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August 1st, 2013

Memo From Frank & Dave

One of tour favorite RV parks in the Midwest is Jellystone RV Resort in Eureka, Missouri – right next door to Six Flags. This unbelievable location has about as much going on in it as Six Flags itself, with a pool, store, every outdoor activity imaginable – even a train for kids. This is the type of RV park that is flourishing right now – they call it a “staycation”. With gas prices high, most RV owners would prefer a single destination to stay at for a long time, rather than drive from park to park. Whenever you see an RV park with a location like just to the left of the Six Flags entrance, you think to yourself “what an asset!” If you are looking to buy an RV park, be sure to evaluate if it is an “overnighter” park or a “destination” park. For the time being, destination parks are the way to go.

Do You Know What Really Goes On At Your Rv Park When You’re Not There?The Solution Is Aggressive Mystery Shopping

We have spent a considerable amount of time this year on perfecting the way we mystery shop our managers, and the results have more than paid for the time invested. “Mystery shopping”, by definition, is the function of pretending to be a customer to see how your manager really treats prospective clients. We break this into several niches to review the entire customer experience, and to get a better handle on where the flaws are that prevent the RV park from attaining its maximum revenue.

Let’s start with the basics: do you have adequate voicemail?

The first mystery shopping attack plan is to call the RV park phone number at a day and time when you know that nobody is there to answer. I spent the evening of the 4th of July doing this recently. The key is to see what happens when you call. Do you get voicemail, or does it just ring incessantly or, just as bad, go to a fax tone? And if you have voicemail, is it professional in every way, or does it say “this is Jim, leave a message”?

Step two: how long until the manager calls back?

So know you’ve left a voicemail for the manager. How long does it take for them to call you back. An hour? A day? A week? Never? If the manager is not calling customers back promptly, they will simply move on to the next RV park. We have had managers that don’t return the call ever – so you can imagine how good they are at sales.

Step three: what do they say when they answer the phone or call you back?

Just say to the manager “I’m thinking about coming out to the RV park… what are your rates?” and let them take it from there. What you want to hear is for them to pick up the ball and run with it, telling you how great the RV park and all the things to do in the area, ending with a sales pitch on how reasonable your rates are and how much they’re going to enjoy staying there. But instead you sometimes get “it’s pretty hot here right now, maybe you should call back in a few months” or “there’s not really much to do here”. What they tell the customer has a huge effect on your revenue.

Step four: have someone actually drop in and see what happens in person

You can have a local friend drop by, or even pay someone off of Craigslist to do so. The trick is to see what really happens when a customer shows up. Is the manager there? Is he friendly or rude? Does he give a solid sales pitch or the most negative response ever? You will be amazed how the manager that seems like a winner will actually do an awful job when it counts the most.

Step five: repeat these steps over and over

We mystery shop our managers on a continuous basis. We correct their mistakes, and then see if they are following the path to better performance, or simply giving us lip service. Mystery shopping should be a part of your regular monthly schedule and, for those managers who refuse to learn, the end of the road.


Mystery shopping can put new sparkly into your sales. See what’s really going on, and whether or not you are playing the game like a pro or an amateur when the phone rings or a customer walks in. This is a time investment that pays huge dividends.

A Historical Look At RV's In A Star Is Born 1937

RV Star Is Born

In the original version of A Star Is Born in 1937, starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric march, the newlyweds decide to take their honeymoon in an RV. It’s a fascinating look at the RV industry from nearly 80 years ago – and what’s really interesting is how little things have changed. Of course, the big change to the business has been the advent of the American highway system – which was built mostly in the 1950s – and the film stars end up getting stuck in the mud. If you run across the film (I bought it at Walmart) you will be rewarded with an interesting historical vignette of how RVs looked in 1937, both inside and outside.

Town And Country Magazine Features An RV

Town and Country RV Ad

Of all the places that you would not expect to see an RV article, Town & Country magazine would have to be among the most unlikely. Amidst articles on inherited wealth and America’s most blue-blood families is an article on Airstream RVs. This is not the first time that an RV has surfaced in an upscale publication, however. A few years ago, Neiman Marcus featured an custom RV in their coveted Christmas catalogue. So what does it all mean? It means that RVs are breaking through the barriers, and are becoming a part of even high-end America. And that’s good for the industry and the future.

You’re Seeing More And More Of This On The Road Every Day

RV Pulling Car

A recent drive across the Midwest was packed with this sight – as evidenced by this photo I took while driving. Why are there so many RV’s on the road right now? One reason is that it’s summer and people are getting in their vacations while they can. But an even bigger reason is that there are 10,000 baby boomers retiring per day in the U.S. right now, and a large percentage are buying RVs. Just go to your local RV sales center and stand there for a few minutes and look at the activity and the age of the customers. Also, look at the cost of the models that they are buying. The new wave of RV shoppers can write a check for the RV and to heck with the price of gas.

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