Our journey to Sacramento started perfectly. We stopped in Davis for lunch at Chipotle and a quick visit to a thrift store. We hopped back on the road and drove straight to an estate sale in Sacramento. After spending an hour there the children and I were anxious to get to our cabin at the KOA (a camp ground) in West Sacramento.
We decided to pay a bit more and get a Kamping Kottage which came with a "small kitchen", bathroom and plenty of beds. We called ahead to make sure that we could have a fire and that the Kottage had a fire ring. We looked through all the photos and thought we had done all the necessary preparations for what to expect when we got there.
We arrived at our cabin and immediately noticed that it didn't have a fire ring or BBQ. It was surrounded by gravel yet the smaller cabins across the little road had grass, fire pit and were on the water. Our cabin looked a bit like something you'd find at a construction site. There were rat droppings on the front porch by the door which overall didn't bother me since I'm often digging away in basements. The cabin smelled lightly of cigarette smoke which I try to avoid for the children's sake. We walk into the kitchen and it consisted of a microwave, sink and tiny fridge. We didn't pack the propane stove since we thought that "small kitchen" would include something to cook on. I sighed, called Dave and asked for his help. He rang the manager and spoke with him, called me back to tell me that the manager was coming to talk to us. In my head I was planning to ask if we could swap for a smaller cabin that included a fire ring and BBQ. That way at least we could cook and prepare our food. The only reason we decided to spend more money on the larger cabin was to cook in the kitchen to save money.
The manager arrived and asked us what was wrong. I explained that we had made assumptions based on the website about the cabin. He said that he could roll over a standing BBQ over to the Kottage. The children weren't too impressed to stand around and roast marshmallows though. He then implied that photos of the kitchen were on the site and that I obviously hadn't seen them. I mentioned that I had spent a lot of time on the website and never saw a photo of the kitchen itself. No matter what I said he appeared to want to argue with me. You know the expression "the customer was always right?" Well this was not the case for me. I personally felt that he wanted to belittle me in front of Cerys and Keiran. My intention wasn't to argue about what was on the website or wasn't. I simply wanted to move to a smaller cabin but once he implied that I was internet inept I decided to get a refund and leave. It just wasn't worth it.
It got worse though. When we went to get our refund he started looking for photos of the cabin on his computer. He wouldn't let it go. Ironically enough just now I looked and I still don't see any close up photos of the kitchen or details that there is nothing to cook on. Sure it says half kitchen but what the hey dickens does that really mean? I'm not an expert in cabins and really it should be explained to any customer clearly on the website that one needs to bring their own stove.
He kept having a go at me as I was waiting for my refund from another gal at the desk. He was very unkind to me and even said to me "what you want me to build you a kitchen?" I was so shocked that anyone in a manager role would speak that way to a paying customer, especially in front of her kids. He apparently was very insulted about the rat droppings too. I said it didn't bother me but he ignored me and went on to say that what did I expect, it was a camp ground and that there are snakes and ducks too. Seriously he wouldn't stop talking even after I asked multiple times to just let me get my refund. Finally we were able to leave and I swear he was still rattling insults to me as we walked out the door. It was unbelievable.
We have had pretty good experiences with KOA in the past. I haven't always slept well but the people were friendly and kind. This is the worst customer service I've probably ever come across. My children were in tears as we left. We had to drive to the nearest Starbucks to calm down. Here we were a couple hours from home, all of our camping supplies in the van (except the stove....LOL) and nowhere to stay. I nearly decided to drive home but Dave came through and found us a hotel.
I hate to think about how much he paid for us to stay at the Marriott. I think because I had worked so hard for the last 4 months and the fact that my birthday is this Sunday, that he wanted me to have a relaxing time in Sacramento. I felt a little sick that I had attempted to have a frugal holiday and instead it cost us far more than expected. We did have a beautiful time at the hotel and I must admit when we woke on Wednesday morning to a cold breeze and later rain, I was very grateful to have slept in that amazing bed with feather duvets and pillows.
Dave was still trying to fix the KOA incident at home so he emailed them and told them about our horrible experience. I also mentioned it on Twitter using their twitter name @KOAGREAT but not a word from them on Twitter.
Dave received a reply in what appears to be a form letter:
Subject: KOA Sacramento [ref:000000197856:ref]
Case Number: 197856
Case Summary: Kamper Complaint
Dear Dave & Selena,
Thank you for your email regarding the Sacramento West/Old Town KOA Kampground and for taking the time to share your concerns with us. I'm sorry the kabins at the kampground were not what you expected them to be. Each kampground does have different types of kabins, so if you ever need to get details about any KOA kampground, I recommend calling them and asking any questions to help your decision.
Please know that we at the KOA Home offices and the managers of each independently owned campground care very much about your experience. We'll be sure to pass along your concerns to the management at the Sacramento West/Old Town KOA.
Once again, thank you for sharing your concerns with us. I wish you much happy camping in the future.
The KOA Value Kard Rewards Team
It would have been a little nice if someone had actually signed the form letter as in a first and last name. What we both got from the letter is that they really don't care much about customer service or about us. Dave was very honest in his email about the manager and how he treated us so really what good is KOA forwarding Dave's email to him? I don't think he's going to change his tune if that's how he treats people, especially in front of her children.
I do love visiting Sacramento so we will need to get creative in our future visits there. It's always challenging to be traveling, stay frugal and rely on a gluten free diet. I can't just go anywhere and eat the food available. I usually have to depend on being near a Whole Foods, a Chipotle (although lots of cross contamination) and In-n-Out Burger (protein burger) or have our own kitchen.
I have a romantic vision of traveling and staying in inexpensive small vintage motels. I looked for some when I thought our trip was going to take us near Chico. Yet most on-line comments about these motels mentioned seedy people and cockroaches? I think one of my goals this summer is to figure out how to travel for less. Because we are in a rental we aren't so keen to do a house exchange with strangers from homeexchange.com. We may try some exchanges with Waldorf Home Exchange. We have used all of our Hilton hotel points up so we don't have any more free hotel stays available to us.
My two children love swimming which is why we have been drawn to KOA in the past. They loved their pools and we loved the simplicity of how easy camping is at their campgrounds. I'm not sure at this point if we want to ever stay in a KOA again though. I suppose I shouldn't let one grumpy manager ruin it for us but I think it was the KOA form letter that made the decision to avoid KOA at least this summer.
We didn't let it ruin our little holiday to Sacramento and our trip ended fabulously thanks to an ATG reader which I'll share about next week.
Now to begin the celebrations of my birthday weekend.