Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece was written and provided to RVBUSINESS.com by Paul Friesen, owner of the KOA campground in Watkins Glen, N.Y. In his e-mail, Friesen explained, “Please understand that I am a big supporter of the camping and RVing industry. Owning and running a campground truly is a wonderful way of life, and it is one that is really good for the folks we serve. Unfortunately, sometimes we need to ‘walk in the shoes of others.’ My wife and I have done so by being full-time RVers, so not only have we walked in their ‘shoes’ but we obviously have also gotten blisters from them, too. I sincerely want a unified industry that focuses on taking care of the camper and the RVer. And for folks that seemingly can only be motivated by profits, I can with certainty say that they would be much more successful and more profitable by focusing on the needs of the customer.”
Full timing in a BIG RIG motorhome is both a delight and a nightmare. Fortunately the delights still outnumber the nightmares. But unfortunately, many of the nightmares are caused by the RVing industry itself and are totally unnecessary. To put this article in perspective, I, too, am involved in the RVing industry, as my wife and I own a prominent campground in New York State. We also have been full-time RVers for a little over two years. Since my wife and I do own a campground, let me start with campgrounds. Simply stated, very few campgrounds can effectively accommodate BIG RIGS. Most say they can, but few really can, and mostly because they don’t seem to know how. They think, “This is a long pull-thru, therefore it’s a BIG RIG site”. But that isn’t enough! Roads have to be wide enough, turning radiuses have to be sufficient, trees have to be properly trimmed, and obstacles have to be cleared… all before considering the required 50 amp power and other site utilities that may be necessary.
RV dealers generally don’t accommodate the service needs of either full timers or vacationers well at all. They seem to have built their businesses based on servicing weekender RVers who can leave their unit with the dealer for extended periods. Complicating matters, most dealers seem to work on an “appointment only” basis, and then they maintain a service backlog of at least a month. Both as a campground owner trying to help an RVer customer and also as an RVer myself, this creates intense frustration.
RV manufacturers seem almost entirely disconnected with RVers. It’s as if after they’ve delivered the unit to the RV dealer, their job is done. In my opinion, any manufacturer who chooses to install exclusive or proprietary systems has an obligation for making timely repairs available with minimal inconvenience to the customer. To not do so is irresponsible.
On the other hand, I’ve come to realize that I when I have a chassis issue, I can get pretty good and timely service from a truck repair shop. But I guess they have to be responsive … just imagine if the over-the-road trucking industry had to rely on the RV industry to keep them rolling!
The truth is that the RVing industry as a whole often does not do a good job of taking care of the customer. If we (myself included) in the RVing industry do not take care of our customers, then we really don’t deserve to stay in business.
Paul R. Friesen