Wednesday, May 13, 2015

RV cleaning out the pipes

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I hate to sound paranoid, but recently we put cash in a Forest Service Campground fee pipe and it came up missing. A ranger came around to collect from us and we showed him our receipt. He said there was no matching envelope in the pipe. After convincing him that we had paid, he took our word and honored our receipt.

Now every time I put money in one of those seemingly secure fee pipes I worry about it. Do you think I am being silly? We do this all the time and my husband says, "Get over it!"
--Nervous Nellie in Nevada

Dear Nellie:
Believe it or not, crooks with low aspirations have learned to fish envelopes from fee pipes. If you talk to a few host volunteers you will hear stories of string and gum, coat hanger fishing and super glue tangling.

Fee pipe security is really not your problem. Pay your fee, keep your receipt and leave crime solving to management. I am sure the ranger who talked with you has dealt with this problem in the past and will again in the future.

When dropping cash, check or charge card info into those pipes, you now know they could end up in the wrong hands. If it would help you sleep better, try using checks. Most low-level crooks, trying to support a meth habit, won't deal in checks, they want hard cash. But for security reasons, cash is probably your safest bet. Pipe heists are probably very uncommon, but caution is advised.

We always look the fee pipe over very carefully. Fake fee pipes have been used by crafty crooks. We also eyeball gas pumps for card readers that have been placed in the credit card slot to steal information. Having your card info ripped off is much more of a problem.

It happened to us in North Central Florida this winter. By the time we figured it out, the bad guys had pumped three hundred bucks worth of gas, Simonized their vehicle, ate at McDonald's and then celebrated with a stop at a liquor store.

The card company removed the charges from our account, but we were without a credit card for awhile until they issued us a new one.

There is a difference between paranoid and cautious. Two out of every five people suffer from paranoia. The other three are watching them suspiciously.

--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink


Merikay MacKenna said...

Cards are our primary means of payment. But I check our accounts almost daily for fraud. We each have one card in our wallets that the other does not carry, and one in the drawer so if we get ripped off we have n alternative. We learned our lesson on one trip and had to go careless for a week while waiting for a replacement, not easy.

Diane McGovern said...

I'm pretty sure they meant "cardless," not "careless." Surprising what one little letter can change!
Diane at

Lee Ensminger said...

We don't often stay at state/national parks where we deal with the "Iron Ranger," but here's a suggestion:
Use cash or checks. Almost everyone today has a smartphone. Set the camera to "video," and take a short movie of you putting the cash/check in the envelope, tearing off the receipt and depositing it in the tube. The videos are easy to delete later but would be excellent proof that you did indeed make the deposit. We'll leave the philosophical discussion of the sad state of America where some people think they have to steal campground fees for another time, but this should take care of your problem.

MrTommy said...

Lee, I like your video idea. I'll start doing that next time we have to pay somewhere. We are 90% boondockers, but if we stay at a 'pay' park, I'll be doing this.

Unknown said...

I'm thinking I'm going to start using coins. I don't think there's any way of fishing an envelope out of a pipe when it has a pound of quarters in it.


Anonymous said...

What is a fee pipe?

From Pierre

Anonymous said...

Most of the time an envelope disappears it is because the guest does not make sure that the envelope goes all of the way into the iron ranger. The next person can simply pull it back out and change to their envelope.
Campground Manager for 20 years.

My Photo Adventures said...

We were campground hosts for a summer in a forest service campground. We found that sometimes the envelope would get stuck in the pipe. The ranger/host can and should check that if there is a problem.