My concern started during the walk around on the vehicle. It had a fair number of external damage issues and broken doors as well as missing hatch knobs. However, Jay and Joel were very helpful and made us feel quite comfortable with the quality of the "inspection" the vehicle had "undergone."
We took delivery of the vehicle on 7/15/2013 at 3pm and packed the vehicle that evening. During packing I was less than impressed with the cleanliness of the vehicle which was supposedly "sanitized." However, I found a Mr. Kenneth Nxxooxx's wallet sticking out from between the bed and the cabinet in very plain sight, so the cleaning was none too thorough. I took care of actually wiping down the inside of the camper. And subsequently returned Mr. Noonan's wallet to him.
We got underway on 7/16. As we headed up the road, our accessory charger (recommended by Jay) for the dash outlets did not work in the lower outlet. And as it turned out the bottom outlet was (is) nonfunctional. We initially decided this was a minor inconvenience and let the issue go. About three hours into the trip, the dash A/C began to cycle off at random, usually for short periods such as 1-5 minutes. I assumed this was due to a safety switch to keep the vehicle from overheating, and since it was relatively pleasant out at that time, we opened the windows. That evening we stayed at a full hook up facility. As I hooked up the shoreline I noted the cable had been poorly spliced and had wire showing through. Shortly after hookup was complete we noted an electric current running from the vehicle to anyone grounded. Both dogs and my wife were shocked, and not in the minor,"ouch did you feel that kind of way;" more like the, stop your heart electrocution current running through your body kind of shock. I checked the shore line and noted that the ground prong was loose. I gently pressed the the prong in as best I could and this seemed to alleviate the grounding problem. This night I also noted that the external door to the sewer hook up was held on with less than 50% of the hinge. Subsequently, we made several stops to secure this as it would come loose and begin to flap when driving at highway speeds.
On the next day (7/17) the A/C issue became a bigger problem as the heat reached the 90s and with the cab heat from the engine, the driving area was easily over 100 degrees. We made our first call to (800)334-4110 @ 10:49am and spoke with Denai(sp) who said she would have a specialist get back to us. We received a return call from (480) 835-4400, and explained that we had a few issues that needed to be addressed. The response was that Cruise America would locate a dealer and get back to us. We explained our route and destinations and agreed to wait for a call back.
At this point we began running the camper (roof top) A/C to try to cool the unit. As we progressed, the roof top A/C began to leak condensation into the camper. This was only condensation and not a huge amount (about 2 cups worth) but it made for messy traveling and a somewhat busy clean up period each time we stopped. This seemed to occur only after several hours of running and never seemed to happen while the vehicle was stopped. During this same period we noted the cooling of the refrigerator was poor even though it had come to temperature fairly quickly, initially with ice in the freezer.
During our second night stop I noted the camper door was difficult to lock and on further inspection it was clear the module holding the camper door lock mechanism was loose and shifting inside its frame. This made security difficult as there were periods the door would not lock at all. This issue became very problematic later in Rapid City when I exited the parked vehicle and the door self-locked with the keys still sitting on the table. I assume responsibility for this since I should not have trusted the door given what we'd experienced at this point. But getting the camper unlocked took over an hour of our time and would not have been necessary if the vehicle maintenance had been done properly.
The evening of the 7/18, the faucet handle was found in the kitchen sink after a day of driving. This was not broken but clearly not secured and had to be handled gingerly to function properly. Other items we noticed were the bottom hinge on the camper door was fully disconnected, the screen was held in place with electrical tape, the plastic handle cover had clearly been broken and not repaired, and a brake shoe or pad tended to drag on the right back wheel. None of the roof hatches worked. Two were ziptied down on the mechanism and one had been duct tapped closed.
By 7/19 we had not heard from Cruise America so we called again. Eventually I spoke with Walter. He assured me CA wanted to make the situation right and would find us a service facility. I explained that were would be in Custer State Park and asked if we could arrange service on Monday, 7/22. He said that would be fine. We had several phone conversations which indicated he would have no problem setting us up with a Monday appointment so we should alter our travel plans to be in rapid City, which I was sure was where we'd find a facility and also was centered on the travel destinations in the area allowing us to still get some of our sightseeing done. But he also explained this would likely take a day or two to get squared away and asked if we had alternate forms of transportation and accommodations. Walter, as did Lucas (see below), assured me the rental car and the hotel would be covered. We set both rental car and hotel reservations for Monday through Friday not knowing what the schedule would be. We checked into the Comfort Inn Sunday night (7/21) and picked up the rental car expecting to be without our vehicle. Monday came and went and we heard nothing from CA.
Tuesday 7/23. We spoke with Lucas who explained that each days' outstanding customer service calls are redistributed the next morning which is why Walter never called us back. He also informed me that CA policy states it was my job to call him. I found this frustrating since my last conversation with Walter led me to believe he would call back when he found a viable service facility.
Notwithstanding, we took our vehicle to Black Hills RV center (13620 S. Highway 16 Rapid City SD 57702 605-341-0726), per Lucas' instructions. Jerry (the owner) evaluated the vehicle and explained that it was not in serviceable condition and should have been withheld from rental. He asked that we list as many of the things as we could remember to insure documentation for the original center but that he could only deal with the major issues and would not be able to fix anything in the drive cab or engine compartment. Jerry performed the work noted on the service order handed over Joel in Gaithersburg, MD (copy attached). I'm sure you have been in communication with Jerry but the summary of his statement was that the vehicle was unsafe.
After the performed work, we completed our visit to the Black Hills and headed back to Maryland. It was on our way home that we realized the hot water heater did not work. Previously we avoided using the shower to keep the load off the A/C and reduce humidity in the camper. But our return leg destinations required showering in the RV and this turned into yet another problem. Thinking we may be doing something wrong I called the CA travelers assistance line and spoke to a representative who walked us through all the steps of troubleshooting the hot water heater. She finally stated that we would need to take the vehicle into a service center to get the hot water heater looked at as there was nothing more she could do. She explained that CA would make amends for the disruption in our trip but that the rental center in Gaithersburg would have a greater ability to provide compensation than the corporate office. At this point we were short on travel time and another stop would have prevented us from returning the vehicle on time. There was no hot water for any part of our trip.
The remainder of the trip was without new incident.
8/2/2013 at 11:00am we returned the unit to Germantown, MD. Both Jay and Joel were there and I explained what went on during the trip and my belief that the unit probably should never have been rented out. They agreed and offered a $100 inconvenience refund, generator hour discount and $60 for the rental car. I appreciate the offer but as I told Joel that would not even come close to covering what we've been through. I asked him to split the cost with me down the middle. Joel assured me he could only do what corporate had already authorized which amounted to about $220.
This was a situation that I hope will not be repeated. Our vehicle needed several days and over a thousand dollars in repairs before it should have left on a trip. Realistically, at nearly 150,000 miles and considering the condition of the coach, I would retire it. I would NEVER let something with an electrical problem leave the shop. I am unsure what would have happened with a less healthy person receiving that kind of shock.
I respectfully asked for a partial refund of my costs. This is a very reasonable request. I realize Cruise America is working hard to provide a good product and aside from a few observers along the way who openly identified our vehicle as "ramshackle," I made an effort to protect your corporate name and reputation expecting that this is an aberration Cruise America would not want to become public knowledge. I initally disagreed with those few who claimed this was the way Cruise America operated.
The trip costs:
$6821.96 split equally is $3410.96. I am not including loss of vacation time to me or my wife, trip delay time, inconvenience, the cost of my personal time, the risks exposed or potential liability.
Since paying for our mileage and generator hours I have emailed, called and submitted online requested to CA repeatedly - NO RESPONSE. My suggestion - stay FAR away from Cruise America. I have seen many of their vehicles look in great shape but if you reserve one which is less than new you are likely in for a rude awakening.