The fast-fading Good Sam Club

20

By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR

I was browsing through some really old issues of RVtravel.com and came across this news item about the Good Sam Club from March 17, 2002.

That was more than 17 years ago. That’s before Marcus Lemonis came along in 2006 and began remaking Good Sam into a discount club for Camping World and later, Gander Outdoors (quickly evolving into Gander RV). Before 2006, the Good Sam RV Club really was an RV club.

Under Lemonis’ leadership it has gradually morphed from its original mission to serve RVers into aggressively hawking products and services to them including RVs themselves. The club no longer has a big national rally or even regional rallies, no member magazine, and does virtually nothing to benefit RVers that doesn’t benefit Lemonis and his gang more. The club has very few local chapters left, and those that remain are dying along with their aging members.


Now, the latest development: Lemonis no longer even includes the world “RV” in some descriptions of the club. Here is how it is described in a recent email from Gander RV.

If you read that statement carefully, you realize it’s just a bunch of meaningless mumbo-jumbo gobbledygook.

And so, at RVtravel.com we officially bid farewell to what was once America’s largest club for RVers, one that even though it was from the get-go a “for-profit” business, devoted significant effort toward improving the RVing experiences of its members.

We will no longer include Good Sam in our directories of RV clubs, and will typically mention it only in historical references. In its present form, the Good Sam Club focuses on selling insurance, extended warranties, roadside assistance programs and offers a 10% discount at Camping World and Gander RV. An annual membership ($29) provides members with a 10% camping discount at more than 2,400 RV parks across the country, which is likely the main benefit to most members.

Most of the benefits are available elsewhere for the same price or less.

##RVT907


20 COMMENTS

  1. I’m currently a Good Sam member but will no longer be once it runs out. The only benefit I’ve received is the discount at CW and Gander, where I get an over the counter discount on something I can buy cheaper elsewhere anyway.

  2. Sad to say I am a good sam life member, that was before Marc Lemon took it over. Wish I could get my life membership fee back…

  3. I have been a Good Sam member for about 8 years so far, and here in Mich we have two State Rallies
    and being part of Ohio Region each state has 2-3 state rallies each, most of these are 80-90 dollars for Thurs-Sun camping and this is full hook up. I wish I could do a FMCA camp one time but I cant afford the rallies of 300-500 dollars they charge, so we go to the State Rallies
    around here and have lots of fun, So far I don’t see where they are loosing people

  4. Kudos to Chuck Woodbury for taking the time to expose the cynical, money-grubbing maneuvering of people like Lemonis who take control of sincere member-oriented clubs like Good Sam and turn them into “sheep in wolves’ clothing” operations that are then steered towards preying on the membership rolls. Good-natured altruistic activities like RVing to commune with nature and other campers should not be exploited by the greedy just to increase their personal bank accounts…

    • Preying? Joining Good Sam is voluntary, as is purchasing any products and services from them. In what way is anyone being preyed on?

      Everyone wants to talk about member-oriented clubs but, as FMCA knows well, fewer and fewer people want to donate the time and energy to make those kinds of organizations work. We all want the perks without spending much of the effort.

      Like it or not, Good Sam is a business. It’s not a non-profit. Any of us are free to start a nonprofit to cater to RVers if we want to.

      If Marcus is not meeting the needs of his customer, his business will fail and another business that does meet the need will surface. I’d be willing to bet that he actually is meeting the needs of his customer. What many of us don’t like to admit is that most of us are aging out of the target demographic.

      The target demographic is discussing the RV lifestyle right this minute on Reddit. They’re watching vlogs on YouTube. The industry is moving away from us and that’s our issue not theirs.

  5. Not so fast there, the club is still wonderful on the state and local level. The Ohio club has three rallies per year. The states connecting with Ohio also have state rallies. There are many active chapters including the one we belong to. Our chapter has 5 to 7 campouts per year plus a Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, and three other winter dinner gatherings.

    It is an atrocity what Lemonis has done to the club on the national level, but we are hanging on in Ohio.

  6. some years ago we were more involved with various RV clubs and traveled a lot. We also did work camping in Wyoming several summers As I recall, during that time, I was approached by someone affiliated with Good Sam and the magazine/parks directory etc – they were looking for ‘reviewers’ – to do articles about parks all over the country. Sounded interesting, but upon further discussion, I was definitely given the slant that the articles MUST be written showing off the ‘paying park subscribers’ to best advantage – basically, ‘write good stuff, because they won’t pay to advertise if you sound even a little bit negative’. Having just experienced a park that definitely wasn’t up to even minimum standards, I decided best to NOT get involved–the particular park advertised facilities and amenities that were not there.

  7. Chuck,

    Please give it a rest. Your vendetta against Lemonis is getting old. You don’t like him & we all understand that. He is in the business of making money just like every businessman. His companies are still supplying a 10% discount on certain campgrounds & 10% off items at his RV parts stores. Those are services to RVers. People don’t always have time to shop around for parts or wait for Amazon delivery. 10% is 10%. Better than nothing. It’s the same old story … don’t pay for a membership if you don’t think it’s worth it. Nobody is twisting your arm.

    • I’ve seen Mr. Woodbury come to Mr. Lemonis’ defense multiple times in these pages. We have, on occasions, been at odds with each other concerning Mr. Lemonis’ antics and we’ve both defended him when someone prints un-truths. Fact is, what Mr. Woodbury says is true. Good Sams Club has become nothing more than a discount service. Gone are all the reasons I was a member. It is no longer an RV club.

  8. We use GS discounts when possible. In the last two years we have found that most of the parks we used also gave a similar discount for AAA or AARP, so the camping benefit isn’t what it once was. I do use the CW catalog to look for items but often shop locally (Independent shops) or Amazon (if I have some time). Their prices are often quite a bit more than others shops.

  9. Good Sam Club made his company “the category-killer.”
    “That’s really how we make our money,” he said.

    Mad Money Jim Cramer sits down with Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis
    2018/06/06

  10. Chuck, Here in the Northeast region we strive to keep GS alive. With Rally’s in almost every State and Province from May through September along with a Regional event known as the Northeast Region Camping Charity Fall Fest held at Normandy Farms Campground which is growing annually. I’m not sure all your facts are correct. We may not have the support we once had from the corporate side but that does not mean we have lost our Good Sam spirit of taking care of our community and giving back to other.

    Regards,

    Jason Cole
    R.I. Good Sam State Director
    Northeast Region Camping Charity President

    • Jason, I suggest your efforts are based on the “Good Samaritan” attitude of your members and I, for one, applaud you for that. But the Good Sam Club itself does not care about you and your fellow club members, and I believe you could easily go it alone. The club is Marcus Lemonis’ gig. He has used the membership’s mailing list to build his business, which he admits too.

      • Well said Mr. Woodbury. I am a Charter Life Member of the Good Sam Club. I remember when it published a very good magazine and was something of worth. I cant remember the name of the lady that led the company/club for years. It seems that Good Sam’s demise started when Lemonis decided to make political comments.

  11. I tried Passport America and found too few CGs participating in my travels or were not available during my travel times. Also tried Escapees, would be great west but not so much in the East. On my 1st and last KOA membership. With discounts I’m still much better off with GS. I would like to find something better but not out there for me.

    • I agree, Captn John. By the way, the KOA “membership” is really not a membership, just an annual discount card. If someone were to use his Good Sam Club card to the tune of $290 of camping a year at participating parks, the 10% savings would pay for a one year club membership ($29). But to use it less, you’re better off just paying the full rate at the RV park. Of course, many parks will give you a discount anyway if you ask, or will honor AAA or AARP cards. Some will honor Escapees memberships or FMCA. Good Sam is not the only show in town.

  12. I think this analysis really misses the mark. It seems clear that Marcus is shifting the organization from a narrow niche focused on the RV lifestyle into a broader outdoor recreation and lifestyle brand of which the RV lifestyle is still a part. Now it just incompasses people that like to RV but also like to hike and canoe and participate in all kinds of other outdoor recreational activities. That makes complete sense given the younger demographic that is entering the RV lifestyle and the popularity of smaller RVs that are used to support an outdoor focused lifestyle.

    The article reads very hostile and I don’t understand that perspective. I think you have to accept that the traditional interests of RVers is shifting. You have to consider the reality that some of the things that this article complains that Good Sam is no longer supporting or contributing to is very likely due to the fact the popularity of those kinds of events are in decline.

    Whether Good Sam is dying or not depends entirely on its revenue and its membership numbers. It’s unfair to call it dying just because it’s no longer doing some of the things that a certain generation of RVer preferred to do.

    • Very well stated Jeff.

      May I say. Mr. Lemonis certainly hasn’t a lock on bottom line profit motivated business practices. Hell the entire industry selling the crap they foist on us, is full of uncaring ruthless business(??) practices, & men and women who as likely as not sleep very well each night with their pillowcases of money – and yet we’re still here buying, sometimes complaining, sometimes unable let go of a lingering vendetta.

  13. You have got it exactly right. That is why our Camping club dropped out of the Good Sams organization. We paid annual fees, with no benefit to the group.

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