RV Cleaning Drama

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RV Cleaning Drama

Postby CarrieSnarf » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:42 pm

We all know that renting an RV is an expensive undertaking from the outset, and you risk cleaning fees. This is my first year getting burned though. I'm curious to hear about similar experiences and company's that were particularly good or bad this year.

My experience, pardon me while I vent:
We have used this company before- Family RV in San Jose. They were very reasonable with us in 2010. We cleaned this year's rental to the same or better standards as before. The first year we were charged 175 dollars in cleaning fees, mostly explained by us forgetting to clean the insides of the external compartments. This year, having hopefully learned something from cleaning 2010, we were shockingly charged for 14 hours of cleaning.

I can honestly say that anything under 4 hours of cleaning fees ($200) would have gotten a pass from me as the cost of doing business. 14 hours is a ridiculous cash grab. If I'm being critical: There was some water streaking from the outside wash of the truck on the windows and some stubborn dust on the bottom step corners that remained despite some serious scrubbing- but otherwise it looked good. Four of us scrubbed that RV for 4 hours prior to drop off. Removed our pre-placed carpet scraps off the floor, removed our purpose made fabric coverings for the RV seats, Swept, Vinegar rinse, then re-cleaned surfaces, vacuum, mop, bathroom and fridge scrubbed. Vinegar rinse, soap and regular rinse on all outside surfaces including the roof. Cleaned every compartment including the engine. Scrubbed the tires. I didn't change the air filter. It doesn't take 14 hours to change an air filter.

Three of the employees of the rental company complimented us on cleanliness as we dropped it off and here we are a week later with a $700.00 bill. At drop off, everything was so hunky dory that the service manager came out and specifically gave us a handout asking us to please review them on various websites. They took our picture a second time and told us it was so good that they were looking forward to putting it on their website. This is not the behavior I would expect if we were dirty hippies returning a filthy RV. We chatted with the cashier about the poor poor first timers that didn't clean as well as we did, and would be in for a shock. (Yup, that must be egg on my face).

I'm further troubled that when I politely called to discuss it, I got told that no one would speak to me and I should write an email. I asked a second time to speak to a human being, and was shut down again without any explanation. That in itself is a customer service error. At least put me in someones voicemail! Ridiculous. So that got them an email that was a good deal less friendly than I was going to be on the phone. We'll see how they choose to respond.

Lesson learned. Vote with your feet and all that. No matter how this turns out, I'll find a new company for next year- so tell me if you had a great experience too!
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby danibel » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:58 pm

I have never rented an RV for Burning Man, and after all the horror stories I have read on eplaya and elsewhere, I never will. I rented a cargo van from Enterprise two years in a row. The cleaning the first time took me no less than 8 hours, and that doesn't count the outside cleaning I took the van for at Whalers in Santa Cruz. The second time was a little shorter as I had learned some tricks regarding the dust. My third year to the burn I bought a used cargo van off a lot and now I don't worry about cleaning! I still have to wipe it down and get the outside cleaned and all that (I don't want the dang thing to rust to death on me). I figure that after the 3rd year out there, I am even money wise. Granted the cargo van is not an RV, but I am perfectly fine with that. It's only my sweetie and me for the ride and everything we need fits neatly and compactly inside. I set up a little kitchen out front and pee jars work for the middle of the night.

This year I invested some time and $$ to build a nice bed platform in the back. It was perfectly planned to slide clothing bins underneath and our bikes still fit inside by laying them sideways on the bed. If I ever come to a point of needing to haul out more stuff I can hook up a trailer or get a roof rack.

Now If I ever hit the lottery, I would buy a used RV and take that. Mostly for the fridge though. I just don't need the bathroom and kitchen all that much.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby CarrieSnarf » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:10 pm

Danibel,

I hear you. I've been careful, or so I thought, to avoid this drama. For example, we wrap every fabric surface of the RV in plastic wrap and then recover it in fabric prior to leaving San Fran. No shoes in the RV, etc etc. Sadly it doesn't appear to have been enough.

I really do love having the kitchen, the fridge and the bathroom. I like to make my campmates food to past the time in a white out, and I don't fancy dusty pancakes. I've certainly heard the many virtues of other forms of camping- monkey huts, box trucks, hexa yurts etc. My husband has been wanting to try a yurt, perhaps this experience will be that final straw that makes me pee in a jug at 6am. I will miss the flush toliet, but not as much as I will miss $700 bucks.

We have also pondered buying a truck or RV, as our number of burning friends and burn investment would make it financially sound- it's really the parking and yearly upkeep that keeps us from it so far. We live in downtown San Francisco, where people have to sacrifice goats in the street (local organic goats of course) to get a parking space.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby Drawingablank » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:27 pm

Sounds like they are confusing your rental with someone else's. Have you contacted your credit card company?

If they were happy with the condition you returned at at drop off, then a week later decided to bill you 700.00 - most card companies would intrerpet that as outright fraud.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby junglesmacks » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:39 pm

Drawingablank wrote:Sounds like they are confusing your rental with someone else's. Have you contacted your credit card company?

If they were happy with the condition you returned at at drop off, then a week later decided to bill you 700.00 - most card companies would intrerpet that as outright fraud.


Agreed.

I would dispute the CC charge and go through the proper dispute channels with your CC company. They're actually pretty fair about things like this..
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby CarrieSnarf » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:40 pm

Sounds like they are confusing your rental with someone else's. Have you contacted your credit card company?
If they were happy with the condition you returned at at drop off, then a week later decided to bill you 700.00 - most card companies would intrerpet that as outright fraud.


It might get to that. We just got the bill this afternoon, so after their rude phone conversation where they refused to answer questions by phone, I sent them their requested email outlining my problems with their bill. I will give them one chance to investigate and reply like reasonable human beings before I go to Amex (as well as Yelp, google reviews, etc. )
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby theCryptofishist » Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:14 pm

Don't go to yelp, ect., until after the credit card company. Of course you're angry, but get this resolved (or completely not resolved) before you begin the tear down the reputation campaign.

Would it help, in future, to take a video of the rv? Perhaps with the newpaper headlines from the day you turned it in, so it's obviously not when you picked it up. (Because, we all need to behave like Italian kidnappers now and then?)
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby CarrieSnarf » Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:22 pm

Don't go to yelp, ect., until after the credit card company. Of course you're angry, but get this resolved (or completely not resolved) before you begin the tear down the reputation campaign.


It's no fun when you spoil my righteous indignation with reasonable advice. Indeed, public humiliation and salting of their property will be saved until the very end of my campaign and used only if needed.

Would it help, in future, to take a video of the rv? Perhaps with the newpaper headlines from the day you turned it in, so it's obviously not when you picked it up. (Because, we all need to behave like Italian kidnappers now and then?)


My husband made a similar comment when we were commiserating over the bill. But truly if it comes to "proof of life" videos, I'm not sure the RV experience is worth it.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby EspressoDude » Wed Sep 12, 2012 7:25 pm

It's a lot of charges and handled wrong by the rv company.

But, did you clean the top and inside of the truck frame rails under the house? Clean the top of the tanks? Top of the house batteries, etc. Those collect a lot of dust and can cause corrosion....

There is more to an rv than just the house part.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby graidawg » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:53 pm

cleaning MDF's car.
first jet wash the outside (30minutes) then vacuum the inside while still loaded with dusty gear (10minutes), drive back to maryland.
now hose down the outside for the second time and liberally wash with car shampoo (2hours) dry, rinse and repeat (only 1hour) hose down the undercarriage (unbeleivably a full hour and mountains of dust) and the engine compartment (minutes only) now vacuum and dust the inside moving every single moveable thing to get at all the dust (1 hour) let mdf do it again because i was doing it wrong (1/2hour) use dashboard wipes and kitchen towel to wipe door edges and anything that should of been a different colour to playa brown (2hours each for mdf and I) thats about 7 hours cleaning for a small car. so 14 hours for an rv plus 4 hours you and your crew spent on it? very possible. remember these guys need to rent it out to other people who are going to complain when every time they switch on the air con it sprays dust or that when they make the bed a cloud of dust comes from it.
$700 is a high bill but then it was a dusty year
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby Miles » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:59 am

Definitely dispute that charge, Carrie.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby theCryptofishist » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:15 am

CarrieSnarf wrote:
Don't go to yelp, ect., until after the credit card company. Of course you're angry, but get this resolved (or completely not resolved) before you begin the tear down the reputation campaign.


It's no fun when you spoil my righteous indignation with reasonable advice. Indeed, public humiliation and salting of their property will be saved until the very end of my campaign and used only if needed.

If it makes any difference, that's exactly the advice I need to hear when I get pissed off.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby Bob » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:39 am

Playing devil's advocate, I think people underestimate the odor that bits of playa everywhere impart to a vehicle, especially in the ventilation system, as well as the film from cleaning attempts. Whether it's unwise as a business to have a cap on such charges, I don't know -- if I loan something to a friend I assume it's going to get trashed, but I don't operate as a business.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby Dr. Pyro » Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:03 am

FWIW, Affordable RV (talk about your oxymorons) charges $95/hour "cleaning fees", of which there are always some, especially since they know if the rigs have been to TTITD or not. I tried lying to them one year and told them we went to the Yerington Rodeo. Their GPS system indicated otherwise. Oops, my bad.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby remi » Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:21 am

I just go on Kijiji and rent from a person. It's way cheaper (500-700$ per week,) and when I drop off the trailer, we walk around it, and they give me back my deposit. I've done this on 3 occasions and never had 1$ taken from my deposit. Bigger companies love to fuck anus... so beware.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby dragonpilot » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:38 am

We always rent from El Monte...nevah had a problem in 6 years. I have a VERY anal retentive personality so NOTHING gets overlooked...engine, stowage bins, roof top, sides, undercarriage...I even use Pig Spit on the engine, Armor All Tire Dressing on the wheels, and Armor All Vinyl Dressing in the driver's compartment, including the floor mats...I mean nothing gets overlooked!

The most important thing is that I don't tell them I'm taking the rig to BRC. "If you find any dust it's because we drove into a dust storm in South Central Oregon."

AFAIK, they don't use GPS...yet.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby Turtleburp » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:43 pm

We worked for hours cleaning hours expecting a horror story (did not do engine compartment though so thanks for comments here that will guide me to that next year).

Chick at CruiseAmerica didn't even really look as they were too busy!

Thanks for the toasty btw Carie Snarf - hope that this turns out to be simply a clerical error; sammy karma is defintely on your side!!!
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby shroom » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:10 am

I would dispute the charges as well since they praised your cleaning job!
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby CarrieSnarf » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:47 pm

did you clean the top and inside of the truck frame rails under the house? Clean the top of the tanks? Top of the house batteries, etc. Those collect a lot of dust and can cause corrosion....


We cleaned all of the gennie and compartments, did an undercarriage wash and did the engine compartment too. Like I said, not my first rodeo and I'm pretty careful. Exodus was seriously dusty, and I didn't get under the truck (just sprayed it off)- so I guess its possible that dust is lurking deep in the bowels under there. I'm dying to hear what they thought needed 14 hours of cleaning, but they won't return my phone calls.

thats about 7 hours cleaning for a small car. so 14 hours for an rv plus 4 hours you and your crew spent on it? very possible. remember these guys need to rent it out to other people who are going to complain when every time they switch on the air con it sprays dust or that when they make the bed a cloud of dust comes from it.


4 people x 4 hours = 16 man hours of labor. This does not account at all for the various cleaning jobs done throughout the week either. We also vacuumed the filters. I'm not trying to be naive here. I really can honestly say we did a decent job- it's not our first time cleaning an RV from a dusty year. I believe that you return property, whether to a friend or a company, in the same or better condition than you received it.

I also believe that these people advertise to burners specifically and know exactly what they are getting in to. They jack their rates up for the event. Out of curiosity I just looked at rates now for the same vehicle and the same amount of time- they are 4 times lower than the rate for burning man. Certainly it's a sellers market and a free country- they can charge what they like. But to then charge these type of cleaning fees to people, who by their own admission did a lot of cleaning, just causes bad blood.

Furthermore, the way they are handling my complaint after the fact is not reasonable. I've called twice and emailed over the last 3 days. I've been polite, but have expressed very articulately why I am frustrated and the questions I have. No response. Not even a "hey we are looking in to it". I have to do a bit of angry customer service calls at my job, and letting people stew does not make things better.

Playing devil's advocate, I think people underestimate the odor that bits of playa everywhere impart to a vehicle, especially in the ventilation system, as well as the film from cleaning attempts. Whether it's unwise as a business to have a cap on such charges, I don't know -- if I loan something to a friend I assume it's going to get trashed, but I don't operate as a business.


I think a cap is a reasonable way to handle it and not have this drama. Or just jack up the fees even more and consider it part of the cost. People tolerate up front cost much better than surprises at the back end. Looking at their yelp reviews I would say that their online reputation has been put through the ringer by their current practice- and not just for burning man.

And you are very welcome for the toastie Turtleburp- I certainly enjoyed learning all of the international words for grilled cheese on my little vacation in the desert :)
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby graidawg » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:58 am

A simple disputing of the bill and pointing out you can tell other burners not to use them should get a good response, after all they undoubtably make a lot of cash off burners.

I had a fantastic toastie out on the playa with an egg in the middle on the way to the temple, me and mdf ate ours in a dust storm while on of the gifters got a flogging (she seemed to enjoy it)
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby Ratty » Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:33 am

My friend with a retail store recently paid Yelp a $50 fee to have unwanted comments removed. That explains a lot to me.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby CarrieSnarf » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:40 pm

Okay- so the resolution:
-The final resolution was that there were some outdoor compartments which were dirtier in the sunlight than they appeared at 4am when we were cleaning. stupid compartments. Perhaps were were delusional with exhaustion. Frankly I was on indoor duty. I will blame the outdoor crew (ahem, husband). I agreed that they needed cleaning, but to my eyes this was a 4-5 hour endeavor, not 14h. The company and I agreed to disagree on that point.
-I was refunded part of the fee. They knocked it down to $500- which they said covered "their costs".
-I suggested, and he said they were seriously considering, a pre-event cleaning fee for next year so there would be a cap and no surprises.

In the end, I'm over it. Yet another burning pillage of my pocket book- in the end the experience was still worth what I paid.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby Jackass » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:51 pm

Two years of renting rvs and cleaning costs might get you a decent older rv to call your own, then you can clean it on your time or not. Or you can kick it old school and find a different type of dwelling.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby paulo999 » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:17 pm

I rented a box truck and kitted it out with some window AC units and mattresses. (All I wanted was sleep in the day. Our camp had everything else, generators, catering, couches etc).

I'd do the same again in same camp setup.

The cleanup on the box truck took awhile - 6 hours or so x 1 person, with a driveway, pressure wash, ladders, and daylight.

I did the cab to perfection (tip: cab remains sealed from when you arrive on playa to when you leave), hosed the engine bay, chassis, hand washed all the body and plastic several times.

Truck company passed it in 2 minutes, no extra charge. The whole thing from SFO was about $1400 inc all insurances and mileage. If you don't have the time to clean, they do it for $350.

This was Budget Truck Milbrae and they seemed (to me) to be burner friendly (I told them when booking).

An RV would be less hassle with prep, and have more comfort, but a Box Truck is worth considering.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby junglesmacks » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:08 pm

How did you do up the window AC units in the box truck? Very curious.
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby maladroit » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:24 pm

I would ASSUME some kind of temporary wall built in the back of the truck, since he got his deposit back :)
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Re: RV Cleaning Drama

Postby some seeing eye » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:41 pm

We had about 5 detailing a medium RV for about 5 hours from a rental agency that rented to burners. No problems. You might see if you can negotiate up front and write into the contract that the renter will be present for all inspections before cleaning, and the cleaning itself by the renter.
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