It is no secret that we have not been happy with the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) for a long time, and I have written several times about the very elitist attitude of many of the people we have met at FMCA rallies, who seem to judge others by the cost of their motorhomes, rather than who they are as people.
Over the years, we have seen many people join the FMCA for a year or two, and then drop their membership because the cliques at every rally turned them off.
Worse yet is the absolute lack of concern for their commercial members that the FMCA has exhibited over and over again. Vendors can make or break an RV rally, and yet at every FMCA rally where we have had a vendor booth, with one exception, we or other vendors we know have been treated like second class citizens.
At a rally in Madison, Wisconsin years ago, the vendor parked next to us on a paved parking lot ran his generator 24/7, and our motorhome was filled with his exhaust fumes to the point where our CO2 alarm was going off endlessly and our eyes burned just walking inside. The vendors were inside a building all day long, and the weather was pleasant, so there really was no need to run the genset all the time. I asked him to turn it off, and his response was that his company paid for the fuel, and he liked it ice cold inside. I then asked the FMCA staff to ask him to shut it down, and they said they could not do that. So I said I was going to move to another part of the very large parking lot, and was told I could not do that. In fact, one of the gentlemen on the parking crew stood in front of our motorhome with his arms folded, as if to block me in, until Miss Terry let him know that I was going to move, even if I had to run over him to do it.
A couple of years ago, at the FMCA national rally in Bowling Green, Ohio, we opted not to pay extra for an electrical site, because between our solar panels and generator, we did not need it. Unfortunately, we had rain every day, so the solar panels did not do us any good, and our generator decided to quit working, which caused our batteries to quickly go down. We had a house style refrigerator in our bus, and we really needed power. I asked permission to move about 30 feet to another spot, to where we could plug into power, and said I would be happy to pay to do so. The very self-important person in charge of the parking said if we moved one inch, we would have to leave the rally. I sought out two different people in the rally office to explain my problem, and their response was that I should have paid for electric in the first place, but since it was my choice to choose a dry camping site, I was stuck with it. Fortunately, Dave and Jean Damon, vendors for 303 Protectant, whom we had just met at the rally, loaned us a portable generator to get us through until the rally was over.
Why be that rigid? If a longtime member, who is paying for not only a Family membership, but also a Commercial membership, and then paying big bucks to come to a rally has a problem, is it really the end of the world to allow him to move? At the same rally, a member of the FMCA governing board came to our vending booth and wanted to buy $140 worth of our products for $50, and was offended and very rude when we told him he had to pay the same price as everybody else.
After that rally, I wrote to the FMCA officers at the national office in Cincinnati and aired my grievances. I did not receive the courtesy of a reply from even one of them.
Last year, after somebody sent me a link to a blog post where they wrote about being jerked around on two separate days by the staff at the Brooksville FMCA rally. After reading the many comments to that blog from people saying that their own experiences like that were why they dropped their FMCA memberships, I sent a copy of that link to every FMCA regional and national officer, and told them that this is why their membership numbers are dropping. In response, I received ONE letter from an FMCA regional officer in the Midwest, inviting us to their rally and assuring me that they had a completely different attitude. It is unthinkable to me that the folks at the national office really could simply ignore evidence of the way so much of the general public perceives their group, but apparently they really do not care.
In thirteen years as vendors and FMCA members, our one memorably positive experience was at an FMCA rally in Essex Junction, Vermont. The people there went the extra mile to make each and every vendor feel welcome. The rest of the organization could take a lesson from those folks.
Here is yet one more example of the FMCA’s attitude. As I said, we are both Family and Commercial FMCA members, and we decided that enough is enough, and did not renew our membership this year. I got the following e-mail yesterday from Sandy Reese, Commercial Records Coordinator for the FMCA:
“Your yearly renewal was due in July and you are currently inactive. To renew your commercial membership, you can call the number listed below or send a check. If you have any question, please don’t hesitate to call.
My reply to Ms Reese was:
Based upon our past experience with FMCA and the way we were treated, we will not be renewing our commercial or family membership.
“I am very sorry you have had a bad experience with FMCA.”
That was it. Not to ask why we were unhappy or what our problem was, just a quick dismissal. I replied to her short e-mail with this:
One bad experience I could overlook, but not one after another, and never even an acknowledgment when I complained.
There is a reason FMCA’s membership is shrinking, and your response is the perfect example. We have been members since 1999 or 2000, and then commercial members as well, But when I say I won’t be renewing, and state why I won’t be, there is not even an attempt on FMCA’s part to ask why we are unhappy, or to try to resolve whatever issues we may have, to retain our membership.
I guess you figure that there are more where we came from to replace us.
To her credit, after my last e-mail to her, Ms Reese replied:
“I am sorry I did not ask for the details. We would love to try and work out any problems you have had. Please let me know what we can do.”
Well, Ms Reese, there you have it. I could list a dozen other instances off the top of my head, in which we or other vendors at FMCA rallies were treated shabbily. What can you do to make it right? For years now, there has been a complete lack of support from FMCA toward so many of us. How to you undo that? I don’t know. But the causal response you exhibited in your e-mail above is the place to start.
Talk to your commercial members, and don’t just dismiss their responses when they are not what you want to hear. Contact former members and ask them why they decided not to renew. Remember that “Family” is the first word in the name of your organization. We commercial members pay more in dues than regular members, we spend a lot of money traveling to your rallies, and pay a large fee for our vendor booths. Then we give away our products as door prizes to help make your rallies a success. In return, when we have a complaint and voice it to the officers, respond to us, don’t just ignore us. You will learn a lot more from your unhappy customers than you will from the happy ones.
In one of the small town newspapers I owned, a dentist who advertized with us always said “Ignore your teeth, and they will go away.” Vendors and members are the same way.
Thought For The Day – I don’t have an attitude problem, you have a perception problem.