Airstream Service – May 2023

Another notch in the belt of spending our kids’ inheritance… we recently arrived for the coveted Airstream service appointment at the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, OH.  I delight in explaining to people that over the years we have almost single handedly paid for their new manufacturing facilities.

And as you might expect, this place is steeped in history in the new visitor’s center, which has exhibits of some of Wally Byam’s earlier models and caravan exploits.  Very cool, I must say.

If you wander around the service lot, you see some other unique Airstreams…

Like anything of consequence that you purchase, things need care, love and, from time to time, a wee bit of adjustment.  Airstreams are no different, and unlike your brick-and-mortar home, Airstreams (and RVs in general) go hurtling down the highway and so are prone to needing maintenance.

We have driven on gravel roads in Alaska that are a hundred times smoother than some of our interstate highways here in the lower 48.  Last month we drove through Shreveport on I-20, and I lost three fillings.  You might call this deferred maintenance.  The last time this section of highway was maintained Eisenhower was president.

Airstream has the perfect facility to salve the wounds of highway travel.  Don’t think of their service center as some mechanical repair shop – think of it more as a blissful retreat, a renewal, a spa treatment for your house-on-wheels.  There are no yoga mats, essential oil diffusers, or soft soothing music, but your trailer knows it is in for some special treatment.

In arriving for your appointment, you can camp at what is called the Terraport… a mini campground on the grounds where you can camp while having service performed.  At or around 7 am a tractor will arrive to tow your Airstream into one of the spas (service bays).

You are greeted by a service advisor who writes out all the details on the list you would like your massage therapist (mechanic) to attend to.  Soon thereafter your personal massage therapist who is going to work on your Airstream comes out to get you.

The therapist then takes you to your trailer out in the service bay and goes through the list.  This is to insure they know exactly what it is you want fixed, and coincidentally, is another opportunity to discuss additional service ideas.  Kind of a “hit’m so hard with a right they’ll be dying for a left” idea.

Here is where I digress to share with you Airstream’s brilliant business model.  As a student of business, this is exciting.  As a paying customer, perhaps not so much.  But let me explain their model so you get my point.

First, Airstream has about a 4-6 month wait to get an appointment; in other words, limited supply.  You don’t need to be Adam Smith to know what limited supply does to prices.

While this can be an onerous wait, what it does is give the Airstream owner time to ruminate over all the little things that could be fixed, adjusted, deleted, added… you get the point – a LIST.  Every month prior to our appointment, we would think of additional things to get fixed while there.  While the initial list may have had 4-5 items, by the time for that special day it has grown to 15-20 items.  At the top of our list was getting the lowrider package, so we could make our Airstream hop and jump.  Giddyup.

Airstream loves lists.  Twenty/thirty things on your list?  No problem.  Each item on a list gives them the opportunity to attach a bit of time to their efforts – justification for time (and materials) to make another satisfied customer.

By the time they are done, like Carl Spackler, you have achieved total consciousness.  “Honey, it’s like we have a whole new trailer – everything works!”  Gunga galunga.

And then you get the bill, and your mind flips into justification mode where you try not to seem like a mark.  Now I know a mark when I see one; they look like me.  It is said that the easiest people to sell are salespeople.  Guilty.

Now, there are always choices.  One could view YouTube tutorials and attempt repairs yourself.  For me, this is not an option because, like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, I seem to have something missing.

Another option is to reach out to one of the Airstream dealers located around the country.  The challenge with dealers is that when you call them to set up an appointment for service, the service date you are given is strictly a date for you to bring your Airstream for service.  That date has absolutely nothing to do with when they will work on your trailer.  Swell.

So for us, a trip to Jackson Center every few years does the trick.  Sorry, kids.

Keep on truckin’ – but stay out of Shreveport.

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