Road “service” quality questionable

Road “service” quality questionable

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Things that can mess up your RVing day: Motoring down the happy highway when a sudden “BOOM!” rolls out across the landscape. A quick glance in your rear view mirror reveals chunks of rubber blasting away from your trailer wheel well. Sure enough, you get to test out your emergency road service.

roadservice 1
R&T De Maris

Some time back, running that lonely stretch of Highway 95 between Quartzsite and Yuma, Arizona, that was my experience. I’d just gotten the rig back from a mechanic who’d worked on the suspension system, and I was running home to Quartzsite, late for supper. The street-side forward tire, not more than two or three years old, decided it was time to head off to the great “tire beyond.”

After limping onto a wide spot on the shoulder and setting out the safety cones to warn traffic, I texted my beloved to tell her not to hold dinner. Then I rang up the dispatch folks at Good Sam Emergency Road Service, looking forward to a short wait for a service truck to help me out of my predicament. Little did I realize that it would be a long time until I finally fired up the engine and headed for home.

We’ve had Good Sam service for a number of years. We’ve had a few adventures that required phoning in and waiting for a service guy. Sometimes we waited in a parking lot; once beside a very scary stretch of Utah’s Interstate 15 with traffic blasting past us like astronauts hell-bent for the moon. But this experience left me wondering: Is there something better?

I can understand that the outfit will have a central dispatch center somewhere. Texas isn’t as far from Arizona as say, New York City, but as far as “local knowledge,” the dispatcher may as well have been on the moon. It took nearly a half-hour of concerted effort to help the dispatcher find where we were. At first she had us spotted somewhere in California, then later, I “was” way north of where I really was. Happily, I had a GPS that would display my geographic coordinates, which I rattled off to her. “Oh, my system has located you now,” she told me. Future reference: Know how to get your own GPS to give coordinates; it could save you a lot of frustration.

Now knowing where I and the broke down rig are located is one thing; it’s quite another to find the nearest service provider. My dispatcher cheerfully told me she’d get back to me shortly to let me know who was coming, and when to expect them. Nearly an hour later, I called Good Sam back. Point number two: Terminology. When you get the cheerful soul on the phone, after the first call, immediately tell them: “This is a re-call,” or you can expect to go through a long ritual of giving all the same information you already gave.

The second fellow on the line seemed a bit put-out that I had yet to hear back. He put me on protracted hold. Now mind you, I hadn’t planned on being stranded beside the road – whoever does? So of course, I hadn’t brought a charge cable for my cell phone. Worried that I might run out of battery before a rescue arrived, I finally hung up after 10 minutes on hold. Happily, the second dispatcher did eventually call me back. His sad story: My original dispatcher was still working the phones, and she’d asked for “a different database,” of providers to call. A supervisor soon got involved.

An hour-and-a-half after my initial phone-in, I got the happy news: They’d called 21 different service providers, and the first 20 turned down the job. Good news: Number 21 would accept the job. Bad news: It could be a three-hour wait before they arrived. Given the name of the provider and their phone number, I settled in to watch the sunset. Worried, however, because it appeared that my trailer tail lights weren’t working. I called for reinforcements, and my dearest one arrived with a car to provide lights, and hamburgers and french fries to provide nourishment.

After a long wait I dialed up the service provider. He was happy that I had – because there was some confusion as to exactly where I was. Somehow – despite the dispatcher having our geographic coordinates and the fact that their “system has located you” – the tow guy figured I was somehow way north of reality. And that three-hour estimate? “No, we told them it might be four hours before we can get to you – I’m swamped at the shop and I’m having to call in backup.”

After one hamburger, numerous french fries, and several hands of pinochle, the service guy arrived. I won’t go into detail about how the spare tire rim froze up on the wheel, so that the poor guy had to remove the tire and remount it on a different rim, but I will tell you that the gentleman could tell me in years, months, and days how long it was until his retirement.

I’m happy we finally got away from that lonesome spot beside the highway. But it left me with a lot of questions. First, it seems there has to be a better way to “find” stranded motorists. This isn’t the first time we’ve had to hand-hold road service dispatchers. Second, why is it that it took 21 phone calls to find a cooperative road service provider?

We decided to question Good Sam about the matter. It took several days to get the answers, but to his credit, Frank Stofa, Good Sam’s Senior Program Coordinator for Roadside Assistance and TravelAssist, went the extra mile to dig up the “what happened,” with our peculiar case. Since the outfit records all calls to the dispatch center, Stofa took the time to listen to those calls, review the notes from the dispatch center, and finally render a judgment.

Stofa describes the experience as “a first magnitude of service errors,” that represent perhaps a quarter of one percent of all the calls that the organization handles. In our case, four dispatchers (instead of the typical one) handled my case. Among them there were poor communications and a failure to observe service rules. Net result: I got the dirty end of the stick. He was quick to point out this is NOT the way Good Sam typically handles service calls, where the goal is to see to it that a stranded member’s problem is turned around in 30 to 90 minutes.

How does Good Sam’s road assistance dispatch service operate? Your call is always handled domestically – never by an operator in, say, Bangladesh. Once your scene is located (having the precise geographic coordinates from your GPS system really helps), the dispatcher works a map system, laid out in concentric circles. Contracted providers in that first circle are called; if none can help, the next circle of contracted providers is called, and so on, until three concentric circles around your scene are worked. Still no providers? It’s at that point that the organization starts calling “non-contracted” providers to bail you out. In our case, none of the contracted providers would come. Stofa was at a loss to explain why none of the first 20 providers would come change a tire. He pointed out that when bad weather or other situations tie up a lot of providers at once, you’ll typically wait longer for service.

On behalf of the road service group, Frank Stofa seemed genuinely embarrassed by the poor performance on our call. To smooth the way, he offered to upgrade my basic membership to the “Platinum Plus” grade (instead of taking your rig to the nearest “capable and willing repair facility,” you can choose any spot within 100 miles), and tossed in a free membership to the club’s medical assistance program.

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R&T De Maris

Oddly enough, during the days between our desert flat tire crisis and Frank’s call summarizing his findings, we had another chance to test out the road service program. Near the infamous Donner Pass in California, another tire let go in a blaze of rubber. Yes, we had carefully checked inflation and trailer loading – the contrary thing just blew. This time, a local tow company was on scene and had us on our way in about two hours. Not quite the “30 to 90 minutes” goal, but close enough.

How about you? Has your road service company lived up to your expectations? Drop us a line, Russ at sign rvtravel.com.

##rvt757

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25 thoughts on “Road “service” quality questionable

  1. Roger V

    My experience with Good Sam road service has been surprisingly similar to that described by Russ DeMaris. After a dozen years of RVing and being a Good Sam member, I finally had to call for road service for the first time two years ago while in Whitehorse in the Yukon. I had a check engine light and a warning message on my MB Sprinter telling me I had only 14 more starts before my engine would be disabled (despite a full tank of DEF). This past March, I had to make my second call due to a tire valve breaking off as I entered Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona. My third call for service came soon after in May when I again had a tire go bad while driving through central Texas.
    Each time I went through a lengthy discussion to help the service rep understand where I was. Once that was finally established, the reply from the rep was discouraging in each instance as they told me that I was located in a remote area and it would be a problem to find a service provider who would come to my location. In the first instance, I was eventually referred to a local Freightliner shop which it turned out was closed for remodeling. Fortunately with some effort I was eventually able to locate someone from the shop who referred me to a “shade tree” mechanic nearby who resolved the problem for the time being.
    In the second case, it was a Sunday afternoon at 3 PM and I was told by the rep that she would try to locate a service provider but that she didn’t expect anyone could come to us until the following morning at the earliest. This was confirmed later in a follow-up call but I was assured that she would get on this first thing in the morning when she came in and she would call me. We were able to hobble into the campground nearby for the night to await further word. When no call came the next morning and it was an hour or so beyond the appointed time, I called GS again. After some confusion, it became clear to GS that this was a “re-call” and they found the rep from the day before. She said she was just getting ready to work on my case and that she would get back to us shortly. Sometime later she called back to say a service truck was enroute but it would take a couple hours to reach us. He arrived as indicated and proceeded to fix the problem, allowing us to finally get on our way approximately 24 hours after the initial call.
    In the third incident, after some effort to clarify our location, I was told by the rep that GS had no contract service providers anywhere near us but that she would endeavor to locate someone who could help us. Hearing nothing back after awhile, I called again and was told she was still looking. Finally she called me to tell me they still had nothing even though she had tried to contract local non-contract shops. Her attitude was one of resignation although she said she could keep looking but that it might be some hours before we could be helped. Since I have dual wheels on my RV and only one was flat, I decided to use Google to find a local shop and to drive very slowly to it to seek help. I found a one-man garage and the owner was willing and able to fix the problem. Once again, we got back on the road with no help from GS.
    To be fair, we had one good experience with GS when we had to make a call later in the trip while camping along the Gulf Coast in Alabama. One of our stabilizers wouldn’t retract and the manual cranking approach failed when a bolt snapped. This time, a service contractor was dispatched and the problem was fixed within the 30-90 minute window referenced by Mr. DeMaris.
    So after paying for GS road service for twelve years and then needing that service four times in the past two years, I would rate the service as one satisfactory event and three quite unsatisfactory situations. A batting average of .250 may be OK in baseball but it is awful for a road service provider. My thanks to the referral above to an alternative service as I am actively looking to switch to a company that can do better than .250

  2. Wayne D

    I’ve used GS for years. Why? Service has been good and I assume CN does the same thing. I’m sure CN has complaints now and then too. Same type of complaints probably. I’m now considering CN as their prices are less than same program I use at GS. I’m for reduced pricing of program.

  3. Randy Bitner

    Wow, thanks for sharing this story. On August 4th, 2016 I had a blow out on my fifth wheel trailer, curb side trailing tire. Had my grand children riding with me, RT. 55 in New Jersey, 38 miles from Philadelphia, and 10 miles from Vineland, N.J. After my five hour wait for a service truck, thought, time to change to Good Sams. First call was at 4:28pm. Second call was at 5:30 was told my first call was cancelled. Called again and was told it would take 5 hours for someone to service me as it was now after 5:00. Told the dispatcher, I was in one of the most populated areas in the East Coast. They could not find anyone to come to change the tire. WHAT??? I now called back every 30 minutes, glad I had my charger. Finally got another person who would come and fix tire for $550 but had to pay up front. Said, get it done. Then along came a man in a pick up with a floor jack. Jacked up the axle, took blown tire off, replaced with spare in 10 minutes. The tire company guy came at 9:38 when I was leaving, said I can’t charge you for something I did not do. So no charge to my card. Next day at the camp ground told fellow camper next to me my story, and lo and behold, his company was Good Sams and took four hours to find someone to get him on the road. My conclusion from reading the above post and my camping neighbor, their all shell games, get your money up front, but service is terrible. Now I am fighting with the insurance company that I have a five year plan for tire and wheel replacement. Oh your not registered, well yes I am. Went back to selling dealer to handle, now the company says, oh you have to go back to the place that replaced your tires. I purchased the Platinum grade from Xtraride. Have two more years before it expires, then who do you pick up? Progressive?

  4. Gary Reed

    Kiwi Yank
    I use my Good Sam Road Service (for tire changing) as a last resort! This was the case last June when we blew a tire. My wife kept asking why I do not use the road service from Good Sam and I told her I did not want to be out there all day waiting for the guy to come and change my tire.
    Rather than wait 90 minutes or 2 or 3 hours on the road side I changed the tire my self. I maintain my spare with a through inspection of pressure and dismount from the tire carrier before each trip. I carry a 8 ton jack and blocks for just this situation. After that one tire blow out when we arrived home, I ordered 4 new “E” load range tires in spite of the fact the factory “D” load range tires were only 2 years old. We were on our way in less than 25 minutes.

    1. Randy Bitner

      I should have done that. Limped along to the local walmart but did not know where I was. I did replace all four tires (Trailer has 5000 miles on it) but tires were older then my 2013 5th wheel. Replaced with same brand and style but current date on tire. I will now carry a 5 ton jack with me from now on. Thanks everyone, I thought it was just me.

  5. John Hilley

    I had the same problem with an issue on US95 between Yuma and the Yuma Proving Grounds. Couldn’t convince the dispatcher that I wasn’t in my home state of North Dakota. Although only 6 miles from Yuma, they dispatched somebody from California.

  6. rag-ftw

    Have used both GoodSam and Coachnet with success. We had a battery die on our towed in Stewart/Hyder one year, which is three hours from anywhere. Coachnet arrived within 3.5 hrs and had us ready to roll in 15 minutes.
    It does seem that I have a little more difficulty setting up the service call with Coachnet than GoodSam. I feel like GoodSam keeps our info on file and I have to give all the coach information to CoachNet each time.
    Bottom line; have used both, do not prefer one over the other, and we go with the one that gives us the best deal each year.

  7. Terri

    Had an interesting situation recently …first had an issue with our new to us TV that was a simple fix …but we were almost hijacked by a rogue repairman traveling with his tow truck that tried to take us off to his buddy’s shop (while we waited for AAA for our TV & Progressive for our TT). I remained in TV until he offered us the quick fix instead of getting out & letting him get away with our vehicle. We realized the errors of our ways in having 2 companies covering us so we switched all to Liberty Mutual

    Then came the most recent problem … and LM could take us but not our dogs (2 great pups) because there was not room in their tow vehicle… shopping for coverage again …..

    1. RV Staff

      We’re assuming you’re referring to an RV, Terri, rather than a TV? We could go in and edit, but I’m amused picturing you remaining in your TV. Sorry. 😉 Diane

      1. A Pseudonym

        I assumed that Terri was referring to his “tow vehicle” (TV)

        1. RV Staff

          I’ll bet you’re correct. I misinterpreted it. Sorry, Terri. 🙁

  8. Chuck D

    I have had Good Sam for a good while, a number of years and have used them four times. Once at night in the middle of the Mojave. That took a while because the repairman misread the GPS Cord. With any company you will find incompetent workers. That is why a return call when the time is expired is sometimes needed. To error is human, I don’t recall the rest but that is enough.

  9. Roy Ellithorpe

    I paid good sam $112.00 for 7 years. Then I had a flat tire on my enclosed car hauler behind my motorhome. Not covered (utility trailer), don’t forget the fine print. 2 years ago I had a flat tire on my motorhome. Good sam would pay for someone to come to the park but I would have to pay him (about) $85.00 to actually fix the flat. I googled Tire repair and had a truck there and the flat fixed in nothing flat, for about $85.00.
    I figure that if I had never heard of good sam, I would now have about $1000.00 in the kitty to pay for roadside assistance.

  10. LMS

    I have Coachnet. Only used them once. I am impressed that they first want to know if you are in a safe location everytime they speak to you. Tips to know, always get the case number so they can pull up the information given previously. I was not real happy with the towing service but I was happy with Coachnet. For the $89 (plus $10 signing), I had my bus put on a flat bed and taken 20 miles into town. That alone was more than getting my money’s worth. I will be keeping my Coachnet for a very long time plus I will reccomend them to everyone. And they will cover a converted schoolbus as long as it’s self-contained. Happy customer.

  11. Mel

    I have had GS ERS for over 20 years. They have come to my rescue many times for blown tires, stuck in the Mud, and towing a 5th wheel that had a wreck tearing out the axles. They only time I had a problem was because I didn’t read the fine print. At the time they did not cover towing for a utility trailer that I was towing and had a blow out between Needles Ca and Search Light Nv. all of the other time they were helpful and had someone there within 1 hour. I think a lot has to do with the location when you have a problem.

  12. don magel

    Good Sam road service does not verify the qualifications or skills of the “service” people that they send out. This was verified by their rep after my many calls about the damaging services i received last winter from their road service providers. The cost in money and time have me now using Progressive insurance and road service.
    GS was very apologetic etc. but offered no assurance that my three problem service people would not go on calls for them again.
    I am a life member of Good Sam but it has certainly changed ove the years.

  13. Pat

    We’ve had decent luck. First time through was scarey: on I -10 on a dark Sunday night, in the rain, first time in the driver’s seat of our new-to-us rv. Tire shredded tearing up the wheel well, pulling wires out of some system or another and wrapping them around the axel. It took me about 30 minutes to be able to let the steering wheel go. AAA rv service arrived in give or take 60 minutes. Getting things unknotted and pulling the loose bits out and a rig to tow us to the repair place took longer. There have been other problems – not so dramatic. Some even sorta funny – now. We have AAA, Good Sam, and have used rv mechanics who only handle house calls, all with reasonably good success. With a song in our hearts and a prayer on our lips, we continue.

  14. Barry Zeidman

    First of all, I don’t work for GoodSam. I’m a 64 year old retired school custodian. I have use GoodSams towing service 4 times. One time we were stranded at the air port in Washington D.C. with my Alzheimer stricken father at 10° and he with a wet diaper. I called AAA. They said 1.5 hours. They never showed up. So, I called GoodSams they came to help with the car in 30 minute. I broke down in the middle of a farm somewhere in the middle of Washington state in my class A. They sent a mechanic in this huge rig. He was unable to fix the rv so he called the tow truck at midnight. The tow truck driver towed us back to his shop, hooked us up with electricity and had the mechanic at our door at 7am. Didn’t cost us an extra cent. The other 2 calls were routine tire and battery calls. Coachnet may be great, but for the most part they all use the same tow services. If you do have a problem it is usually with them. I’m glad that GoodSams stepped up to the plate but I would have asked for 3 years of the extra services and would have settled for 2 years. But that’s just me.

  15. Jerry Miller

    None of these guys are great but we find Coach Net to be better than Good Sam.

    1. Walt66

      We have been fulltimers for 15 years, we started in 02 with Good Sam, that lasted 3 months when they recommended a tow company that did not have a rig big enough to tow us. The company referred us to a much closer company and $250 later we wer on the road with Good Sam refusing to pay the bill. We went to Coach Net and have been with them ever since. We have used them on at leat 6 occasions in the 15 years and been very happy with them.

  16. Seann

    3+ hour wait???? I would limp the trailer to where I could pull off the road and safely change the tire myself. On AZ-95 there are many such places available.

  17. Skip

    We had a problem once where the internal mechanism in the door handle to our Class A snapped off, leaving the door latch in the “locked” position and the door handle flopping around uselessly. We called Good Sam roadside assistance and had to keep explaining to the rep that the problem was *not* that we had locked the keys inside our vehicle. After a prolonged wait, a roadside assistance guy showed up, ready to help us out because he was told our keys were locked inside of our Ford pickup truck! I concluded that the problem was that the roadside assistance rep didn’t understand what a Class A motorhome is, how the doors work, and therefore what kind of assistance we needed. In thinking about the incident later, I concluded that the best solution would be if the phone reps were experienced RV’ers, but that’s probably too much to ask. Without that, though, I fear anything other than a flat tire or broken fan belt may well be met by some poor guy ill-equipped to fix the problem at hand.

  18. LZ

    Only buy a high quality road service program if you are traveling crossed the country; it is a waste a money if you travel only locally. Rely on a friend you reciprocate with. Many of these programs are just plain BS !!

    1. don magel

      which companies are the high quality ones?

      1. DRW

        Coach Net best, Good Sam 2nd.

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