Saturday, September 28, 2013

RV Woes With Insurance and Service...


PROLOGUE:

In our previous blog I wrote about the fact that our 5th wheel had just been returned to us following a tortuous five (5) month adventure to get some simple repairs done; following a major tire blowout.
The tire that exploded and caused severe damage to the electrical, underbelly and side panels.
The tire blow out occurred last early January, 2013, on I-5 in Southern California.  We were only about 6 miles (10 KM) from exiting I-5 to head west toward Bakersfield.  The near new tire failed miserably and the explosion was catastrophic.  It was a Chinese made tire that came highly rated by KAL Tire; a large pan-Canadian tire retailer. Installing these tires was our first mistake.  We weren't told the tires were Chinese made but merely accepted that they were indeed good RV tires.  BUYER BEWARE!!!!  And I should have known better!!!!!

The blast was catastrophic!  We lost all internal electrical (water heater, furnace, some lighting), our trailer brakes and our outdoor clearance lights.
The force from the blow out tore every electrical wire underneath.  It was a mess.
AAA service was called and the technician who appeared on the scene had never seen such devastation...although he had witnessed many tire blowouts.  He removed the old and then installed our spare. 
The catastrophic damage is mostly under carriage....and cannot be seen in this photo.
To be stranded on the I-5 shoulder is no picnic.  The highway is super busy.  It is also dangerous because no one moves over and the gusting from passing semi-trucks is quite disconcerting.

With the spare installed we headed for our exit - at Lost Hills, CA, - and headed east to Bakersfield, CA.  We arrived at Orange Grove RV and, once set up, I called our insurance company.  That was seamless.  Within minutes I was speaking with the key claims manager for the insurance company who was honest and quick to offer his assurance that the company would look after our needs.  He asked me to find an RV repair facility that could look after us then call him back with the contact information.

Following several early Saturday morning telephone calls, I spoke with the owner of a small RV repair facility - Bakersfield RV - who was gracious enough to ask one of his technicians (who was working on his personal vehicle at the shop) if he would agree to look after us.  The RV repair facility was closed on Saturdays. The young tech agreed to service our emergency repairs.  Jeanette and I buttoned up our 5th wheel and I headed right over to the nearby facility.

The technician was a great young guy.  He guided me in, closed and locked the gates and proceeded to have a good look underneath.  The tangled mess of wires proved to be no issue for him.  He predicted that he could get us back to RV'ing, with brakes, furnace, water heater and lights, within a few hours.  I stayed with him but did not need to provide much assistance.  This fella knew his stuff. What a find he was!
With the gates locked, the RV tech went to work on the emergency repairs.
The tech first repaired the wiring to our trailer brakes.  He then deciphered the jumbled mess of wires and began the arduous task of re-wiring. He was logical and methodical in his work.  Once he had completed the wiring, he advised me that he could not find the wires - nor did he have the time - to fix the 12Volt/propane part of our water heater.  Because our water heater also works on 110, it would suit our winter needs well. I was OK with that.
He even straightened out some of the bent metal skirting  and, although cracked and broken, he replaced the fender skirt.
Our insurance claims manager was good.  Bakersfield RV billed the insurance company directly and we continued our winter journey with all systems operating - other than the 12V propane part of the water heater.  It was all good.  Although he didn't want to accept a well earned private tip from me, I convinced the RV tech to take his young family out for dinner.  He did give up his morning for us, after-all!

Now we fast-forward to mid-April, 2013, and our arrival back home on southwest coast of BC. 

Once we emptied and cleaned our fiver, I called the insurance claims manager, once again, to follow up on completing the other RV repairs.  He remembered us and was quick to get us going on getting the required fixes done.  He asked which RV repair facility we preferred.  I thought Fraserway RV would work well.  It is a large, modern and closely located facility.  That proved to be a big mistake.

Our RV at Fraserway RV in Abbotsford, BC
Meeting with an RV service employee, she took photos and wrote down notes of the damage and needed repairs.  The insurance company claims manager had assigned their contract appraisers to examine our claim and the required repairs.  Fraserway RV had us sign a work sheet to proceed with the work.  We thought that would be seamless.  Big mistake!

About four weeks after our RV had been delivered to Fraserway RV, I dropped by to get updated on the repairs.  I was told by the service employee that our insurance company was not responding to her calls and to the documents.  I asked why I had not been called.  I was not pleased to learn that the parts (that take six weeks or more to arrive from the US) had not been ordered.  That would mean another two month delay.

I was annoyed by the lack of action by the repair facility and the appraisers for not responding.  When I stated that I would go back home and confront the appraisers or the insurance claims manager, the service employee asked me to hang back for a few minutes.  Returning from her desk, she sheepishly admitted that she had failed to forward the paper work to the insurance adjusters.  Her incompetence had caused the delays; not the appraisers or the claims manager as I had earlier been led to believe.  Good thing she owned up because I was about to ream two people who did not deserve to be reamed out.

I also was shown a bill for 10 hours of investigative work that a technician (or technicians) had done to determine the level of work and materials that would be required to complete the repairs. At $125/hour, I was told I was responsible for payment.  WHAT???  A service tech in Bakersfield, CA, spent ten minutes under our rig and was able to fix all emergency repairs and, back at home, it took 10 hours to determine what I knew in five minutes were the needed repairs!  I refused to pay that invoice. What gives????  The old line about being born at night but...not the night before...came to mind!  I was not about to pay that invoice..... let me tell you!  This RV repair company can perhaps gouge RV'ers frivolously but not this one!

My temper lost on this, and other idiosyncrasies, I called the insurance company claims manager.  In a clear and concise way, I stated that I would not pay this ridiculous invoice of well over $1250 to determine the work required to repair our RV.  He agreed.  He too was shocked at the high number of investigative hours.  A five minute review clearly paints a picture of the needed repairs.  Highway robbery springs to mind!

A meeting with me, Fraserway RV and the insurance appraisers was arranged.  When we met, the insurance appraisers stated that the insurance company would cover eight of ten investigative hours.  I could not believe that!  Pay for what?  How could anyone justify 10 hours to determine that the 12V/propane wiring would need fixing and that some new j-metal would have to be ordered - along with a new fender skirt - followed by a bit of paint!!!!  This was highway robbery.  It was callous over-billing! Now you may know why our insurance rates continue to climb!!!

The appraiser and Fraserway RV determined that the 12V / propane issue with our water heater would not be accepted under the insurance claim because the mother board was deemed defective.  That would be our responsibility.  I was truly angered by that!  I debated the issue but, in the end, I got nowhere with either party.  Unbelievable!

Grudgingly - and with high trepidation - I agreed to pay for two investigative hours of work and the cost of a new mother board ($169) and 1/2 labour ($63 for install).  The insurance company would cover the balance of the investigative hours plus the body work. I wanted our fiver repaired and returned....in spite of the true feeling of being jerked around.

Finally.....and five months following the delivery of our 5th wheel....I received a call from the inept service employee that we could retrieve our RV on the 13th of September. On the 12th of September, I called Fraserway RV to confirm a pick up time for the 13th.  No one returned my call.  The next day I drove over with our dually.  I could not see our 5th wheel and when I asked the service employee when it would be ready, I was informed that it would not be ready till later the following week.  In disgust, I asked why my call, the previous day, had not been returned. That would have saved me the trip to the RV facility.   I was coldly told that she was busy.....!  What???  Too busy to advise me that they needed more time to complete the job????  Too busy to save me the drive out and back home for no reason????  Just who is the client here?????   That was the pin that burst my bubble. Look out......!   Now I was in BIG TIME battle mode!

One week later I received a call from the inept service employee.  Our RV was ready for pick up.   Jeanette and I were anxious to get hitched up and get out of that awful facility.... ASAP. We had both had enough of this incompetent facility and those few folks we had the unfortunate task of dealing with.

We examined the invoice that we would be responsible for and - believe me when I state this - there was an overcharge of $250 on the bill that had not been previously agreed to.  I was told that it was for some nebulous service.  Without any details, or justification, I would not succumb to paying for that.  After a few terse words, the $250 was quickly removed from the invoice.  We paid the invoice of over $700 - grudgingly - hitched up and left back for home. I knew that if I did not pay the invoice I would not be given the keys to our fiver and it would kept locked up in the shop.

I did seriously consider calling our lawyer.  I seriously thought about filing some legal action.  I was very, very close to placing a few telephone calls to well respected TV and newspaper consumer reporters.  This was a valid story---and it had legs!   Those thoughts dissipated because I was just anxious to rid myself of this environment and get on with life and living.

At home, we backed in, plugged in, connected the water hose, opened the slides and I began testing all of our on-board systems. The furnace kicked on.  Great!  The water heater would not fire up on 110 shore power nor with propane in 12 volt.  What????????

I opened the grate to the water heater and all looked fine.  There was water in the tank and the propane was turned on.  Still nothing!  I went inside; removed the drawers and cabinetry to access a view at our water heater.  I instantly noticed that the new motherboard had not been installed.  The old one was sitting on the counter top. What's with that??????  

I was not amused when I called the service adviser - the inept one - only to discover that she was under the impression that I would not pay for the water-heater mother board. She even said so!  What?????  Had I not already paid for it before we hitched up????

I instantly refused to deal with her from that moment forward.  I was in a fit of anger!!!  I yelled on the phone....insisting that a mobile RV tech immediately drive to our home and install the new mother board I had already paid for. I was incensed!!!  Could this RV adviser (or the company that hired her)  be any more incompetent???

Imagine leaving for our winter snow birding adventure to discover, somewhere south and several hours away from home, that we do not have an operating water heater.  YIKES...is a calm expletive in this case!

Within minutes I received a call from a very calm, engaging and very aware service manager.  She was most apologetic for the grievances they had caused us during these long five months.  She said a mobile service tech would be dispatched ASAP.  She would call me back too to confirm when.  Well, she did call back and arrangements were made for the service tech to show up at our home the next mid-morning.  Oh....but....there was one little discrepancy here.....!  What now?????  Oh....I would have to pay a mobile service charge of $165..... over and above what we had already paid for.....and what the insurance company had already paid.  I went BALLISTIC!!!! I could not imagine that, in good conscience, I would be charged for a repair I had already paid for - that had not been done - and that I would now have to pay for a service call.  UNIMAGINABLE !  At complete wits end, I agreed but under duress and a need to put closure to this unbelievable journey.  I believe I said something to the effect that I want the &*%^&*+&@#$%^&* (darned) thing fixed....once and for all. 


The nice and most competent RV tech arrived on time and he proceeded to install the mother board (which is a two minute job by the way....that any monkey could do).  He plugged it it and nothing happened.  He checked the control board and our panel for power.  HMMMMMM, no power to the mother board.  He asked if I knew where the wiring was?  What????  I told him I believed that it had been ripped completely out during the tire blow out.  Try as he might, (using a mirror and more) he could find no wiring to connect the motherboard to our system panel.

The water heater had to be removed.  Once done (using some of my tools, I might add, because he came over with only a few basic ones) he found the original grommets but no wiring.  Not familiar with our file on this, I explained the tire explosion.  He looked underneath, inside, and everywhere to determine that the wiring had been ripped out as a result of the tire explosion.

REALLY...., said I?  I asked if he would state that to his service manager. He did just that.  Using my cell phone (he did not have one) he explained what I had been trying to make everyone understand these past five months.  The 12V wiring for the water heater had disappeared in the tire explosion.  In fact, Jeanette and I had been using 12V and propane the night before the blow out.  The heater worked fine.

But in spite of my debate with Fraserway RV and the appraisers, they refused to accept that it was due to the blow out. Once the mobile service tech coloured the issue, there was a complete change of heart.  The service manager told me that it seemed I was right after all.  REALLY????  The old motherboard was likely fine and would likely work once the 12V was re-wired.  REALLY????   The old mother board was fine, by the way.  Who had previously diagnosed a faulty motherboard?  Fraserway RV.... while supposedly needing to spend 10 hours investigating the issues for the required repairs!!!  Does incompetence raise its ugly head, once again?

The mobile teck was convinced the wires had been torn in the underbelly....which in our RV...is sealed by metal polar insulating panels. A panel or two would have to be removed and the wiring sourced and fixed.

Evidence that the wiring had been ripped out of the grommets.
The on-site mobile tech was OK to work on my 5th wheel on our driveway but I knew he would prefer to have it back at their shop.  He had limited tools with him too.   Before I would deliver it back to Fraserway RV though I asked if he would confirm his findings with the insurance appraisers who had previously claimed that the 12V issue with the water heater was my responsibility and not as a result of the tire blow out.  He concurred and agreed to speak with the appraisers.  I instantly called the appraiser and when I explained the issue, he was not biting quickly enough....so I put the RV tech on the phone.  20 minutes (on my cell phone) later, the RV tech had convinced the appraiser that only a severe tire blow out could do so much electrical wiring damage.

FINALLY!!!!  I WAS VINDICATED!!!!  WHAT I HAD BEEN ARGUING ABOUT WAS TRUE!!!!!

The appraiser and Fraserway RV talked to each other and, within 24 hours, my water heater was repaired; our RV was back on our driveway; all payments we had been forced to inappropriately pay for were returned and the full extent of the claim was paid for by the insurance company.  That is precisely what should have transpired from the very beginning!!!!  PHEW!!!!!!   All of the discourse, anger, ineptness and discomfort had finally come to an end.

I can't make this stuff up....and trust me when I state that this is a chronology of the facts.

Once back to get our fiver at Fraserway RV, the service manager did not formally apologize for the inconvenience we suffered, but it was clear that she understood our frustration during this five month period.  It was disappointing that a formal apology was not issued.  That would have been the right thing to do in this case. However, my story told via this blog may cause some of you to re-think your RV repair decisions in the BC Lower Mainland.   I will never fail to tell fellow RV'ers about my most negative experience with this company and the insurance appraisers.

No apology was received from the disinterested insurance appraisers either.  While both were 100% guilty of gross incompetence, it speaks volumes about their business ethics....or lack thereof.

The Fraserway RV service manager gave me her business card and stated that she would look after any repairs they made, if required  at another RV repair facility, while we are away this winter. That, I guess, was a small step at trying to repair the relationship with what is clearly - and for a long time to come - a disgruntled customer.

EPILOGUE: 
On our return drive back from the US southwest, this past April, Jeanette and I were shocked to find another of our near new Chinese made RV tires was bulging.  It was soon to blow up too.  It was delaminating!  On that evidence, it seems clear that the previous blowout was quite likely due to delamination. In central California, we slowly limped into an RV facility and - to make this story short - we had to remove the near new and install brand new RV tires. We settled on Good Year, USA made, 8 ply RV tires.  Adding insult to injury, our near new Chinese tires were thrown in the recycled tire heap.....without returning us any of our misspent money.  Recall that these tires were quite new.

I wish I had paid better attention when the tire service adviser at KAL Tire Canada (supposedly a solid company with a good reputation) sold us on the great Chinese RV tires they were peddling.  Of course, we did not know the tires were Chinese made and we didn't know better to ask at the time of purchase.  Buyer beware!

We will never, ever again, purchase tires without confirming that they were manufactured in the US, Canada, Western Europe or Japan.  Having researched tire problems on the internet leads me to that conclusion.  So....buyer beware.

We hope our tire blow out experience is a 'once only' event.  If not, we will certainly be ready when dealing with inept RV service repair facilities and equally inept insurance appraisers.

We are anxiously waiting to get back on the road and heading south for the winter, once again.

Thanks for dropping by.



30 comments:

  1. Wow, what an unbelievably bad experience all the way around. Glad you have your rig back and will soon be heading south!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Quite the story Rene...what a mes from start to finish! Glad it all worked out in the end!

    ReplyDelete
  3. The saying - All's well that ends well - just doesn't seem to apply here. We hope that all the troubles are behind you regarding the trailer. You do deserve a nice glass of Red wine though....or maybe an Apple Pie ;)

    ReplyDelete

  4. OMG what a story, I am sorry you had such an ordeal. I am glad you felt vindicated in the end, and I am really glad you posted about you experience, At least we all know not to go anywhere near Fraserway RV

    ReplyDelete
  5. Unbelievable stuff. Hey I'm not the only one with misadventures! I hope to get all my tires replaced later this year, as I'm sure I'm due for something like this...

    ReplyDelete
  6. I couldn't help but feel your utter frustration while reading this - it's unbelievable. I hope writing this out got rid of some of the stress of this episode.

    It boggles the mind how some RV service facilities think it's o.k. to hang on to our RV's for days, weeks and in your case months.

    Thanks for telling this story and warning us about Fraserway RV.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a heck of a story, glad that you finally got things resolved. 5 months? that would be tough when we live fulltime in our coach.
    Too bad these facilities and insurance companies can run such shoddy operations and still be in business.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a heck of a story, glad that you finally got things resolved. 5 months? that would be tough when we live fulltime in our coach.
    Too bad these facilities and insurance companies can run such shoddy operations and still be in business.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Because of this story (and cause I trust you) we will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever EVER patronize Fraserway RV.

    And being full-time RVers, we run into a zillion other folks who own fifth wheels and motorhomes in BC. I will be sure to forward your story/blog post to everyone I know.

    I AM SICK TO DEATH of customer service departments that could care less about customer service. Enough is enough.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yes it all ended well but in the mean time your poor body suffered from all the stress and emotion you were dealing with. Who will compensate you for that.

    Sadly we also have a story about Fraserway RV, not anywhere near the scale of your situation but enough for us to have said adios many years ago. Now that we live hear in Kelowna we have a lovely RV tech who comes to us and does repairs. He is great.

    ReplyDelete
  11. An incredible story. I am sure I would have wrote a check to get my unit and immediately go to the bank and stop payment - letting those bastards sue me (please). We are taking criminal behavior.

    Thanks to Kelsi we read your story btw.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I sent your experience to my dad because he also had a terrible repair experience with this place. Hundreds of dollars later he also tells people never to have work on their RV done there. Thanks for sharing and warning others.

    ReplyDelete
  13. What an ordeal! And good for you for telling the story and warning other RV owners away from Fraser RV and the Chinese tires. Sometimes word of mouth can do more than anything else. I don't think the questionable repair places realize how far reaching on RV owner's blog can be. :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. OMG what a nightmare !! As stressful as it was I'm sure glad you Blogged about it to warn the rest of us to STAY AWAY from Fraserway RV.

    I think you should also write a report to the BBB and/or any other online business review websites.

    Also, some Folks I met here at the Park are looking at buying a new 5th wheel from Fraserway - I'll advise them not to !!

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's funny I'm reading your blog now. We just moved to Burnaby recently and I was looking for somewhere that I could take my motorhome for servicing.
    After reading your blog, I know where I'm not going.
    Great heads up on that for sure.
    Mind blowing costs are not in my budget (especially 10 hours on discovering issues).
    No chinese tires on my rig, just good ole' American.

    Kal tire doesn't have a good rep anyway, so no more needs to be said on that.

    Buyer beware for sure!

    Take care, safe travels!

    ReplyDelete
  16. It's funny I'm reading your blog now. We just moved to Burnaby recently and I was looking for somewhere that I could take my motorhome for servicing.
    After reading your blog, I know where I'm not going.
    Great heads up on that for sure.
    Mind blowing costs are not in my budget (especially 10 hours on discovering issues).
    No chinese tires on my rig, just good ole' American.

    Kal tire doesn't have a good rep anyway, so no more needs to be said on that.

    Buyer beware for sure!

    Take care, safe travels!

    ReplyDelete
  17. My friends bought a new trailer from there and opted for the extended warranty. They hoped to have carefree ownership. Nothing but problems and complete frustration in getting work done. I think they must be dealing with the same bimbo. Just wrong on so many levels.
    Hope all is well now.
    Shelagh

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ouch, that must’ve been a terrible experience, René! Exploding tires are a huge headache, especially when it happens on the road. But the good thing is that all’s well that ends well. I think we could take it as a lesson to be cautious with the kind of RV materials that we purchase.

    Liza @PrairieCityRV.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Rene and Jeanette.
    My name is Jason Mowbray from Fraserway RV. I'm the Service Manager.
    I just happened to come across your blog.
    I'm not familiar at this stage with everything than transpired while you were here, but wanted to take the time to tell you that I certainly do apologize on behalf of our Service department for not meeting up to your expectations. I have been with Fraserway for 25 years and I can tell you from the heart that I care very much about your concern. RV repairs and satisfied customers are my passion. In this case we obviously fell very short of this.
    My goal now is to find out what happened and in the mean time I will personally contact you by phone so we can chat. I do appreciate your feedback, as if I don't here about concerns then there is nothing I can do to help.
    I will be in touch shortly.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete


  24. Found your blog. It is full of really good information. Thank you for sharing. If you ever need service on air conditioning repair please visit us at rheemteamcomfort.com. We would love it if you would have a look at some of our blogs and let us know your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete


  25. What a great article. Thanks for sharing. We are always looking to innovate and carry the industry forward by sharing great practices. What are your thoughts on digital advertising in regards to SEO, Graphic Design and Content? We have seen it all over the map from 500 word pieces to 2,500 word pieces. Not to mention the new hipster designs and parallax themes. What are your thoughts? Come check us out some time. Would love to hear what you think about our blog articles too.centermassmedia.com

    ReplyDelete
  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete





  27. What a great article. Thanks for sharing. We are always looking to innovate and carry the industry forward by sharing great practices. What are your thoughts on digital advertising in regards to SEO, Graphic Design and Content? We have seen it all over the map from 500 word pieces to 2,500 word pieces. Not to mention the new hipster designs and parallax themes. What are your thoughts? Come check us out some time. Would love to hear what you think about our blog articles too.centermassmedia.com

    ReplyDelete





  28. What a great article. Thanks for sharing. We are always looking to innovate and carry the industry forward by sharing great practices. What are your thoughts on digital advertising in regards to SEO, Graphic Design and Content? We have seen it all over the map from 500 word pieces to 2,500 word pieces. Not to mention the new hipster designs and parallax themes. What are your thoughts? Come check us out some time. Would love to hear what you think about our blog articles too.centermassmedia.com

    ReplyDelete
  29. I wish I had read this before we purchased a trailer from Fraserway. We are now in a months long standoff where they have our trailer for repairs due to faults that the warranty covers, and they have had it over a month without a single solitary thing been done. Now today I find out that MAYBE it has to be shipped to the manufacturing factory. And MAYBE they might know more by the end of the month. Its only halfway through April! Insane! I'm at a complete loss, your blog would have had us looking elsewhere for our purchase. Its clear they have no care for the people they sell to or do repairs for.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I wish I had read this before we purchased a trailer from Fraserway. We are now in a months long standoff where they have our trailer for repairs due to faults that the warranty covers, and they have had it over a month without a single solitary thing been done. Now today I find out that MAYBE it has to be shipped to the manufacturing factory. And MAYBE they might know more by the end of the month. Its only halfway through April! Insane! I'm at a complete loss, your blog would have had us looking elsewhere for our purchase. Its clear they have no care for the people they sell to or do repairs for.

    ReplyDelete