Truth in advertising–not

Say you’re Erik the Red and you’ve just been exiled because even the Vikings, it turns out, have a low tolerance for murder. Now you’ve found a new island home and you’d like to tempt some of your former colleagues into joining you, but how are you going to get them to sail across the bitter north Atlantic to settle on a hunk of rock that’s 80% covered by an ice sheet? Why, just call it “Greenland,” of course.

That’s pretty much the approach taken by Frank Rolfe, whose sometimes misleading promotion of RV parks was last mentioned in this blog Sept. 18. But now Rolfe seems to be stepping up his game, headlining last week’s email blast with the seductive promise, “Vacation while you work: welcome to the RV park owners lifestyle.” Land ho! Is that a massive, glaciated island up ahead?

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume Rolfe is simply clueless and not actually trying to sell us the Brooklyn Bridge. Still, there are some real howlers in his polemic, such as the claim that “you have the best of both worlds” when owning an RV park because this “will allow you to effectively feel like you’re on vacation while you’re working.” He then goes on to list the benefits of a hands-on approach to ownership, concluding with this bit of supposed wisdom: “You can also select exactly how you spend your time each day, and never again miss out on any personal activities that you would like to attend. At the end of your life, you will never think back on ‘could I have done something different that I would have liked more’ as you have taken your destiny into your own hands.”

Uh-huh. This is from a man who apparently never, you know, actually ran an RV park. True, he did operate a trailer park–or mobile home park, as he prefers to call it–some two decades ago, but these days he busies himself as an investor, not an operator. More to the point, claiming contemporary RV park insight based on 20-year-old trailer park experience is like having a typewriter repairman tell you what you need to upgrade your MS-DOS platform and thinking he’s kept up with the times.

To put it most bluntly, these days the RV park business is a ball-buster. It was never easy–no hospitality industry is, given that every customer is your “boss”–but the past couple of years have been wracked by a worker shortage, an increasingly pugnacious public and a wave of newcomers who often don’t have the vaguest idea of how to operate their equipment. Both the hours and the seasons have grown longer, even as tempers get shorter. Not only is there no room to “select exactly how you spend your time each day,” there isn’t enough day to do all the things that must be done, and never mind the “personal activities that you would like to attend.”

If that’s your idea of a vacation, I hear there’s a nice little cottage available in this paradise-on-earth we call Greenland. . . .

Author: Andy Zipser

A former newspaper reporter who worked at a variety of newspapers, from small community weeklies to The Wall Street Journal, I finished my "normal" work life as the editor of The Guild Reporter, official publication of the union representing newspaper workers. On retiring, I and my wife bought a campground in the Shenandoah Valley and--with the help of our two daughters and their husbands--operated it for eight years, first as a KOA franchisee and then as an independent family-owned RV park. We sold the campground in May, 2021, and live in Staunton, Virginia, a short walk from our grandsons' home.

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