped membership in FMCA some years ago. They just represent the industry not Motorhome owners. For instance, the fuel situation of the truckers getting a discount at some of the large fuel stations while we, as large diesel consumers, ours 200 gallons per fill, get shafted. We even get charged extra to use our credit card for diesel but no extra charge for gas!! Did FMCA ever address this HUGE issue?? NO!
    Keep up the good work! We need to donate…..

    1. Patrick Granahan

      I agree that RV owners are not being represented by any organized effort.
      Also agree that the overall quality in the majority of the new RVs is deplorable.
      This will be my last year as a Good Sam member. I get the same discounts plus free campground directories with my AAA-RV membership plus towing if I need it.
      Good Sam exists to market insurance policies and sell stuff at Camping World Stores…all of which you can buy for less thru Amazon.

      If I was a younger man I’d start up an organization that represents the camping public. I’d start with Lemon Laws for openers.

      This website (RV Travel ) should start a movement for RV owners who seek representation . The RV industry is long overdue for a wake up call.

      1. Dan Bakke

        I didn’t know that about Good Sam vs. AAA. Thanks! Good Info!

  29. Lynn

    My wife and I subscribe to multiple RV magazines and I follow some blogs online about the RV experience. There is no other resource I have found that is as useful and informative as yours. And we readers get a real bonus in that you publish online weekly (along with your website and rich archive). Others publish monthly or sporadically. Thanks to you and your staff. We already have made a $ commitment, but I’ll check your link and see if there is an option to increase our “donation to the cause.”

  30. Henry Hinson

    Chuck, many thanks for providing all of us with current information about the RV experience. I have enjoyed following you for many years and look forward to each Saturday morning when I can read your newsletter. You present the good and the bad and always “tell it like it is”. What a welcome relief to know someone is looking our for the rest of us with no hidden agenda. Keep it up and Happy Camping!

  31. Pete Doddato

    I have read this newsletter since you started or shortly thereafter. I have never felt it was negative. It has been my primary source of honest advice concerning RVing. I can’t begin to tell you how much information I’ve learned here that I have shared with others. I also point people to this site frequently. It’s time to renew my subscription. Thanks Chuck. Keep up the good work. You are appreciated.

  32. Wendy and Robert slater

    Thank you for all you do ! My husband and I tented, had 2 pop ups with 3 sons and many of their friends coming along for the fun and 5 years ago purchased a 33 ft used keystone Montana. We love camping in our 5 th wheel. How rich we feel now. I would love to purchase a new camper but not now!!!! Thanks to you it sounds like we may run this one till she can’t go anymore. I thank you for all you do. There should be more open honest people in the world …like you.

  33. Larry

    Thank you Chuck for your weekly newsletter. I’ve been RV’ing 8 months out of the year for two years now. Your newsletter gave me most of what I needed to know to do this. I would like to increase my monthly contribution through paypal but I’m not sure how to do that on your link.

    And BTW, I have been to a number of RV parks where the electrical hookup was off – no ground or reversed polarity. I have a monitor that won’t let the current through if it reads an error. When I notify the campground the personnel that comes to check, first words, the last camper didn’t have any problems. When I tell them the problem and that a reverse polarity or lack of proper ground can kill someone, they fix it fast or call in electrician. The series from Mike Sokol gave me the ammunition to argue with them till it was fixed.

  34. Richard Brandt

    3%? I knew RVers were frugal but 3%?
    We have been sending $25 to you annually for the past few years and think it’s money well spent.

    1. a camper

      my thoughts too!

  35. John snell

    My wife and I are snowbirds in training. We think your site is very informative and much of the information is not available anywhere else that we have found. We are going to contribute as Amazon has cut its contribution. However have not found anywhere on your site to leave an opinion on rv issues that we have encountered on our travels.
    Thanks John and Tina

  36. Pam

    Thank you, Chuck, for keeping us updated on the good and bad in the RV world. I would much rather your ‘negativity ‘ keep me from a lot of headaches than hearing about flowers and ponies. We were thinking about buying a new rv but now wouldn’t think of giving up our trusty coach. Keep up the good work. We appreciate it!

  37. Joy

    Hey Chuck, you are so good at what you do and since there is a problem getting the voices of individual RVers heard, why don’t you start a new organization? You would be very good at it.

  38. marty chambers

    I have been reading your offerings for a few years and I find no issue with what you do. Are you being “negative”? Perhaps, but RVer’s need ALL the facts, and the negative ones are just as important as the “positive” ones.

    We need to discuss what RV manufacturers are doing and how they are keeping RVing frustrating for the public. If you bought a brand new car that after you get the car you have a long list of items that need to be fixed or even replaced how would you feel? The dealers don’t want to fix these issues because it cost them money. And most of the manufacturers don’t seen to care, they got their money. People spend months fighting to get what they paid big money for. This is wrong.

    So I prefer to know about the “negative” things so I can prepare myself to deal with them. Anyone who wants to ignore these issues are just fooling themselves. I am wondering if maybe the RVIA is getting heartburn over people learning the truth about what many of their members are doing. I would not put it past them to have trolls make comments to get you to just do pro RVIA comments and keep American RVers stupid. When you come down to it, a couple of companies now own many of what were independent manufacturers. There is less and less competition for them to deal with, this always cost the consumer.

    Keep up the good work Chuck, my voluntary subscription will soon be on it’s way.

  39. Onwego

    There are plenty of other places I can go online or in print that will happily support my all too human desire to place my head as deeply into the sand as possible. Happy talk gets us nowhere, as the last 20 years of American politics wll surely confirm. Keep doing what you’re doing. The grown-ups can handle it. The rest don’t matter, and never have

  40. Traci

    It’s tough being the good guy in a sea of not-so-good guys. I applaud you for the good work you do in challenging times. I am hoping that more people will “drop the nickel” and donate to the cause. I vow to contribute even more this year to keep this valuable resource going.

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