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Fishing before the Capitol

People fish on Monona Bay in Madison in 2013.

All Dorothy and Jimmy Ruff wanted was a cover to protect their aging fishing boat when the Wisconsin weather isn’t suitable for fishing.

Instead they got a cover that failed under the weight of heavy snow and a company going through bankruptcy that couldn’t provide a refund.

The Madison couple purchased the Covermate-brand cover in February at the now-closed Gander Mountain store in DeForest. Receipts showed they paid more than $100 for the cover and a two-year ADH (for accidental damage from handling) warranty that was supposed to replace the cover if something like what happened to the Ruffs actually happens.

Dorothy said she took the cover back to Gander in July but was told the store couldn’t provide store credit because it was in the process of being purchased by another company. On May 1, Illinois-based Camping World had announced it was buying Gander, which had declared bankruptcy in March.

She said she called the warranty company but was told the boat cover wasn’t, well, covered and Gander shouldn’t have sold her the warranty on it.

Neither Gander Mountain nor the warranty company would refund their money, Dorothy wrote SOS on Aug. 22. “Both say the other should cover it. … This may see like a small amount but we are both retired and cannot afford to throw away $100+.”

Given the number of parties involved in the Ruffs’ predicament, SOS thought it best to cast a wide net, and sent email messages, made phone calls or both to officials with Camping World, a public relations firm working on behalf of Camping World, and the company that appeared to offer the warranty plan the Ruffs weren’t being allowed to use. Included in some of the emails were copies of the Ruffs’ receipt.

The response was mostly crickets until Mike Wolkerstorfer, director of retail operations with Gander, called on Sept. 7 and provided an internal company email string showing a back-and-forth among officials with Camping World’s partner company, Good Sam Enterprises; Camping World; Gander; and the PR firm.

The string showed Good Sam representative Scott Blanc writing on Aug. 29: “We have a ‘good will’ claim payment fund that we can use to get them a check in the mail to cover the replacement cost of the cover,” and then on Aug. 30: “We have contacted the customer and let them know that there is a check on the way.”

It’s “hard to tell exactly where this fell apart,” Wolkerstorfer wrote SOS on Tuesday. “Bankruptcy and liquidation/closure the past seven months was a painful process. Thankfully, Camping World immediately stepped in and resolved the issue, no questions asked.”

A week ago, the Ruffs got their check for $126.98.

Speaking of checks

On Aug. 21, SOS reported that it had helped secure the promise of a pro-rated refund for an auto warranty a Verona couple had purchased, but never used, for their 2009 Toyota Scion.

Donald Stephens left a message with SOS on Tuesday to say a check for $1,667.07 from the warranty company had finally arrived. That’s about $50 less than the company had initially estimated, but Stephens said he’ll take it.


Chris Rickert is the urban affairs reporter and SOS columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal.