Recreation.gov

Discussion in 'Reservation Systems' started by Brad Metzger, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    Re: Recreatin.gov

    No, you don't have to like it and yes, you are entitled to voice that....and I agree, it is a rip-off. It's one of the many reasons I generally choose not to make reservations; I only do so very occasionally with the knowledge that I'm paying additional fees for convenience and that I'm going to get screwed if I cancel. Frankly, it's not any different than pretty much anything else I could reserve on-line....there is almost always a penalty for backing out, particularly at the 12th hour.

    Part of that is money making and part of that is to help ensure that people don't just go about canceling their reservations and leaving sites that could otherwise be filled, empty. It also helps to prevent people from just booking a site or multiple sites, "just in case." This is also the reason for the multi-night requirements, particularly on weekends and holidays.

    Is it a perfect system? Absolutely not....but could you imagine the chaos that would ensue if there was no penalty. I understand your frustration, but it is the way of things....I don't think any amount of complaining will actually change anything. If you don't want to make reservations, there are thousands of people behind you just itchin' to fill your void.
     
  2. Dubbya

    Dubbya Wherever you go, there you are...

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    The Manitoba Parks Camping Reservation system is run by the Provincial Government. Here's their cancellation policy.

    "cancellations done 4 or more days in advance of arrival ensure a full refund less the non-refundable reservation fee ($9.00). If you cancel within 3 days of arrival, you will receive a refund less one night camping fee ($25-$29) and the reservation fee. Cancellation after the day of arrival or not telling us that you are unable to camp result in the forfeiture of all fees."

    Sounds about the same as what the OP was charged except for the extra $20 for their "order processing fee" and that is pure profit right there. So, they withhold one night's rental fee, plus the $29.00, then they rent out the site to someone else who's more than happy to pay the full rate.

    Why wouldn't the government want a contract like this? Every time someone cancels, they get $40 and don't have to lift a finger to earn it. It's genius!
     
  3. EK41

    EK41 Member

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    As I said earlier I have only made reservations once and thats for next weeks trip to Glacier NP. It's about 270 miles away and not sure if we would be able to get there before the 1st served CGs fill up. With the number of people who use our national and state parks, reservations are becoming a necessary evil. Couldn't imagine driving across country to Yosemite NP and not being able to find a place to stay. That would be way to much stress and ruin the trip.
    From my experience camping in California, if you want to stay at a coastal or lake side CG, you need reservations during the summer months. If you want to go off season sure, they are available.

    I hate the idea of paying for a reservation. I don't pay to make a reservation at a restaurant, hotel or to have my hair cut.

    Does anybody know how this contract works? Are they paid a certain amount or do they collect the fees for the reservations?
     
  4. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    What we have here is two distinct entities operating in unison to provide a service. The gov't is providing the park and CG; the private, for profit corporation is providing on-line reservation services. The CG camping fees go to the gov't as they are providing that part of the equation. The fees and whatnot go to the corporation.

    Again, this all goes to supply/demand economics. There is a public demand for the convenience of on-line booking....Reserve America (and it's parent corp) meet that demand by providing this service. The reservation fees, deposits, cancelation fees, etc go to Reserve America. Does anyone know of a private, for profit entity that provides their services for free? If so, I'd like to hear about it.

    These fees are how the corporation turns a profit...without them, how would they generate a profit? There is nothing else that they are selling besides this service. If they don't generate a profit, what would be the motivation for providing the service? There wouldn't be any motivation regardless of demand and everything would be FCFS just like it used to be.

    I often find it humorous and ironic when the public demands a service and then gets all bent out of shape when they have to pay for said service and/or get bent out of shape because said service provider is profiting from providing that service. It's called a free market economy....it's kinda what we do here. Being a free market, the people actually do hold all of the power...when public demand dips, so does the cost....when demand increases, so does the cost. In my estimation, the demand for this service is pretty strong, so I don't imagine these fees will disappear or decrease anytime soon....if anything, they will only increase.
     
  5. Dubbya

    Dubbya Wherever you go, there you are...

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    I agree with you to this point...

    It seems to me that if public demand dips, government services disappear and the funds get (mis)appropriated elsewhere. Cost reductions that might benefit the consumer (in the short term) only ever occur where competition exists in private industry.

    Why booking a campsite (online or off) at a publicly owned campground that public taxes pay to operate has to generate a profit for a private corporation is beyond me. If they need to charge for cancellations, fine. Charge what it actually costs! How much could it be? A buck-fiddy for the payment reversal and a few bucks for the annoyance of it all? Really, it's not like someone has to go change a ledger manually or anything.

    Anything more than that is just cash grabbing and greedy, especially when they're so likely to rent the site out to someone else immediately anyway.

    That's my .02.
     
  6. bandc12

    bandc12 New Member

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    I would much rather have a reservation at a campground than not. I like knowing I have a specific spot waiting for me and knowing it's mine the whole trip. I don't understand how some people are ok with setting up and then being asked or having to move the next day because someone has a reservation!
     
  7. Brad Metzger

    Brad Metzger New Member

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    I am curious where you you got your information that this was a public demand, and it was instituted by that demand. All I've seen was that it was a contract awarded by the government. that does not necessarily mean it was due to public demand.
     
  8. Dubbya

    Dubbya Wherever you go, there you are...

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    Same here... The DW is "detail oriented beaver type [:!]" while I'm more of the "adventurous otter type [:D]".

    It took a few years but I've learned that things go much more smoothly and any endeavor is much less problematic if she knows it's all organized down to the last possible detail. So much the better if she's got a checklist! [;)]
     
  9. EK41

    EK41 Member

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    I get that a company has to make a profit. I also work for the federal government and know that most contracts have a bidding process. Before I would ever agree that privatization is good or its a free market and that's the way it works, I really like to know just what are we paying for. My question is, are these gov agencies paying recreation.gov to provide this service, than we also pay them with a fee? Does the gov get a share of the money from recreation.gov for allowing them to be the reservation service? To me this should be the second way, but we are talking about gov agencies so who knows. In this contract which way is the exchange of money going? After all the government provides the product and doesn't really need the reservation system to sell it.

    I do agree that there has to be some built in protection with cancelled reservations. If it were my business and I turned others away because I committed to you, I would expect you to remain committed to me. Emergencies do come up, but you can't expect somebody else to pay because your kids baseball team made the playoffs and your weekend in no longer free.
     
  10. Brad Metzger

    Brad Metzger New Member

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    EK, I think you have brought up some very valid points. The contract originally was for 94million for this company to administer the site, but that was 20 years ago and now they are owned by by another company, so not sure how they get paid/make money on top of the contractual amount from the government. They are associated with Ticket Master so that can explain quite a bit.

    here is their change/cancellation policy:

    Change and Cancellation Policies:
    To ensure fairness for all Recreation.gov customers, reservations with departure dates outside the 6 or 12 month booking window cannot be changed or cancelled until 18 days after the reservation is made.

    Camping/Day Use: A $10.00 service fee will apply if you change or cancel your reservation (including Campsites, Cabins, Group Facilities, etc.)
    Changes can only be made at through the Call Center by calling 877-444-6777.
    Cancellations can be made either at Recreation.gov or by calling our Call Center.

    This $10.00 cancellation fee will be deducted from the amount of the refund given to the customer.
    Late Cancellations:
    Late cancellations are those cancelled after 12:00 midnight (Eastern Time) two days before arrival.

    Individual Campsites: If an individual cancels a reservation the day beforeor on the day of arrival they will be charged a$10.00 service fee and will also forfeit the first nightÂ’s use fee (not to exceed the total paid for the original reservation). Cancellations for a single night's reservation will forfeit the entire use fee but no cancellation fee will apply
    Cabins/Lookouts: Customers will be charged a $10.00 cancellation fee and forfeit the first night's use fee if a cabin or lookout reservation is cancelled within 14 days of the scheduled arrival date.
    Group Facility: If a customer cancels a group overnight facility reservation within 14 days of the scheduled arrival date they will be charged the $10.00 service fee and forfeit the first night's use fee. Cancellations for a single night's use will not be assessed a service fee.

    If a customer cancels a group day use facility reservation within 14 days of the scheduled arrival date, they will forfeit the total day use fee with no service fee charge.
     
  11. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    Public taxes pay to operate the park and CG...they do not pay for the reservation system. Again, it's a private corporation that is providing that service per a contract with the gov't, not the gov't itself. In an effort for smaller and smaller gov't, things like this get outsourced to the private sector....the private sector is profit motivated.

    In RE to only charging what it costs....that's the very definition of a not-for-profit. No for profit corporation charges what it costs to provide the goods or service. No for-profit corporation has goals and aspirations of simply breaking even. Reserve America is a for-profit corporation....the Recreation.gov isn't actually the reservation website....it will take you to ReserveAmerica.com website when you go to book a particular park/CG.
     
  12. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    Common sense and numerous years in the business world....for-profit corporations cease to exist where there is no demand. Turning a profit is very difficult to do if there is no demand.

    It's kind of like at my current place of employment....Being 2012 and all, and being an "E" world we live in, there was growing demand from the public for the Court to provide on-line, e-filing to start new court cases and dockets; this, rather than busy attorneys having to physically drive to the court house just to do some paper work and/or having to snail mail everything.

    The Court itself does not have the resources nor the expertise for such a venture; as such, the Court, in conjunction with the State, outsourced the project (via a gov't contract) to a for-profit corporation who has done this in numerous other states. E-file and serve is completely reliant on the fees it charges attorneys for the convenience of setting up a case on-line rather than in person....no tax dollars go to the project, it is completely fee driven. Further, neither the Court nor the State see a dime of those fees. The purpose was to provide a service that was in demand....this private company noted said demand and was willing to step in and take on the project. By the by, a fair number of attorneys did complain about the fees, but what are you going to do....they wanted it and they got it; guess they thought they were going to get it for free or something.

    I don't know all of the ins and outs of the contract for Reserve America, but I would imagine that it works in similar fashion. And yes, there is a bid process.
     
  13. Brad Metzger

    Brad Metzger New Member

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    And I guess that's my point. These parks are not for profit, I (and you) pay for there upkeep through our tax dollars. I do appreciate I have to pay a fee to stay and have the privilege of using the service provided at the location. I also will pay additional fees to change or cancel a fee up to a certain amount. I was happy when I could call a campground and make a reservation directly with them. I no longer have that ability.

    So free market is a monopoly that can charge additional fees for something I already pay for in taxes and then they also get additional money from the govt. to provide this service?

    Yes, I can drive to the campground and hope there is a site available, but that is not realistic for someone who is working 40 hours a week, so what other option do I have to gain access to a park that I pay taxes to support?

    And since when did common sense have anything to do with Washington awarding contracts for services that nobody needed or that were already being provided/

    Oh right, this is America, and this is " kinda what we do here". Its all about profit [:(O]

    yes, boon docking is an option, but it limits those who do not have the means to access these locations. It also limits where and when you can camp when restrictions are in place.
     
  14. 2318gman

    2318gman New Member

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    I like to plan ahead. I use recreation.gov almost exclusively, and have been burned on some of the cancellations. However when I've reserved, I've never been burned on campsites, and I like that more than I like trying to go camping and getting skunked.

    Anymore around here, if you don't reserve, you don't camp.
     
  15. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    highplains - I do understand your frustration. The point that many seem to be missing is that, while the park itself is a not-for profit, the corporation taking the reservations and maintaining the reservation system is not. The fees, etc that go to Reserve America do not pay for upkeep of the park or have anything to do with the park. If you call Reserve America to say....make or cancel a reservation at the Grand Canyon...you aren't talking to someone at the Grand Canyon...you're talking to someone in an office building in California or something. Even when you inquire about park specifics, they usually don't have a clue....they are mutually exclusive business ventures; one for-profit and the other not-for-profit.

    You do not already pay for the reservation services with your tax payer dollars...you only pay for the park upkeep and maintenance. The reservation system is a mutually exclusive business operation from the park itself. Yes, the corporation did receive the $94M from the gov't for initial set-up of the project. From there, I would assume all profits for that corporation are soley derived from those fees as this is how I've seen the vast majority of gov't contracts work unless they are providing a direct service to the gov't itself (i.e. making meals for the troops, manufacturing military equipment, etc)

    Going back to my example at work. I forget the exact figures, but the state did enter into a bidded contract with this particular company to make e-file and serve possible in our Court. The contract itself, while hefty, did not provide that particular corporation a profit, as most gov't contracts do not. The contract itself usually covers the cost of putting the infrastructure in place as well as the labor to get everything properly set up....programming....debugging, etc. The contract itself is not what is attractive to the gov't contractor....it's the potential profits to be had down the road when the services are offered up to the public.

    The beef that some attorney's had when the project was implemented is the same one you're having. They simply didn't understand that it wasn't the Court charging them anything add'l and that we don't see a dime of those initiation fees...they all go to the service provider. They didn't understand how, we, being a public body were charging those fees and were very confused by the whole private party contract. Most get it now that we are well underway with a couple of years under our belts.

    That provider puts in a lot of work managing the system...updating software.....writing add'l code.....answering help desk calls, etc. No way the Court could undertake such a thing. We simply lack the resources and I highly doubt the State would ever approve the army of IT professionals necessary to manage the system, not to mention the add'l administrative personnel required for accounting, etc. A lot more goes into it than just throwing up a website.
     
  16. Travelhoveler

    Travelhoveler New Member

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    That's likely not entirely correct. ReserveAmerica bid on the interagency contract, so the agencies are getting something, either a lump sum or a percentage, in addition to the actual camping fees (as well as fees ReserveAmerica collects for permits, shelter reservations, etc.).

    But I am sure the majority of the fees they collect, they keep.
     
  17. PNW Family

    PNW Family New Member

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    Not being able to reserve might be nice if you can get to the campground on a Thursday or Friday... a luxury I do not have. I work in a position where I am required to find my own coverage if I want to take a vacation day, and I happen to work 1pm-midnight on Fridays. The last time I was able to get a Friday off? When the twins were born, over 14 months ago. It's not for lack of trying, it's just that no one.. ever... will cover my Fridays.

    On most weekends (especially sunny ones), not only do the nearby CG's fill up by Saturday early morning, so do the boondocking areas.

    I don't mind paying a slight premium to make sure I get not only a site, but the site I want.
     
  18. rjniles

    rjniles Member

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    I you want to camp in a state park on the coast in SC in the summer, reservations are a must (or you do not camp.) Same for Florida Keys and Florida west coast in the winter.
     
  19. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    I'm very grateful that I do not have to deal with that situation.
     
  20. badgamuss

    badgamuss Member

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    It could be worse... Ticketmaster could be running things. [:D]
     

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