Jul 292009

Yesterday Miss Terry had her annual checkup with her oncologist, and we’re pleased to report that everything is fine, and she is still cancer free after almost nine years now. It is always a very frightening and emotional ordeal for Terry when this time of year comes around. I’m sure I’d feel the same way if I were boarding an airplane back to Vietnam. We appreciate everybody’s e-mails and positive thoughts for a good result for Terry yesterday.

After reading my comments on our recent experience with the FMCA, the things I said about Fleetwood a few days ago in the blog, and in view of past criticisms I have made about things in the RV world (namely, the poor quality of too many rigs), a longtime industry insider told me that the problem is that Terry and I are outsiders and can’t see the whole picture.

It’s true. After 10 years on the road and publishing the Gypsy Journal, almost nobody in the RV industry has ever heard of us.  We don’t go to the trade shows like the big Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) event in Louisville, Kentucky every winter to rub shoulders and hobnob with the movers and shakers, so we have little credibility with them.

We are not a part of the RV industry as much as we are a part of the RV community. We live in an RV 365 days a year, and we have for over a decade. We’re not in an office or a boardroom somewhere deciding what RVers want and need. If you want to find us, look in your nearby campground or at an RV club potluck dinner, where the real RVers are! Those are the folks who have to live with the junk that so much of the RV industry produces.

Maybe I can’t see the big picture from the viewpoint of the RV industry, but from where I sit it’s pretty simple: build a decent product, sell it at a fair price, and stand behind it if something goes wrong. That’s not rocket science folks, it’s pure and simple Business 101!

I have been accused of putting down every RV manufacturer out there. Not true at all! There are some very good companies producing excellent rigs, and I have applauded their reputations many times. Companies like Heartland, Winnebago, Tiffin, and Newmar, who have been able to withstand the downturns in the RV industry because of the loyal customer base they have earned.

Notice that I said earned. Customer goodwill is not something that just happens when a salesman hands over the keys to a new RV to its owners. It’s easy for any company to smile and pat you on the back when they have your check in their pocket and the ink isn’t dry yet. The telling point is when you have a problem, and how they deal with it.

Do they solve it without a hassle, like Bob Tiffin is famous for doing at his company? Or do they give you a runaround, and tell you it’s your fault their workmanship was not up to par, like too many outfits in this industry are famous for?

By the way, I’ve never met Bob Tiffin, I don’t own an Allegro or Tiffin coach, and his company has never spent a nickel advertising with us. But I am very impressed with the way the man does business, and someday I’d like to shake his hand.

Thought For The Day – People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it is easier to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  12 Responses to “The RV Industry And The RV Community”

  1. Terry, I want to be the first to comment on your good health report! Good on ya! I know how you must hold your breath every time there’s a checkup due — I do the same thing when it comes to cancer checkups, but not as serious as your crisis was. Remote HUGS are sent your way.

    Nick, thanks for your insight into the RV industry and common sense evaluations. It’s hard to believe that someone thinks you’re “outsiders.” Obviously, they don’t know you! If that’s true, then Sunkist doesn’t know oranges, and Starbucks doesn’t know coffee!

    There are companies that don’t deserve compliments, and Fleetwood rises to the top of the list in my experience, and compliments for the Tiffin company are well deserved, in our opinion. We haven’t had the privilege of meeting Bob Tiffin in person because he was out of town when we were in Red Bay, but we bought a Phaeton partly because of the excellent reputation of the company’s support of their products. And we’re very happy with our purchase, in spite of typical ‘birth defects’ of a new vehicle. Don’s son and wife, and a couple of good friends have recently bought Tiffin motorhomes partly based on our recommendation. We’re looking forward to our next trip to Tiffin HQ, and we want to shake Bob’s hand, too.

  2. Hooray for the Terry Team!! You go girl!!! Congrats on the most recent in a long line of good reports. You take care of yourself, when you have time from taking care of that guy you love and live with. It is a lot easier for us to love him, as we do not have to take care of him 24/7. You go girl!!!!!!!!! We love you too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Congrats on a good report Terry! We understand the anxiety before the test each year. Our son-in-law goes through quite an ordeal every time it’s time for his check-up. Wes, on the other hand, doesn’t blink an eye:-) Keep up the good work!

    Love ya!

  4. “That’s not rocket science folks, it’s pure and simple Business 101!” It is not rocket science but it is a science. If you’re interested, do a search on Six Sigma (you will find GE, but it is not consumer products, they sold that off long ago) or Toyota Production Systems (worldwide know as TPS). These are not fads but methodologies to consistently produce quality in products and processes (such as handling customer complaints). I did a search a couple of years ago, I could find only one small RV manufacturer in Canada that said anything about a quality improvement program such as 6 Sigma in their annual reports, the rest wrote how they got this award or that awards.

    Most of the complaints that I have read about RV’s is that there is not a consistence in the quality of products. Your Fleetwood experience was terrible, the next person had a great product. Don’t let anyone tell you quality costs too much, done right is always cheaper … but quality is more than inspection.

    I will get off my soapbox … just an ex Black Belt.

  5. Yay, Terry! Such good news. Keep up the good work.

    And, Nick, about Business 101—I agree completely.

  6. Terry, not having known you during your crisis I could have never guessed that you have been through so much. We met you at the Bowling Green, KY LOW and again in Celina. Your spirit is great! Keep it up, you are an inspiration.

    Regarding mfgrs… We’ve owned both a Fleetwood (1996 Class C 31′ Jamboree on a Ford 460) and a Tiffin (2006 Phaeton). Unbelievably, we had no issues with Fleetwood. Just loved our Jamboree! But I’ve certainly heard the horror stories. I guess we were just one of the very lucky ones. Now the Jamboree DEALER — that’s another story! Oh, boy!

    We met and shook hands with Bob Tiffin when in Red Bay and told him the story of how we came upon our Phaeton. He’s the nicest guy. Had us come right into his office and we spent a very relaxed time with him. Any and ALL “newborn” issues were resolved easily as they came up. Even two that were after warranty.

  7. Just a little tid bit…I paid over a hundred grand for my rig and i still cannot use the drawers due to them breaking the brackets every time you use them…They have been replace three times with new plastic brackets that are so brittle they instantly break..go figure!!! Now it is left up to me to fix the dam things (which i will soon..) Maple cabinets and drawers don’t mix with PLASTIC!!! Who the heck do they hire to draw this crap up?…But hey i guess its my fault for buying the unit..I will say though that there are more plus things with this unit than other ones we were looking at!!!….Can’t they just make a “great” unit?…I was an engineer and my job moved to Mexico this year…I can’t wait to see what kind of quality trucks (transports) come from this…How cheap will they be made now?? I hope the USA starts fixing some of those nasty roads or they will have to have large crews to pick up all the stuff that will be falling from these poorly built vehicles. Have a great day you two…and say “hi” to Bad Nick !)

  8. I’m glad to read that Terry’s annual checkup had a positive outcome. Cheers to you both.

  9. Yea Terry! Fantastic!
    Barry & Joyce Crocker
    N. CA

  10. Yeah Terry!!!! You’re always in our prayers. So thankful for another great report.

    Let me tell you a couple of stories about Monaco and you will see why they went belly up. Pat Carroll, the VP for Design & Development, had “Ladies Only” seminars at our rallies to talk to us about our coaches. After attending several it was clear this was done as a PR move & Carroll had no intention of listening to us or paying any attention. I asked the following questions or gave suggestions:
    1. Suggestion to him was to have designers and engineers LIVE in a coach for a week or two with their family. They would not be allowed to go home and they would have to use all the coach equipment and move several times.
    First answer: “We can’t afford to have all our people use all the coaches.”
    After we pushed him on it, the second answer was, ” Our people have to work. They don’t have time to use a coach.” HUH?!?!?!?!
    2. Question to him about design and livability of coaches. We wanted more storage, more available openings to work on wiring, engine, etc.
    Answer: ” These coaches are not designed to live in. They are only for camping”
    Double HUH?!?!?! Why would anyone pay $250,000 to $800,000 for a camper? That’s what Beavers cost and most of us spend in excess of 6 months a year in our “camper”.
    Pat Carroll is an idiot. So is Kay Toolson, Mr. Playboy. We hope Navistar learns about them quickly or they will have problems selling Monaco products because the management in Monaco WON’T LISTEN to customers & what they want.
    For years we have suggested a return of a committee of owners to talk to design and development personnel. The suggestion fell on deaf ears. Folks like Toolson and Carroll think they know it all & dig their own graves but we sure don’t want them to take Beaver coaches with them. Such a shame.

  11. glad to hear about the good checkup.

    found a great new online RV community, http://www.chatrv.com. a lot of modern features unlike the plain old boring ones our there. its about time!

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