By Chuck Woodbury
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.
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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.”