Customers say RV purchase turned into a ‘nightmare’

Updated: Oct. 24, 2019 at 7:49 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - An open road, a new RV and a summer of adventure awaited Tim Dunkin and his family in May.

Or so he thought.

Dunkin purchased a brand new 2019 RV from Camping World of Myrtle Beach with the intention of taking his three kids on a trip out west.

Five months later, the trip never happened and the RV remains in the shop.

“It's just been a horrible, horrible experience,” he said.

Dunkin said immediately after paying just under $200,000, numerous problems arose - the water tank was defective, the toilet didn’t work, and the engine light was always on.

“I didn't buy a project that I'm gonna work on for six months or a year to get running. I bought a new motor home,” Dunkin said.

After months and months of back and forth with Camping World and the manufacturer, Thor, Dunkin’s unit was not operational.

He said Camping World offered to sell the RV for him and give him wholesale price, however he said, did not offer to return his money.

“I'm just in the mindset of ‘Guys, I'm not the one that did this. Why am I paying the price?’ And they said, ‘Well, we will not take it back. We will take it and sell it and we will give you a wholesale price just like you bought it from somewhere else,’” Dunkin said.

He’s not the only with a brand new RV who is experiencing issues.

Janice Laino and her husband said their RV has been in the shop 14 out of the 19 months they’ve owned it.

Like Dunkin, Laino spent $56,000 on the RV in 2018 and shortly thereafter he discovered problems with the unit.

“Within the first 30 days it flooded. The whole entire bedroom, the carpets, everything flooded with water,” Laino said. “It was completely flooded with urine and, you know, it was horrible.”

A defective water tank wasn’t the only issue. Laino said the unit needed the fireplace replaced, the converter went out and the roof had bubbles in it. She and her husband took the RV to a number of places, including Campers Inn RV, to try and get the repairs taken care of.

The repairs were covered under warranty with the manufacturer, Forest River, but the Lainos racked up bills driving it across the country to find places to fix it.

“We took it to Texas, we've taken it to Jacksonville, we've taken it to a place in Savannah, Ga. Every single place they (Forest River) told us to take it to, we took it to them,” Laino said.

Now, she said she just wants it to be over.

“I just wanted to have a peaceful, enjoyable time and it's just not been anything like that. It's been the total opposite,” Laino said.

For some, the headache escalated into the courtroom.

A pending 2018 breach of contract case describes another customer needing to take the motor home back to Camping World for repairs every time they attempted to use it, according to Horry County court records.

There is also a 2019 unfair trade practice case that outlines a similar situation.

“Shortly after purchasing the camper, the Plaintiffs experienced numerous unrelenting problems, including, but not limited to, extensive water leaks and electrical malfunctions... Plaintiffs have had the camper in for repairs at authorized dealers and the Camping World Repair Shop on numerous occasions, totaling many months out of service,” the Horry County court documents stated.

Fourteen complaints have been filed with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs since 2015. Consumers describe “defective” products and untimely repairs from the Dick Pond Road location.

Tommy Traylor, the regional market manager over the Myrtle Beach Camping Worlds, said they often have to wait on the manufacturer to deliver the necessary parts.

Traylor said Camping World services around 150 units at the local stores each month. The demand for service is also paired with a shortage of technicians across the industry.

For the two Myrtle Beach locations, Traylor he said he is short seven technicians.

Traylor has been in touch with both Dunkin and Laino for some time. He said Laino worked through the manufacturer, Forest River, for the repairs and their location didn’t receive the unit until seven weeks ago and was able to make the repair two weeks ago.

In Dunkin’s case, Traylor said the business ran into problems getting the parts from Thor.

WMBF reached out to Thor and Forest River for comment and did not receive a call back.

Repair and service issues aren’t isolated to the Myrtle Beach location.

News articles from Virginia to Texas paint a similar picture.

Camping World is a nationwide company selling camping products and specializing in RVs. It boasts 130 locations across the country and is the ‘nation’s largest retailer of RVs.’

The business has more than 800 complaints over the last three years against it, according to the Better Business Bureau. A majority of the complaints were labeled as ‘problem with a product or service.’ BBB complaints describe ‘false repairs,’ poor communication and long waits.

John Rouleau, director of investor relations, said service is one of the most challenging aspects for the business. He explained that having issues with new units is not uncommon and part of Camping World’s challenge is managing people’s expectation that there will be no issues.

“Some units can spend months in the repair shop, but this should not be the norm for brand new units. We do quality inspect units and do a full run-through at the time the unit is purchased and prepped for delivery to the customer. However, this doesn’t always guarantee that the unit is not going to have some issues,” Rouleau wrote in an email.

Instead, he said the company’s goal is to make those issues less painful.

Rouleau said unlike cars, RVs are built by hand and the product changes every few months, which can make getting the necessary parts for repairs difficult.

He added that Camping World representatives have been in touch with the customers and elevated their cases.

“I promise you that we will work diligently with the two customers to better understand the issues and come to a resolution that all are happy with,” Rouleau wrote in an email.

Traylor said he is also continuing to work with Dunkin and the Lainos on a solution.

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