Campers Cry Foul Over RV Park Treatment
Dozens of people from five states claim they were charged thousands of dollars more than they originally were told they would pay to stay at Lee Acres RV Park in Farmington, N.M., during last month's National High School Finals Rodeo, according to the Farmington Daily Times.
Lee Acres RV Park overcharged for scores of recreational vehicle spots occupied by rodeo families from Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska and Oklahoma, say rodeo visitors from those states who made reservations with Lee Acres.
Lee Acres told rodeo visitors before they arrived that they would pay $300 for sewer, water and electricity connections for their RVs during the rodeo, held July 19 to 25 at McGee Park. Lee Acres instead charged them $400 when they arrived and told some they should stay elsewhere if they didn't want to pay the increased rate, rodeo customers said.
By comparison, rodeo visitors who stayed at Lee Acres last year said they paid $300. Recreational vehicle spots cost $180 at McGee Park and rodeo participants learned Lee Acres normally charges around $250 per month plus utilities.
Price gouging allegations during the rodeo aren't new to San Juan County. Rodeo visitors were overcharged for hotel rooms during last year's rodeo even though they confirmed lower rates with hotel employees earlier.
The rodeo has brought thousands of contestants and their families to Farmington the last two years.
The National High School Rodeo Association awards the event to host cities in two-year segments, and it's scheduled to be held in Gillette, Wyo., through 2011 and in Springfield, Ill., through 2013. Tres Rios High School Rodeo Association is continuing to analyze whether it will seek the event again in 2014 for Farmington.
Last week, Oklahoma families paid $6,400 total and $1,600 more than Lee Acres said they would pay in the first place, said Keith Washburn, vice president of the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association. He reserved 16 spots with Lee Acres by telephone, and collected $300 from each family before they arrived to the rodeo.
"I agreed to pay the $300, and you never would have heard a word out of me if that had been the case, but it wasn't the case," he said.
"I did not appreciate it at all," he added. "That's price gouging."
The additional $100 was deducted from each family's rodeo travel money, he said.
None of the rodeo participants said they were given receipts or written confirmation of the lower $300 rate.
Park Owner Denies Charges
Lavean Clayton, of Lee Acres, denied the RV park overcharged its rodeo customers.
"It don't matter to me what they're saying," Clayton said. "If they're not satisfied, they should come and tell me."
Clayton, who contends no one complained to her, declined to comment further.
Rodeo visitors said Lee Acres employees did not respond to their complaints about allegedly being deceived. Many were told to leave if they wouldn't pay the extra $100, though they had nowhere else to go, they said.
Participants from Louisiana, who paid Lee Acres individually, also were overcharged by $100 each, said Melanie Carroll, of Louisiana. Louisiana rodeo participants paid for around 15 spots, she said. Louisiana rodeo visitors paid $300 for each spot last year at Lee Acres.
"We felt like we were cheated when we got there," she said. "The people in your city were very nice, but we spent a fortune getting our kids qualified to go there and we get there and we get gouged."
She added that electricity for some rodeo participants wasn't working during their stay, so they had to power their RVs with generators. Lee Acres declined to fix the problem, she said.
Nebraska families were overcharged by $900 for nine RVs in $400 full-service spots, said Tricia Schaffer, national director for the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association. They paid $300 more each for six RVs with electricity and water but no sewer connections.
Lee Acres' quote at the end of June was $300 per full-service spot, and said her group would pay that flat fee regardless of the length of their stay during the rodeo, she said.
Lee Acres later demanded she pay $400 for each vehicle.
"This certainly puts a dark cloud over the whole thing," she said. "Most the people we dealt with locally are very nice."
The majority of Kansas families who stayed at Lee Acres were bilked by the RV park, said Greg Foley, president of the Kansas High School Rodeo Association. He didn't know exactly how many.
Kansans showed up to Lee Acres road weary and tired, but they became angry when they learned they would have to pay more than what Lee Acres promised.
"You don't have another spot and you get there … and they say, Well it's $400,' some would sure consider that's gouging," Foley said. "We're from Kansas. Your word is your oral contract."
Seven Montana families paid $400 apiece, more than the $300 apiece that Lynn Hirschy, of Montana, said she originally confirmed with Lee Acres in June. Eight families paid $300 for spots without sewer connections for their RVs.
"I was real surprised that she had gone up in price," Hirschy said.