Membership camping: Consider all factors before buying

In 1985, Jack and Mildred Kidwell, a Reynoldsburg, Ohio couple in their late 40s bought a Thousand Trails camping membership. Since then, they have paid thousands of dollars in finance charges and membership dues, the couple told Columbus NBC-4i News.

Now at age 72 and with severe arthritis, Jack Kidwell said they had to sell their recreational vehicle two years ago, but Equity Lifestyle Properties, the parent company of Thousand Trails membership campgrounds is trying to keep them paying.

In 2001, Kidwell said, his annual dues rose from $272 to $500 and in the last two years, he and Mildred decided to stop paying and the creditors are now calling.

“It is just a thing, there is no end to it,” said Kidwell.

Kidwell indicated that the couple tried to sell or cancel the membership, but the company refused.

“I just want them off my back and to quit trying to bill me for more money,” said Kidwell.

“In this particular contract there is no right of rescission, that’s an important element to look for in any contract,” said Joan Coughlin, Spokesperson for the Central Ohio Better Business Bureau.

Right of Rescission is language that allows the buyer with notice, to terminate a contract.

“This particular company has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau, so it’s got a bad track record already,” said Coughlin.

The next step for the Kidwells is to contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to file a complaint.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides consumers with the following suggestions:

Research the track record of the company before you buy

Ensure that everything the salesperson promises is written into the contract

Don’t act on impulse or under pressure

Study the paperwork outside of the presentation environment

Ask about your ability to cancel the contract, referred to as a “right of rescission”

If, for some reason, you decide to cancel the purchase, cancel it in writing

There is considerable information, misinformation, and confusion about membership camping and discount camping clubs. In order to assist the consumer in making an informed decision I have recently posted a series of nine articles.

Disclaimer: I am a member of Thousand Trails, Western Horizon Resorts, and Passport America camping club but do not represent them or sell memberships.

Worth Pondering…

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot, and hang on.

—Thomas Jefferson

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