What a long (but fruitful) day!
OK, so we're literally a day or two away from finally ordering our 2020 Tiffin Open Road 36LA, and after 3 1/2 years of investigation including dozens of RV shows and visits to dealerships from Florida to New Hampshire and points in between, memorizing and comparing stain, floor and upholstery colors and knowing what we'd pick when we ordered our unit to be built . . .
. . . Tiffin comes out with new exterior, flooring and upholstery colors just in time for the 2020 model year.
Which is the model year we are now ordering. Three out of the four things needed to make our new home look the way we want it to look, and we've never seen them before (they never look the same on a computer screen as they do in real life - more on that later). After all our years of preparation, how ironic is that?
So with time running out on the 12-week timeframe to get an order in for delivery in mid-August (when our lease runs out on the apartment we're renting), it is now incumbent upon us to make the 5-hour drive to Red Bay, Alabama to the Mothership - Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc. We had already made the pilgrimage about a year and a half ago to take the tour Tiffin offers of their manufacturing plant, where they literally show you everything from start to finish, including some time on the manufacturing floor watching these talented folks assemble a home on wheels from the chassis on up. Red Bay is the very definition of a company town; Tiffin's presence is all over the place. But while it's a big operation, the nice thing about virtually every Tiffin employee we've met is that they are still small-town American in their willingness to help you, from the founder and CEO Bob Tiffin to the folks on the manufacturing floor and everyone in between.
Our dealer had called their main contact at Tiffin, Danny Inman, who probably knows more about how Tiffins work than almost anyone, and let him know we'd be driving over the next day. No appointment time, just "Hey, can you meet with these folks and help them out?"
Danny has all the new Decor Boards for the 2020 models just now being built, and more importantly, has access to those models awaiting final QC on Tiffin's "yellow brick road" where finished units are parked undergoing final checks before being shipped to their respective dealers. We show up about 9:30 CST, get our visitor passes and extremely attractive neon yellow safety vests at the guard station, and are pointed to the building where Danny's office is. Once there - "Just walk on back, take a left and he's the second office on the right" - Danny finds the Decor Boards we're looking for and after we pick what we think we like he does the unexpected. "C'mon", he says, and we follow him out the back door of the office building about 200' away to the yellow brick road, where both 2019 and 2020 model Open Roads are sitting, every one of them unlocked and available for inspection. We find examples of the new floor color (Sand Castle) and upholstery colors (White Maple) with our chosen Mocha cabinets, but nothing with the Cashmere window treatments and kitchen backsplash included.
"C'mon", he says, and it's out to the manufacturing floor, where two units are at the stage where the interiors are already installed, and there is our Cashmere interior! Takes us into another unit where the darker Sea Oat flooring has been installed with the Mocha cabinets so we can see whether we want to go with that combination (thought we did last year, but seeing it live changed our mind). All-in-all, Danny took about 45 minutes out of his day to shepherd us around to make sure what we ordered was going to be exactly what we wanted.
I'd call it great customer service, but no one we've met at Tiffin has ever treated us like a customer - they've treated us like family.
After thanking Danny, we decide to take an impromptu visit just 10 minutes away to Belmont, Mississippi, where Tiffin has their world-class paint facility. Just the day before, Melissa Pounds, Tiffin's Custom Paint Coordinator, had sent us a rendering of our new paint scheme. Custom paint scheme #0529 changed one color from Barcelona Red to Pacific Blue, and kept the other three colors (Anthracite, Ice White and Silver Sage) the same as their new Barcelona paint scheme. Looked great on the computer screen, and we were ready to approve the change. But since we were only 10 minutes away, and Melissa had said to stop by if we were in the area, we decided to take her up on the offer.
Are we ever glad we did! And this is the disaster averted.
Once there, she shows us the actual paint chits of the four colors included in the David Richard Custom Paint Scheme #0529. On the computer screen Silver Sage looks like a light gray something halfway between the Ice White and Anthracite (a dark, sparkling gray) color, yet on the chits she's showing us, Silver Sage is actually darker than the Anthracite, and is not so much gray but greenish/brown, and it's a color being used across the lower half and back of the motorhome, and does not go well at all with the Pacific Blue we've chosen!
Fortunately, Melissa knows her colors, and comes up with a Sterling Silver chit that actually IS a light gray between Ice White and Anthracite, and will compliment our Pacific Blue perfectly. There's a fairly accurate computer rendering of the new David Richard Custom Paint Scheme #0530 below.
But it's funny how things work out in life. We hadn't planned on stopping by Belmont to see Melissa, but since we were in the area, and had wanted to thank her personally for her help the previous day, we were able to make a change that, had we hadn't done so, likely would have had us crying once we saw our new home being delivered - the Silver Sage color was just that wrong on the screen.
Disaster averted, and all because the Tiffin folks we've interacted with treated us like one of their family. If she hadn't gone out of her way the previous day, we might not have gone out of our way yesterday to thank her in person.
And in about 12 weeks, we'll have the custom motorhome we've dreamed of having for almost 4 years. With financing (finally!) secured, the order goes in tomorrow and the REAL work begins.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.