By Russ and Tiña De Maris
We hear plenty from readers about experiences with Camping World – usually bad ones – and it’s tough to draw conclusions from “what you hear” in a wide-open environment. That changed last week when we posted a poll asking readers who had bought an RV at Camping World how happy they were with their experience with the company.
Having “real numbers” to work with puts a different face on what you “think” readers are feeling, versus “knowing” what they’re feeling. We expected that a fair number of readers would be less-than-satisfied with their experience, but just how wide a margin of difference there was in reality did catch us off guard.
Here’s the question we asked, and how people who reported buying an RV at Camping World felt after the deal.
Camping World RV buyers: How happy are you with your purchase?
Those responding “Very happy” represented 10 percent. A much bigger 26 percent said, “I feel pretty good about it.” Total on the “positive” side – 36 percent. What about other responses? The “I’m not happy” respondents took up 16 percent of the chart, and a whopping 48 percent put it this way: “Very unhappy. I regret buying from them.”
The happy 36 percent versus the unhappy 64 percent makes for a pretty lopsided rating for buying a rig from the Camping World conglomerate. What made folks unhappy? Here’s a sampling of comments from readers:
John M Ford writes:
“While I agree the buyer has to bear some personal responsibility, it is also reasonable to expect ethical behavior from the sellers. For instance, I believe that it would have been ethical for the CW salesman I dealt with to have informed me that the coach I bought had not only been used as a rental vehicle, but was in fact, originally built by Thor as a rental unit for Camping World.
“I also consider that when the finance person I was talking to found out I was considering using my local credit union, told me that she knew, FOR A FACT that my credit union did not make RV loans. She also stated that if I did use the credit union, I could only get a personal loan at a high interest rate. This of course turned out to be a lie. Very unethical as far as I am concerned. If someone wants to buy from CW, fine. Just make sure you do your homework ahead of time.”
John’s experience in questioning the “ethics” of Camping World raises an interesting point. We examined comments from current and former Camping World employees about their own experiences with the company. A former Camping World employee from Minnesota warns:
“Finance managers will oftentimes sell unwanted products to customers without their full and complete knowledge, creating mistrust with customers.” Another service technician who used to work at the Davenport, Iowa, shop writes, “Management is never wrong, and they don’t care about anything but pushing units over the curb, even to a point of lying to customers.”
Arm-twisting to make a sale is another complaint. Kevin Smith writes of a recent experience he had with the Madison, Wisconsin, Camping World branch. Smith was motorhome shopping and
“After a number of phone and email conversations with the salesperson, I was told that I couldn’t get their ‘absolutely lowest’ price without completing their credit application and providing a credit card number for deposit to prove my ability to buy.
“Being a Realtor I likened this step to obtaining a ‘pre-approval’ and didn’t see any harm in complying. I then received a text message with a photo attachment of very scattered hand-written notes about the MSRP of the unit, my trade value, discount, and net price. A subsequent phone call revealed there would be additional charges for prep, delivery (factory to them, not to me) and $1,295 for something else. I let them know that I decided not to buy.
“For the next two days I received calls from their GM, at first low-key ‘sales pitches’ to buy, but then turning angry and threatening to keep my ‘deposit’ since I had agreed to buy. I demanded he put his request in writing and forward it to me along with any ‘contract’ that would bind me to this purchase. That scared him off, but it’s clear they have used this technique to successfully trap more vulnerable consumers into a purchase. I have frequented a local CW for parts and accessories and have been a Good Sam member for years, however I will never patronize them again knowing their business practices make off-shore telemarketing scams seem tame by comparison.”
Other Camping World customers said that while the actual purchase went fine, after leaving the lot with their brand-new rig things got ugly. Larry says this:
“I purchased my travel trailer from CW three years ago. The purchase price was competitive. I love my trailer but I gave up on CW after my first camping trip. I had a leak on the gray water tank. Dropped it off on the way home from our trip. Picked it up a week later and nothing had been done. After that I had A/C problems and could not get anyone in the service department to even talk to me. Fortunately I found a certified tech who has a shop two miles from me who has taken care of any problems that I have had under warranty. What would take weeks to get CW to even look at, my tech normally fixes (correctly) in a few hours. I stopped wasting my time with CW.”
Over and over, we hear from readers expressing major service complaints from Camping World. Part of the issue could be the way that CW management treats its service technicians. While the RV industry is crying for more people to take up the trade, promising great pay, if all RV service companies paid techs like CW it would seem very few would want the job. Evidently many CW stores pay their techs, not by how many hours they work, but on the “flat rate” system. A technician who claims to work at the Denver, Colorado, CW writes,
“We went to flat rate with a raise, but still made less money and I work hard but it doesn’t pay off. You do not get paid to diagnose warranty work so you are working for free. I worked a 99 hour pay period and got [paid for] 67 hours, either wrong parts, can’t find the parts, or [they were] given to another customer, so you just wasted an hour trying to make money.”
A recurring theme of many present and former Camping World employees across the nation is that of poor management, both at the local level and among “higher ups.” Complaints of favoritism and a general self-serving attitude is frequently underscored. If that’s the attitude of management, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the customer is going to come out on the bottom.
To be fair, there were positive comments about the Camping World experience among our readers. Tom Moeller told us his experience:
“I purchased a used Newmar from Camping World in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I paid cash with my trade. They were great with only a few issues that came up on the walk thru before I laid any money down. This CW has a very good Google review, many of them don’t.”
On another issue, other readers commented that with regard to being ripped off by CW financing, the buyer is still in control.
Perhaps these comments point to the best way to deal with Camping World – or any other RV dealership for that matter: Get educated before you walk on the lot. Look up reviews of whatever dealership you’ll be visiting. Talk to your credit union or bank before you shop – get preapproved for financing so you’ll know what you’ll be paying in the long run. Like anything else, that old Latin expression rings ever true, caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware.