Monday, June 23, 2014

Sharing my Lessons of NOT Buying an RV (Part 2)

If you read my blog yesterday, there is an easy question you could ask me:  “Why not have the dealership order another rig since that one had so many problems?”

The answer is today’s lesson learned—and a more difficult story to tell.
I wanted to title this blog post: Disrespecting the Product; Disrespecting the Work.

I could fill pages with stories of what happened during the PDI (Pre-delivery inspection) of the ordered RV.  I could fill pages with stories of visiting other dealerships, and what their sales people—and service people, do NOT know about the products they sell.

But to specifically answer your probable question:  I would not order another rig as I was shocked by how badly the service team treated the product line; I was shocked by the level of disregard the service team had for their critically important work.  They showed little respect or care for this expensive product; they showed no respect for the processes that should define how they work.

My emphasis yesterday was on the importance of being present during the PDI, to ensure the critical systems are appropriately exercised and tested.
Today, unfortunately, I must emphasize the importance of being present during the PDI (or any service work) to ensure the RV is not damaged or configured into a damaging state.

A few examples? 

This rig's tires would have been overfilled by 15 psi if I had not participated in PDI.  This may seem a little thing; but especially for this-type rig, not only would there be risk of a tire blow-out at highway speeds, but the overly rough ride could cause the structural housing and/or subsystems to be damaged.  There is a reason that owner’s manuals emphasize correct tire pressure.  In this case, the error was on the order of 30%!

The electrical system was operated with an unknown “float” or malfunction.  The sensor warning was ignored by the service person until I pointed it out to the service manager.  At the point of my walking away, this manager was disassembling the main feed of shore power to the rig.  I know from my work-career that uncovering electrical float is both time consuming and detailed work that is prone to error if the root cause is not confirmed.  The fact that the sensor alert was ignored speaks volumes.

Remember my story yesterday, on monitoring the grey and black tank system as I filled sinks and flushed the toilet?  Well, the monitoring system was NOT working correctly.  I pointed it out, and a service person began disassembling the tank housing to test the sensor. 

Now the sight of an electric drill around an RV’s tank system is never a good one—as a minimum, sensors can be left partially detached, leading to displacement during future travels.  But that is not the worst that can happen:

What I heard was a sudden burst of cussing and scrambling; a quick second later I heard, and saw, water pouring (not leaking) out of the grey tank—from places never intended to leak.  The tank system was damaged.  Seasoned RVers know the good and bad of travels revolving around the integrity of the holding tank storage and dumping system.  As I stared at the water pouring out onto the concrete, I had that common phrase pop into my mind:  You Break It, You Buy It!

But what perhaps was most upsetting—and showed total disrespect for this product line, occurred when the electric tongue jack would not descend (I was inside and not immediately aware; and I have little faith in coincidence--the electrical problems could have a common root source).  

While I was not watching, a senior service person used the stabilizer pads to carry the full weight of the trailer in lieu of the tongue jack.  For this particular rig, that is the ultimate no-no!  The structural system was compromised.  The service person knew this but had not bothered to correctly address the problem.  And if I had not been present at PDI, I would not have known, until perhaps a major structural separation occurred with “unknown” cause.  

(A side note: Some Class A’s have hydraulic “levelers” that carry the weight of the RV; that design is completely different than the stabilizers that complement a rig’s tongue and tires and cannot carry the weight without risking floor, wall or roof structural damage.)

And so there I was, looking at an expensive RV whose electrical, plumbing and structural systems were either damaged, compromised, or indicating anomalies of unknown origin.

Why do I emphasize the disrespect for the product?  For the work?  It’s not just the above stories.  It is about an RV being a home. 

When a service person is working on the outside of an RV, whether engine, plumbing, electrical, etc.—they will get dirty.  Asking them to have clean hands is kind of like asking an automotive mechanic NOT to get grease on their hands.  You can ask, but it will display that you don’t understand their work.

But when that same service person walks inside an RV, they are coming into a home.  And when they use these same hands to lean on a leather sofa, or use mechanic’s hands to push back curtains, to handle kitchen and bathroom appliances, or to handle fabric furnishings, they are speaking volumes of no respect for the buyer’s home.  And the buyer is standing there!—just imagine dropping off your RV for service work and NOT being present!  (I’ve watched such work at multiple dealerships—and cringed at what I saw)

Enough said—I can feel my blood pressuring creeping upward.

If you read this and think I’m dealing with a problem dealership, I would say that is NOT why I’m writing this blog post.  I’ve visited many dealerships; I’ve spoken to dozens of sales people.  And my position is magnified when I address the sales arm of dealerships:  I find little respect for the product line they sell.

Go visit an RV dealership—but first do your homework on the systems and capabilities of the products they sell.

Ask a salesperson the size of the grey and black tank—watch them search for a flyer to find the answer.  I’ve had one salesperson ask me what a grey and black tank were!

Ask a salesperson if the black tank has a back flush.  Watch them say, WHHHAAT?  When looking at Winnebago products, I had a salesman attempt to answer this question by saying Winnebago had discovered that black tank back flushes were not necessary so they deleted them.  I asked him why Winnebago included back flushes on their most expensive rigs.  He just stared at me like a deer caught in headlights.

I have no answers for the problem.  But I do have some thoughts:
1.   The RV industry is exploding with growth.  Rapid growth in any industry will lead to shortcuts; will lead to hiring of untrained or inexperienced personnel; will lead to a culture of complacency.
2.   The RV industry seems compromised by dealerships that carry a multitude of product lines.  These dealerships don’t demonstrate “team pride” over a product.  If I want to buy a new Ford truck, I go to a Ford dealership.  If I want to buy a Chevrolet, I go to a Chevrolet dealership.  But if I want to buy Brand X RV, I find myself at a dealership that also carries Brand Y, Z and a plethora of others—often anything from pop-up trailers to diesel pushers.  And push the products they do.
3.   If I’m not careful, I’ll go down the path of frustration over the missing pride-in-work syndrome that seems to be penetrating today’s work force.  I have my opinions, but I’ll hold off sharing them unless you offer to sit down and have a Shiner Bock with me, or even better, a day birding in the field.
And what now?  As mentioned yesterday, I’m pretty devastated over a long year with no RV.  Two almost buys; two bad experiences.  I need to take a break and rethink the path forward.  If you have suggestions, I’ll welcome them.
I may research “factory direct” product lines.  But I’m guessing that will be too limiting or too expensive.
For now I’ll day trip in this Gulf Coast heat, give thanks for the a/c of my stick house, and go out and put binoculars on my summer companions, the feathered Summer Texans.
And I promise, my next blog will be more pictures than words. The wonders of my wandering will be my focus.
There will be a path forward; I just can’t see it yet.


  1. We recently bought a 2004 Country Coach Allure. We found there was a lot of work to be done before the PDI. We asked to go look at it in the bays and were told, oh no, it's all pulled apart. The next dayb we walked down and found the rig and chatted with the mechanic himself who was totally forth right with everything he needed to do before we took it. As he said, "he wanted us to get our monies worth" I believe he went above and beyond and actually repairs more than was "warranted by the higher ups. When we finally took possession we gave him a gift card. We got a lot of new things replaced in our coach! Going full time.

  2. Thanks for your comment and PDI story. The gift card was a great thank you to the mechanic. I'm beginning to restart my search and hope to be traveling by this Fall. Congrats on going full time!


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