Renting a motorhome for one Bakersfield, Calif., family started out so good, but it ended up so bad, according to the Bakersfield Californian.
The customer service Todd Brendlin received from a Montclair business ranged from “fantastic” to “almost zero,” he said. It led to him winning a nearly $5,300 judgment this week against the business, Open Road RV and its owner, Jeff Collins.
Brendlin, 43, the head of the organic farm division of Grimmway, said he was very pleased in the beginning. On July 15, an employee of the business, Juan, delivered a 34-foot motorhome to his home in Bakersfield for a long-planned family trip to Yellowstone National Park, he said.
Juan went over everything and made sure everything worked. The next day Brendlin, his wife, Erin, 39, and their two children, Trevor, 12, and Keely, 9, set out for their adventure. Though it was hot outside, the air conditioning kept the motorhome comfortable.
That is until somewhere between Barstow and Baker, where the air conditioning started blowing out nothing but hot air, he said. It was 113 degrees outside and perhaps another 10 degrees hotter inside the motorhome, he said.
He said he called Collins, who suggested possible fixes, but nothing worked. Collins asked the family to continue to Las Vegas, still about three hours away, and if they still had a problem to call him to work something out, according to Brendlin.
The heat was sweltering, like a sauna, Brendlin said. His children stripped down to their underwear. HIs wife got sick. They all had symptoms of heat exhaustion, he said.
They pulled into a motel to cool off that evening.
The next morning, Brendlin said, he called Collins. “His exact words to me were to ‘deal with it and get a life,'” Brendlin said. The customer said he would expect a full refund and Collins replied, “Absolutely not,” according to Brendlin.
A reporter called Open Road RV several times during business hours last week. A recording described the business hours and asked callers to leave a message. None of the messages were returned.
Brendlin paid for an inspection and found out that the compressor locked up with an estimated replacement cost of $3,700 on parts that had to be ordered. He faxed the work order to Collins and told him he would leave the motorhome safely at a dealership for him to pick up.
The family rented another motorhome at El Monte RV of Las Vegas, whose manager was so sorry about how they were treated that he gave them a night free on the rental, Brendlin said.
The manager, Roger Brewer, said in a telephone interview Friday that they swap out RVs all the time for mechanical breakdowns and what happened to Brendlin “is not something we would have done.”
Brewer said he gave the family a free night because they already lost a day on the trip. “We always try to make it good,” he said.
The family continued to the Tetons, Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, Wyo., for a “great trip,” Brendlin said.
What did he learn from the experience? To call the Better Business Bureau before dealing with an unknown business, he said. That would have saved him from this experience, he said.
He sued Open Road RV in small claims court in Kern County for the price of the Open Road rental, the repair inspection, a night’s lodging and the cost of rental vehicles to get from Las Vegas to Bakersfield.
He and a friend served a secretary at the business with lawsuit papers about a month ago. Collins didn’t show up for the hearing, so he won by default, court records show.