backchannel - Impromptu Campers

{from this thread on the Promaster forum}

OP’s complaint about the effects of reservation systems on those who choose not to make reservations sounds like entitlement to these ears.

We arrived late on Thursday (but early enough to avoid the weekend crowd) at one of the Texas State Park campgrounds.

They arrived without reservations. All spots were booked.

Gedanke: You go to a popular restaurant on Friday at 6pm, slightly before the rush. You don’t have a reservation and wish to be seated. Options:

  1. whine
  2. make a reservation next time or expect to be disappointed again
  3. attempt to change the rules to ensure walk-ins can get seated

That last option is what they call foreshadowing.

“We’re from Michigan, what do you suggest we do for tomorrow and Saturday?”.

A common tactic of the entitled is to offload one’s bad decisions on others using emotional leverage. Here we digress into a different scenario with similar dynamics.

I used to work at a place that that shared co-located offices with an unrelated agency. The unrelated agency would assist stranded motorists by dispensing a gallon of gasoline. In addition to legitimate uses it attracted so many freeloaders that the service had to start a spreadsheet to keep people from horking free gas more than X times a month.

I find rewarding freeloaders morally repugnant, but that wasn’t the immediate problem. The Problem was after Unrelated Agency went home our office was staffed 24/7 and their phone system rolled over into ours. Yay.

Caller: I need furl.
Me: Furl?
Caller: Furl! I’m out of gas!
Me: Oh. You called {Unrelated Agency} but they aren’t here after {whatever time/day}. The call rolled over to us.
Caller: But I need furl! I’m on the side of the road!
Me: I’m sorry to hear that. {Other Agency} won’t return until {whatever time/day}
Caller: What am I supposed to do?!?! {insert Tale of Woe here – see below}
Me: {thinking: “Consult your gas gauge from time to time? Don’t drive your car when it’s on E? Spend $2 on gas instead of that joint you’re hitting while you talk to me?”}
Me: Maybe you have a friend who could help? I can give you the number to a commercial service that will come. Or if you feel you are in danger you can call 911.
Caller: {in disbelief} Why can’t you bring me furl?

The Tales of Woe were predictable, and often re-used by the same caller on different days. The common thread was emotional blackmail.

  • “But I’m on the way to a funeral!”
  • “But I have kids in the car!”
  • “But I’m on the way to the hospital to see my sick {fill in the blank}
  • “But I don’t have any money!”
  • “But I’m from out of town!” (says the repeat caller)

No amount of emotional coercion will allow me to crap a service truck complete with gasoline, and the ability to leave my place of employment to address your personal crisis.

The pick of the litter was the gentleman who left from Fort Worth on I-20 on an empty tank of gas and wanted enough furl to get him to Lousiana. FFS, people. Honorable Mention: people who demanded only premium gas for their vehicle. Yeah, call AAA for that.

Back to the original topic.

We’ve written of the plight of the Impromptu Camper in this Forum before. Replies have been varied - - from acknowledgment and sympathy to “it’s not really a problem” - -

Weird. It’s like people think “a lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.”

with a myriad of solutions of varying efficacy offered.

The solution, IMO, is to start plan ahead (gasp!), do without, or boondock instead.

But it is a problem.

Well, it’s a problem for people who make choices and want to externalize the costs of those choices.

The following letter was sent by US mail to nearly one hundred state and federal campground administrators and organizations:

Here we go. I’ma leverage the power of the state to secure my perceived entitlement.



the Impromptu Traveler … class includes those who wander and explore as well as those whose circumstances do not permit advance planning. It is the purpose of this letter to draw attention to this ‘altered balance’ and to suggest a realistic modification to that system intended to restore public campground access for all.

My reading: take spots away from folks who plan to give them to people who can’t/won’t plan ahead.

However, lost in the associated ‘rush to reservations’ is an appreciation that not all travelers plan their adventures in advance.

I appreciate the choice to wander; it’s an approach that requires additional effort on the part of the wanderer. One’s choice to wander randomly without plans should not impose negative externalities on others.

there is the significant group - - often retired seniors - - who have finally ‘earned their freedom’. After a lifetime of regimentation and scheduling in the working-world, they have been released - - free to roam, free to wander, free to explore this great Nation and beyond.

This is where younger folks might bring up boomer entitlement. “I’m old so I should be allowed to do whatever I want and force you to help me do it.” Nope.

There is great enjoyment and merit in wandering without a rigid schedule

“With great enjoyment comes great responsibilities” - Spider-Man

Wander all you want, just take responsibility for the downsides.

But one important aspect of ‘first-come, first-served’ is its even-handed application. Both the Planner and the Impromptu Traveler have the same and equal access to our national heritage and its campsites.

FCFS also works with webpages.

virtually all Friday/Saturday slots are taken months in advance.

Use that vaunted Senior Freedom to camp mid-week?

We seek, only, to re-enfranchise a class of prior users who, by operation of the “full” (100%) reservation system, are now effectively excluded.

We seek to make our lack of planning your problem. And class warfare language duly noted.

Our suggestion would be to designate 25% as ‘first-come, first-served’ with, hopefully, these sites representing a fair cross-section of the campground’s fare - - not merely the least desirable in the park.

IMO the “least desirable” spots would be an ideal use for FCFS.

Another poster says:

What really sucks is that many of these sites are “reserved” by scalpers, and WON’T be occupied

  1. the existence of scalpers, if true, means the product is priced too low. People are obviously willing to pay more or scalpers wouldn’t exists.
  2. if the scalper did his job correctly the site will be occupied by the client. If the scalper fails s/he will go out of business.
  3. from the park’s workflow and budgetary POV, a paid-but-unoccupied site is better than a paid-and-occupied site, which is better than an unpaid-and-unoccupied site.

A poster who understands how markets works added:

State and Federal campgrounds aren’t trying to punish impromptu travelers, but faced with increased pressure on fixed or shrinking budgets, they’re just trying to maximize utilization of their resources.

Entitled people don’t care about markets. It would be amusing to know how many of them were Free Marketeers in the 80s when they were in the workplace.

The same person makes an insightful observation about Federal v. State parks:

… I think you’d have better luck at Federal campgrounds. State parks cater to state residents especially local state residents who live close by and use the park as an extension of their personal living space on weekends. They’re not particularly interested in the plight of ‘foreigners’.

This voice of reason continues:

Personally, we try to wander Sunday through Wednesday

A resourceful person finds ways around obstacles. An entitled person wants the law to be changed to suit them.