Camping World customer satisfaction poll deeply lopsided

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.

##RVT858

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23 Thoughts to “Camping World customer satisfaction poll deeply lopsided”

  1. Pat OConnor

    I cannot think of any other industry that provides service or warranty work for its products, that can require making an appointment 2 months in advance, accepting the unit within the service department, and, after more than 3 weeks have nothing done. Our unit never made it into the CW service bay. It sat in the lot for 24 days. How this is acceptable or defensible business practice is way beyond me. Why does CW pretend to be a full service dealership? Just be up front and sell the units without the additional warranty/service promises and agreements. Everyone would be so much happier.

  2. martlin chambers

    I will not deal with a company that obviously promotes a predatory business style. There is a reason that they deal in all the lower quality RVs, making money, not customers.

  3. Ray

    We use CW only if we can’t find a product at another place. We use the 10% discount at parks as well as use the fuel discount at Pilot and Flying J when traveling from Oregon to Arizona for the winter. The discount helps with our diesel Pusher only because we usually can’t get in to local gas stations with our 42’er.

    Most prices at CW are much higher than competitors. CW annoys me with their phone advertising. For example they will show a zero gravity recliner regularly $129 on sale for $99, a few weeks later the same chair is advertised as regularly $99 on sale for $69. Their pricing is like a ping pong ball. Sometimes I think they think the customer is stupid and doesn’t pay attention, we do pay attention and when I see examples like the chair it really irritates me and creates distrust.

  4. Mike A

    Bought a brand new TT from CW and had some problems. I fixed most of them myself. Ordered a slidetopper and after almost 4 weeks they lied about why it wasn’t in. Went to another RV place in Lockport on a Tuesday, ordered the topper from them. went camping on Thursday, came back on Sunday, dropped the TT off and picked it up the following Tuesday. Very pleased. CW called me about 10 days later and said the topper was in. Five and a half weeks. Their shop Boss said I was TOO Pickey about stuff. Will have future work done in Lockport.

  5. Steve White

    Where to start on this one…

    In the winter of 2017, while visiting CW dreaming of spring, I took advantage of the Good Sam early renewal offer the cashier was pushing in-store to get a $25 coupon off of a future purchase. We went back a few weeks later and used the coupon for a Coleman Road Trip grill. The grill we purchased was missing parts so we brought it back. The store was out of stock, so we asked for a refund, which we received, minus the coupon. I was told that the coupon was one-time use, and couldn’t be re-issued, even on a defective product. I asked for a gift card or some other compensation since the defective product wasn’t my fault, but was basically told “too bad”, and that it’s company policy.

    I approached Camping World service in June 2017 to install a slide topper on my Salem Cruise Light. The guy at the service counter reluctantly came to the counter to assist us. The smell of fresh popcorn was strong in the air, so we probably pulled him from his lunch. Needless to say, he was able to rush through creating the quote (over $1k with installation), but when it came to taking our information to book the appointment, the computer “suddenly” had problems. He took our number and promised a follow up call the next day which never came.

    This spring, once again I went to the same CW to inquire about having the bearings repacked on the Salem as well as a roof seal check. Once again, I was quoted a price of well north of $1k for services. This time, the service guy was trying to high pressure us into booking the appointment. We were told if we didn’t book in the next couple days we might have to wait “weeks” to get the work done. Went back to my selling dealer (out of town) and have everything done for under $500, and turned around in 6 days.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, (shame on me at this point), I responded to a CW AD in July which claimed that trade-in values have never been higher. We had been looking to upgrade the Salem and had been looking hard at a unit at a local RV show in March but passed at the time. I searched CW’s inventory and found the exact unit on “clearance” at a price significantly lower than that of the RV show. This was at the Kingston, NY store. I filled out the online form to request an appraisal of my trade. I receved a near-immediate response from the Internet Sales Manager, then later that evening, from a sales person asking for details on my trade. I replied immediately and heard nothing for three days until I reached out again. I received another response asking for details of the trade, which I again provided immediately. The trade value I was given was NADA low-book, for a 2017 loaded with installed options. I reached back out to the Internet Sales Manager to express my frustration with the sales person, how unresponsive he’s been, and the low value of my trade. I was told she had been let go. The sales person again told me in a very curt e-mail that if I didn’t like his trade-in value, to call his sales manager. I passed again. Never heard another word from this guy.

    I’ve decied to keep my Good Sam membership since I easily save more than the membership costs in camping fees. However, after this last experience I will never consider Camping World for anything other than emergency parts and supplies I cannot easily get anywhere else.

  6. T Stropes

    We bought a Jayco Jay Flight travel trailer from the Georgetown Kentucky Camper World. Most of the people I delt with did not know much about RVs. For example a service tech told me the back bumper was rated to hold 400lbs and could handle a bike rack. Its not. Only rated at a 100lbs and that’s pushing it. I wouldn’t trust the welds at 100lbs. The salesmen we were dealing with quit. The only way I found out was another salesman called me up and ask if I was ready to buy yet. This was three days after buying ours and a day before we were to pick it up. Then like a car dealership once you drive off the lot you don’t exist.

  7. Steven Rosenlund

    Bought used 40′ toy hauler at Troutdale (Portland) Or CW. Salesman through on bumper to bumper warranty. Drove to FL, found 6 items needed attention. 135 exam fee and damn if everything wasn’t somehow my fault and therefore not covered. also $4000 was added to our contract for warranty. Got $3500 refunded when we got back to town. I get parts at Amazon and do all my own work.

  8. Steve Wohlford

    It’s my opinion that it is good to forewarn customers/readers about some of the business practices of certain retailers. Many consumers are clueless, trusting, and uninformed beyond belief. Your efforts to educate the public are appreciated.

    Not all CW behave as the poll results show, but the results tip all consumers off about what negatives to look for in the buying process. Once warned, it’s the buyers fault if they ignore the very behaviors they read about in your results comment section.

  9. Alan Goldberg

    CW roots come from the automotive dealer world. Expect to be treated as if you were buying a car from a large dealer. That’s how they are trained and how they operate.

    There must be lots of satisfied customers as they keep growing. And there always very busy.

    1. Karen

      To be fair, we have had similar negative service experiences with two other dealers in San Diego. I think most RV dealers have the mind-state to sell what they can, with follow-up service being a very low priority.

      We’ve figured out that our best bet in future is to buy a used/loved rig and go with our local RV repair shop. Those guys are gold!

    2. Robert Arlen Lambert

      Yes, I am one of those satisfied customers. I have bought two large motorhomes from Camping World of Spartanburg, South Carolina spanning several years.
      When my last unit had an issue that parts were ordered, I stayed in the unit, in their lot, holding my payment ransom! Lo and behold, three days in their lot, all repaired and More. Now one year later, I am a happy camper and they were glad to see me go. I knew better than to leave, would have been weeks/months to get satisfaction, if ever.

      1. Pat H Otto

        Excellent advice, thanks!

  10. Glen

    In your poll 72% of those polled were on the positive side while 64% were negative. When I went to school the total of anything only added up to 100% not 136%. What gives?????????

    1. RV Staff

      Hmmm. Glen, where did you get the 72% on the positive side? The article says the results were 36% on the happy side and 64% on the unhappy side. (I just checked the poll results, BTW, and those figures are now at 35% and 65%.) —Diane at RVtravel.com

  11. Zephia

    I buy parts occasionally from CW. Their customer service and return assistance have been very good. Luckily I have a very good independent RV service facility near my home; honest, great at what they do and too small to interest a CW acquisition. I appreciate all the readers who helped convince me to stay away from CW.

  12. Richard

    I agree with the distaste for CW’s business practices, as I have quit dealing with them. I would add it is ultimately the customer’s responsibility to be prepared, control your end of the negotiation, and don’t over extend yourself.
    I have seen these tactics in the auto and boat industry as well. There are sales seminars that teach this type of behavior. Remember, all they care about is your money.. removing it.
    As far as service work.. In 13yrs full time I have yet to find a Service Dept/Tech that is honest, qualified, or cares.

  13. Susan Caress

    We purchased a new 2016 Keystone travel trailer from CW in Vacaville CA. It was a terrible experience with the service department. We had a list of things to be fixed (brokenstrap on sliding door, pull curtain at BR, windows wouldn’t slide, having to reach a quarter of the width of the trailer to pull the outlet handle on the black tank) and each time we traveled over 100 miles from home to CW, one or more of the items weren’t done. The last and final straw was the coatings for the trailer outside and inside that we had paid extra for wasn’t done. We made our 4th trip to Vacaville with the trailer to have them complete what we paid for and after a four hour wait they told us it was done. We still don’t believe they did the coating. We have the guarantee for the product and the paperwork that indicates they applied. We hope to never return to CW again.

  14. Bert Smith

    I was a CW member for many years. I had a alternator quit working in Az. As a member of CW I took my MH in for repair. They were nice and did the repair in a short time. I was happy when I left the CW shop. As I was driving i noticed the the alternator was charging to much. I called CW to informing I Was concerned about the over charging. I was told it was normal for a new alternator to over charge for a short period of time. I returned home and the alternator quit working. I took my MH to a local repair shop. I called CW in Az and told them what happen. They told me to ship the alternator they put in my MH to CW in Az which I did. They did return the money for the bad alternator but not for the labor. I was out a $ 1000.00 labor due to their bad advice to continue my trip in stead of telling me to return to CW so they could fix the problem.
    I am no longer a member of CW.
    Bert Smith
    thanks for letting me vent.

  15. Mark

    I have mentioned this before, but Kettleson’s Campers in Denver is now owned by Camping World. The one service visit I had there went well, so I hope that is a harbinger of things to come.

  16. Mike

    I find the story factual with my experience shopping for a class A. They will not give you a bottom line number unless you put down a cash or credit card deposit to show you are serious. The one unit we were interested in was used in poor condition and dirty with many broken items. The sales person said they would not fix anything, its a as is sale. They do not clean them up. I said I could get XYZ from another dealer and asked if they would come down on the price of their unit. I was told to go buy the other guy’s unit. Which I did.

    To be fair, their parts department is great. Very helpful and have gotten parts at very good prices within days. As for the store, you just need to watch for sales. However, I will not go there for service. My brother has lost months of use of his new travel trailer due to repeatedly leaving his unit there for warranty work. It would take several tries before they got it fixed.

    Good story for the newbie to the RV lifestyle.

  17. Bill Bateman

    Russ and Tina … Sorry, but I think your diatribe against one very large RV seller is off base and does a disservice to readers of RV Travel. You are more than happy to shill products from Amazon (sometimes demonstrably overpriced and low quality) yet I think a comparable survey would show a lot of dissatisfaction with them too. Any large RV outlet will have more detractors than lovers as it is not in the nature of “satisfied” customers to register their views.

    1. Joe D

      The only comparison between Amazon and CW is both are based on volume sales. I see nothing wrong with RVTravel using Amazon sales to gain some income as they are up front with their agreement.
      Would be interesting to see an Amazon survey by RVT–bet it would be slanted way more towards satisfaction.
      The RV industry is making poor quality products and CW for the most part is just selling those poor quality products along with poor quality service to back the sales.

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