Good Sam Highlights Quality Concerns

The Good Sam Club appointed an RV Owners’ Advisory Council (RVOAC) earlier this year for
the purpose of identifying RV-related issues of major concern to the membership of the Good
Sam Club, an RV owners club of more than a million members. RVOAC is also charged with
analyzing those issues and making recommendations to the Good Sam Club’s management on
matters of policy and legislative priorities. RVOAC has already completed a detailed member
survey to determine what issues Good Sam Club members deemed most important to them. The
survey presented nine specific questions on issues thought to be of interest to RVers. It
included an opportunity for “write-in comments” to catch other issues of major concern not
addressed in the specific questions used in the survey. The tabulated results of the survey
showed the following results listing members’ concerns, starting with the highest ranked
issues first. 1. Quality of RV manufacturing 98% 2. Availability of competent RV service
93% 3. Existence of adequate Lemon Law protection 87% 4. High fuel costs 86% 5. Protection
from local parking ordinances 79% 6. Availability of suitable commercial RV parks 65% 7.
Federal access user fees (80% retained by federal facility) 63% 8. Decreased
availability/high cost of RV storage yards 52% 9. Uniform state special RV drivers
licensing 33% Unlike the tabulated questions in which fuel costs came in as the fourth
“most important” issue, comments about high fuel costs clearly ranked first in the “write
in” portion of the survey. Complaints about the high cost of everything (including fuel
cost), from campground fees to RV repair costs, clearly attracted the greatest number of
comments. RVers are increasingly concerned about local restrictions on where they can park
their RVs. There are a number of issues relating to “big rigs,” including campgrounds that
do not adequately provide for them, fuel stations that don’t have adequate room to maneuver
(or have steep curbs), and a general desire for RV-friendly highway signage. Interest also
was expressed in “no frills” campground options, and in having federal state and local
parks provide an adequate percentage of non-reservable sites. “Most notably, the rather
startling result is the 1-2-3 place finish of RV quality, RV service, and Lemon Laws,” said
Tom Gonser, chairman of RVOAC. “As the Council said in its report, it’s as if RVers were
saying ‘build it right’ and if you don’t, get it fixed the first time. And if you fail on
the first two, I want Lemon Law protection.” According to Gonser, “RVers would not be at
all surprised at the high rankings of these three items. The real surprise is that RV
owners now have a forum through the Good Sam Club to express their concerns, and
potentially have them represented in meaningful discussions with industry leaders. RVOAC
members intend to use the survey as a means to bring constructive focus on the issues
pertaining to RV quality and service.” Neither the Council nor the Good Sam Club can have
any major influence on pricing. However, other issues, including concerns about RV quality,
RV service, and even the availability of suitable Lemon Law protection have the Council’s
attention as matters of priority, and the Council is studying possible courses of action to
deal with these key issues. The issues pertaining to Lemon Laws are to some extent an
emotional reaction to the frustration that so many RVers have about quality and service
issues. There are substantive issues here as well, as the state laws are a very confusing
patchwork that offer some protection in some states, but virtually none in others.
Moreover, there is confusion about which state laws govern which transactions. The real
need here is for reasonable protection that is consistent among states. “What constitutes
‘reasonable’ will require balancing the interests of the industry and RV owners to come up
with a fair and balanced solution,” said Gonser. The Council’s four members, all Good Sam
members, were appointed late last year. Chairman Tom Gonser founded www.rversonline.org
after retiring as a highly regarded attorney and having served as executive director of the
American Bar Association. Jan McNeil is a full-time RVer who retired from her career as a
realtor and now works out of her RV with her husband, Chris, a physician. Leo Everitt has
been RVing since 1972, and was an executive with major manufacturers such as Cummins and RV
maker FMC. Bill Estes, who retired in 2006 after 38 years with Trailer Life and
MotorHome magazines, is considered to be one of the most trusted and influential
voices in the RV world.

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