Wednesday, January 19, 2022

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RV dealers cheated customers, hit with fine, orders from NY state

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Two major national RV retailers have been hit with strict orders and one with a $50,000 fine by New York state. RV One Superstores, Inc. and RV Retailer East, LLC signed off on agreements after the New York Attorney General’s office investigated complaints by consumers. The two outfits were found to have cheated customers in multiple ways. They also dragged their feet when making repairs to customers’ RVs.

RV One Superstores previously owned Albany RV in Latham, New York, and Buffalo RV in West Seneca. The big outfit sold both of these dealerships to RV Retailer in December 2018. Even before the sale, consumers raised a hue and cry that both Albany and Buffalo cheated customers. The complaints were made both to the Attorney General and to the Better Business Bureau.

Classic “bait and switch”

What kind of cheating went on? By customer allegations, “bait and switch” was a big deal. In agreements between the state’s attorney general and both big retailers, here’s how the typical cheat went down. A potential customer would stop in at one of the retail locations and a salesperson would walk them through the lot. “In some cases,” says the agreement, the customer would ask to buy a particular used rig. ‘Sorry,’ the salesman would say, ‘but we’ve already got a deposit on that rig.’ Quoting the agreement, the salesman would then say, ‘We have an ‘identical’ or superior one elsewhere on the lot or at another RV One store.”

Hearing this “good news,” some customers would then agree to buy that “identical” or superior used rig – oftentimes sight unseen. This was based on the salesman’s promise that if the rig needed repairs, it would get them, “or restored to ‘pristine’ condition,” before the RVer came to get the rig.

Set up for a warranty cheat

You can only imagine John Q. RVer, sitting down in the back room. He’s signing off on paperwork, and he’s hearing all about the “warranty” that comes on that rig. The dealer would include a 30-day warranty on all used rigs less than ten years old. What was included in this month-long warranty? Only “major appliances,” like the fridge, water heater, furnace, etc. Of course, for a few dollars more, customers allege they were told they could buy an extended warranty, giving them “bumper to bumper” coverage.

With the paperwork signed, the money put down, RV customers were then given a come-back date for a walk-through of their rig. At their option, the customer could take the rig home on the day of the walk-through. But in many cases, they did not, but opted to get the unit later, or have the seller deliver it to them.

Vanishing rigs

Here’s where the outfits cheated customers. And it probably doesn’t take a mystery-novel fan to figure out the whodunit from here. “A significant number” of the complaints made say that while the customer was shown one rig, which they signed up to buy, when walk-through time came, hey, presto! The rig they bought wasn’t the one the company was going to deliver. It wasn’t uncommon that “a different, inferior one (in poorer condition or missing certain luxury features, e.g., leather interior),” was what they were expected to take away from a dealer lot.

In other cases, some customers said the rig they agreed to buy appeared – at the time of the initial showing – to be in nearly perfect shape. But when the time came to sign off on the paperwork, woopsie! It seems that particular unit isn’t available now. The promise was made to “get them an ‘identical camper’ from the lot” or another location. Paper signed, the deal would go through. But on delivery, that “identical camper” was in much worse shape than the rig they saw to start with. Others said the salesman had promised to repair and clean them – but they didn’t.

Money back? Heck, no!

Naturally, many of these customers balked and demanded they get their deposits back. But RV Retailer and RV Superstores many times refused, essentially telling the customers, “You bought it!” Feeling they were stuck between a rock and hard place, the customers gave in, and “were often stuck waiting for several weeks for repairs/enhancements to accept the camper.”

These dealers cheated customers in other ways, too. Customers complained that those supposed “bumper to bumper” warranties excluded a variety of areas of the rigs. Those that didn’t pump out the money for an extended warranty found their 30-day warranties weren’t quite what they expected. Some found out their warranty period ran from the date of their walk-through, regardless of whether they took delivery at that time or not. The clock had already started running when some found problems that needed to be addressed.

Repair time? More like “drag feet” time

To add insult to injury, many customers complained that when they would call the dealership about a problem, their calls were not returned. Some reported having to wait weeks before they could get a repair appointment. When they did finally get their rigs into the dealership for repair, they would “wait weeks, or sometimes months” before even being told whether the repairs would be covered under warranty. And then, they often found the repairs were not done in the promised time frame, with excuses such as the outfit was “busy with other repairs or waiting for parts.”

Late in December, New York’s attorney general announced agreements with both RV Superstores and RV Retailer. Both were found to have “engaged in deceptive business practices and failed to make timely repairs to consumers’ vehicles”. RV Superstores has ponied up $50,000 in fines. The attorney general reports that both have already repaired many of the rigs. In the agreement, neither RV Retailer nor RV One Superstores “neither admits nor denies” the attorney general’s findings.

Not just fines – significant orders

In addition to the fines, the agreements made with the two outfits contain these directives (and more):

  • They will not misrepresent repairs or enhancements made to rigs prior to a customer delivery, nor any material facts about the rig’s condition. They must not misrepresent information about warranty terms or service contracts.
  • Must not misrepresent when a repair will be completed, nor the reason why it hasn’t been completed.
  • They must not have customers sign off on a contract until the customer has actually seen the rig when the purchase is made in-person and on site.
  • Will need to respond to all phone calls and messages in three business days.
  • When warranty repair service is called for, the customer must be given “a timely service appointment.” The problem must be prioritized so that customers aren’t prevented from using their rigs. Within five days of a service appointment, the dealers will need to either submit the request for warranty service claims (if required), get started on the work, or order the parts for warranty repairs.
  • For customers who buy a rig with a 30-day warranty on a motorhome, the “warranty clock” can’t start until the day the customer moves the rig from the lot.
  • And here’s one the dealers will really love: They must “maintain sufficient service technicians on staff so that repairs which [they, the seller] is authorized to perform and not including those to be performed by the manufacturer or other third party, are completed without unreasonable delay, subject to events beyond [their] control.”

If only other states would take notice

That $50,000 fine for cheating customers may be distributed by the attorney general to those injured customers. It’s not clear how many individuals’ complaints were reviewed in the investigation, but we peg it at less than 300. If that’s the case, and the money distributed equally, it would amount to less than $200 each. Pretty much symbolic.

On the other hand, the orders that these two companies have been given are significant. New York’s action doesn’t set legal precedent for other states. But it does send a signal that others might hear. Imagine RV dealerships around the country actually having to provide “timely service” for repair work. Imagine them having to maintain a staff of service technicians so there aren’t “unreasonable delays” in getting your RV back. Could be a pipe dream, but perhaps it’s a start.

Have you been a cheated RV customer? We’d like to hear about it. Use the form below and put “RV cheat” on the subject line.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

##RVT1033b

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Jeff
9 days ago

I agree with all the other comments, that that 50K fine is a laughable joke! That RV dealer probably paid the fine out of petty cash. Will they continue to conduct business as usual…most likely, along with their lawyers making sure they don’t get busted again. Will this verdict of the two New York RV dealers, be wake-up call for other dealers across the country? Probably not – that slap on the hand and peewee fine wasn’t enough to even get the attention of other RV dealers! My 2 cents…

Robin Maheu
14 days ago

Extreme but a thought might be to license salesman. Make it non difficult to obtain a license, but retaining it based on # of complaints.

Tim
16 days ago

They should be forced to provide estimated start dates and completion dates on their repair contracts.

Dr. Mike
16 days ago

The salesmen, their managers, and everyone else involved should have been sent straight to prison. Not just a “nice” prison, but one with hardened criminals including murders, terrorists and rapists.
Give them a 5 year sentence and in 2 1/2 years, face a judge and ask if they have learned their lesson about cheating people. If they have not….back to prison.
The monetary fine would be equal to how much they cheated the customers times one hundred plus court costs. The money from the fine would be sent to the cheated customers to make them whole.

You can probably tell I have very little sympathy for these types of people.

Vincee
16 days ago

I purchased two used class A motorhomes from Buffalo RV. Reading the excellent article by Russ and Tina brings me back down memory lane.

However, some of the tactics outlined are salesman 101. Buyers do have a responsibility to themselves to shop with their guard up and protect their own wallets. Whether it be BRV or any other retailer, their job is to take your money.

I got the same we got “money down” on both rigs I purchased from and that didn’t alter my decision whether to buy or not from them. On my first rig which wasn’t at the Buffalo dealer yet, I gave them a drop-dead date on the sale. They produced the RV on the last day. On the second rig, same story. Since my wife and I wanted the RV we played the game, put a deposit down (as the second deposit?) knowing the game. We got the rig at a price we thought was good including our trade.

On the first rig, they honored the “used 30-day warranty” for six months.

Vincee
16 days ago
Reply to  Vincee

I should have pointed out in my post that both of my RV purchases at Buffalo were before they sold out to RV Retailer. Yes, some of the sales tactics mentioned by Russ and Tina are the same, the service and switching of RVs is not something I witnessed or experienced. The point I made about still receiving service 6 months later on my first rig was by dealing with one of the prior owners, Mark Stroll who went above and beyond making sure my rig was right and my wife and I were happy.

Debbie
16 days ago

I wonder how Camping World escaped this!

Donald N Wright
16 days ago

As usual, the Judge’s kissed their ____, with a little fine and no jail time.

Steve Murray
16 days ago

RV One in Orlando treated us great when we had issues.
Who buys an RV without Inpection in person!?!
Rubes!

Dick and Sandy near Buffalo, NY
17 days ago

Being we live outside Buffalo, NY, years ago we have some problems with Buffalo RV about deposits and such just like the article says. We had to use some strong loud language in a salesman’s office in front of other customers and got our money back. We sent in complaints to the BBB and NYS Attorney General. Unfortunately these things take time and hopefully all have at least gotten their money back. As for service, we use an RV Service facility 70 miles away for better service and have a personal relationship over the years with the Service Manager and some of the employees. Just our situation. Stay safe, Stay well and Happy New Year to All

Colin Grant
17 days ago

They should have included a Lemon Law as well.

BillyBogey
17 days ago

Good Morning. Happy New Year!!
While good to read about Dealers being Fined!!
Know I would not purchase thru my Dealer again. Just say to potential Customers, whom I know, who like & ask about our Unit. Say great Unit but “Heads Up” with local Dealer. While I do not bash Dealer as usually “Heads Up” works.
Do think Brand Mfrs need to do PDI’s on their Dealers. Very Satisfied with our Brand/Mfr. as they have ben very positive.
Do wonder about RV Dealer’s as to where their Business “Head’ is at when theygo directly to “The Sale” without the wherewithal to remember the 2R’s. Referrals & Repeat Sale!!
Happy Motoring!!

Dick Snyder
17 days ago

Very disappointed to see this. We purchased our Jayco 5th wheel online from RV One in 2013 and had it delivered through Buffalo RV as did our friend a year earlier. My friend and I were both very pleased with how the unit was prepped and I was happy with Buffalo RV’s warranty work when the fridge died a year later. Apparently things went bad some time after that. So sorry to hear they ruined their reputation and the experiences of so many customers,

RallyAce
17 days ago

The fine is symbolic. They make more than that selling a new diesel pusher. It is the rest of the settlement that is most important. They agreed to a legal order to not misrepresent, to schedule timely service, to increase their service departments, and not start the warranty until the owner drives the rig off the lot. Violating the agreement will make for a much bigger legal issue for them that could result with them losing their dealer and service licenses in NY.

Bud
17 days ago

We purchased our 5th wheel at Simi RV in Simi Valley CA. The unit had always been on the lot. We conducted a 4 hour walk through and extensive PDI. Only then signed the paperwork for a price significantly less then Mike Thompson RV. Hooked the unit up and off we went! So many stories about dishonest dealers, but Simi RV is an absolute pleasure to deal with, both before the deal & during the deal. Even the service Dept is great!

JAMac, Halifax N.S.
17 days ago

Yes a good article!!!!! I thought the pic was also in NY and same streets as Halifax Nova Scotia Canada

G13
17 days ago

What gets me is the fact that time and time again, folks are still buying/purchasing RV’s sight unseen, especially a used one. I don’t feel one bit remorse for these people. Are we that gullible and just plain ignorant? “When God said brain, you must have heard train cuz your’s certainly fell off the tracks.

Dan Kalm
17 days ago

Had a very similar experience in Tucson with La Mesa RV. Our new, we believe demo rig was delivered after we signed the paperwork with over 300 hours on the generator and quite a bit of damage, We finally went to another repairer because of their incredible guile and deceit.

littleleftie
17 days ago

Hey—great on New York! And loved the photo…of Halifax, Nova Scotia! My son lived in Clayton Park and I know that area of the photo well.

Last edited 17 days ago by littleleftie
Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
16 days ago
Reply to  littleleftie

Hi, littleleftie. I think Russ probably just pulled an image of any (otherwise generic) freeway sign so he could “customize” it. I don’t think it needed to be an image of anywhere in New York to make the point. Have a happy and healthy 2022! 🙂 –Diane

Roger V
17 days ago

I don’t think I’ve ever said this, or even thought it before, but Good for New York! The only thing they did wrong was the $50K fine. Should’ve been at least $5M. RVOne will laugh at a $50K fine.

Mike
17 days ago
Reply to  Roger V

Exactly! $50K is a joke.

While the other terms of the settlement sound good, I believe crooked dealerships will continue to be crooked until real financially injurious fines are imposed. Money is what talks to these kinds of slimey scammers, so significant potential financial loss is what makes them change.

RallyAce
17 days ago
Reply to  Mike

The real money is in the terms of the agreement. Violation of the terms could result in NY revoking their dealer licenses and essentially putting them out of business. It has happened in NY with car dealers.

Chris Schiel
17 days ago

They should have been fined much more. That is profit of what, maybe 4 rv’s Big deal.
That said, What idiot buys anything site unseen, no less an RV.