By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Charles McCabe, the now-gone columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle once wrote, “Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art.” And while facts can draw us a picture, it’s all those opinions that can bring in the color. We may not always agree with them, but those “views or judgments formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge,” surely keep our mental juices flowing.
One of the things we appreciate about RVtravel.com readers is that variety of opinions, and that so many of you are ready to let us know how you feel about something. We’ve had our share of feedback on things we’ve written – not always commendation, but thank heavens, more of that than the other – and we’re always happy to hear from you.
To that end, every couple of weeks we’ll take a look back at what’s caused your blood to pump, based on comments and emails we’ve received. This week, we’ll start off on a question that Chuck Woodbury posed in the October 1 edition of the newsletter. Chuck asked, “Did you buy a brand new RV in the last year or two? Would you please leave a comment if your experiences with the new RV were good, not bad?” Chuck’s already mentioned a bit about your responses, but we wanted to break it down a little further.
Just for the record, you commented about a huge number of RV manufacturers and their brands. From a statistical perspective, we’d like to mention some of the “top vote getters” for those who had favorable comments to make. From nearly 200 comments, Forest River got the most kudos, with 16 of you giving the outfit high marks. Close on FR’s heels comes Jayco, pulling in 14 comments. After that, Tiffin and Winnebago, tied with 12. Heartland (9), Grand Design (6), Airstream, Coachmen, and Thor (5 each), then Keystone, Arctic Fox, and Newmar (4 each). With three votes comes Highland Ridge, then with two each, Coach House and Lazy Daze. Didn’t see your rig listed among these? Fear not, there were plenty of other single thumbs up comments for a lot of other rigs as well.
While all of this may seem pretty impressive in a day when we hear a lot of complaints about poorly manufactured RVs, here’s a bit of a facer. Of all of those “great” comments, almost every one did remark that their RV experience did have its flaws. Some referred to “punch list” issues, “little problems,” and “shakedown issues,” that came with their rigs, direct from the dealer lot. Many of you commented favorably about dealer service, and how your concerns were quickly handled. Others said they didn’t want to mess around with going back to the dealer, and so they quietly fixed “minor” issues on their own. A very few of those commenting mentioned they had “no problems.”
Which leads us to wonder – Is the reason why quality control issues are so rife in the industry because we’ve just come to accept them as a fact of the RV lifestyle? Borrowing on the thoughts of others, if you went and bought a new car off the dealer showroom floor, would you be so accepting of “punch list issues,” and “minor problems”? Probably not!
On another topic: Being in the political season as we are, it’s as if everyone’s waiting for some sort of “October Surprise.” We’ll not get into politics, but it seems like at least one RV industry big shot got caught up by his own words. Last Saturday (October 8), we published a video clip of Good Sam Club and Camping World CEO and Chairman Marcus Lemonis, on the day of Camping World’s IPO and its first day of trading, telling CNBC that he “hates motorhomes.”
Why is that, Marcus? “We don’t like motorhomes because they don’t turn as fast, they’re not high margin,” he said on Friday when talking about the future of Camping World. “We sell them, but they are not big for us. It’s really about selling warranties, insurance, roadside assistance, service, parts.” He doesn’t seem to mind taking in the dough, however. He further ‘fessed up (or was it bragging?) that about 3.3 million RVers of an estimated 9 million in the United States, “have given us money in the last 24 months.”
Well, we did say that opinions can keep the heart pumping. It didn’t take long for you to respond to “The Prophet.”
Brett wrote: “In Marcus’ early years his intention and love of RVing was real, but as the greed for wealth and his idea happiness built, his heart and mind turned to the bottom dollar. I used to buy through Camping World exclusively but in the last few years, many of the CWs have failed in the service departments and increased their rates. Once again, it’s all about the bottom line, more money instead of customer service. I will not buy another RV from CW.”
Larry had his own thought on the matter. “Lemonis has ruined the Good Sam and Camping World names.” To which a reader who calls himself “Winnie Bago,” responded, “He’s turned it into an insurance company that dabbles in parts and service. Wait until a group of ‘investors’ run it into the ground.”
Not everyone who watched the clip had completely negative things to say about Lemonis’ operation. Richard wrote from his experience, “Well I must say I do not like nor agree with Marcus and I do think that Camping World has gotten worse (more expensive, less responsive) rather than better BUT I will say that on our last cross country trip the Camping World of Redding, California went out of their way to take care of us right before a big holiday weekend. After calling ALL RV dealers and repair shops with[in] a 100 mile area, every single one stated they couldn’t even get us in for a week and then it was a two to three week wait for a fridge to be ordered and delivered. [They] got us in, had a fridge that fit our motorhome, did a complete replacement and some additional repairs discovered during the change out and allowed us to stay in their lot WITH an electrical hookup for three nights. Seems that even though corporate CW has only money in mind, the local management can make a difference if they choose to.”
Thanks, all, for taking the time to write and express your thinking. We’ll report back here in two weeks with more of your views.