Friday, January 24, 2014

Among the Chosen

Taking our motorhome to the factory service center in Red Bay, AL is always an adventure. The facility has over 50 service bays in a huge building that was constructed along the runways of an old airport. The areas on each side of the runway have been transformed into a campground. Well, that might be too grand a vision, better to say a parking area, with benefits: electric, sewer, and water - if it is not below freezing, which it was during our visit, so we had to rely on filling our tank with water every 4 days or so. In addition to the service bays, there are numerous service vans that roam around the parking area, performing minor repairs. 

The strange thing about this service center is that one cannot get an appointment for service. Service is performed on a first-come, first-served, basis. Well.... sort of! Let me see if I can describe how it works... when I’m not at all sure just how it does work! (The following description is based on observation, my own experience and pure conjecture on my part. There may, or may not, be an ounce of truth to this information!)

When you arrive at the service center you are assigned a parking spot. You are given a form to complete where you can list the repairs you need and indicate whether your motorhome is still in the 1year service warranty and whether you have a third-party insurance policy that might pay for some, or all, of the service.Then... you wait. The head of service will be around to review the form with you and get you in the queue for service. He should come around in the morning, we were told. We neglected to ask, “Which morning?!” Forgetting we were in the sunny (but unseasonably cold) south! We did not see anyone from service until midday on day #2. 

Once that meeting is complete the head of service, The King... the Head Honcho... he who controls all... apparently slots you into the system based on the type of service you need and the line of vehicles in front of you that also need that service. That all sounds simple enough. However, it begins to get complicated when certain factors are considered. For example, if your motorhome is in the 1-year warranty period I believe you are slotted ahead of some guy who has a 2-year old home... and his gets priority over the 2006 model parked next to him, regardless of how long he has been parked on the runway. However, if you have a new motorhome on order, you are placed higher in the queue no matter what. It may also be that the squeaky wheel gets the grease... or perhaps gets the shaft - if you get my drift! 




As you wait for service you can take advantage of all that there is to do in Red Bay, AL.......................... or you can sit on your motorhome. You will probably end up sitting on your motorhome, so plan to bring plenty of books, DVD’s, craft projects... oh, and alcohol. Red Bay is in a dry county. Also, keep in mind that the grocery stores are small - the one we stopped in offered two versions of Triscuits, at prices quite a bit higher than our local grocery. The service center waiting area has lots of jigsaw puzzles, comfy arm chairs, free coffee and a vending machine. Up until this year, this was the only area to get wifi - now they have it throughout the campground. They do allow dogs in the waiting area - if they don’t bark. There is also a laundry area and a store with motorhome bits and pieces and some camping supplies. 

OK, I am being a bit critical. Red Bay is a sweet little town. The problem is the ‘little’ part. They have a dog food factory. The Tiffin factory (where you can take a tour - and that is very interesting), a Piggly Wiggly and a Fred’s, a McDonald’s and a Jack’s, and a few other shops. There are some places to visit that are further afield, such as the Coon Dog Cemetery, Helen Keller’s home and the natural bridge. But, I digress, back to the service puzzle...

As you wait you might be able to get a general idea of where you stand in the queue from “He Who Controls All”, but there is a lot of conjecture to that. So much depends on how long the repairs on motorhomes ahead of you take, whether they slot a new coach or one under warranty at the top of the list and I am sure there are probably some other variables that come into play. Then, you have to factor in that there are a certain number of service bays that only do body work. Others only do work on hydraulics, etc. So, depending on the nature of your repairs, you may be in several queues. 

You wait in the queue until you get “the call”. Each afternoon those with the lucky number are called and told what service bay to be in front of at 7:00 AM. You might get ‘the call’  some time later in the morning indicating where you should arrive after lunch. If any of this bothered you, you might find yourself obsessively checking your phone to see if you missed ‘the call’. It didn’t phase me, but Mr. Dreamy became progressively more restless as each day went by. This was also compounded by the midday temperatures in the 20’s with a biting wind that made taking a stroll around the runway something one wanted to avoid. 

We were seen quickly for minor repairs by one of the mobile crews - although with the low temperatures we were assigned a service bay. Hmmm, did that mean that some hapless soul was kicked down the line since we occupied a bay in which he might have been scheduled?!  


One of the mobile guys hard at work solving the next level of his game
while his buddy works on our motorhome.
I guess his buddy didn't need a screwdriver handed to him at that moment!


Then we were back on the line waiting for ‘the call’ for minor body work. (No, Mr. Dreamy did not get a ding in the motorhome - we developed a small crack in a fiberglass side panel, through no fault of our own. However, the State of New Mexico might have had some culpability due to their lousy repairs of an on ramp for I-10 that had a chasm across it that might have tripped up Texas had it tried to access the Interstate!)

Thursday I happened to chat with “He Who Controls All”. He looked through his little spiral notebook and said we might get in a bay next Wednesday or Thursday. I mentioned that we had to leave dear, old Red Bay on Tuesday or Wednesday, and I explained why.....

Later that afternoon, Mr. Dreamy got “The Call”. We were among the chosen. 

On our way down the runway at 6:45 AM

So, today, I sit on the motorhome in a service bay, with a hustle and bustle of busy service guys (??) around me. Strange how the system works!

2 comments:

  1. I remember when you were there last year. Hope you will get on your way:)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would have been arrested! I don't have that much patience.

    ReplyDelete

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