Wednesday, January 25, 2006
SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD IDEA TO ME
One of the most vocal consumer RV groups, the Escapees RV Club, has proposed a nationwide solution to the Wal-Mart camping debate: Let consumers park overnight at a retailer’s lot of their choosing, but never for more than one night at a time. In exchange, the Livingston, Texas-based group, which represents roughly 30,000 full-time RVers and operates its own network of 19 campgrounds, wants campground operators to stop pressuring state and local officials to impose additional overnight parking restrictions. Escapees CEO Cathie Carr said the industry’s adoption of the Escapees’ proposal would improve relations with customers while helping avoid negative publicity. "We think that the folks staying in Wal-Mart are simply not our customers, and I say our customers because we are campground owners, too," Carr said. "We recognize and would hope that other campground owners would recognize that when someone opts for a parking lot rest, that is a totally different experience and a totally different set of needs than the people that choose our campgrounds. And so the way we look at it is, this time through, they’re not our customer. Next time through, hopefully, they will be. "I don’t believe the answer to the issue is to force everyone into a campground regardless of what services they need," Carr said. "I think the answer is to come up with a solution, some kind of middle ground, between the campground, the clubs, the consumers, and we think the Escapees has offered a fairly ideal solution, a fairly reasonable middle ground to all of this. We’ve been advocating and promoting that middle ground for years, but we’re not getting as far along with that as we would hope." No other RV trade association or consumer group has stepped up to publicly endorse the Escapees’ compromise or offer an alternative, including the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), which Carr believes is taking an all or nothing position on overnight parking in retailers’ parking lots. "It’s either stay in our parks or forget it," she said. ARVC’s position, Carr added, is untenable, noting "I think all of this is just doing harm to our whole industry."