And I’m The Bad Guy?

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 132012

A few days ago I reported in a blog about Thousand Trails that several members had reported that their reservations have been shortened from three weeks to two with no notice from the company. These were on reservations that they had booked online and received confirmations on, some more than three months ago. That left several of them stuck with no place to go when they suddenly found themselves shorted on their reservations.

Because there is a lot of discussion about this I and even more members had complained about it, yesterday I decided to call the Orlando preserve, where we have two different three week reservations booked to make sure we were not going to get an unpleasant surprise when we arrive.

The first person I talked to was a woman who could only tell me that yes, my three week reservations were not going to be honored, but she had no idea what weeks I could have. Any time I asked her a question, she had to ask somebody next to her, who then told her what to say. The best she could do was suggest I call Member Services and let them deal with it.

Not being one to give up that easily, I eventually got to talk to a woman who identified herself as Beth Ann, the property manager. Now, I have to tell you, we have enjoyed our Thousand Trails membership and I have brought several new members into the system, but if this woman had been my first contact with the company, it would have been my last.

She rather briskly informed me that no, my three week reservations were not going to be honored, and then informed me that I had broken the rules by even making them. Huh? Just a few months ago I paid several thousand dollars to upgrade to the Elite membership so I could have access to more parks in the system, and so I could make three week reservations. That was touted as one of the main benefits of the upgrade. I paid my money in good faith, I went online and made my reservations as instructed, and now I’m somehow breaking the rules? I don’t think so!

Beth Ann told me that the company recently implemented the high use clause of their contract for the busy season, and that there was a glitch in their online reservation system that was allowing members to make three week reservations. It should have only allowed me to reserve for two weeks. Okay, they recently implemented the high use clause. My reservations were made months ago, long before they did that. And because they have a glitch in their system, she tells me I broke the rules?

And she couldn’t even tell me which weeks they were going to cancel on me! Her best advice was to cancel my reservations and then try to make new ones for two weeks. First of all, that screws up all of our reservations for the winter, because one follows another. So I’d have to cancel all of them and start over. And who knows if I would even be able to do that this late in the year?

I called Scott Woolley, the manager of the Verde Valley Thousand Trails, where I purchased our upgrade, and he was not thrilled with this development. Scott advised me not to cancel any reservations and that he was kicking this whole issue up the chain of command. Hopefully he can get it resolved.

To be clear, I can handle the implementation of the high use clause for their busy season if I would have been made aware of it when I tried to make my reservations. I wouldn’t have been thrilled, because again, that’s why we upgraded, but I’d have dealt with it. But for them to change the rules mid-game, months after my reservations were made, not to even tell me which weeks they were not going to honor, and to then rudely tell me that I’m the bad guy breaking the rules is way out of line! No, I’m the dues paying customer who paid big bucks and who is now getting the run around.

I’ll keep you updated on how this all works out.

Thought For The Day – I am thankful for all of the rude, arrogant, and difficult people I have ever had to deal with, for showing me who I never want to be.

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Nick Russell

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

  36 Responses to “And I’m The Bad Guy?”

  1. I called the Orlando preserve and had one conversation with Bechan or whatever her name is (the manager) and it was enough to convince me to never go there. It wasn’t about reservations it was another issue and she was downright rude.

  2. NASTY, NASTY way to do business…it is rather UNbusiness if you ask me!! Thanks for the warning and please do let us in on the rest of the story!! Sadly, it seems that many other businesses change the rules midstream these days…it USED TO BE that a man’s word was his bond, but we seem to see a continued spiral downwards from that. Well, forewarned is forearmed. We have not yet gotten into the RV lifestyle though may by this summer…so we will need the best info we can get on what memberships pay off and which ones to avoid!! THANKS so much for the information…will be watching to see what happens next. I do encourage you to write the headquarters of any business that is not satisfactory…I have gotten quite a few free meals, etc. doing such.

  3. Well Nick, after reading so many of your positive comments about Thousand Trails I was just about ready to pull the trigger and join when we go to the Tampa Supershow. The rep I talked to at length there last year had me about ready to then but being the frugal Scotsman I am I decided to hold off. Then this summer reading about all of the ones you stayed at across the country and then you buying that upgraded membership my wife said if its good enough for Nick and Terri let’s do it.

    Now you’re telling us all of this and I’m saying whoa!!! I got burned by another camping membership early on and said never again. I don’t want to make the same mistake again and that’s what this looks like to me.

  4. That’s bogus! I’d go park my RV on my assigned site and not move it until my 3 weeks are up! Let them call the cops if they want to.

  5. Well Nick, we saw what happened when AON and National Interstate tried to screw you after your burglary a while back. They used to be major players and always on the Escapees board with good reviews. Now they are an also ran at best and look how much business they have lost. What’s that saying about never fight with a man that buys his ink by the barrel?

  6. Thanks for the warning I will not buy into TT just to get the run-around.

  7. If they changed the rules after we bought our memberships, shouldn’t we be grandfathered in? That is what we bought BEFORE the rules changed. They should have to honor our memberships the way we bought them. Keep us up to date Nick.

  8. So THEIR reservation system is screwed up and YOU get that kind of crap? Hey, Thousand Trails, here’s an idea or two for you:
    1: Fix your system
    2: Treat your customers with respect
    3: Honor reservations made in good faith
    4: Nip little problems in the bud before they become big problems, which this is becoming.

    That’s simple Business 101.

  9. Well that’s sure the right way to treat a customer! You goof up and tell them they are wrong. If they keep that up, Thousand Trails will go the way of Western Horizons. Or should I say, go away like WH.

  10. I believe the high use rule has been there all along. But when I talked about upgrading to Elite a while back the ability to make 3 week reservations up to 150 days out was touted as a benefit. If they don’t have to honor that why waste the money?

  11. Well that’s several thousand dollars we don’t have to spend when we become full timers next June. I love your blog and newspaper Nick because you are the only one who tells it like it really is without all the fluff and gauze. We never miss a day of your blog and read the Gypsy Journal cover to cover as soon as it arrives.

  12. Scott at Verde Valley TTN is a stand up guy and if he says he’ll handle it I trust him to do just that. He’s never let us down before. Please keep us up t date on all of this.

  13. I believe you’re right about that, Pete. In all of my dealings with Scott I have been very pleased. So we’re following his advice and not canceling any reservations at this point.

  14. At a managers meeting, I was told that the reason for the hugh use rule was to allow all members to have fair access to preserves that get a lot of traffic. OK, but then they also let in Passport America members, RPI, and even have a big sign out front saying Public Welcome! So what about THOSE sites that members who bought in to the system and are paying dues are being denied use of? Stop letting the outsiders in and take care of the members instead. End of story!

  15. I warned you before about TT.They are lower then used car salesmen and lawyers in my opinion. Any thing they tell you may not be true tomorrow. Be warned again.

  16. I would think if you buy a membership, you get some kind of written agreement (albeit CONTRACT). I’m sure there are lawyers out there in the RV world. Class action anyone???

  17. I was in a membership group 15 years ago that went bellyup and I will not buy into one again.
    I do use PassPort America which is the best you can get.

  18. Even if you win this battle with your current reservations what happens to you upgrade that allows three weeks? Did you pay for an upgrade that will only be honored in the slack season?

  19. Nick, before I start I want you to know that I agree with you 100% BUT if you read the rules and regulations it clearly states that 2 weeks only for high use parks during high use times. You had 2 weeks and upgraded to 3 weeks and got more parks. You still have to follow the 2 week high use rule. I had the same issues the year we bounced back and forth between Peace River and Orlando. If I were you I’d have Scott work on getting your 3 weeks back to back converted to 2 weeks back to back. I hope you get all your issues resolved. Remember all the parks never book all their TT member sites, they always have a few held back for “special” circumstances.

  20. Nick I wish I had taken your advise about camping memberships in general. You advised many years ago at one of the LOW conferences to get into the lifestyle (we’re new FTers) before making a decision on whether or not to join any camping membership group.
    Well, we didn’t listen to you and purchased a membership in TT back in 2008. We just became FTers two week ago. In the short time that we have been TT members I have seen the many negative changes (IMO) to the TT system once Encore took over. I attended a group “sales meeting” at the Hershey preserve in September, 2012 where their goal was to push the new “Elite” memberships.
    Not only was the Elite membership not a good deal for us, but if I had it to do over again I’m sure that we would have never become members of TT at all.
    In looking over the Elite contract in September, yes, the language concerning the high use preserves was in there. As in all of TT contracts you have to read all of the contract (which, BTW, is TOTALLY in favor of Encore). Yes, the rules can, and do by contract change very frequently.

    For anyone not already a member of TT, let the buyer beware. Take Nick’s advise which I did not and try out the lifestyle BEFORE joining ANY campground membership group.

  21. We were recently doing some serious discussion about joining Thousand Trails since we are planning on spending more time on the road. Now that is a mute point. We will stick with Passport and be thankful to you for sharing your experience.

  22. I understand that Nick is getting screwed by Thousand Trails, and if anybody can right the situation, get it fixed (which will benefit the rest of TT members and fellow blogging friends), it’s Nick, but you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to be a Thousand Trails member! They still have fabulous bargains under the zone membership plans. We have been very very happy with our zone membership.

  23. thanks Nick, as you know we talked to you in Ohio about joining TT at the elite level since they do have more parks and the fact that we would use them in the summer time and now learning they are not keeping their word has put us off joining. ROD did about the same thing about using consecutive reservations, we paid the extra couple of grand to buy the elite membership just for the reason we were not required the week out, then last year they changed the rules on us and now we have the mandatory week out, we did take it to our representative who sold us the membership, she was just as nice as she could be as was the manager of the place. They caught a lot of flack about it, but there was nothing they could do really. We are also waiting to see just how much grief we are going to get from another membership park we belong to since we informed them we are dropping our membership since we no longer use them. They did try to tell us we would have penalties etc for droping them, when they learned we knew that since we are fully paid up and they cannot do anything but threaten us they hung up. By the way the rep was really nice and helpful until we told her we were dropping out membership then she became a real b—-. Keep us informed please on what happens.

  24. I am looking at my notes right now. Last year we talked to the TT sales rep at the Tampa RV show and he was trying to get us to join. He said the more expensive upgrade that gives us three week reservations DID include the Florida campgrounds in the wintertime and that we would not have to move ever two weeks. I even underlined that as we talked. So either he was lying or they are changing the rules in the middle of the game. I think this kind of misinformation by a salesman wanting to get you to sign on the dotted line is part of the problem. Buyers think they are getting one thing and in reality it is something else.

  25. High use must be implemented because TT is renting annual sites for people who want to camp in one location long term. Less supply for the transient camper. You can gets these sites for up to 3 years at a time. Just ask anyone who has an Outdoor World contract now being administered by TT.

  26. I am the same poster that posted post#19 and these high use rules are NOT new. Years ago when we spent the winter in FL we bounced between Orlando and Peace River. You can stay 3 weeks if it’s before 12-15 or after 3-31. Between those dates it only 2 weeks. We have the 3 week membership also but you can only stay 2 weeks at High Use parks such as the 2 mentioned and also Palm Springs. Verde Valley is 2 weeks between 2-25 and 4-30. If you go to the TT website where you make the reservations it’s all spelled out there in black and white. This is the way it’s been for years.

  27. Bob, as you can see from Tom Reynolds’ comment above, that is NOT what they tell you when they are selling the upgrade. The three week stay is one of their selling points. I was told the same thing he was, it would prevent us from having to move so often in Florida in the winter, and that we could make reservations for three weeks all winter long. So they either need to stop lying to make a sale and take the three week reservations off the website during the winter, or else they need to honor them. End of story.

  28. We went thru some things like this with a couple different clubs. SKP park in Florida said our friend and dog were more than welcome. Next morning we were told to leave immediately as the dog wasn’t allowed. No reason why. VERY RUDE people. Have since decided that some clubs are insensitive to members and so we dropped them and “advertise” our disdain. Damn shame too. We “NEVER” make reservations and so far so good. Someone wants your $$$$ and they will deal, especially when the park is only 1/2 full..if not–boondock. Love your blog, look forward to it everyday..Ours?? Rolling Earthquake.

  29. We only have a regular TTN – NACO membership with 2 weeks in and park to park. If I try to make a reservation and it is too far out for my contract dates, or if there is some conflict, I get a message that says I can’t do it. So I would assume that if the website allows one to make a 3 week reservation it was okay to do so. If they can automatically tell me I can’t in other situations, like past my 120 days day or such, why can’t they tell you it will only allow 2 weeks instead of 3 when you try to book? And what’s the good of being able to book 150 days out if they can change the reservation on you? I’m glad I saw all of this and the stuff on Facebook because we had toyed with the idea of upgrading our membership to take advantage of the LTR parks in the Pacific NW. Now I think not.

  30. Isn’t the Orlando Preserve on U.S. 27? They have a big sign out in front that says open to the public. But you can’t have your reservation?

  31. That is soooo not cool. . .it will be interesting to see what shakes out. . .lots of other TT members squawking on the FaceBook Thousand Trails Good and the Bad page. . .can’t blame them a bit!

    ReadyToGoFullTimeRVing Blog

  32. That’s correct Dennis. We are staying up the road at the state park and my husband pointed that out to me and said that’s why Nick and the others can’t get their sites.

  33. Back in the early 70’s my uncle was full timing and carried both TT and Coast to Coast memberships. Sounded interesting and was just thinking of getting a membership. From reading here I think I’ll just keep doing my Passport.

    Sounds like some one has decided to drain all the milk from a dying cow.

  34. I’m not sure that membership campgrounds have a viable business plan. It seems like they rely on sales of new memberships to generate their cash flow. Also, many of these parks are out in the boonies where you have to drive a distance to either highways of sightseeing areas. The money you might save is used up in fuel costs. I think this is why some parks are opening sites to the public. They can charge a lot more money and generate a better cache flow. They need to make a profit and the membership sales just isn’t doing it for them so they have to change their rules and let the public in if they are going to stay open.

  35. Looking at this purely from a public relations standpoint, this has opened a sh*%&tstorm for Thousand Trails and there are so many ways it could have and should have been handled better. First, of course, is clear communication when selling the upgrades, which is obviously not happening. Secondly, fix the website so members can’t make reservations that are in conflict with high use rules. Third, I have never seen Orlando full, so allow those who have the three week reservations to use them this time and take the steps above to prevent the same problem next year. And fourth, instead of telling someone they broke an obviously unclear rule and making them mad from the get go, respectfully explain the situation and see if there is a compromise that could work.

    Nick, I have sat in many of your seminars at Life on Wheels and at your Gypsy Journal rallies. I have heard you tell people many times that Thousand Trails can be a good investment IF they use it. I know that both Orv Hazelton and Greg White just joined last year because of you. I’m sorry that you are getting this kind of treatment. It reminds me of Angie Carr dropping the ball on the weighing crew at your Ohio rally this year and not even responding to tell you. That kind of shortsighted actions can lose both organizations a lot of valuable free PR.

  36. I worked as a BA in the office at a Thousand Trails Park. I am very familiar with upgrade program allowing members to stay three weeks. The two week limit during high usage periods only applies to a few parks in busy areas. This is NOT a recent change. It has been in effect for years. When I left my position three years ago the upgrade agreement that members signed clearly stated the limitations to two weeks and listed the few parks the limits applied to. Read your agreement! I do agree with you that the reservation system has faults in this regard. Park personnel, if they care, should be able to adjust your reservation to suit your needs. If they don’t, they are LAZY. I have been a member for 25 years and have had no problems as a member, but I am always fully aware of the rules and my authorized privileges.

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