I headed up to Camping World on the 19th for an 11:00 AM appointment, (arrived at 10:30 AM as requested). This was the day I was going to get an early Christmas present installed in my 5th wheel, a Fantastic Fan Vent with Remote Control. My 5th wheel, like most 5th wheels, has a very high ceiling in the living area so I wanted the remote so I wouldn't have to climb on a step stool every time I wanted to use the fan.
I know what you are going to say.......we've all heard stories about work gone wrong at various Camping Worlds. I admit it, I was concerned too but they had a great price on the Fantastic Fan/Vent, over $100 less than I could get it for at another RV place that I use. My DH was originally planning to install it for me but Camping World also had a special on installation of any item going on so we opted to go that route. So I set out with great expectations.
My Service Writer, Nicole Matteson, was working as quickly as possible to speed up the check-in process. Once I was checked in, I moved my truck and 5th wheel into the line of RVs waiting for service technicians. My friend Birdie showed up just in time to take me to lunch; Nicole told us to take plenty of time so we headed to Olive Garden. After a relaxing and delicious lunch, we headed back to Camping World and spent some time looking through the store and at the RVs in the showroom. Birdie left about 1:00 PM thinking I wouldn't be there much longer.
Nicole was in and out of the service area checking on various jobs in the works. Sometime after 1:30 PM, she told me the service technician working on my rig said it wouldn't be too much longer. Then 3:00 PM rolled around, hmmmm. This should have been a one hour job. At 3:30 PM, I told Nicole that I was getting worried about what they were doing to my rig. She told me that she had put a second technician on the job at 3:00 because she was also very unhappy with progress.
Finally, at 4 PM I had enough and had real concern about my rig. Nicole took me out to the service bay with her to find out what was going on. The second technician had completed the inside wiring and left the first one to finish it up. The first technician now said there was a problem with the fan itself as it would not work. Really????? I chose Fantastic because of their stellar reviews. The second technician said he had never seen a Fantastic fan not work and he would finish up the job in 25 minutes. I knew traffic was already building up between New Braunfels and San Antonio but agreed to wait.
At 5:00 PM, I was told it was done. They backed it out of the bay and came in to get me. The second technician told me it worked just fine but I would need to have the lights on when I wanted to use the fan as it was wired into the overhead lights which were daisy chained together. What!!!! I hit the roof and, by that time, with that announcement, was not very pleasant. Leave the lights on to use the fan in an area that included a sleeper sofa and dinette bed both of which are used when kids and grandkids travel with me. Even if I was traveling alone, I wouldn't want the lights on at night. I asked him if he would be able to sleep in a room with all the overhead lights on. He tried to tell me that the wiring is always done like that.
Nicole went to confer with her manager, the Field Operations Director, and get his advice. She went out to the RV to check herself and then came back to get me, and showed me that the fan would work without the lights on as long as I turned the lights on/off at the ceiling. I sat there in my RV for about 15 minutes so upset and angry with my whole experience that I could hardly think straight. Totally gone was my Christmas excitement. Then I walked back inside and went directly to the manager's office and said I wanted to speak to him. He had several employees in there for a meeting but they immediately cleared out.
I let him know exactly what I thought about Camping World and said that my experience was exactly why they have such a poor reputation with many RVers. He was very apologetic and asked what he could do to rectify the situation. I gave him a running account of what had happened that day, what his installers had said and done, and the fact that Nicole was the only one in the whole process who knew and cared about what she was doing. He said he would do whatever he could to make it right but wanted to ask me a couple of questions as soon as he sent word for both installers to not leave the premises. First, he wanted to know if the person who helped me with the fan had asked me whether there was 12 volt electrical at the installation site. No. Did she ask if there was a light within 12 inches of the site. No. I told him that I had asked quite a few questions about the fan because I wanted to know if the Fantastic or the newer MaxxAir fan was better. They both look about the same. She told me that the only real difference was that the MaxxAir fan had two arms holding up the lid. She said that Fantastic has been around for many years and had always provided outstanding support in any case where a customer had a problem later on. They had lots of experience with Fantastic bug didn't have that much experience with the new MaxxAir. There was no discussion about installation other than her scheduling it.
Then he asked if the technician or anyone had explained the how the wiring would be done. NO or I would not have purchased a much more expensive fan with a remote. The whole purpose of the remote was so that one didn't have to get out a step stool every time they wanted to do something with the fan. Next we went out to the RV. The first technician had left work the minute my RV was backed out of the bay but the second technician met us at the RV. The manager asked him if there was an extra fuse site in the box. He started to say that the installations are always done the way he did them because otherwise you would have to route all over through the ceiling, cut through studs in the roof, etc. to run the wire. The manager said "did you see that there is a refrigerator directly across from the installation site and that the refrigerator is sitting right over the fuse box?" The manager said that installation was generally done to a nearby light (when there wasn't 12v directly at the installation site) due to all the cutting to the ribs in the roof and extra wiring work required; however, that would not have been required with the way my RV was laid out. He went through the process the technician would need to use to pull the fridge partly out to run the wire down the box it was in and made sure the technician understood it and couldn't come up with any other issues with doing that.
The manager said again that he was extremely sorry about the whole experience I had with Camping World right from discussions about the fan through the work that was done. He offered to refund all of my money or to take $100 off the price and have the technician rewire the fan through the refrigerator box the next day. He asked me to think about it while he went out to set up meeting with his technicians and parts staff for the next morning. He intended to implement new procedures for working with customers in addition to ensuring that parts people did not set up installation appointments for customers as they did not have enough knowledge of the technicians' experience to assign jobs to them. I know that Nicole had already spoken to him about that.
In the end, I opted to take the refund. If I want to use the overhead lights, I will have to use the stool to turn them on but I had to balance that against my overwhelming anxiety about having the same technician pull out my refrigerator and touch something else that worked perfectly. He seemed to know what he was doing but his attitude to the whole process still left a lot to be desired.
So, how do I feel about Camping World in New Braunfels? Well, in my view I probably couldn't have had a worse service experience aside from working with Nicole. I am, however, impressed with the Field Operations Director, Bill Heinrich. He truly does care about his customers, their experience with Camping World, and the service work that is done there. He tried very hard to make things right. He did his best to ensure I was satisfied. And more than that, he immediately started steps to ensure that other customers did not have the same experience I did. So I expect to see improvements in service work in the future.
My advice is to ask lots of questions wherever you have work done. If things don't feel right, they probably aren't and you need to be proactive. You have a big investment in your RV. In future, I will ask about my technician's experience and I will insist they explain what they are going to do in advance.
Since it was dark when I got home, I didn't take my RV back to storage until the next morning. My son came over to guide me when I backed it in. He climbed up on the roof to check out the vent. When he came down, he said "call the manager", we are taking it back to them. He needs to personally see the work that was done. The new vent cover over the Fantastic Fan was loose, the nuts had not been tightened, the nylon keepers weren't even close to where they should have been, there were gaps in the sealant, one of the screws into the roof was stripped and loose, and there were two holes drilled in my roof that had a light finger scab of sealant over them.
Bill climbed up the scaffolding ladder to see for himself as we requested. He was appalled and told me he was really glad I came back to show him. He called the second technician over and asked him if he had checked the job on the rooftop. He claimed he had not which didn't earn him any positive thoughts from his boss because he knew that he was called in because the first technician did not know what he was doing. On top of that, while the 2d tech went up on the roof with my son, he told him that it didn't look like that when it left the day before. At that point, Steve came down and relayed the conversation to Bill and asked him what could possibly have happened during a 15 mile drive from New Braunfels to San Antonio and back again that could have made an installation job look like that. Bill said absolutely nothing could have happened, it was an appalling job and the service technician was only making himself and Camping World look worse.
In the end, it was all fixed to our satisfaction and reinspected by my son. The first service technician may well not have a job working on RVs any longer. The second technician will need work on attitude adjustment and to develop some real customer concern. I think that Bill Heinrich, Field Operations Manager, will see to that very shortly. Given some more time, I think that there will be improvements.