From day one Linda has not been happy with the pleated day/night shades that came with our coach. They were an off-white color meaning any little bit of dust or dirt immediately showed up. The material was course and paper like making it virtually impossible to clean. Over the years, according to Linda, the shades had been spotted with food due to my eating habits, and she was tired of feeling like no matter how hard she tried, it made it look like she wasn't keeping our house clean.
Then our friends, John and Judy, had MCD Duo Day/Night shades installed in their coach, and told us how much they liked them. When we traveled with John and Judy for a time during the winter of 09/10, spending much time in their coach, Linda knew the Duo Shades were what she wanted. Unfortunately. because of our trip to Alaska in the summer of 2010 we wouldn't be able to have them installed in our coach for almost a year. At the time, John had mentioned that while they loved the shades, the installation and customer service part of their experience was poor at best, something we were to learn first hand.
There was the option of having them installed at an authorized dealer or at the factory, and being unsure of the degree of MCD's dealer's proficiency in the art of correctly measuring and installing the shades, we elected to go to the factory. Plus having had work done at other factory's on other items in our coach, we felt a factory installation of the product was the best way to make sure that everything was done as it should be. Were we ever wrong about that.
In January Linda called the factory, talking to Joy who was very knowledgeable and pleasant to talk to. The result was an appointment in early March where we would come in on a Sunday, with that week being set aside for our installation. When we got involved in buying our Retama lot and needed to move the appointment up a week, Linda again called Joy, who cheerfully rescheduled our appointment and once again gave us a good feeling about what was to happen at the factory.
Arrival at MCD - Sunday February 28
With our installation scheduled to begin on Monday, February 28, we were to arrive the day before. This worked out great, especially since McKinney is on the northwest corner of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and driving through there on a week day wasn't something we wanted to do. Enjoying our time at Fort Richardson State Park, we left around 2 PM for the 90 minute or so drive to McKinney.
The drive was uneventful, and we made sure to follow their instructions, since the shortcut the GPS directs you to is not amenable to RV traffic. They also warn you about the dip in their driveway, suggesting you take it at an angle, which we did, though it really didn't seem to be all that bad. There are certainly gouge marks in the pavement, so if you have something that hangs way down, you will probably drag. All of which begs the question, knowing what type of vehicles their customers drive, why do they not fix this problem? Are they there for themselves or for their customers?
We could see a number of RV's parked to the left as we entered their lot, and also the words Check-in, painted on the pavement. Since we were in space number six, Linda had it spotted and was telling me where to go. Space 5, was occupied by a motorhome that had a pickup truck parked behind it. The truck sporting an enormous bicycle rack that hung way out making it less than ideal for us to be able to get into our spot on the far side of them. It also didn't help that the pickup was parked a distance back from the motorhome instead of right up to it.
I stopped, planning to unhitch the Explorer to make it easier to pull into our space, when I saw someone waving at me to pull forward. It was Peggy with MCD and she was greeting us. She said Jim, another MCD employee would help guide us into our space, but the feeling I got was that they wanted to hurry up and get this over so they could do something else. And since we were the last customer to arrive, what they wanted to do probably didn't have anything to do helping customers.
Jim wanted me to just pull in with the Explorer attached, but given the angle I needed to turn, and how hard it is to unhook the Explorer when the hitch is crooked, I was going to unhitch first. We did have the option of backing in, which would give good access to the 50 amp electrical outlet, but with a view of the side of their building. Or we could pull in and have a view of an open field, but we would need to use the 50 amp extension cord to reach the outlet. We pulled in.
No sooner am I pulled in than Jim is saying he will turn on the power to the outlet as soon as I plug in the cord. When he saw the cord wouldn't reach, and I was starting the process of digging out the extension cord, I got the distinct impression that he really didn't want to waste his time waiting on me. Now I'm an easy going guy, but you treat me like I'm the worst thing that happened to you today, and I'm going to figure out a way to make your day even worse. Lets just say I may have had a little problem locating that cord in all those boxes under the coach. Lets also just say that neither Linda nor I were feeling any particular customer appreciation emanating from MCD towards us based on what had taken place so far.
Fortunately Linda had learned from the MCD website that they had only 50 amp electrical hookups, and no water of sewer, so you needed to show up with a full water tank, and empty black and gray tanks. Now with electric, we settled in to wait for the morning. Peggy had said they would start with the coach in slot one at 8 o'clock and work their way down. Since we were number six of seven, we weren't surprised to have to wait for a while before they got to us. And in the back of my mind were John's words about about watching the installation to make sure they did it right.
Measurements and Estimates - Monday, March 1
On Monday morning, according to she who keeps track of such things, it was 9:42 when the knock came on the door, and soon we were talking to Peggy and Christina about what we wanted on the estimate, today being measurement, estimate and decision day at MCD. Peggy was the old hand, with Christins being the newer kid on the block, the one who would be working with us when Peggy left on Thursday for a rally in Georgia.
It was explained that all the windows would be measured by a separate crew, then an estimate would be worked up, after which we would give our approval and pay for the materials at that time. Installation would be billed on an hourly charge basis for the actual time it took to do the work. For the estimate, we would need to decide whether we wanted the solo or duo shades, which color and grade of vinyl or fabric we wanted, as well as which windows, if any, we wanted with power shades.
The front sun and nightshades are required to be power operated, but we had the choice of power or hand operation on all the rest of the windows. Linda initially said that hand operated would be what we wanted for all of the them, but I wanted the one beside me to be power as it is very distracting to have to reach up and pull it down while driving, electing to have both the day and night shades powered. Once they had all the information they needed, we were given fabric swatches in order to pick which material we wanted for the night shades, either the standard vinyl, or an additional cost fabric.
As was the case the night before, it seemed as if the process was being rushed for some reason, and it was only as they were getting ready to leave that Christina had mentioned to Peggy that they needed to leave a material swatch packet with us. In hindsight we would have asked a lot more questions if we had known what to ask, but that was only learned as we went through the entire selection and installation process. Making it one of those, if I'd only known then what I know now situations. But really, we shouldn't have had to ask any of them. There should have been a much better explanation of everything by Peggy in the first place.
While we didn't know exactly when the people doing the measuring would be getting to us, we were fairly certain that we would be the next coach measured. What gave it away was what we saw resting next to the front door of the coach, the measuring sticks they use to measure the width of the different windows in the RV's.
The smallest measuring stick was used for windows such as the one shown above and behind my computer on the narrow wall of the slide out. A twist and it extends, the cushioned ends touching each wall. A twist and it is locked, then it's length is determined with a measuring tape. For the vertical measurement only the measuring tape was used. All the measurements were entered on a standard form carried on a clipboard.
The intermediate sized device was used on the larger side windows, while the largest measuring rod was used on the front window. The larger rods had padded rollers that could be placed up against the window without causing any damage to the window or valance. The two employees who did the measuring would also be the installers, so we suspected they would be making sure all the measurements were as accurate as possible. They were quietly efficient, with a minimum of conversation between them, and we certainly didn't want to distract them and cause them to make an error, though we did talk to the one fellow while he was waiting for the other to finish up so they could measure the front window. In hindsight we should have asked them about every measurement. Why they were taking it where they were, especially for the cockpit area side windows that had no side boxes.
Measuring the front windows was definitely a two man operation, and it took some time before it was completed. They mentioned the only modification needed with our coach would be a small notch that will be cut into the corner covers that were at the top of the front A pillars. As far as installation was concerned, they said it generally takes 6 to 8 hours for the windshield, and approximately 2 hours for all the remaining windows in the coach.
We had also discussed the new valances, both with Peggy and the installers. They would be making these to cover the shade mechanisms over the windshield and at the sides of the cockpit. We were surprised that this part of the installation was a pretty much, this is what we have, take it or have someone else do it, attitude. That in itself wasn't much, but it was just another addition to that feeling that we were getting that this whole process was more about them than it was about the customer.
Once the measuring was completed, during which we gave them our choice for the material for the night shades and the valances, (we picked a different material for the valances than the shades), it was time to wait for Peggy and Christina to work up our estimate for the materials and return to the coach.
Peggy was back at 12:15, and we opted to have all the windows, including the bathroom window, redone with MCD shades. We had discussed whether to have the bathroom done or not, I having conceded earlier to Linda's request that the bedroom also be done. They had worked up a quote with and without the bathroom, and as luck would have it, just as they were heading to the back of the coach my phone rang. By the time I finished the call, I was being told by Linda that she had approved the quote that included the bathroom.
The estimate did not include labor, which is charged after the job is completed, and is based on the actual number of hours it takes to install our shades. Now we wait until sometime on Wednesday or Thursday for the installation to begin. The reason for not knowing when is because Peggy said they would probably be getting to us sometime on Thursday, while the two employees who did the measuring, and who are also the installers, had said they would likely be starting on Wednesday. As Linda observed, the installers probably have a much better idea as to when it will take place.
Waiting Day - Tuesday March 2
Today was the day our MCD shades were to be manufactured, though we didn't expect that installation would begin until Wednesday. So with that in mind we drove into McKinney in the morning walking around the old town downtown area, then returning to the coach in the early afternoon. We were each working at our computers when we heard a knock on the door just after 3 o'clock. The door opened and our shades started being carried inside. As the shades were brought in, each was placed in front of the window where it would be installed. We could see the black, day shade and the opaque, cream, night shade in each unit.
Once all the shade units had been carried in, with the exception of the one for the front windshield, the installation process began. Brandon was doing the installation, and working window by window, he removed the current blinds and then istalled the new shade before moving on to the next window. It actually looked quite easy, and Brandon commented that the deep valances of our coach made it go quickly. I don't know how they decide who is going to be doing the installation for which coach, but I got the distinct impression Brandon was happy to be doing ours.
The first step was to remove the old blinds, which involved removing the two screws holding the bottom strings of the existing shades. Then the shade was held up and two or three screws, depending on the size of the shade were unscrewed and the shade removed. Installation consisted of installing two or three new mounting clips, depending on the size of the widow, snapping the shade unit into them and a quick check to make sure they worked. It took between 4 and 8 minutes per window depending on the size of the shade and how easy it was to access where the blind was, such as working over the table, etc.
The cockpit shades, as well as the windshield shades were also installed, with the two powered shades being wired so they could be lowered for the night. We did notice a wrinkle in the windshield shade, but other than that, we were quite pleased with how things were going. The did say the cockpit area shades would be further adjusted tomorrow, and the two powered units were only temporarily installed and they would be working on them tomorrow, starting shortly after eight. Needless to say, they weren't gone for long before Linda was raising and lowering shades, trying them out, and proclaiming, I like them, I really like them.
The Cockpit Area - Wednesday, March 2
Yesterday afternoon Brandon had said he would be back shortly after 8 this morning, and true to his word, the knock on the door came at the appointed time for the start of what we hoped would be the last day of the installation of the shades. The only items remaining, were the shades and valance trim work in the cockpit area.
One thing we really liked about MCD shades was the unique mechanism they had developed to allow the entry screen door to be covered with a retracting day shade. But then again, considering the prices you pay for the MCD Shades, it had better be something special.
We knew the front shade had only been installed on a temporary basis in order to give us some privacy last night, but those wrinkles had Linda very concerned, and she was definitely not going to be a happy customer if they were a permanent fixture. Upon voicing her concern, we learned it was caused by the fabric walking on the roller, something that is fairly common with the wide front windows, but is easily fixed. The fix being to add one or two short pieces of masking tape to the very top of the roll on the opposite side, which Brandon then proceeded to do.
Since we had been told that it might take as much as 3 to 4 times as long to finish up the front section as it took to do the back part of the coach, we were expecting them to be working most of the day, and that was what it took. A good deal of time seemed to be spent in adjusting the shades to hang straight and seal out the light around the edges.
The final part of the process was to fabricate, cover, and then, install the trim pieces that would hide the shade mechanisms in the cockpit area. The trim pieces consisted of a thin plastic board that after being covered with the fabric of our choosing, was attached to the bottom of the cabinets at the front of the coach. Once the plastic boards were first cut, they brought them in and checked the fit. Then, after they were covered with the fabric we selected, they were installed.
Linda was most anxious to see what the completed installation was going to look like, so whenever it looked like they could use an extra hand, she was there. Once all this was done, they did some more checking of the shades, making some final adjustments, and then left..
As we waited for Tremaine, who seemed to be the person in charge of the installation process, to come out for what we assumed would be the final inspection, Linda noticed something that definitely was not right. Not only not right, but it totally baffled us as to how it could have been left that way. That is the rear edge of the window beside my driving seat, and as the photo clearly shows, the shade was not hung straight.
But it wasn't just that it wasn't hung straight, it also clearly didn't cover the front corner of the window. I also couldn't understand why the screen was made so narrow in the first place. How difficult would it have been to have made the shade an inch or two wider and solved the problem. And I'm not talking about the gap at the front of the window, I'm talking about the gap at the back of the window.
I may have spoken a little louder than necessary, but sometimes one has to voice their displeasure in ways other than quiet indignation, and in this case I was overflowing with indignation, not only mine, but also Linda's, and she was, really, really unhappy, so much so that she had said I needed to do all the talking. After Tremaine left, Peggy came out, claiming ignorance of our conversation with Tremaine. Any small remaining shred of credibility Peggy had with Linda vanished at that moment. It ended with our being told we would have it all fixed in the morning, because they like their customers to happy. However that doesn't mean that the bad taste of this part of our dealings with MCD will quickly, if ever, vanish.
Final Adjustments - Thursday March 3
Right after 8 o'clock this morning the knock came at the door, and Brandon, who had done the majority the installation, came in and started adjusting the shade by my seat. I'm not sure what they look at when they square things up, but there was a good inch plus of the window frame on the left side showing when he was done.
Last night we had recieved a bit of song and dance from Peggy about how they measure the windows, which was after she had told us several days ago that the installers do the measuring and she didn't get involved in it. I believe that might be interpreted by some as changing your story to fit the circumstances. To me the problem looked more like they were trying to save a few pennies where ever they could, and had simply made the shade too narrow. Last night while Peggy was telling me that MCD would never do that, I was thinking; do I believe what you say, or do I believe what you do?
To cover the light leaking in at the front of the window, a blackout insert was made, and apparently it was scratched when it was was being cut out. Meaning it needed painting, and we were told it would be dry in about 45 minutes. After 90 minutes of waiting, Tremaine and I had a discussion, soon after which the piece was brought out, very tacky with paint, which suggested very strongly to me that it had just been painted. After all, how long does it take black spray paint to dry.
We were told we were good to go, but not having seen the front shades being operated with the engine running, I thought I'd test them first. Thank goodness I did, because they were programmed wrong. Instead of coming part way down the windshield and stopping so they wouldn't block my view of the road, they came all the way down, then would only go up a short way and stop. To get them to go up I had to turn off the engine. When I showed Tremaine the problem, this time there was no trying to tell me I may be wrong. There was no explaining something to me that someone else should have already explained to me. I could tell from the way he was muttering about his installer that something was going to happen fast. It wasn't but a few seconds and Brandon was back out, reprogramming the control. This time it worked right. With that we accepted the installation, paid for the labor charge, which was very reasonable, maybe a peace offering, and left.
I guess it was only fitting that when we stopped for the night and tried to fit the blackout insert in place, it hadn't been made right. I guess MCD really means, Making Crap Daily.
In conclusion, I will say that we really do like our MCD shades from what we have seen so far. But, and it is a big but, whether it is upper management not setting the right tone for the rest of their employees, more work than they can handle, or a lack of attention to detail, there is something definitely not working with their factory installations. Other than Tremaine and Joy, our interactions with the personnel at MCD left something to be desired. Knowing what I know now, I believe it would have been better to have our shades installed by one of their top dealers, Davis Cabinets in our case, because we hear from the people who deal with Davis in other areas, what a quality operation they are. As always, your experiences may vary, but the foregoing was what ours was.
P.S. MCD says they have wifi available. True statement. However the signal was so weak and intermittent that for us, it was worthless.