“Most hated” RV dealer launches service to help RV buyers

34

By Rick Kessler
RV BUSINESS

This is reprinted courtesy of RVbusiness.com

gigi stetlerIndustry veteran Gigi Stetler, who by her own admission is “absolutely hated” by the RV industry as she likes to “buck the system,” looks to entrench herself as an advocate for RVers struggling to navigate the purchase and repair side of the RV lifestyle.

Stetler’s mainly doing that through “RV Advisor,” a membership-based consumer enterprise she launched in late 2018, and her Planet RV dealership in Davie, Fla. — which in itself operates with a somewhat progressive business model also designed to champion the cause of the consumer.


“I’m not the big dealer like I used to be,” she told RVBUSINESS.com. “I’ll buy a new unit from other dealers. I title them to myself. I sell them as used. I put an extended warranty on it. That’s how I roll. And I’m not the cheapest game in town, but my customers get service within the same 24 hours they bought it, if something’s wrong. I don’t even call the factory. I just crumble (the warranty paperwork) up and I take care of it myself. That’s what I do, and if everybody did that we’d have a whole lot more happy customers.”

Planet RV today sits on three acres and its operations include six service bays, a paint booth, body shop and inside parts store. A rented storage facility handles excess inventory, which includes one new line of fifth-wheels as well as consignment units. The company employs about 25 people, while RV Advisor has about 11 personnel.

Stetler garnered considerable publicity recently after retaining former NFL quarterback Dan Marino as a brand ambassador for RV Advisor. Stetler has known Marino going back to his playing days with the Miami Dolphins, she said, and the two are board members of several charities.

“Being an NFL quarterback, no one knows better than him why you need protection — and that’s our tagline,” said Stetler, who was once involved in high-profile litigation against Camping World. “But he’s a blue-collar good-old-boy from Pittsburgh — he really is — so he identifies with people, and he cares.”

Stetler recently took time to discuss RV Advisor with RVBUSINESS.com. What follows in an edited account of that conversation.

RVB: You make no apologies for how you’ve positioned yourself within the RV industry.

Stetler: I’m absolutely hated and I don’t care. The RVIA, the RVDA — all of them — are so focused on making manufacturers happy, and so focused on the business. Nobody focuses on the consumer at all. I’ve always been on the consumer side. I guess that’s why I’m not so liked.

I’m a warrior. I mean, I was stabbed 21 times and left for dead. There’s nothing that hasn’t happened to me in my life. I’m part of the ‘Me Too’ movement. So many times, people have tried to kill me physically, mentally, emotionally, and everything. But I don’t play the victim card. I’ve just always been a warrior.

I’m the underdog, and I feel that consumers are underdogs. Somebody has to speak for them. Somebody has to speak up — like Erin Brockovich spoke up for the people with the bad water. Somebody has to speak up for them. That’s my passion. That’s what keeps me going.

RVB: And this passion, we assume, is what led to the formation of RV Advisor?

Stetler: One of the main reasons that I started RV Advisor was I have 32 years of so much knowledge in my head and I’d been giving it away for free. People were asking for my advice and I was giving it to them. That’s No. 1. No. 2, I have so many customers who’ve moved away (from southeast Florida). I have horse show clients. I have NASCAR clients. I have clients all over the country, and they are constantly calling me for recommendations. They want to buy an RV, but by now they’re living in Ohio or in California or wherever. I just want to help them and guide them into buying the right product. I want to be able to drive traffic to good dealers.

RVB: So what is the business model then?

Stetler: My business model is Angie’s List. Angie’s List started here in South Florida because there were so many unscrupulous contractors after Hurricane Andrew. When she first started, she was a membership-based company. Then she was providing reviews for members so that they could rely on somebody. It took her about five or six years to flip the script and go to free membership.

All her revenue now comes from advertising, and her contractors were now paying to be certified. And if you weren’t certified, you didn’t get any business. That’s where I’m heading. That is my ultimate goal.

I’ve tried to certify dealers. I’ve been calling them and sending them emails to get them certified. But they don’t want to be certified because business is too good. They don’t want to be accountable. They don’t want to be certified because they know they can’t. So, I need to build up a huge member base right now. If I can get a million members, and a million voices, do you know how much power we would have in the industry?

RVB: So, as you said, it’s about having strength in numbers, with each paying $25 a year to be an RV Advisor member?

Stetler: Obviously, we have bills to pay. I’ve got staff to pay. We have experts, we have services, and we have a legal team. We need all that because we have to overpower the system.

I want these dealers to be more scared of me, because I know every trick. I know everything they could be up to. I know everything about everything in this business. They can’t hide anything from me. So, I want them to be afraid of me. I want a dealer to be able to tell a consumer, ‘Oh, you’re an RV Advisor member? Here, let me take care of you.’

RVB: So what are the criteria for a dealer to become certified with RV Advisor?

Stetler: I charge $350 for certification and I will personally vet these dealers.
I also want to do verified real-time reviews. Anybody can write a Google review, but there are three sides to the story. I, myself, have tons of bad reviews. I don’t even know who these people are. A lot of times, bad reviews are written by competitors. But I will give the dealer the opportunity to explain how we fix this, and then write a real-time review on our website.

I’m hoping that I can bring out the better quality of these dealers and tell them what they’re doing wrong.

Learn more about the RV Advisor here.


34 COMMENTS

  1. After looking around the RV Advisor site, I too find it to be sizzle without steak, as another stated.

    While $25 is a relatively tiny sum, I am turned off by RV Advisor paying $$$$ (By the way, how much is Dan Marino paid to be your poster boy???) to a former NFL star to have his picture pasted into a pretty background to market RV Advisor.
    Does he own an RV? Does he know anything about RV’s? Did he thoroughly very your service? Let us know why Dan Marino is relevant to RVers. Why should anyone place any faith in a multi-millionaire former (great) QB – making even more money – when it comes to his knowledge of RV’s and RV Advisor?

    Smacks of another typical profit-making venture using the same tired marketing techniques to move money from our pockets to hers.

    FAR more valuable than having Dan Marino as your poster boy would be case histories of your accomplishments on behalf of RVers; samples of what info you provide to members; explanation of how your insurance program works (how insurance through RVA differs from going to an insurance agent; etc. Show us the meat!
    (As a whole food plant based advocate, I cringe using that line. (lol)

    Would LOVE to be proven wrong, as I am passionate about consumer rights and protection. I would be happy to join if I believed RV Advisor legitimately to be a pro-consumer advocate and resource.

    • Why don’t you challenge me Dan and I have been friends for over 20 years and I have supplied him and his family with many RVs and he has paid top dollar in auction donations for RV rentals. My business is successful and so am I this mission is a passion for me and if you spend 5 minutes googling me personally you will see I dedicated my life to righting people’s wrongs
      I sued GE and top finance companies when they defrauded dealers I sued CW and Marcus Lemonis for bad business practices I spend millions fighting a cause so if you decide to put one once of negative thoughts into giving me a chance I will prove you wrong
      I don’t have enough staff to keep up with posting my good results why don’t you just be one “a good result”

      • Gigi..,

        PLEASE site the law suits so I can review their outcomes. Anyone can sue anyone as long as you have ” standing”. The results of a law suit is what matters, not bringing it. You have to understand that these readers are skeptical, so just give me the sites, or better yet, the link to the courts determination, and we can decide for ourselves. My guess is this will just be another dead end. Prove us wrong please.

        • just google me Gigi Stetler you will find many lawsuits and fights i have fought win or loose I still fight sometimes not winning a judges verdict does not mean you lost its sometimes a matter of law even if its wrong. I begin trial in the next 2 weeks against GE for a case that has been going on since 2008 GE took my inventory they financed and gave it to CW to get rid of me we settled at trial in 2011 Im now suing them for breach of settlement. Other cases are still being litigated. I have known Chuck for many years and he has always supported me because I challenged Marcus Lemonis and CW and as hard as Marcus tried to personally destroy me and my business I survived and I promise to fight for everyone against his bad business practices.

          • Like I said, the sites please, not ” Google it”, respectfully that gets old. Just another dead end as I thought. Oh, and when the judge rules, you either accept the decision, or appeal it. Either way, the plaintiff looses, why, because he spent so much money going to trial, then more on appeal. Thats why they like class actions so much, to the lay person, it seems like justice, until you really analyze who got the money.

            Want real litigious reform, impliment looser pays. Oh, and that cant happen in the US either, (as is common practice in Europe) why, because the fox is in charge of the hen house, who would ever agree to do real reform in that scenario. I sure wouldn’t. Like I said above, just another dead end.

          • Sir, you’re way off topic. I choose my time wisely and that is to help people that want help. You clearly do not. Good luck to you and happy camping

  2. I joined her service, and since I am RV Certified Technician, been doing this for 37 years or so I got a tad bit of experience. But the saying goes, you are never to old to learn something. I looked over the site quick, the blogs are good, but maybe someplace for folks to add information about parks and things for others. Some good advice, some basic stuff too, we all started out not knowing much. I know I rebuilt two of my early RV’s since they had “issues” one was a trailer, which was close to my age when we got it, but the old stuff would run and run and run. RV’s today are too high tech, and all of the systems in them will be worthless if you don’t protect the incoming power system, everything is a small computer now. Ok, it’s now time to show me the benefits.

  3. I read this and thought what a good idea, so much so that I got almost all the way through filling out the membership form then found the 11/20 year old button which bumps the price up from $25 to $100. Not for me thanks.
    Chuck, roll this into your idea of the low cost basic one night stay parks and like lots of others have posted, there’s an extra $25 with next years donation for all your (and staff’s) great work.
    Richard.

    • Sir, Thank you for that information. There is a pop up that appears to gives you a quote on Tire & Wheel insurance, it is $75 dollar additional for tire and wheel insurance if your vehicle is older then 11 years. the charge to be a member is only $25. We will make this more clear on the site, thank you for the suggestion. Please give us a chance.

  4. I think Gigi is brave, creative and resourceful in finding a solution to a very corrupt business industry with so many nightmares experienced by the consumers. I admire her for all of this. She is taking on an entire industry folks! I believe she deserves a chance. Gigi, you go girl and I will happily pay the measly $25 per year! And I thank you for taking this on.

  5. I’m not really sure about RV Advisor, even though I’ve been pondering joining since Chuck last mentioned the organization several months ago. I recently cancelled my Good Sam membership that I had held since 1985 and figure that I could hardly do worse. We plan on retiring and traveling with the 5th wheel next July 3rd (Independence Day -1). Any help that we can get finding reputable dealers for service will be an asset. We may end up in Florida near our kids anyway. If true, it’s about time that another champion of RV consumers rose like the Phoenix from the ashes.

  6. No thanks to RV Advisor, I’m sending another $25 to Chuck’s efforts. Looks like she’s hoping for a quick $25 million, with nothing to give in return. The “Expert RV Service & Support” category is pretty nebulous. As you dig deeper, any service offered is an additional charge. So, you buy a membership, so they can SELL you advice.

    Beyond the “Expert RV Service & Support”, I just don’t need more complaint forums that don’t solve anything, “10% discount at KOA”, “coupons” and advice on which Tire and Wheel Protection policy they will try to sell me.

    • I understand you have no trust in me or the industry why dont you do a little research on me to see how hard I fight for whats right before you judge
      our website is only 2 months old since we changed the platform give us a chance

  7. Why do I feel I have been duped? The lead banner in this edition led me to believe I would be reading about peeves with dealers. Instead it was a blatant promotion to buy a service.

    • we have a forum and you can also state your case and that’s where I solve issues if you have a beef with a dealer state your case it will go to the buyer beware section and I will investigate please give me a chance

  8. HHMMMmmmmm~ nice gig at $25 million a year. I’ll keep sending Chuck an annual donation but will hold off on this as the advertisement has not impressed me much.

  9. I love the idea. I am a certified service provider with the RVAdvisor and I have an RV Inspection business. I am also a registered technician with RVIA. My company’s goal is “Protecting Your Dream” of RVing and we are definately on the side of the cunsumer and RV buying public. Keep up the good work, Gigi.

  10. Isn’t Stetler involved in an ongoing lawsuit against Lemonis? Probably not pertinent to this, just remember reading about it maybe a year ago. I, too, am skeptical that her plan is anything more than a money-maker for her. Angie’s list was first with this idea, and dropped the consumer fee when others began offering same service for free.
    She is going to ‘certify’ dealers? Maybe LazyDays will be first?

  11. I too read this as sizzle with little beef. What qualifications makes a Dealer “certified”? I’m not against, just very leery.

    • Paul in order to be a certified dealer I personally vet them to see their service history and how they handle their claims. I have been struggling to certify any dealers because most don’t want to be certified because they don’t care business is to good that’s why we need a strong membership base to over power them like Angies list did in the construction industry.

    • The Angie’s List business model is a good one. I’ve see contractors work hard to get a good reputation on Angie’s list.

  12. This read like an advertisement. Checked her Planet RV reviews and overall not impressive. Her membership seems like just another way to pay her bills.

    • John as to Planet RV reviews that is the point to have real time verified reviews there are always 3 sides to every story. If you read Planet RV reviews carefully there are NO bad service reviews and many are people I dont even know

  13. Fascinating.
    The term “too good to be true” pops into my head. And next – I wonder why if she’s so fantastic she has to be blowing her own horn? And my last thought was: $25/yr – really? And what does her membership get for that $25?
    We know what we get from you, Chuck, (one hell of a good newsletter) and you’re only collecting on a voluntary basis. I don’t see any mention here of any product except “advice” and nothing to give me any clue what that advice might be worth, if anything.
    I wish her luck in finding a million RV’ers who will pony up money for her advice (and apparently make her very rich if she finds them – I can do the math).
    I’ll be keeping that $25 in my pocket, thanks…

    PS: sorry for your electrical issues in Enumclaw. We’d be there except for having lost our awning on our last trip and still waiting for a replacement. Hope the fairgrounds gets it sorted…

    • As with you, I am leery of putting $25 to make someone else “rich”. However, I also note a bit of frustration in your “still waiting” for a replacement awning. I would pay that membership IF it could help me get the best info and products and services. Dealing with my local RV dealers is really frustrating. Camping World is mostly a joke. I think I will check out her website before shutting her off. I am dealing with a manufacturer right now on a performance issue with little help from them. I have now gone to the big boss and hoping for a response quickly. If nothing, I am not sure what my next step will be.

      If RV Advisor can help, I would be pleased to spend that chump change.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.