Is Good Sam finished as an active RV club?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

The Good Sam organization changed on Friday. Earlier, customers of affiliate Camping World received a letter from the company explaining just what actions it was taking to protect the health and well-being of customers and employees alike. But Friday, the letters that went out weren’t for customers – rather, they were addressed to State and Provincial Good Sam Directors.

As might be expected, the Coronavirus pandemic has thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into the works of social gatherings. Good Sam, not surprisingly, ordered all state and provincial rallies canceled, as well as smaller, individual chapter meetings. But what surprised and dismayed many was this line: “To keep you and your family safe, as well as continuing to follow the CDC guidelines, the difficult decision has been made to pause the Good Sam State/Provincial Director program, effective immediately.”

It was easy to understand the cancellation or postponement of rallies and other gatherings. But to suddenly sack the directors of the state and provincial organizations was quite another. We turned to an industry insider as to just why this might have taken place. Here are a few gleanings from what we heard.

First, to some, this wasn’t a complete surprise. The handwriting may have been on the wall – or on the company logo – as long as a year ago. Good Sam Enterprises, the holding company that oversees the club, redesigned the company logotype. The old logo featured the Good Sam Club – but in the new iteration, the word “Club” suddenly vanished, and Good Sam is flanked now by Camping World and Gander pointers. It would seem that Good Sam Enterprises was, at that point, far more interested in retail operations and in “subscription-based products, services and publications” than in the social activities on which the original organization was solidly based.

For now-former state and provincial directors, what does this all mean? In terms of finance, not much. A few directors got a stipend; all received repayment of their expenses, and when it came time to buy a new RV, directors could get a discount – provided they marched down and bought one off the lot at Camping World. But many of these directors and, quite often, their spouses, had made the Good Sam Club their heart and soul. Two of those, Martin and Diane Qualey, have invested years in helping Maine chapters of the club push ahead in what they feel is the real Good Sam spirit. Martin was the director of the Maine organization – until Friday.

Martin picked no bones about the sudden change. “I will grant Good Sam leeway in the need to limit liability during the pandemic,” Martin told us by telephone. “For them to completely dissolve was an overstep.” He feels that, contrary to the spirit of the Good Sam Club founders, money has become the principal thing for management. Speaking of the chapters he and his wife helped to oversee, Martin said, “I think that [Marcus] Lemonis and others would like to see [state organizations] go ‘bye-bye.’ We’re an insignificant number – 350 to 500 members in Maine, as opposed to one to two million ‘members’” in the overall scheme of things. In Martin’s thinking, the present-day company is far more interested in their database of members and its potential for money-making than in the social network that Good Sam once was.

The thought was echoed by our insider. To this person, the word “pause” in Friday’s declaration as it relates to these directorships means a complete and final termination. If the company database has two million names, then the small participation rates by chapters, probably somewhere around 1 percent of the total, is a trivial thing to company higher-ups, and not worth the financial investment. In fact, the insider said he was surprised that Marcus Lemonis hadn’t made the move much earlier, and that the COVID-19 crisis simply provided an excuse to shut down the system.

What does the company decision mean to chapter loyalists? It means they have no official standing, and no liability backing if they were to proceed with a rally or other gathering. Does that spell the end of the social activities and gatherings of Good Sammers? Not if you ask Martin and Diane Qualey. Martin has already spoken with local chapter presidents in Maine. Many are determined to press ahead and form a new organization. Martin may no longer be a “director,” but in the new group he’ll be re-titled as the “manager.” The old state treasurer will become the “accountant” and chapter presidents, “fiscal advisers.” An area RV dealer – Lee’s Family Trailer – has already stepped up and said it will help support the new group, even as it already supported the old Good Sam group, despite the company’s having no affiliation with Camping World.

Titles aside, Martin sees a bright future for what used to be Maine Good Sam chapters. He and Diane see their organization, not in terms of dollars and cents, but rather in service. In the past the Good Sams in Maine have been heavily supportive of charitable causes. Good idea or not, at one rally Martin challenged the club members who showed up in 70 RVs to come up with $1,000 for a good cause. He didn’t dream that they’d be able to do it, but just for an incentive, he told the group he’d dye his hair pink if they could make the money. Members put together $1,500 – and Martin had a new hair color. On other occasions, club members have worked tirelessly at Special Olympics events, manning stopwatches to time athletes, and booths handing out T-shirts and trinkets. In the minds of the Qualeys, Good Sams have their roots in the Biblical illustration of the Good Samaritan – serving others.

Will the same be true of other states’ chapters of the Good Sam Club? Time will tell. But like Martin says, “Maine Good Sam is dead. But the Samaritans are still alive.”

##RVT940b

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Jesse Crouse

Last time I used Roadside Assistance they sent an ill prepared provider and in the end I did half the work to continue our trip. My policy is up 7/31/20 and I will not renew. Does anyone have first hand experience with another org. or company offering the same type of service that they would recommend?
Thanks

Diane Mc

Worked for 2 high tech companies. Both were start ups with our own culture, grew to much larger, successful companies. Both were acquired by much larger companies. Impossible to keep things the way they are. New companies have their own cultures, processes, procedures. After a short while, I left both, one to a new company, one I retired from. We do have a lifetime membership, so nothing to cancel. We occasionally use Camping World depending on what we need. Last trip found a great jacket at Gander (same price as Amazon, but I got the 10% disc) when we were looking for replacement lights. We have the MH insurance which we used for a major $10K oops. It was great, no hassles, totally covered. We do not use the social aspect of the “club”. We did long ago to go to NASCAR races. After a couple of years, we decided to go to Daytona on our own before they stopped doing events. Saved a ton of money and still have acquaintances from those times and see them at the race every year. Grateful that we learned the ropes and made friends. For those wishing that CW goes bankrupt, I think of all the employees working for Camping World/Gander who will lose their jobs. Also think Marcus needs to work on the RV/Trailer/Service part. Too many stories of unhappy customers with poor service/quality in that area. Although we know the industry in total has a problem with quality/service.

Steven W Cassel

Glad they are done. Camping World and Good Sam sold the worst addons as far as insurance and Gap insurance. I hope Camping World crumbles along with there beyond shady sales tactics.

GeorgeB

Seems Marcus is the most hated person outside of Trump on this site. I can’t figure it out. Camping World has been a asset for me and I assume, many others over the years. Like Trump, it seems the hatred is directed at the person and is often unsubstantiated. IMO if you hate the CEO, shop elsewhere and stop trying to impose your standards on those who judge the business as a business. Its a big country, plenty of room for everyone.

TIM

For years as a chapter officer and participant in state activities and meetings, I’ve wondered if the corporation would one day make a grab for the state organization assets. My state organization has vehicles, miscellaneous assets and substantial cash.

Terry Pace

I for one was surprised when the “Good Sam” of the old logo was redesigned a few years back to reflect a “Marcus Lemonis” style image. At that point I felt a major change was coming and it was.

judy williams

I was wondering if this would have anything to do with my Good Sam Rewards Visa card that I use all the time? Should I find another Visa card?

Jack barton

Aarp went the same way quite a while back. I was getting stuff from them in my p.o. box since i turned about 50. When they went ‘all in’ with obama’s health care takeover in order to market some company’s medigap insurance, i bundled up ~ 5# of their offers and sent it back to them. I’ve never heard from them again.
I hope our Good Sam Club remains ‘Good,’ and steers clear of the big money trap they’re facing (in other words ‘they stay humble’), but i have my doubts.

Larry Big Hoss Lynner

Cannot thank you enough for your excellent work!!!!!! We will get through this crisis- Keep it up, Pilgrims!!!

Ken Wagner

My wife and I have been members of GS since 1986 here in Maine i have been a Chapter President more then 10 years and we where the GS Campers of the Year 2014. But the
Writing was on the wall Marcus Lemonis has been out to destroy this Institution since he started about 7 years ago, It has been nothing but a commercial for Camping World and a place to bombard members with thousands of pounds of paper every month. Good Sam was always a organization that would donate to charity and bring fun and entertainment to those who Liked camping. It saddens me to see this Great Icon of the camping world go down the Drain.

MrDisaster

Well…now might be a time to call Marcus. Because I’m not happy…when I’m not happy, then he shouldn’t be happy. Look at the goodwill the local chapters generate and he has now squandered in search of a few dollars..

Marcus

Irresponsible journalism at its finest. In this moment you show the ugliness of things when they are nothing of the sort.

Alvin

R harper, I voted for you on this and you went from 4 to 3, so take heed I do not know what’s going on with RV travels voting system nor this latest scary pandemic, with the world in its grip. Let me just say this – I think you’re on to something. It’s not the pandemic scaring me, it’s those sacred of it and how they’re dealing with it that’s scary.

AnitaRiggsWray

I am lifetime member but have not received any info from Good Sam for years! Would like to be acknowledged or receive money back! Anita Riggs Wray

Raymond Shaw

A couple of years ago the Daytona Drifters did not like the direction that Good Sam Club was headed. They voted to turn their charter, back into Good Sam Club. The “Regional Director and his wife asked to meet with the club. They started out by trying to have the Drifters reconsider, and remain an active chapter, when the membership said no, they were told that they would have to change the name, if they continued to have get togethers and camp outs. That the money in the treasury, must be surrendered to the state or national.
The Drifters still camp, and enjoy each others company.

Linda

What will happen to good sam mail service?

John Mitchell

The word “pause” was used. This will mean there is a temporary shut down of the organization. Yes it will protect the main organization from liability from members that will insist on continuing having campouts etc. in spite of being advised by the CDC not too, Look at the government being forced to close the beaches in Australia, Florida and here in British Columbia. The people were advised but haven’t listened.
Lets not read into things that maybe not there.
I don’t like the way the organization is seeming to be heading but I can always hope for the best after the crisis.

Alec

There are other great options for these chapters. I’m sure FMCA and Escapees would embrace them as members. They could combine with local chapters or form new ones depending on the demographics. Both of these clubs do excellent charity work in their community’s and have good benefits for members.

John M

With this happening with Good Sam I wonder how this will affect vehicle insurance through National General as they also give a discount for Good Sam membership?

Carl J

Seems this is more about hurt feelings, ego bruising and loss of titles then anything else. Some people just need control, power and crowd adulation for fulfillment.