Avoiding the Bait & Switch in Workamping

Workampers use this term to indicate that an Employer promised one thing, but then changed it when they arrived. In some cases, deception is involved so it can be rightfully called “bait and switch.” Other cases are less clear cut.

by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak


An unfortunate topic in the Workamper community is “bait and switch.” In the retail world, bait and switch is when a store advertises a low cost item, but when the consumer arrives, it is “sold out” or the salesperson tells them that it is cheaply made, “buy this better (more expensive) model.”

Workampers use the term to indicate that an Employer promised one thing, but then changed it when they arrived. In some cases, deception is involved so it can be rightfully called “bait and switch.” For example, at one time, several Workampers have mentioned that one RV park corporation regularly hired people as managers. When they arrived for the job, they were told there were no management positions, but there were positions for hourly workers. It appeared to be a case of deliberately deceiving applicants to get motivated Workampers.

Other cases are less clear cut. It is not uncommon to come to an agreement and then find that some things have changed once you have arrived. The owner or manager may not have deliberately misled the Workamper; things really have changed. Perhaps fewer Workampers showed up, the manager didn’’t think through what she really needed, or visitation numbers have changed.

Preventing Surprises

1. Research the company and find out what other Workampers have experienced. This can give you points to clarify in your interview as well as weed out any Employers who have consistently changed their agreements.

Workamper News [Workamper.com] provides 3 avenues to help Workampers research an Employer and connect with Workampers who are working or have worked there. Workamper Experience postings are linked right with the ads in the Hotline system.

2. Get answers to all your questions about the job, compensation, and your RV site. Often job descriptions include the phrase “and other duties as required.” If you have a task or an aspect of the job that you will not do or must have, the interview is the time to discuss it. Don’’t assume that because it doesn’’t come up you don’’t have to worry about it. If you will not go up on roofs, cannot lift over a certain weight or need to sit down periodically, make sure the boss knows. If you want to be certain you have the same days off together, let the manager know this is non-negotiable. If you can’t get agreement, you should look elsewhere.

Make sure you understand fully what is said. For example, one Workamper thought they would be working 40 hours/week. In reality, they would have 40 hours if available, but several things could affect how much work there was. Ask for clarification— on what could affect your hours.

I recommend getting your agreement in writing. By going over all the points you want to include in your agreement, you are more likely to get a definite answer.

3. Verify that nothing has changed before heading to the job. A Workamper made a commitment several months in advance. They periodically checked with the manager. Before driving 1,200 miles, they talked to him again, found out the manager was leaving the corporation and that certain things they’’d discussed might not be honored. The Workamper talked to someone at headquarters; they ended up backing out because their agreement would have been changed.

Another situation can arise. You are interviewed by one person, but will work for another who may not be on the same page. One Workamper arranged to volunteer at a wildlife refuge in Arizona. The volunteer coordinator said they needed someone to operate heavy equipment and grade the roads. The Workamper checked ahead of time, even drove down for a day to confirm. After he had his rig set up and talked to the maintenance fellow he’’d be working with, he found out the maintenance man’’s ideas were totally different; he wanted the Workamper to spend the winter cleaning the garage. The Workamper declined.

If you are going to be reporting to someone else and not the hiring official, ask to talk your direct supervisor and make sure your agreements will be honored.

Most situations where things change on the job aren’’t bait and switch. Things have changed since you initially interviewed for the job. The boss hadn’’t determined exactly how he was going to utilize his workers and didn’’t know who was coming back. He realized at the last minute he had no one for a certain task, or perhaps another Workamper negotiated an agreement where he didn’’t have to do that task so that leaves you.

Dealing With Changes

If you find that has happened, ask for a meeting right away. Don’’t let time pass because, in effect, you are agreeing to the change. Try to work something out that is a win-win situation. Remember, though, that Employers have a business to run; they may not be able to give on that point. If something that was central to your agreement has changed and you can’’t work out an equitable solution, you have to decide whether to continue to work there or to leave.

For consumers, the saying goes, “Buyer beware.” In Workamping, it is up to the Workamper to investigate and to ask questions so there are little-to-no surprises.

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