Dear RV Shrink:
We have just started traveling most of the year in our new RV. The most uncomfortable part for me is familiarity – or, rather, lack thereof. At home in our own little world we had our favorite restaurants, mechanics, stores and hiking trails. Now everything is foreign to us as we move from area to area. How do others manage this issue? We ask lot of questions, but everyone has an opinion and many people think differently than we do. —Quandary, Looking for Tips in Quartzsite
Twenty years ago this would have been a quandary, but not any longer. If you have a smartphone, all the answers are in your pocket. I used to have a flip-phone for one reason – so my wife could find me at Walmart. Like the rest of the world I ended up with a smartphone and I use it for everything. It’s my GPS, computer, voice recorder, camera, calculator, price checker, and sometimes I even talk on it.
But I think the most valuable use is mining other people’s opinions on purchases, mechanical problems, service recommendations, camping options and, yes, even hiking trails. But it takes some study. As you point out, not everyone thinks the way you do. You need to take a consensus when you read others’ reviews.
I recently had to replace my backup camera. I had no idea what I wanted, I just knew I wanted to use the wiring that was already factory installed in my rig. Using my phone I read several blogs, watched YouTube videos and studied online sales ads. When I narrowed my choice down to one product, my next issue was who to buy it from. At that point I started looking at review sites to figure out who the majority of buyers were happy with, who to steer clear of, and who to call and interview. Yes, interview.
Armed with a lot of information I still want to have some face or voice time with whoever I am going to be dealing with. You are comfortable at home because you are familiar with the personalities and reputations you are dealing with. On the road you just have to have a method of quickly developing those opinions. Using review sites for mechanics, restaurants, campgrounds, boondocking sites, tire dealers, purchases, and most anything else you can think of will solve most of your dilemmas.
It can also save RVers thousands of dollars at point of purchase when buying a new rig. I am always trying to stress the point to new buyers that picking a dealer is more important than picking a brand. So many people are price-shopping at mega-dealers with 500 cookie-cutter units on the lot. Instead they should be reading reviews online, discovering the dealers with the best reputation for taking care of customers after the sale.
I can guarantee you that whatever rig you buy, you will have issues. Manufacturers are pushing a record number of units out today and relying on their dealer network to solve the mechanical issues created at the factory level. It is no different than the auto industry. Your warranty is only as good as the service commitment behind it.
If you read enough reviews you will see a theme emerge. Mega dealers have a corps of fast-talking sales personnel that give you the impression they are your new best friend and they will probably even give you a free hot dog. All that ends once you sign on the dotted line. At that point your new buddies are the mechanics, but they are not as friendly because the salespeople are introducing them to more people than they can deal with. To me it just makes sense to find a small dealer with a good reputation, and who has the time to focus on customer problems.
I apologize to you readers camped in a sales lot with your brand-new rig waiting in a long line for a mechanic to talk to you. I should have written this earlier.
You can find all this valuable information on that phone in your pocket. Pretty soon it will be on the wrist and we will all be remembering Dick Tracy from our youth. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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