By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Why do RVers sign up for the Good Sam Club? That’s what we asked you last week, and a large number of responses rolled in – more than 3,100 answers at the time of this writing. Here’s a breakdown, in order of “whys”:
Discounts at RV parks: 40 percent.
Discounts at Camping World: 27 percent.
Member benefit (road service, insurance, warranty, etc): 23 percent.
Other: 5 percent.
To participate in a local chapter of the club: 2 percent.
To attend rallies: 2 percent.
Discounts at Gander Outdoors: 1 percent.
Perhaps the next question should be, “Did you get what you wanted?” Evidently some have, and others not. Comments by poll respondents in different areas tell quite a story.
Discounts sometimes discounted
All in all, RVers tend to be a thrifty lot. No exceptions shown in this reader poll. Good Sam offers plenty of claimed discounts, but you’ve told us they don’t always live up to the standard. Here’s Ken Luke’s take on the matter: “Joined just about five years ago for the RV park discounts and the discount at the Camping World store. But the last few years, CW stores have gone downhill and we shop there only as a place of last resort.” But how about those park discounts? Ken continues, “The discount at RV parks is nothing special, either, since you can get the same discount in other, more practical ways. When the next renewal notice comes, we will be dropping from the roster and peeling the sticker off the windshield.”
Some didn’t always buy a membership to become members. Vance Pursley received his as a gift. Still, “We rarely shop at CW because I can usually find what I need somewhere else much cheaper,” he says. Yet, Vance maintains his membership. Why? “When we do shop there, I’m always told I can renew my membership for one year and get one free, plus, they give us enough merchandise and send me a $25 gift card so that our last renewal cost a few cents. That, along with the fact that their ‘Trip Planner’ app is the best one I’ve found so far, keeps me a member.” But he adds a caveat: “If I ever meet anyone thinking about buying an RV, I caution them about buying at CW. If they do, I discuss the financing aspect with them…if they want to listen.”
Another Good Sammer joined about more than four decades ago for campground discounts. Eric Devolin says he’s now changed his mind: “I’m not renewing any products to do with Good Sam as the returns are not there anymore. Camping World will not ship to Canada with their FREE shipping but will take our money just the same. I keep on getting renewal notices for Good Sam with discounts for Camping World except they are not valid unless you are in the USA. WHAT A SCAM.”
Others told us they’ve joined the club for the fuel discounts and are pleased with them, much like Larry, who says, “I use the gas discount quite a bit and it pays for the membership.” He adds he uses the discount not only for his RV but also for his other family cars. But not everyone is as “pumped up” about that fuel discount. Here’s David C’s take: “So far, my experience with Pilot/Flying J is that their prices (diesel) are more expensive than others. Even with the $.08/gal reduction.” We heard similar comments from readers who told us that by shopping around, in most towns they found gas and diesel to be less costly in stations competing with Flying J and Pilot, even with the Good Sam discount.
OK, how about those other membership benefits?
Aside from discounts, Good Sam offers various programs like insurance and roadside assistance. Bob signed on for the latter. Here’s his experience: “We joined for the road service. We were in Kentucky with a flat tire on a Sunday. Good Sam could not get anyone out there until the next day. We called AAA and they had someone out there within an hour. Need I say more?”
A reader named Colleen was pleased to get insurance through her membership – for a while. She writes: “Had Good Sam insurance with National General for years which seemed like a good deal until we had a minor accident and had a terrible time dealing with them. After they finally got around to paying, they raised the insurance $1000 a year.” To Good Sam’s credit, she adds: “I have had good luck dealing with the roadside insurance when I had flats.”
Fred, too, was interested in club membership for the insurance he could obtain. While he apparently hasn’t had to file a claim, he’s been doing a little head scratching: “Been a member for about 12 years, but I’ve been questioning the benefits of membership for the last year or so. I joined mainly for the insurance program, but for the last few years I’ve obtained the insurance directly from the insurance company rather than through Good Sam. It saved me some money. I also thought I’d use the campground discount, but in nine years of fulltiming, I’ve used it less than 10 times.”
Joseph Weinstein says one reason he joined up was for the Trip Planner. But, he says, there could be a problem: “My one concern with the Trip Planner is that it is out of date or not accurate in regard to ‘low height warnings.’ For example, at Lake Tahoe they have a low height warning they has not been ‘reality’ for years; since they redid the tunnel along Columbia River Gorge they also have a low height warning based upon the edge of the tunnel; we watched semi’s pass through there with ease.”
The social factor
Not everyone is shopping for discounts or ancillary benefits when joining Good Sam. “We are lifetime members of GS and joined years ago for the people aspect of meeting fellow campers,” write Pam and Dick. “One thing that is still extremely helpful, which I don’t think anyone has commented on, is the list of state Standby Sams – members who have volunteered to help fellow members traveling to or through their state. When we were going to Vermont, I contacted several Standby Sams and they were unbelievably helpful with recommendations for RV friendly routes, what roads to avoid with an RV, camping and dining suggestions, attractions to not miss, and so on. Standby Sams are a hidden gem!”
Similar kudos comes from Jerry Robertson: “I am an active member of [the] Good Sam Club. I belong to a local chapter and I have been on five campouts with my chapter already this year. My chapter has dinner meetings once a month, and we stay to socialize and play games after the meetings. My chapter began forty years ago and is still active and growing, although I know that others are struggling to maintain their membership. I attend state rallies and always have a good time meeting up with old friends who live in other parts of the state. For me, belonging to Good Sam and participating in the activities is a way of life that I would not have without the club.”
Not everyone “hates” Good Sam
While there were plenty of comments from readers that could be called negative, the club still has supporters. Here are a few comments to that end. Says Cam, “I use the campground discounts AND the member plans for insurance and roadside service and found them quite competitive in price and coverage provided.”
“We have their insurance, roadside assistance, medical assistance and at one time their extended warranty plan,” relates Diane M. “Had to use insurance once, it was nice speaking with an agent that understood motorhome issues. Have used the roadside assistance five times. Four were great experiences, the last one just the other day, not so much.” Brenda Fohlmeister echoes similarly: “Good Sam has come to our aid on numerous occasions as they cover all your vehicles including the ones your kids are driving at college. For us, Camping World has been a Godsend.”
Good Sam Alternative?
Several readers who’d grown disgruntled with the club made alternate suggestions that RVers might consider. Here’s PASmith’s thought: “We joined decades ago when we first started RVing. Back then Camping World was a separate entity and a good deal, but since Lemonis has taken over it no longer is. Roadside Assistance used to be a good deal as well, but since we got royally ripped off during our last need for them, we’ve cancelled everything having to do with GS. We moved to FMCA and discovered the >same< insurance costs significantly less, and the FMCA Roadside Assistance is nearly half what GS just jacked it up to for motorhomes. Whatever used to be good about GS has been whittled away and eventually destroyed by Lemonis.”
Another Good Sammer, Debi, has this to say: “We joined GS about 20 years ago for the road assistance and the insurance coverage and became Lifetime Members. But back then it WAS a community. We are FMCA members and love the free benefit of Travel Assist and they actually still have rallies!! Hubby and I are so glad FMCA opened its membership to all towable RVs.”
We wish we could have published all the comments our readers provided, but time and space don’t allow. Thank you all for your comments. Please continue to participate in our polls and make your thoughts known.