July 28, 2014
By Bob Cox
Some opinions, comments and links relating to what is happening in this great nation and, in particular, in Western Colorado.
I normally do not complain when I have to pay for a mistake that I made. I think that is just taking responsibility for being careless or even stupid sometimes, but some mistakes could be corrected, if only one was allowed to do so.
Of course, this all leads to me commenting on my increasing disappointment in how our government works. First, some history:
Way back before the turn of the century, in 1984 to be exact, an innovative group of people started a software development company. By 1992, Reserve America began specializing in providing a service for state and national parks, whereby we users of these lands of many uses could pre-register for campsites throughout the country. In 1997 the company formulated its first on-line registration protocol and was almost immediately embraced by our National Parks and U. S. Forest Service.
I really do not have a problem with paying a nominal fee for using some of the campgrounds, although that is not all encompassing. I do think that the partnership between these government agencies and Reserve America gave the government an easy way to charge us for something we are already paying for. Many of the fee areas probably would not exist if it were not for the fact that a third party is handling the paperwork – and they handle a lot of it. According to their own fact sheet, Reserve America oversees reservations for more than 300,000 campsites and cabins within various state and national parks each year. They process an estimated four million individual reservations each year. As near as I can figure, that is somewhere in the neighborhood of being an annual income of over $30 million. That figure comes about because Reserve America charges about eight dollars in “non-refundable” fees for each reservation.
It is that non-refundable fee that has my dander up this week. It all began because the U.S. Forest Service has two campsites with similar names and even in fairly close proximity to each other. By not paying attention, I managed to get reservations for two campsites in the wrong campground. I noticed the mistake within a few seconds after clicking that “complete” button on the web page and started the process of cancelling the reservation. That is when I realized that, not only is the processing fee non-refundable; there is also a cancellation fee. In my twisted logical mind, I decided that a phone call to a customer service representative and a brief explanation would solve this dilemma. All I wanted to do was cancel the reservations and make similar ones at the other campground. Simple, right?
After a long and admittedly confusing argument with a nice lady who kept apologizing for my problem, I ended up paying anyway. My original reservations tacked $72 on my credit card. After explaining everything, I received a $26 credit and went on to pay another $65 (including the non- refundable processing fee again) for the new reservations.
A forest service employee told me later that the forest service had no control over what is done by Reserve America. No control? They pay these people $30 million each year. They should have some control of some kind, but then I am beginning to think that it is not only the campground reservations that the forest service, and most other government agencies, have lost control of. In fact, I think most of them are completely out of control – period.
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© Robert R. Cox 2014