Saturday, August 24, 2019

Shitty Directions

If you're going to run a business where people visit your location, publish your actual physical address, not the PO Box where you receive mail.

One of the mind-bogglingly frustrating things about travelling by RV is how many businesses and campgrounds simply refuse to give out their physical address for some reason.  It appears like they're hiding from the law or something.  They want people to come visit their business, but rather than give out their physical address, they either give out their mailing address - or a set of half-ass instructions.

We've even seen this with state parks.  We are visiting a state park - in a state that will not be named -  and the address given on their website was that of the park ranger's personal home in town.  This wouldn't be such a bad thing other than he lived on a dead-end dirt road and we had to back up the camper a quarter mile once we realized we were at his house, and not at the park.  I should have camped on his front lawn.

Seems like a simple thing, publishing your address, but for some reason people seem resistant to doing it.  Many folks argue that GPS systems are inaccurate, and that giving out the physical address will cause people to go to the wrong location.  Maybe in the early days of GPS this was true - we've seen several instances in the past where GPS systems used to misdirect people to the wrong location.  That was a decade ago - or more.  Most of the people who run these parks don't travel very much and they're not familiar with more modern GPS systems which are much more accurate and have far better databases than in the past.

So, when you call them for their real address, after you're sitting idling in front of their personal residence for half an hour, they still won't give you the address.  "Oh you don't want that, the GPS will steer you the wrong way.  Let me give you directions!" they say.  Then, they proceeded to give you this long-winded recitation of turns and distances which are from the interstate and not really very helpful from where you are.

Sometimes these passive-aggressive campground owners tip their hand.  We recently went to one campground and I noticed that the address they provided on their emails and website was for box number.  I correctly presumed that rather than give out their physical address they were giving out their mailing address at some for-profit postal center.  And indeed, once I punched this information to the GPS, I could see that the address shown was nowhere near the waterfront campground, but rather at a postal center far inland.

Worse yet, their half-assed directions on their website basically told you how to get to the town, but didn't tell you where within the town the campground was located.  And once you're in the town, there was only a tiny sign indicating where the campground was.  Indeed, once we got to the campground it was hard to tell if it was the actual campground, as there were eight signs on the front advertising the marina, the bar, a resort, and one sign actually in Chinese.  There was only one tiny sign indicating the campground.

A small thing, perhaps.  But consider how it is for someone towing a trailer, who ends up driving down a dead-end street, with no way to turn around.   Maybe a campground might consider this.

And we were not the only ones to be so confused.  We saw this couple in a huge fifth wheel idling in the driveway, wondering the same thing -  if this indeed was the right place.  I assured them that it was.  No doubt they got frustrated driving down the wrong street and ending up at the post office based on address provided on the campground owners' website and e-mail reservation confirmation.

There are some instances where directions are helpful.  For example, we visit a campground in West Virginia and often the roads are washed out or broken down.  There's one section with a very sharp hairpin turn which can be difficult to maneuver with an RV.   The campground owner is usually very helpful in suggesting a direction to approach their Campground from, but they don't try to bore us with a recitation of turns and streets and distances.  Yes, even in West-by-God Virginia, GPS works.

Perhaps the logic and reasoning behind this dates back to earlier times.  In the olden days, if you wanted to make a reservation, you had to send a postcard or letter, the latter often accompanied by a deposit check. Thus, the campground owners wanted their mailing address featured prominently and not the physical address.

But of course, those days are long gone.   If you try to make reservation by mail, chances are the place will be fully booked of by the time your letter arrives.  Most people call or use online reservation systems.  We are in the 21st century.

What perhaps is most annoying, is that when you do call these places to get their address - because their address is nowhere to be found on the internet, on their website, or any other location - they act all very busy - as if you've inconvenienced then by asking where they are located, which is kind of important, as you are trying to get there.

Campground offices can get very busy, but you can cut down on the number of spurious phone calls simply by publishing your address rather than waiting for people to call and say mother may I?

It seems like a simple thing, but I cannot for the life of me understand why people are so reluctant to hand out their physical address when they're running a business where people visit their physical location.  You can't expect customers if you don't tell them where you are.

There are, of course, some businesses which do just the opposite, providing all sorts of information, including latitude and longitude coordinates to enter in your GPS system. These were particularly handy as  older GPS systems often had physical addresses which could be off by a half mile or more.

And of course, this phobia of handing out your address probably stems from some disgruntled camper, years ago, who complained that his GPS system took him to the wrong location and somehow this was the fault of the campground owner.  Again, maybe this was an issue back in the day, but today, GPS systems are far more accurate as the database has improved, and the accuracy of the system has improved as well.  We shouldn't let problems from 10 years ago affect our behavior today.

I think part of it also is a bit of passive-aggressiveness.  People like to think they're special snowflakes and somehow they fell off the GPS map, because they are so special and live "out in the country" where sat-e-lites cannot scan them.   I have had more than one campground owner tell me, "Oh, you can't use GPS to find us!" but when I enter their address, it literally directs me to their front door.   They need to update the database in their head.

I also think it's a form of information hoarding. People like to feel special by withholding information.  Thus this forces you to call them, begging for information, and they can give you their long-winded recitation of how to get there by taking a left at the barn that used to be painted green and then driving for three furlongs past the house with a cow in front of it and then turning right.  Or, as they used to like to say in Maine, "you can't get there from here!"

Just give us your damn address!

UPDATE:  A corollary to this problem are commercial businesses which refuse to put their street number on the front of their storefront.  Not only does this help people find their business or other nearby businesses, it's useful for the local fire department and other emergency services. It should be a law that commercial businesses should prominently display their street address on the front of their building.  It's not that difficult.  After all, we as homeowners have to do it.

Also, the examples of "turn left at the barn that used to be painted green" or "turn right at the house with the cow in the yard" are not made-up, but actual shitty directions I have been given.   How am I supposed to know what color the barn used to be?   And that cow, she decided to take a walk that day.