Edited by Russ and Tiña De Maris
Here’s our biweekly compilation of your views on a variety of topics.
Our reader poll article, How often do you stay overnight at Walmart? drew plenty of feedback. The question we posed, “In a typical month’s time, how often do you RV overnight at Walmart?” Here are the results, as of May 16.
From 1,100 votes, 44% of you responded that you never did so, 38% stayed 1 or 2 times, 12% stayed 3 to 5 times, 4% stayed on 13 to 20 times, and 1% stayed more than 20 times per month. Here are some of your comments:
Eric said, “We find Walmarts to be friendly and safe. They are generally located near the interstates with easy access. We always call ahead to verify that overnight parking is allowed and ask where we should park. We always shop at the store. To us, it is not reasonable to spend $30-40 a night to sleep for a few hours. Park owners should be smarter. Why not advertise and set aside a ‘boondocking’ rest area in the park (read ‘no hookups’) for a few dollars a night for RVers who want only to sleep. This would most likely not impact the bottom line (except to increase revenue) because there will always be diehards who insist on hookups and will pay the regular price for a site. The parks could also charge a few dollars for use of a communal dump station in the rest area.”
Not everyone is as sure about safety. Zeke observes, “Have stayed at Walmart several times, but not for a few years. Momma prefers staying at truckstops, especially Flying J. We both feel more safe surrounded by the activity of working folks coming and going, trying to do their jobs, rather than unknown denizens of the night prowling in the dark.”
But Thomas throws in a few of the benefits of “Camp Walmart.” “When we leave Wisconsin for Arizona in January, there are no campgrounds open, so Walmart is the only thing. It’s great, go in and get a roto-chicken and some potato salad and have dinner and go to bed. Start the morning with some fresh donuts (not all stores) and on the way. Total cost = the food you eat.”
And for the record, many favorably commented on yet another “Walmart alternative”: Cracker Barrel Restaurants.
Our story, RVing not a ‘Baby Boomer’ industry anymore, pointed out that it appears the RV industry is now looking to the younger generation as its favored customers. If we boiled it down to a phrase, “Not so fast!” was a common denominator among our readers concerning that thinking.
Jay Ward’s comments were typical. “But we Boomers are the industry bread and butter. We’re the ones who go to RV shows year after year, buy new rigs, and have the time and money to actually travel and use them much of the year. A piece of advice to the industry (including campgrounds): Forget us at your peril.”
Mr.disaster adds, “Based on their math, the over-65 RV owners still account for 20% of the market. That’s a big share to ignore. And as others have posted, we are the experienced RVers who buy the high-end rigs. To appease the buyers they say they need to improve customer service (what an understatement)! No mention of working with campground owners to upgrade their properties. That’s just like the auto industry pumping out cars but there are neither decent roads nor enough parking.”
Maryse observes, “As active baby boomers doing a lot of RVing, my husband and I would like to see bike and kayak racks on RVs, as well as more technology and environmentally-friendly features (i.e., solar panels and other such features). These are not only the domain of younger generations. I see many active baby boomers on the road. So come on, let’s forget about generation gaps and just build better products with features that are in line with the times we are in.”
Carl Jones poses a question of his own: “I wonder what the long term prospects are for these buyers, once they get their new rigs and find the shoddy manufacturing and poor quality components used. In general, the younger generation does not have the skill set to make self-repairs like the older generation of RV owners have. Thus they rely on the dealers (who generally suck at such repairs in both doing a repair correctly and in a timely manner). It will be interesting to see how many of the Generation X and Millennials actually stay with RVing or buy their first unit and then shortly thereafter get out of this lifestyle.”
Finally, Tommy Molnar adds his own, sober observation to the discussion: “I looked up ‘Generation Z’ because I’d never heard of them. A quick trip to Wikipedia told me there IS no set date or age for this group. Just some of the younger folks who have grown up in the computer, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else you can have nowadays. This whole sudden growth spurt in the RV industry is a bit scary to me. Kinda like the real estate boom of the 80’s (and what followed).”
CAMPING WORLD IN THE CROSSHAIRS
Finally, one more sore subject arose in reaction to our story, Camping World changing policy on overnight RV stays? We gave readers an opportunity to tell us how often (or not) they overnighted at a Camping World store. Here are your responses, as of May 16.
Our poll question: Have you ever overnighted with an RV in a Camping World parking lot? Of 1,170 responses, 18% responded, “Yes, but rarely;” 2% said, “Yes, fairly often;” and a whopping 79% haven’t overnighted at CW. Here are a few of the responses you wrote in:
Susan Callihan was one who related positive experiences with CW. “We have stayed twice at the Camping World just north of El Paso, Texas. We obtained permission ahead of time, parked where they indicated (next to a light pole with a 30-amp plug!), and filled our propane tank before leaving the next day. The staff was very friendly and respectful. I would stay there again, as it’s handy on the way from A to B, and we felt safe.”
On the other hand, not everyone had such happy times. BruceinAZ writes, “We’ve found that most Camping Worlds don’t even provide RV parking for shopping at their stores. We had several occasions while traveling last year where we needed parts while on the road and were unable to find parking for our 40′ coach, and towed to at least four stores where we tried. I think Marcus Lemonis has totally changed the focus of Camping World away from customer service to strictly profit making. I’ve also found that nearly everything Camping World sells is available elsewhere at a better price. We’re lifetime members of Good Sam and were Camping World Presidents Club from 1989 until Marcus did away with it several years ago, as well as Highway’s and Lifetimer magazines. Any more, Camping World is the last place I look when shopping for RV related products.”
Walt’s observations were succinct: “We have found Camping Worlds to be hit and miss. Their service desks, however, are almost all staffed by ‘advisors’ who act like you are bothering them. As for staying overnight, we have been told that Good Sam’s members can always stay overnight.”
Other readers took the opportunity to comment — not just on CW overnight hospitality — but on company management in general. Here’s Bee O’Neil’s take: “Camping World was a customer service/satisfaction company in the late 80s, until the founder sold to one of the ‘profit oriented’ corporations. Not long after the takeover of Camping World, the nine week certification course for RV Service Technician that had graduated over 50 classes, was abruptly shut down by CW administration, with no explanation provided to the staff. The program also provided a reliable source of certified technicians to CW as a source for trained technicians.
“What I did notice after CW sold out was the increase in the prices. For example, I was replacing the AC heating element in a fridge for a friend and went to a local family owned RV repair shop, who did not have the element in stock. Price: $51.00. Checked another locally owned shop, not in stock. Price $61.00. Last option, CW, not in stock, but could be delivered the next day. Price: $80.00! That puts everything in perspective for me when it comes to CW. Camping World belongs at the bottom of the list with its current leadership.”
Time and space would fail us to print every comment on the Camping World subject. Many voiced strong feelings about the seemingly high prices and low quality of both products and services. But Liz, from her personal experience, seems to strike a balance: “We purchased our travel trailer from the Camping World just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The sales staff was helpful and well-informed, Ralph cheerfully taught us how to drive with a trailer attached, and we stayed free in their onsite RV park for many days learning about RVing.
“On the flip side the Service Manager was poorly informed, lost track of whether parts were ordered or not, and employed staff who used air ratchets to reinstall our wheels after packing the bearings. The Camping World in Rapid City, South Dakota, fixed the mess Chattanooga caused with their ‘stripped’ lug nuts and didn’t charge us a penny. They were disgusted. So, not everyone in a Camping World is good or bad. Not every location is all good or bad. Regretfully, like most businesses these days you hope for the best and try to be informed so you can ask good questions when something seems fishy.”
Once again, we’re grateful for your comments, and look forward to your feedback.