Tuesday, February 24, 2015

RV lifestyle voodoo economics

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just stayed for one night at a Louisiana State Park. We went in without a reservation. Dry camping was $14 per night. When I looked at my credit card receipt I noticed I was charge $20. My receipt said the $6 was a reservation fee. When I questioned it I was told everyone is charged $6 the first night to pay for the Reserve America system they use for keeping track of their state campgrounds. I have never heard of this before. There is nothing on their park websites that explains this in advance. The park attendant never explained it when I paid, and she was even a bit huffy when I questioned it.

Have you ever heard of this before? Am I the only one that thinks this is a bit strange? My wife says, “Get over it!” Should I?
 --Nailed in New Orleans

Dear Nailed:
Your wife is right, get over it. Does it make sense? Not really. I questioned it as much as you did the first time I experienced it. To be honest I took it a few steps further. I was so curious I called the Louisiana State Park office and asked for more of an explanation. I was told they have tried running their own software and found it much more expensive than paying Reserve America six bucks for every paid camper night in their parks annually.

What they couldn’t tell me is what that number is. They have 22 State Parks and everyone pays, reservation or not. What I found most unusual was that they had no reference to this charge on their website or their Fees and Facilities Guide. When I questioned this, I was told I just missed it. I asked to be directed to where it is on their site. What I found was a reservation fee for six bucks. It states nowhere that everyone is charged this fee. Strange but true.

That said, Louisiana is priced fairly and competitively when compared to other states. Every state seems to have a different management vision. Texas, for example, charges 7 bucks per person per night for an entrance fee on top of camping. If you do not have an annual pass, you pay this fee every night. A couple would have to stay in Texas State Parks at least five times a year to break even on the annual pass. If you are just passing through it is often not the most economical camping. Other states tax campground fees, which add up quickly.

Louisiana does recognize seniors with half-priced camping. This is good for not only Louisiana residents, but any state that honors the senior passport the same as Louisiana. Unfortunately, that is only Arkansas, Delaware and Maryland. It takes some time to become familiar with all the various state and federal campground fees, rules and regulations. To the mix you can now add concessioners. They seem to be taking control of public lands.

I still have a hard time grasping the voodoo economics of public tax dollars subsidizing corporate managed state, federal and national park campgrounds, run by volunteers. In Louisiana it seems state government can’t manage a website and the Federal Government is finding it harder all the time to manage a simple campground.

A government bean counter recently figured out that the legacy costs of Smokey the Bear could be enormous, because bears are now living much longer. If Smokey retires and refuses to take a buyout his pension costs could become a fiscal anchor on the Forest Service. Smokey the Bear could soon be put on the endangered species list, replaced by a volunteer in a Yogi suit.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Unknown said...

Thank you for the fee info...it is not straight forward on many places ...and "fees"are going up almost everywhere!!

Anonymous said...

Since it is specifically listed as a "Reservation Fee" and you did NOT make a reservation or use the reservation system, I would challenge the charge via the credit card company. It IS false advertising.

MrTommy said...

I'm not a fan of 'hidden charges', and this comes under that heading. How can the 'system' just add a charge - for WHATEVER?

Anonymous said...

Hi All.

Just one of the many reasons I have been a so called Dry-Camper & Boon-Docker, being off the Grid, most of my 55 years of RV'ing & Motor Homing.

It is so rare, for me to use any Campgrounds. I do agree, that this is not good and I also think this is also "False Advertising". To be charged a Reservation Fee, when none was made. This should be stopped. Just another Government issue to rip ou off some more.

From Dan & Austin ( My Yorkie ) We are Full-Timers and True "Spirits of the Wind"

Calvin R said...

Just because a charge is unethical does not mean you will not be charged. Decision makers know that very few people will go through the legal process to recover small amounts of money, and they probably have better lawyers than we do. My solution is to ask for my total before I authorize payment. If I have allowed time, I may choose to go elsewhere; if not, I get over it.

Anonymous said...

You are correct about Texas having a daily entrance fee, however it is not always $7. It can be as low as $2. It seems to vary based on the popularity of the park. In addition, they offer the following discounts: 50% off entry for residents age 65+
50% off entry for permanently disabled individuals
100% off entry for anyone born before Sep. 1, 1930
100% off entry for disabled veterans, and children under 13 are free.

Unknown said...

After reading this I Googled Louisiana State Park fees - just to see - and it looks like they've taken note of the unhappy comments. I found this "A $6 non-refundable fee will be assessed on each overnight transaction made online, via phone, or as a walk-in." Complaining works!

Anonymous said...

We are past foster parents here in Oregon. The state parks allow foster parents camping with their foster children to stay in the state campgrounds free. HOWEVER, we were charged the $6 reservation fee for each reservation as Oregon also uses the Reserve America system.

2oldman said...

It's Smokey Bear, not 'the' bear.

Wolfe said...

Heeeey! We're foster parents too and never heard of this... wonder what other states may do this!?

simonsrf said...

Just one more reason to justify boondocking....Fees? Amazing what can be charged for a picnic table and a camp fire ring....but, then there are those who insist on those amenities, so they should pay the costs....not me.

Campgrounds are the opposite of my ideal camping. I prefer the clear star filled night sky, fresh air, and peace and quiet.

PapPappy said...

I don't know why the CG doesn't just add $6 to the regular fee. After all, if everyone is paying it, what difference does it make.

If the "regular" fee was $6 more, there is a very good chance that this letter would never have been written.

Anonymous said...

Everyone thinks fees are o.k And if they raise the fees, pay without protests. Soon the fees everywhere will be higher than the rig you are camping with. When will you start complaining about fees robbing us all. Let's keep the money in our pockets for putting elsewhere in our budgets