(Cover Photo: Lazydays Website)
In January 2018 I had two service appointments at Lazydays in Tampa. The visits went off without a hitch (no pun intended), the service was superb, and I was extremely pleased.
Big Box, Behemoth Blues
When it comes to RV repair, I gravitate to local businesses, mom and pop shops, and independent mobile techs. The bigger the outfit, the lesser. I consider Camping World to be the seventh circle of hell. (For the uninitiated, Camping World is a chain with locations throughout the country, specializing in retail camping items, service, and RV sales.)
When a business has grown to that level of volume, inevitably things slip through the cracks, and those things tend to be customer service and workmanship. I won’t rehash the details of prior dismal Camping World experiences, and I do my best to avoid CW when traveling around the country, but sometimes they are the only game in town.
Lazydays, while not as gargantuan as Camping World, has grown from its modest beginnings in Tampa to locations in Arizona and Colorado. I had concerns about the correlation between a burgeoning business model and lack of customer satisfaction, and a friend had a less-than-stellar experience at Lazydays, but I decided to give them a go.
Mother-Effing Motherboards – The Washer Dies In Miami
After doing a load of my favorite clothes in Miami, the washing machine refused to surrender the booty. A front loader, the sensor to keep the door locked if water was in the drum had failed; there was no water in the drum, and the damned door wouldn’t open.
I imagined the mold and mildew growing on my prized possessions as the days dragged by and I researched, phoned, emailed, and eventually begged and threw money at someone to assess the problem. If you’ve ever had washer and dryer problems in an RV, you’ll understand the reason for the delay. Appliance stores like Sears and Best Buy do not deal with recreational vehicles, no matter how much you tell them it’s really no different than a home. On the other hand, many RV repair shops claim no expertise in RV appliances and refer you to places like Best Buy and Sears. It’s a round robin of frustration. In fairness to residential appliance stores, there is one big, small difference when working in a rig: the smallest washers usually clock in at 23 to 23.5 inches in width; many RV doorways are 24 inches wide.
I finally cajoled a mobile technician in Miami to assess the washer. He and his partner wrangled the washer from its closet and freed my smelly wardrobe from its prison. The verdict: The water level sensor failed because the motherboard failed. The motherboard was obsolete.
I recalled Lazydays from my visit to Tampa last year, when my friend Kathy and drove around their facility. I phoned the sales person in appliances, Bob, who was responsive and returned my calls promptly. He quoted a washer at $500 over retail, which I eventually negotiated down to $100 over retail, especially since I would be charged two hours of labor at $149 per hour. Ouch! But, I was desperate. (Bob was quick to point out that the labor charge would not increase, even if the appointment took longer than two hours. Why in the world would it take more than two hours to remove one washing machine and install another?)
I scheduled the installation for a Monday, booking the weekend at the adjacent Lazydays RV resort. While the RV spaces at the resort are nothing to crow about – just enough to put out the slides and sit at a small picnic table – the other amenities at the resort are fantastic. A newspaper is delivered to your site every morning. There is a cafeteria at the sales center, where your reservation comes with breakfast and lunch. A free trolley takes you from the resort to the cafeteria. There is a Cracker Barrel on the way to the cafeteria, and the trolley stops there too. That wasn’t too terribly exciting for me, but I can tell you that RVers love them some Cracker Barrel! The retail store at Lazydays is well-stocked. There are small but sufficient, separate off-leash dog parks for small and large dogs. There is a heated and fully-screened pool.
My favorite amenity was the Exit 10 Restaurant, aptly named because Lazydays is off Exit 10 on I-4. The restaurant looks like a huge RV from the outside, and it is decorated inside with travel-themed memorabilia. Booths are in “slide outs.”
There is a full bar and a good pub-style menu. The only disappointment is the drinks are served in plastic cups.
Have you ever watched “Big Time RV” on the Travel Channel? I had never heard of it before I camped at Lazydays, but episodes were playing on big screen televisions all around the property. At one point during my stay a young man drove by in a golf cart and a fellow camper exclaimed, “That’s the guy from the TV show!“ Apparently he is often featured on the show and resembles Elvis.
On installation day I threw Boss Tweed in the carrier and the dogs on a leash, and we went to the customer service waiting area. There is a separate area for pet owners. There were charging stations, automated coffee makers, magazines, and cable television. Four hours later I was back in the rig, suspiciously looking for dents and dings and black marks, finding none.
Crack Creep And The Glass Run-Around
Concluding my business for the washing machine, I inquired about glass repair. When I purchased Nellie in 2015, there was a chip in the passenger side windshield, which was filled to prevent spreading. Even the best filler won’t last forever, and after numerous trips and temperature fluctuations and leveling and flexing of the glass, the chip cracked. I didn’t notice it at first, because it was behind the fully-retracted sunshades. When the crack extended down far enough to be seen, it was pretty severe. To top it off, another chip created by a dump truck appeared below the crack!
I tried to replace it in Houston. After their third request for me to come back for more glass measurements, I gave up on them, exasperated. That place rhymed with Holiday World of Katy.
By the way, I learned a curious fact when I was suddenly in the market for an RV windshield; RV manufacturers do not record the measurements of windshields! You can thumb through the owner’s manual, pore over diagrams of the rig, and even call customer service, but no one can tell you the exact dimensions of the glass. It’s as if they take a piece of glass and build an entire rig around it.
At Lazydays, they knew exactly what they were doing. A man from the glass department met me in the parking lot, took two measurements, and said he would call in a few days. He phoned to schedule the appointment during the weekend of the biggest RV show in Tampa, when Lazydays is at its busiest. The rig was taken back promptly, the glass was installed, and I was allowed to spend the night in the bay while the adhesive cured. The mechanics said I had a “Bayview Suite.” Clever!
(For anyone who might be curious, Geico RV insurance covered the cost of the windshield replacement, after a $1000 deductible. The total bill was at just $2,000.)