A digest of readers’ comments
Edited by Russ and Tiña De Maris
Poor RV quality
Ken Pratt reflects on one of the top issues facing the industry today from his own background: “I retired from the automotive business a few years ago and looking at the RV industry today, I can see parallels between my chosen profession before Ralph Nader and today’s RV industry. One of the major issues for any business right now is the absence of an available labor pool. Especially in professions that don’t require a four year college degree. Of course, who wants to start out at $12.00 an hour on an assembly line doing the same medial task over and over? Today’s young worker doesn’t want to accept such a job and do everything in their power to learn and grow in their job with advancement to better paying positions.
“Right now, there are hundreds and hundreds of jobs going unfilled that don’t require a college degree. Plumbers, carpenters, assembly line workers, manufacturing, automotive technicians and support people. Some of these jobs pay a decent wage without having created a lot of debt.
“There are a lot of factors that lead us to where we are today with regard to quality. Looking back at the earlier days of the auto industry in Detroit, workers were hard to find. Especially those that wanted to arrive on time daily, and do the same thing over and over. Tardiness and absenteeism were big issues that the automotive industry had to deal with and I’ll bet the same is true of the current RV industry. All of this leads to poor quality products.
“The auto industry was forced to make changes and it is time that the RV industry followed suit.”
RV repair shops
With the overall quality of RVs often called into question, getting them fixed is right up there on the complaint list. Bob Godfrey has this observation: “I decided long ago to forego any business with Camping World when I read a sign in the service area that stated ‘10% will be added to all bills for shop supplies’. 10%? That’s an awfully large amount if you consider a $2 or 3 thousand dollar repair bill and for what? Rags and hand cleaner? Far too many repair shops (auto and RV) have decided that the flat rate manual was not enough money for them and have decided to simply add on extra charges for what should normally be considered ‘overhead’ which is included in the hourly rate.”
Rick Stephenson had his own “sad but true” addition to the list. “Thought everyone would get a kick out of what I saw on the General RV Center site. It said ‘Do You Fix Things? We Need RV Technicians and No Experience is Needed!’ No experience? No wonder it has taken me nearly a year to get my rear view camera fixed there! Heaven help us all!”
The scoop on composting toilets
When Bob Difley dug into the subject of composting toilets in RVs, it left the lid up for readers to be flush with their comments.
Rich had reservations. “The one thing that has discouraged me from converting to a composting toilet – despite all the apparent benefits – and which I have not seen any RV user address – is that the compost is not quite ready for prime time by the time you need to offload it. It’s just not broken down sufficiently. Stationary users have no problems – they can hold onto the waste at their location indefinitely, so it does eventually become ‘just compost’ but RVers don’t have the luxury. Has anyone else looked into this? If there were compost stations where you could offload your ‘unripened’ goods, I think it would present the best solution – but until there are, it’s still a no-go for me.”
Good questions, and some that Lisa Cantrell could respond to. “No, the compost is still a long way from prime time so while on the road we bag it and throw it in a trash bin. I have had no problem doing this and do not find anything socially awkward about it. You see used disposable diapers in these bins all the time.When we have been parked at a friend’s or family member’s and they have an area where it is appropriate (woody, not near water, or not ‘cultivated’) I toss it there. Having done this in south Florida, upstate NY and several locations in the West, I have been careful to watch for critters that might be attracted and there have not been any. Our dog, who finds cat and goose poop to be delicacies, doesn’t even give it a sniff. So, in these areas I don’t give it a second thought anymore. It should not be used on food crops but even horse manure that we used on our organic vegetable gardens we did not use until it was a year or more older if applying to food crops.”
Finally, here’s why some RVers quit using the composting system. Wrote Mike and Louise Bacque, “We had a composting toilet, in fact the model shown in the photo of this article. We can also attest to the fact that solid materials aren’t composted to any significant degree and that crystals in human urine get caked inside the urine container. This requires frequent high pressure water spraying to clean out the container. The solid waste needs to be kept in a moist state in order to avoid odors. We found that the small computer type fan which is designed to whisk odors away, contributed to the top layer of the compost medium drying out and resulted in odors. We also used the black tank as a grey tank. However, we couldn’t count on simply adding both tank capacities to determine a new grey water capacity, as we found that water equalization levels depend on configuration of the tanks and plumbing so that in effect two 40 gallon tanks may only fill to a combined 70 gallons instead of 80 gallons. We sold the unit and decided against a composting toilet for our next unit as we tired of handling our poop. We find that black tank waste is easier to deal with in the conventional method of sewer hose to sewer inlet.”
And while composting toilet owners don’t need this sign, apparently others do need a reminder. This brought a few chuckles.
Tim advises, “It’s for the dogs who can read…..most of whom, by the way, leave the toilet seat up.”
And teubner adds, “‘Never drink from a strange toilet. Just common sense.’ Mark Schreiner“
Reader doesn’t like “industry battle news”
One reader took exception to rvtravel.com’s posting of what he termed, “industry battle news,” hoping that the site wouldn’t lean too heavily in this “new direction,” lest some readers be put off and stop reading altogether. His thoughts drew plenty of response.
Frank D reflects the view of many commenters. “No newsletter is written for one person. I don’t think any written circulation was ever written for one person. Would you go to a restaurant that only served food that the guy down the street would eat and offer no other choices? No, I don’t think so, he may be a vegan and you’re not. When I read a newspaper I may start reading an article I lose interest in and I will move on. Also I may skim the page and see a word or two that sparked an interest and I may read it and learn something new. A perfect example is; how many articles have you read lately on Nash Travel Trailers? If you don’t like the article pass it by or read it and maybe learn something new.”
Gary Causey said, “It irks me when I read a headline in RV Business industrial magazine that ‘celebrates’ Joe Blow, RV lobbyist, paid by RVIA for yet another successful shut-down of the lemon law vote in congress. RVIA is NOT helping to insure ‘we’ the consumers receive a quality product. Many more Chuck Woodburys are needed. RV Travel.com newsletter and many RV related Internet sites are terrific tools that help educate the consumer. We’re not talking about buying $19.95 Ronco products!”
Finally, Denton got the ball rolling on potential action that might move the RV industry to mend its ways. “While the tackling of the quality issue is admirable and worth pursuing, complaining about an issue is not going to get changes made. How do you get the ear of management of the manufacturers and get them to realize that they could make many more $$ (and it’s all about $$) if only they would improve quality when they are already getting big returns on their investment by producing poor quality units. Quite honestly, writing an article about it is only going to make buyers aware of the issue and the manufacturers (if they even read your editorials) just slough it off.
“To get results, you need ACTIONS. Are you suggesting a boycott of RV purchases (won’t work because we’ve come to accept poor quality and are willing to live with it), call your elected representative in government (don’t think RV quality is his/her top concern), forming a national RV owners group to lobby for better quality, getting RV owners to hold a protest march in Elkhart, Indiana? So far, all I’ve heard are the issues, not any suggestions from you as to solutions. You’re a smart guy, Chuck, with lots of ideas, experience and passion. Let’s hear some ideas on how to effect change in the industry – we all understand the problem. We need a Messiah to lead us.”
This brought a quick response from sqeakytiki. “Leader? Messiah? Those are pretty big shoes to fill. It’s entirely possible that Chuck doesn’t have the energy or the inclination to be your ‘messiah’. Maybe now that you are educated thanks to Chuck’s articles you should come up with some solutions yourself? It’s not his responsibility to lead us, only to keep us informed.”
We leave the last word in this interchange to Chuck Woodbury himself. “Squeakytiki, I have a lot of energy, and right now I believe I’m the only one who is talking about poor quality RVs and campground crowding. One thing that I do know what to do is generate media coverage, having talked myself onto the Today Show, ABC World News Tonight, USA Today and People Magazine. Right now, the mainstream media does not know what is going on, and the RV industry has its collective lips shut. I could definitely get the media stirred up, and that’s the strategy I may take.”