Pelland Blog

Profit Points or Pressure Points?

July 7th, 2023

When I was a child in the 1950s and 60s, before the microwave oven became a staple in almost every kitchen (remember the Amana Radarange, the first microwave oven intended for home use, introduced in 1967?), my mother cooked almost everything in a Presto pressure cooker. It cooked food quickly, but there were risks involved. After turning on the stove’s heating element, you had to wait for the air to escape, then install a valve (known as a “jiggler”) on top of the steam release vent. This monitored the internal pressure and warned you to lower the heat. If you failed to do so, there was also an emergency relief valve that would shoot your meal onto the ceiling rather than having the cooker explode under pressure. Despite the risks of microwave radiation, most people decided that microwave ovens were safer and easier to use.

I have been advocating for all-inclusive pricing in the outdoor hospitality industry for quite some time now, but many park owners legitimately want to know where to draw the line (or when to reduce the heat) when it comes to what to include and what should be considered a fee-based option. Like that jiggler, your customers will often provide the necessary feedback (perhaps on social media and review websites and apps). If you go too far, that emergency relief valve will essentially send your customers, not to the ceiling, but to another campground down the road. Beyond customer feedback, the decisions regarding what to include in your free amenities versus add-on services for which most reasonable people would expect to pay extra, often come down to basic common sense or putting yourself into the shoes of your customers.

Three Categories

I like to think that campground amenities fall into one of three categories:

  1. Always included in the basic fee. Nobody in their right mind would ever expect to have to pay a fee for their children to use your playground, nor would they expect to pay extra to use basic campsite features such as a picnic table or fire ring. They would also never expect to have to pay to use your restrooms. Other amenities that clearly fall into this category include the use of your swimming pool, hot tubs, recreational fields, basketball or volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and shuffleboard courts. In most instances, planned activities also fall into this category.
  2. Always expected to be fee-based. This includes propane fills, EV charging, the washers and dryers in your laundry, store merchandise, visitor fees, premium food events (such as a pig roast or lobster roast), and concerts that involve ticket sales to the general public. Some campgrounds might also offer rentals of golf carts, motorboats, scooters, or electric bicycles. Generally speaking, these all involve consumables, dedicated staff, significant maintenance costs or higher insurance premiums.
  3. The gray area in between. This is the broad category of diverse amenities, many recreation-based, where discretion is necessary. The all-inclusive concept involves moving as many of these as possible into the first (free) category, whereas moving too many of these into the second (fee-based) category will “nickel and dime” people into finding another place to camp. The challenge is to honestly determine which of these amenities incur actual operational costs, as opposed to investments that have long ago been written off and incur little or no current costs. There is a difference between a new fleet of kayaks and beat up old rowboats. Ask yourself if you would be happy paying $25.00 to rent a creaky old rowboat for an hour. Wherever possible, try to expand your base of free amenities, building them into your basic site fees.

Let’s spend more time looking into this “gray area” to determine what truly belongs in the free category.

Recreational amenities: Beyond the basic recreational amenities that always fall into the first category, some parks offer attractions such as waterslides, spray parks, go-kart tracks, personal watercraft rentals, laser tag, paintball courses, miniature golf, disc golf, fishing, and dog parks. Some parks deal with this category of amenities by selling recreational wristbands, which help to soften the blow and are somewhat all-inclusive. Wristbands also help to make the elderly couple on site 87, who will never use any of these amenities, not feel like they are subsidizing the “younger crowd”. In each instance, you need to be objective in determining which features might be moved into the free category. For example, if you have a spectacular miniature golf course that is open to the public, maybe you could include one free round for every member of a camping family, then charge a fee. On the other hand, if you have a weather-beaten mini golf course that was built 25 years ago, and you are not paying an attendant to be on-duty, use of this course should never incur a fee. The same goes with tennis courts, which are not as popular as they were years ago. If your courts have broken pavement, torn nets, and a growth of weeds, you are better off either converting them to new pickleball courts or removing them from your list of amenities.

Utilities: You may already be well aware that WiFi is the new utility. Charging a fee for this service or access to cable TV channels, particularly if the services are limited, is an invitation to customer dissatisfaction. Your campers should also not have to pay to use your dump station, and despite water conservation arguments in drought areas, nobody wants to feed quarters into a shower meter. Metered electricity, on the other hand, might increasingly become a necessity in order to discourage wasteful excess usage.

Store: Your campground store (along with a snack bar and video arcade) clearly represents an opportunity for add-on purchases and added income. Your campers expect to pay for ice, firewood, prepared food and groceries. That said, sometimes it makes sense to think outside the box. For example, free coffee between certain hours each morning will draw customers into your store, where they may purchase additional items – including a one pound bag of that special coffee blend. If there are items gathering dust on the shelves (everyone makes an occasional buying mistake), put them in a bargain bin so you can make room for in-demand merchandise that will sell at full markup. Most campgrounds limit out-of-state firewood in order to curtail insect pest infestations; however, if you have a pile of firewood that is the result of cleanup from storm damage, offer it to your campers at no charge rather than letting it rot on the ground. They will appreciate little extras like that!

In summary, adjust your rates and any add-on fees to reflect your operational costs and necessary profits, but try your best to package your services in a manner that offers you an edge over your competition and represents true value in the eyes of your campers.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

A Fresh Look at QR Codes

June 28th, 2023

It has been 10 years since I wrote on the topic of QR codes. Admittedly, at the time I suspected that those two-dimensional barcodes that bear a resemblance to square Rorschach tests may have been the latest “pet rock”. QR, which is an abbreviation for “Quick Response”, was originally invented by Toyota back in 1994 as a means of inventory control during automobile manufacturing. Almost without us realizing it, QR codes have since been widely adapted to a variety of uses. When you board a flight at the airport, only Grandma uses a printed boarding pass these days, while the rest of us place our phones on a scanner for the QR code to be read. In advertising, QR codes generally link to a website or a page on a website that provides either more information or a call to action.

Recently, with an interest in contactless transactions, dynamic QR codes have been embraced by many restaurants as a means for customers to place orders for any specific table using an online menu, then pay their bills and leave a tip at the end of the meal. Entertainment venues, sporting events, and many hotels and RV parks are now using QR codes to speed up the entry or check-in process with nothing more than the beep of a scanner. Quite honestly, the COVID-19 pandemic was the best thing that ever happened to boost acceptance and usage of QR codes. Although usage is steadily increasing from year to year, there was nearly a 25% increase from 2019 to 2020, with nearly 90 million Americans over the age of 18 using QR codes in 2023 according to a report published by Insider Intelligence. Of course, many people balk at this impersonal replacement for functions that have historically been performed by employees, allowing for greater interaction with customers.

When it comes to the use of QR codes, the potential applications are almost limitless, at a time when most smartphone cameras recognize QR codes without requiring the user to install a QR code reader app, which was not the case 10 years ago. A poster on the streets of New York City might advertise a first-run feature film or off-Broadway theatre production and include a QR code that takes users directly to online ticket sales. A transit ad in an airport shuttle might allow users to check the status of arriving and departing flights. Even college admission departments have been using QR codes to launch virtual campus tours.

Most campgrounds have limited advertising budgets and need to spend their dollars wisely. QR codes can be displayed almost anywhere, but QR codes on printed materials such as directory ads, rack cards, direct mail postcards, and business cards are more effective than their use on any other media. For example, QR codes on websites, embedded into e-mail messages and on TV commercials get very low rates of response. (Think about it: If somebody is already on a website, why are they going to click on a QR code to … go to a website?) On the same token, when I see a tiny QR code down in the corner of a TV commercial, I doubt that it can possibly serve any useful purpose or lead to an accurate scan unless a user has a large-screen high-definition television, takes the time to pause the commercial using a DVR, then scans. How many people are willing tp do that? My guess is almost nobody.

Generation and Implementation

There are two types of QR codes: static and dynamic. Dynamic QR codes have been garnering a good deal of attention recently. These are QR codes that link to a third-party service that monitors, directs, and tabulates the content. These are what are used when you scan a code to check out of a hotel or to pay your check at a restaurant. They are useful in certain – but not all – applications. Being run as third-party services, there are going to be monthly fees involved except for very basic or trial programs. For most purposes, a static QR code is generally what you need and want to use. Generating your static QR codes is an easy matter, with many free online tools available. One that I like is the QR Code Generator that you will find at https://www.the-qrcode-generator.com/. You enter the target, and choose whether you will be linking to a URL, text, a PDF file, your contact information, a text message, a phone call, or an email message.

Maximizing Effectiveness

With a bit of planning and analytics, you can easily measure the amount of traffic to any particular page of your website from a static QR code. The key is to have the QR code link to a specific page that is uniquely linked to the code or to a specific URL that redirects to a mobile-friendly call-to-action page or perhaps a virtual tour. If you are using QR codes on your rack cards, directory ads, postcards, your display booth at a camping show, or a poster at a nearby RV dealership, you will want a unique URL – and, consequently, a unique QR code for each venue. Just remember, as with any of your advertising, do not presume that the traffic that is generated directly from a QR code is the sole measure of an advertising campaign’s effectiveness. This exercise will only measure the traffic from the QR code itself. For example, a QR code on a direct mail postcard will only present that portion of the response rate, not quantifying phone calls and people who visit your website by typing the URL directly into their browser. It is only one means for recipients to take the prescribed course of action.

When actually embedding your QR code, it is important to understand how it will be viewed and from what distance. When displayed on various media, here are a few suggestions to take into account.

  • Printed materials (including rack cards, brochures and directory ads), generally viewed from a distance of 1.5 to 2.5 feet, the QR code should be at least 0.75 to 1.5 inches in size.
  • Large format advertising (including posters, signage and window cling), generally viewed from a distance of 4-12 feet, the QR code should be at least 6 to 8 inches in size.
  • Billboards (including signs at your entrance), generally viewed from a driving distance of at least 25 feet or more, the QR code should be at least 12 to 24 inches or larger in size.

Given some careful thought, QR codes might enhance the ability of you to communicate with your customers. As always, you want to allow them to reach out to you in whatever manner best fits their specific comfort zone.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Understanding and Capitalizing Upon Churn

April 1st, 2023

It is well-known among businesses of all sizes and across all industries that it is far easier to get an existing customer to renew their business relationship with a company than it is to find and build new customers from scratch, the difference between customer retention and customer acquisition. For a campground, the existing customer base consists of seasonal campers and transient guests who have stayed at your park within the past one to three years and who enjoyed their stay. Statistics indicate that there is up to a 70% likelihood of getting an existing customer to return, while getting a new prospect to turn into an actual customer only occurs from 5% to 20% of the time. The rate of success is contingent upon the quality and volume of your marketing efforts, and acquiring those new customers can incur a cost of up to 7X more than the cost of getting an existing customer to stay with your business, according to research by Bain & Company published in Forbes. Considering those acquisition costs, it should be pretty clear that even a small increase in customer retention can increase overall profits by a substantial margin. Why is it then that most businesses spend more time and money on acquiring new business than focusing on retaining their existing customers? It just doesn’t make sense.

The loss of customers for various reasons is referred to as “churn” or attrition. The term originated with the process for making butter by agitating milk and cream. Without agitation, those ingredients will never turn to butter. It is easy to surmise the importance of preemptively knowing if there are any factors that are agitating your existing customer base, which I have noted consists of guests “who enjoyed their stay.” Your office and registration desk can be very busy at the time of your guests’ arrival, particularly on weekends; however, departures are usually far less hectic. Take advantage of that opportunity to avoid self-checkouts and to try to engage each guest with a brief exit interview. If a stop in your office is not required, catch those guests at your exit gate, asking them if they enjoyed their stay and if there is anything that could have been done to make their stay more enjoyable. If nothing else, they will appreciate that you took the time to ask. Keep track of this feedback, along with any comments that make their way onto online review sites, and take corrective measures if necessary.

Some businesses have notoriously high rates of churn, while others have high levels of customer loyalty. For example, with the exception of users of customer loyalty cards, most people have no loyalty to one brand of gasoline over another, generally accepting that 87 octane unleaded regular is the same just about everywhere, making buying decisions primarily based upon price and how close their tanks are to being empty. Even businesses with historically high rates of customer loyalty can see that situation change overnight when a monkey wrench gets thrown into the works.

Nobody Likes Change

In the outdoor hospitality industry today there is an unprecedented drop in customer loyalty that is accompanying changes in ownership. If a nearby campground has changed hands, particularly if it has evolved from family-owned to corporate ownership, customer dissatisfaction is almost a certainty. Rate increases, newly added fees, and indifferent management all present the milk and cream that you can churn into butter. In many instances, the new owners are obsessed with making infrastructure improvements that rationalize rate increases when the customers they inherited were quite satisfied with the status quo. In other instances, they will literally force out seasonal campers in favor of more profitable transient campsites. If you have the capacity to fill seasonal sites, turn on a “welcome” sign while your competitor is showing those customers the exit.

When management is separate from ownership, there is usually little incentive to work toward long-term success. Management is unlikely to be performing the exit interviews that you should be conducting, and it may be turning a blind eye to online reviews and complaints. Your knowledge of the specific dissatisfactions will allow you to significantly boost the new customer acquisition rate well above the 5% to 20% norm. Just because campers are unhappy with management and new policies down the road does not mean that they are ready to give up on camping. They simply need to know that you are better prepared to respond to their needs, while offering proximity to the same amenities and nearby attractions that they have grown to appreciate.

Although you will no doubt hear word of mouth, go online and search for “(name of campground) complaints” or “(name of campground) reviews” to get a snapshot of major points of dissatisfaction. Look for complaints on campground review sites but also on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and the Better Business Bureau. If there is a preponderance of negative reviews, you can easily identify your opportunities to expand your customer base. Here are excerpts of actual reviews of various parks that recently changed hands:

“Been coming here for 5 years, I used to think this place was the best for family fun but like all things usually do service and accommodations are getting worse and worse. To start with I reserved a premium pull through spot in February for this weekend. I had to pay $50 just to assure I have the spot I reserved. What’s the point of a reservation if you have to pay extra to reserve the spot you selected? Golf cart rentals are higher than average now and if you want to play mini golf you have to pay, when it used to be free.”

“We have been coming here for years, and never had the experience we did this last visit. The campground has gone downhill. Staff is no longer friendly and welcoming as they used to be. This place was once a great relaxing place to vacation but that it no longer the case. We spoke with some folks at the pool that live there, and was told they are also having issues with new management and was sad to hear it was happening to visitors also. Needless to say that was my last trip there!”

“I booked a reservation today, where during the process you pick your site. Once I booked it, the system came up with an extra $100 fee to lock your site. I did not think anything of it and continued. When I printed my reservation confirmation the number of my site was missing. I then called to find out and was informed that you get whatever site is available unless you pay the additional $100 fee. I then asked to cancel the reservation and got everything back except for a $20 cancellation fee. I asked for a supervisor, and the lady said she was a supervisor and would not refund me fully even though I just made the reservation less than 90 minutes earlier. This just left a horrible feeling. Makes me think all they are interested in is money and not good customer service. It is a shame because it was going to be a group of us, but I called the other 4 couples and told them not to book. We will go to another campground.”

“My husband (now deceased) and I purchased a park model at a campground that this company now owns in June of 2020. We paid a premium price (well over its value) for this particular park model because its location in the campground. The park was then bought out by the new owners at the end of last year. Yesterday we received a letter via email informing us that not only are they eliminating our site from even being a possible location for a park model/seasonal lease, but we would have to sell it through the park’s RV sales lot, will have to pay to move it to that lot, and any likely buyer will have no chance of being able to use it anywhere within the park. We will likely lose at least $20,000 when all is said and done.”

There are patterns in those complaints, mostly involving increased fees and indifferent management. Times are changing, but not necessarily for the better. As always, change can present opportunities for well-informed business owners. Now is perhaps the best time in years to churn some butter!

This post was written by Peter Pelland

All-Inclusive vs Resort Fees

January 25th, 2023

Several years ago I encouraged campground owners to consider the “all-inclusive” approach to guest fees, and that argument continues to make more sense than ever. I mentioned at the time how I had recently opened a box of breakfast cereal, only to find that the inner bag of contents reached about half the height of the packaging. It was a classic example of the disclaimer that warns us that “contents are sold by weight, not volume”. If the packaging properly matched the size of its contents, it would have been half the size, have far less visibility on the supermarket shelf, and I probably would have passed on a purchase that did not appear to represent a very good value. You might say that I was deceived into making the purchase. Even though I liked the cereal, I am unlikely to purchase it again. Economists have even coined a new word for this package downsizing: Shrinkflation.

Respect Your Guests’ Intelligence

People who feel that they have been somehow deceived into making a buying decision are almost never going to be return customers. When it comes to the outdoor hospitality industry, one of the biggest complaints is when guests feel like they are being “nickeled and dimed” during their stay. Although it is far preferable to avoid the imposition of add-on fees for incidentals like showers, Wi-Fi, or your planned activities, it is very important that any such fees be fully disclosed at the time of reservation. Just as offensive is the imposition of so-called “convenience fees” when making an online reservation, as well as the recently introduced concept of the “site lock” fee. In the latter instance, campers must pay a premium at the time of reservation in order to be assured of being assigned any particular site. The logic from a management perspective is that the airlines have generally been getting away with this for several years now, allowing passengers to choose an available seat rather than settling for a randomly assigned seat (often a center seat and/or in the back of the economy class section of the cabin), and there are almost always premium fees involved. These ancillary fees, which for airline seating range anywhere from $20.00 to $90.00 (according to a 2022 report by CBS News) are pure profit. There is little of no cost involved in providing this alleged service.

My best advice is to bundle as much as possible into your basic fees, promote that value within your rate structure, and stop presuming that people are comparison shopping for price without reading the fine print. Would you rather cater to guests who will complain about spending anything over $25.00 for a night of camping or guests who are more than willing to spend $250.00 for their camping experience?

Consider the All-Inclusive Approach

I suggest trying to avoid the growing practice of hotels to tack so-called “resort fees” onto their room rates. Across the hotel industry, even low-end properties have started imposing mandatory added fees for everything from poolside towels to room safes to fitness centers to on-site parking – even if a guest uses none of those services. To the contrary, I suggest offering your guests as much as possible as part of your service offerings. I believe the answer could be the all-inclusive concept, where guests are willing to pay a premium for the privilege of avoiding add-on fees. The all-inclusive concept originated with Club Med way back in 1950. It is the rule rather than the exception in some vacation destinations, and the concept has been embraced by many resort operators, cruise lines, travel agencies and online booking companies, major airlines, hotel chains, and wholesale buying clubs like Costco.

With all-inclusive pricing, as the name implies, guests willingly pay a premium fee for the privilege of vacationing without having to pull out their wallets throughout the course of their stay or when settling their tab. All-inclusive pricing is most popular with destination resorts and highly competitive, saturated tourism markets. Probably the best known and most broadly marketed of these practitioners is Sandals Resorts International, which promotes the tagline of “more quality inclusions than any other resorts on the planet”. Their all-inclusive stays include accommodations, dining, wine and spirits, golf, water sports, scuba diving, land sports, and entertainment. Even here, there are fee-based options such as spa treatments, premium wines, and scuba certification, as well as some restrictions on golf that vary from one resort or level of accommodations to another. The bottom line is that guests feel that they are being offered far more than they would otherwise expect.

Another relatively new company in the travel and tourism industry is Scenic Luxury Cruises. The company takes the all-inclusive concept to its pinnacle, where there is virtually nothing that you can pay for beyond your basic fare, unless you insist upon purchasing rare bottles of vintage wine while dining. Everything from gourmet meals, unlimited beverages, stateroom mini-bars (replenished daily), shore excursions (some of which must be reserved in advance on an availability basis), electric bicycles, onboard entertainment, laundry service, butler service, transfers and gratuities is all included.

Before you think that what applies to a luxury cruise line or luxury resort cannot possibly translate into the camping experience, think again. When I first wrote on this topic, a Google search for “all-inclusive glamping resorts” came up dry. Today, there are many compilations of luxury glamping vacations on sites such as GlampingHub, RVshare, and TripAdvisor. There are also individual campgrounds such as Camp Aramoni, in Illinois, which seem to have perfectly embraced the concept.

I have no connection whatsoever with the business other than my admiration, but I encourage readers to visit the Camp Aramoni website to discover how things can be done right. This is certainly a very viable segment within an ever-expanding outdoor hospitality industry. With the growing popularity of “glamping”, it is time to ditch extra fees for activities and recreational amenities such as mini golf, jumping pillows, canoes and kayaks, splash pads, showers, Wi-Fi, and online reservations. Then consider offering amenities and experiences that you may have never associated with traditional camping, such as the glamping tents at Camp Aramoni that feature luxury linens, central air conditioning and heat, USB charging stations, firewood bundles, and en-suite restrooms that include towels, hair dryers, and toiletries. Their basic fees also include a breakfast buffet, nightly gourmet s’mores, and dinner ordered from an extensive chef-inspired menu. In addition to the restaurant, the property includes an event space for weddings and other special events … all in a reclaimed former industrial property. The impossible has suddenly become possible. The key to growth in the family camping industry has always been to draw in a new wave of guests who do not currently consider themselves campers. To reach them, offer them the unexpected and create the perception of overwhelming value that they have come to appreciate elsewhere. An all-inclusive approach to pricing may prove to be an idea whose time has come.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

The Latest Scams: Be Alert, Don’t Get Hurt

January 20th, 2023

Sometimes I think that the Internet was invented by P.T. Barnum, the circus promoter and showman from New Haven, Connecticut. A century and a half after his heyday, modern-day hucksters seem intent on capitalizing upon the phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute” that is commonly attributed to the great Barnum. So-called phishing scams arriving via email are becoming more prevalent than ever. Phishing is an attempt to steal personal information or hack online accounts through the use of deception. Some are easy to spot, while others are more sophisticated in appearance and subsequently more difficult to detect. The people behind these schemes prey upon our fears and try to convey a sense of urgency to their bogus messages. My main words of advice are to step back, take a deep breath, and avoid the urge to panic.

Learn to detect and comfortably ignore the lion’s share of these scams by using an effective spam blocker on your email accounts. When a few slip past the filters and appear in your inbox, take a close look. Learn to hover and not to click. Is the actual sending address what it appears to be? One of the latest phishing scams to be making the rounds is the “Best Buy / Geek Squad Service Renewal” invoice. I will refer to three specific emails below, all alleging to be sent from Geek Squad (or in one instance “Geeks Squad Inc.). The first came from edfg0823@gmail.com, the second indicated that it came from messenger@messaging.squareup.com (and included an option for payment through Square), with a 160-character cryptic reply-to address, and the third came from dayaguena@gmail.com.

Although it is easy to attach any corporate logo to an email, in an effort to make the message appear to be authentic, would that familiar company really send out a message with spelling mistakes and sloppy formatting? Just because a message implies that your bank account, credit card, or PayPal account has been charged for a product or service that you never ordered does NOT mean that the sender actually has access to your account. What they are generally hoping is that you will fall for their scheme, want that alleged charge to be reversed, and unwittingly provide them with your account information in order to confirm the “refund”. By doing so, you will have then provided the scammer with the means to run up fraudulent charges on your account far in excess of the bogus charge that caught your attention.

The perpetrators behind the “Best Buy / Geek Squad Service Renewal” scams could possibly have access to Best Buy customer emails harvested during a 2017 data breach that exploited a vulnerability in the company’s online chat software; however, it is more likely that the senders use random email accounts under the presumption that a significant percentage of recipients will be recent or past Best Buy customers. (They could also be pretending to represent Walmart, Costco, Target, or any other well-known brand with an extensive customer base.) I have received several of these emails recently. One lists an “Order ID”, “Product Code”, and renewal fee of $417.00 that is ready to be charged to my account, telling me that “YOUR SERVICE HAS BEEN RENEWED”. The email (which consisted of a JPEG image) also reads, “According to our contact with you. Your plan will be auto renewed with in 24hrs and you will be charged $417.00”. The punctuation errors alone in that message should raise several red flags. Of course, they are hoping that I will call the “Customer Support Team” using the toll-free number included.

Another alleged “Geek Squad Subscription Renewal” was convincingly professional in its appearance, including a PDF invoice for a “Geek Squad Advanced Protection – Annual Plan” renewal at $229.99. It claimed that my “account” had just been charged, and included a toll-free number to call “if you want to cancel the Renewal and claim the refund.” The telltale signs on this invoice were the salutation of “Dear Dear”, my name listed as “Dear Customer”, and a random return address that is a residential home in Mississippi according to Google Maps. A third email followed the same modus operandi, had my name as “Existing User”, a random return address in a residential neighborhood of Brooklyn, and an alleged renewal fee of $299.87 for 3 years and up to 5 devices (the best deal yet.) It, of course, included a toll-free phone number “in case you wish to stop this transaction or stop auto-renewal”.

In the first two of these three instances, the toll-free numbers (which I called from a randomized phone number) were already disabled. The perpetrators hope that recipients will panic and call them immediately while their temporary phone numbers are still enabled. The third number was busy with other callers and asked me to leave a return phone number. Of course, they will then ask for a credit card or other account number in order to process the alleged “refund”.

Fight Back!

First of all, pay close attention to unsafe content warnings in your email software. Then never respond to requests for your private information, beware of messages that convey a sense of urgency, and never click on unknown links. If you are one of the millions of people who use Gmail as your email service provider, you can report a phishing email that may have made its way to the inbox on your computer by opening the message, clicking on the three vertical dots next to the “Reply” icon, then clicking on “Report phishing.” If a phishing email asks you to make a payment via PayPal, forward the entire email to phishing@paypal.com.

You may also forward phishing emails to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at reportphishing@apwg.org. This organization includes ISPs, banks, online security companies, and law enforcement agencies. You can also report phishing attempts to the Federal Trade Commission at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/. In the event that you have actually been a victim of a phishing scam, first contact your bank or credit card company, where you will probably want to change passwords and cancel your credit card. Then file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at https://www.ic3.gov/. In most instances, you may also file a complaint with the office of your state attorney general. Nobody likes being a victim of what is essentially online crime, but it is good to know how to protect yourself and how to take responsive measures when necessary.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Community Appeal: Originality vs Familiarity

December 28th, 2022

When it comes to promoting your business, there is always a challenge in choosing between taking a conventional or a more original approach. The choices are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and it is more likely that you need to find a balance between the two. For most small businesses, the bulk of their advertising budgets are split among online resources, broadcast media, and to an ever-declining degree, print. Campgrounds are somewhat unique in that, unlike other typical small businesses, their customer base is generally regional, national (and even international) rather than local. While the local automobile dealership, law firm or home improvement contractor will spend a significant amount of money on local radio, television and newspaper, these outlets would almost totally miss the mark in attempting to reach a campground’s less localized customer base. With campgrounds, the primary means of marketing will be a mix of online (which will likely include their own websites, third-party websites, social media, and a supplement of online advertising) and print (which will likely include collateral advertising such as brochures or rack cards, directory advertising, and occasionally direct mail.) Many campgrounds will also participate in off-season RV and travel shows.

The objective will always be the same, and that is to reach a base of both new and repeat customers in a manner where the messaging is consistent, distinctive, and cost-effective in terms of return on investment. There are decisions to be made, and one of your key decisions will be whether to take a familiar marketing posture or a more original approach. An original approach will catch attention and likely allow your business to stand out from its competition, but it must be done in a manner that nonetheless clearly identifies your business as an outdoor hospitality offering. It must work within the usual distribution channels and fit within your budget. Taking collateral advertising as an example, a rack card or brochure with an unconventional format might stand out on its own; however, a taller, wider, or die-cut piece might fail to fit within literature distribution racks, as well as being more costly to produce. The nicest piece of literature that will not work within the usual distribution channels will amount to a total failure, as will a piece of literature that leaves prospective customers confused regarding the actual identity of your business.

The online components of your marketing campaign can be even more challenging. Not only does your message need to appeal and be clear in the eyes of prospective customers, but it needs to be equally clear to search engine robots or it will never reach its intended audience – unless you want to throw a significant sum of money against the wind in online advertising. With digital marketing – websites in particular – there is that choice between the tried and true and going out on a creative limb. Let me point out that there is a difference – a big difference – between proven familiarity and a humdrum approach that comes with template-driven content and do-it-yourself website builders from companies such as Wix and GoDaddy. Unless you have the knowledge and capability to customize that content, templates provide a “one size fits all” approach at best. Yes, a template can be chosen that broadly applies to any general business classification, but just think how many diverse types of businesses all fall within the “travel” or “leisure” categories.

A proven layout and design will be both user-friendly and highly intuitive, where the key to customization lies much more within its content than the basic layout itself. Your message needs to “wow” people with high quality photography (where image quality is far more important than the quantity of images thrown onto a page), professionally produced video (that is ADA compliant and not in violation of any creative copyrights) if it is available, outstanding graphic design (that includes a distinctive logo and a coordinated color palette and carefully selected fonts that are based upon that logo), and text that is written like a Hallmark® greeting card. When everything works together, your website should be designed to fulfill a need or desire – in this case to get away from it all and spend a weekend or longer, not only in the outdoors, but at your particular park. Your website should provide your prospective guests with the type of validation that assures them that they are in the process of making the right decision by choosing your park. Elements such as those quality photos or videos and credible testimonials help to provide that validation, while spelling mistakes and unanswered questions can encourage the same guest to seek out alternative options. There may be only a single opportunity to reach that first-time guest or to persuade a return guest to look no further, and you need to make that opportunity as persuasive as possible.

Human beings are highly social creatures, and therein lies much of the appeal of the camping and outdoor hospitality experience. Just think of all of the social environments that we have created for ourselves over time. These range from the communes of the 1960s to the gated communities that might be populated today by those same people in their retirement years. Other examples include fraternal organizations, veterans’ groups, alumni clubs, church congregations, social media groups on sites such as Facebook and Meetup, and even the local tavern. We have all seen automobile rallies and cruises that are populated by proud Corvette® owners or drivers of Mazda® Miatas®, and how often have you seen a single Harley-Davidson® motorcycle riding down the highway? Familiarity ensures that we will be within our own comfort zones whenever we leave the ultimate comfort zone – home. HINT: Particularly if your campground offers pavilions and a group camping area, why not reach out directly to these types of groups and rallies? If carefully executed, your tightly coordinated marketing campaign should present your campground as just such a community, where new members feel welcome and a desire to belong. Are you meeting that objective?

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Do Some Math, Then Get Real

November 17th, 2022

My company builds websites for the campground industry. A few years ago I reached out to the manager of a campground in a Northern state whose website would appear to be in desperate need of replacement. Its 14 year old website (nearly a century in either website or dog years!) was not mobile-friendly, had zero in terms of SEO (search engine optimization), was not ADA compliant (really an unknown issue at that time), had nothing but a phone number to call for reservations, did not even list the campground’s address, and had not been updated since it was built (still promoting that the park was the “newest” in its area.) After being asked to quote on a new website, the manager responded that my company’s services were “to rich” (sic) for his campground that was only open for a 5 month season.

I explained that most campgrounds in the Northern states were only open from late spring through early fall, hardly an operating calendar that was unique to his park. Based upon the weekly rates that are published on his website, if a new professionally designed website brought in only 15 new campers who would not have otherwise chosen to stay at his campground, he would have fully recovered his investment during a single season. That investment recovery would not even include the additional income generated by those guests’ purchases in his store, laundromat, game room, or fee-based added services. I went on to ask if his park was at full occupancy throughout its 5 month season, pointing out how the satellite image on Google Earth showed that his park had 48 sites – 35 pull-thrus and 13 back-ins – only 16 of which were occupied at the moment when that most recent image was captured.

I am referencing this campground’s website as simply an example of short-sighted thinking. The campground manager could have been dismissing the cost of Wi-Fi service, reservation software, upgraded electrical service, energy efficiency upgrades, a new line of store merchandise, a new dumping station or honey wagon, new rental boats, cabin or park model rentals, yurts or teepees, branded apparel, or replacements for the worn out and inefficient washers and dryers in his laundromat. Translated from the original Latin, the adage that “you have to spend money to make money” is nothing new, originally credited to the Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus a little over two millennia ago.

I can understand a short season factoring into a decision to purchase a motorcycle, snowmobile, speedboat, convertible automobile, or any other consumer good that represents an emotional want rather than a physical need. Those decisions all involve the purchase of personal goods, whereas an entirely different set of standards should apply when making well-informed business decisions.

I have always found it useful to make business decisions based upon the measurement of projected return on investment. This can apply to almost any purchase. Let me use Wi-Fi as an example, along with a few rounded numbers to simplify calculations. Let’s presume that you run a campground with 100 sites, that your average nightly site fee is $50.00, that the average guest stays two nights, you have an average occupancy rate of 50%, your season runs 150 days, and that 50% of your prospective campers demand Wi-Fi and will not stay at a park that does not offer high-speed Internet at sites. Let’s also presume that the cost of a new Wi-Fi installation at this small- to medium-sized park would be $7,500.00 (admittedly on the high side.) Although some parks charge for the service, and others offer tiered service levels, let’s presume that your park is going to treat Wi-Fi service as a utility that will be provided to its guests at no added charge as part of its overnight fee.

If the added service increases occupancy from 50% to just 60%, that means filling 10 otherwise empty campsites at $50.00 per night. Over the course of a 150 day season, this represents $7,500.00 in income, fully recovering the investment in the new Wi-Fi system, or an investment that is recouped in a single season. If your park is in a competitive market that allows it to charge for Wi-Fi service, the payback period may be even shorter. The same sort of calculations can be applied to an investment in upgraded electrical services, when your prospective guests are seeking out reliable 50-amp service when most of your sites are providing 20- or 30-amp service through rusty power pedestals with circuit breakers that trip open on a regular basis. In fact, when it comes to park utilities, problems with Wi-Fi, electrical service, roadways, water pressure and sewerage are just as likely to lead to an abbreviated stay as an obnoxious camper or barking dog on an adjacent site. The same claim may be made for restrooms or playgrounds in dire need of upgrades, a store with too many empty shelves, or a game room with too many “out of order” signs. Weaknesses in these areas can actually be driving away business, as well as inflicting harm on review sites.

When it comes to less tangible services such as a park’s website, reservation software, planned activities and advertising, it is still quite easy to calculate return on investment and to make informed decisions. In fact, these represent some of the best ways to spread the word about that new Wi-Fi or electrical service, essentially speeding the return on investment on those infrastructural improvements. Think twice – and perform some calculations – prior to dismissing a business investment out of hand. That “too costly” investment may be both easily recovered and the key to running your business more profitably than ever.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Ten Ways to Cut Expenses

October 7th, 2022

We are all feeling a financial pinch during these days of rampant global inflation. We feel it at the fuel pumps, the supermarkets, and just about everywhere. The price of a dozen ears of sweet corn at my local farm stands that cost $6.00 in recent years has jumped to $9.00 this year. In all probability, you have raised the prices of your campsites. As prices increase, incomes just cannot seem to keep up. While you are waiting for corporate buyers to come knocking at your door with the right offer, here are ten concrete tips for cutting your expenses and making inflation more bearable, in some instances for your household and in some instances for your business. Several of these involve rethinking old habits and finding new ways of doing things.

1) Cut the land lines. Are you still paying your local phone company for landline telephone service? If so, you are likely paying a substantial fee each month, when half of your incoming calls are probably from telemarketers and robocallers. If you have high-speed Internet service, there are several companies that sell telephone equipment that runs Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), with monthly fees for premium services that might be as little as $20.00 per month, including unlimited calling throughout North America. The service is reliable, your existing phone number(s) will port over to the new service, the sound is crystal clear, and it generally includes some highly effective call blocking features. Service providers include Ooma, RingCentral, Nextiva and Vonage, among others.

2) You have a fax machine? The technology behind the fax machine is as old as the hills, introduced by Western Union in the late 1940s, then adapted to use telephone lines by Xerox in 1964. During the 1980s, a fax machine was considered essential office equipment. Since then, it has become little more than an annoyance that presents unsolicited (and illegal) advertising from disreputable timeshare companies, cruise agents, and roofing contractors. If you still have one of these machines cluttering up a desk in your office, it is way past time to kiss it goodbye, saving the expense of paper, ink or toner, and perhaps a dedicated phone line. The same companies that provide VoIP telephone service include easy-to-use virtual fax features. If you receive a fax, it comes in as a PDF file that you can preview, then decide whether to print or delete.

3) Are you overpaying for mobile service? Like everybody these days, you probably have mobile phone service from one of the major carriers such as AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile. Check your next billing statement to see if you are paying for services that are either unused or that exceed your needs. For example, you might be paying for a plan that includes 20GB of monthly data transfer when you never use more than 2GB. Call your carrier and speak with a sales associate, explaining that you need to reduce your monthly billing, perhaps citing prices from a competitive company. They will reduce your monthly billing, but not without you taking the initiative to ask. For example, AT&T offers a 10% monthly discount if you are a military veteran.

4) Are you paying for satellite radio? When you buy a new vehicle, it generally comes with at least a month of trial service with Sirius XM. The company hopes that you will grow accustomed to its service and continue as a paid subscriber. I personally have thumb drives in my vehicles that I have pre-loaded with about 12,000 songs that play randomly and only include music and artists that I want to hear. If you are really hooked on satellite radio, let your service expire for two or three days without renewing. Then contact the service provider for a renewal discount. You will pay half price, but may have to repeat this routine every six months.

5) Do you ask for discounts? If you are over 50, you are no doubt an AARP member. When you make a purchase, ask if there is a discount associated with your membership. Five years ago, when buying a new vehicle (and already negotiating a serious discount), I asked the sales associate if there was an AARP discount. Much to my surprise (and his surprise!), there was an additional $3,000.00 taken off the price of that vehicle. There are also discounts associated with memberships in auto clubs, fraternal organizations, and your national and state campground associations such as ARVC.

6) Go solar! Although the incentives will vary from state to state, and the savings and cost-effectiveness will vary with your local utility rates, installing rooftop or ground-mounted solar panels is a no-brainer, even in northern latitudes. Lacking a really good southern exposure, surrounded by tall trees and in a region where the panels get covered with snow during the winter months, the 47 panels on the roofs of my own home save us approximately $1,200.00 per year by feeding power back into the grid through net metering. You can purchase your system outright, or there are companies that will install a system at no charge to you. In the latter instance, you are essentially leasing your roof space, with an agreement to purchase the power that is generated at a fraction of the fees that would be charged by your local utility, over the course of the 20-25 year lifespan of the system. The installer reaps the tax incentives and is also responsible for service and maintenance. In some instances, your system can tie into battery storage with a Tesla Powerwall® or similar system that will also serve as a short-term substitute for an expensive backup power generator.

7) Cut the cable. If you are paying your local cable services provider for TV, phone and high-speed Internet, even a bundled service might be highly overpriced. In most areas, cable service providers have a localized monopoly, with no incentive to be competitively priced. There are options. For example, T-Mobile has recently introduced 5G broadband Internet service for only $50.00 per month, which could represent quite a savings.

8) Go paperless. If you have monthly recurring payments, almost all companies will offer you a discount if you agree to paperless billing, saving them the expense of mailing paper statements. There will usually be an additional discount if you set up automatic payments.

9) Lower your interest rates. If you use a credit card, and particularly if you carry a balance from month to month, call the company and ask them to reduce the interest rate, lower any annual fee, or convert you to a more affordable card. Once again, they are not going to reduce their profit margins on your account unless you ask.

10) Lower your credit card processing fees. Your small business is probably running an ever-increasing volume of transactions through a credit card merchant services provider. Be sure that the fees are competitive or be willing to switch to another provider. There are companies such as Pennsylvania-based MCPS for Campgrounds that specialize in working with the campground industry and offer highly competitive rates.

Yes, times are a bit tough, but that is when it is time to think smart, break a few old habits, and consider new ways of doing things.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Consider Offering Customer Incentives

July 28th, 2022

It is no secret that, in general, campgrounds weathered the recent COVID-19 pandemic quite nicely. In fact, many park owners were able to raise prices in response to the combination of the low supply and higher than ever demand for campsites. While most of those customers, including many first-time campers, would like to continue their pursuit of the camping experience, another potential roadblock is now in play.

With the global economy teetering on recession, the biggest consumer headaches are skyrocketing mortgage rates, food costs and fuel costs, with fuel costs most directly impacting the desire to camp. According to a late June 2022 CBS News report, the people who purchased new RVs during the pandemic are not yet being dissuaded from engaging in their camping pursuits, though they are likely to seek refuges that are closer to home in order to trim their travel expenses. Another recent Associated Press report indicates that consumers are now facing what is referred to as “demand destruction” when it comes to filling their vehicles with gasoline or diesel at what are now all-time record high prices per gallon.

Particularly for campground owners with parks that have historically offered overnight stops for cross-country travelers, or parks that are adjacent to off-the-beaten-path tourist destinations, now might be a good time to consider taking preemptive actions to ensure a steady flow of business. According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are offering fuel incentives to their employees as they return to their office commutes after months of working from home. Why not rethink that strategy and offer minor subsidies to your customers who cannot reach you without filling their tanks? One of my suggestions is to look into the use of prepaid fuel cards as a customer incentive that will help campers to justify traveling that extra mile.

Gift Card Rewards

We are all familiar with gift cards, probably purchasing them as last-minute gifts for friends and relatives. Most are purchased for retail merchants at gift card kiosks in supermarkets, convenience stores, and shopping malls. What I am suggesting is the use of cards that are purchased in bulk, perhaps even customized with your business name or logo, that are specifically for use at the fuel pumps of a major oil company that has a station near your place of business.

Everybody responds to incentives, and there is no incentive as effective as a perceived rebate. Let’s say you have a Shell Oil station down the road. Depending upon your available inventory — and this ties in directly to dynamic pricing — you could offer a $20.00 Shell gift card to people who camp mid-week, camp on a historically slow weekend, or arrive on a Thursday night for an extended weekend. To be effective, the card must have a significant perceived value (I suggest $20.00), but that incentive can be much more effective than a corresponding drop in dynamic pricing. We all know that it costs much more than $20.00 to fill a vehicle with gasoline or diesel these days, but that incentive can go a long way toward having a camper choose your park over another, even if it means traveling that extra mile.

There are two types of bulk gift cards that may be purchased. So-called “open loop” gift cards are prepaid Visa or MasterCard cards that may be used anywhere. These, for a significant one-time fee, are the cards that can be customized with your business name or logo. What I am suggesting are “closed loop” gift cards that are specifically used at one business. There are also both digital and plastic gift cards, and my recommendation is the use of the plastic cards. Their tangibility gives them greater perceived value. Of course, you need to keep these stored in a secure location within your office, treating a stack of $20.00 gift cards the same way you would treat a stack of $20.00 bills.

How to Purchase Bulk Gift Cards

The companies that specialize in selling bulk gift cards earn their income from fees that are paid by the merchants. Merchants can afford to absorb their fees because cards that are either unused or only partially redeemed can represent a major source of income. They also realize that somebody redeeming a $20.00 gift card is likely to make an additional purchase, another source of income. Most cards will also have an expiration date, so be sure to be aware of that timeframe both when purchasing bulk cards and when distributing them to your customers. The advantage to buying these cards in bulk is to circumvent the usual 20 card limit when purchasing gift cards at the retail level. In addition, though most cards are purchased at face value, some merchants may even provide small discount incentives, although others may charge a premium (best to be avoided) and some cards may be on back order due to high demand.

Two online merchants that sell bulk gift cards are PerfectGift.com and BlackhawkNetwork.com. When it comes to oil company gift cards, both of these merchants represent the following companies: 76, ARCO, BP/Amoco, Chevron, Circle K, Conoco, ExxonMobil, Gulf, Sheetz, Shell, Sinclair, Speedway, Sunoco, Texaco, and Wawa. In addition, Blackhawk represents Marathon and Phillips 66. There are other smaller bulk card merchants, such as GiftCardPartners.com which only represents Sheetz, Shell, Speedway, and Wawa.

Take This to the Next Level

If you decide to pursue this type of incentive program, try to arrange an expanded arrangement with your local merchant. A smart gas station operator will realize that it takes more than $20.00 to fill a tank on a motorhome or a big pickup truck, and that you are essentially sending them business. Your mutual customer is likely to purchase not only more fuel but items from a full range of convenience and food items that might be offered. This local merchant whose business you are promoting should be willing to display your brochures or rack cards on his counter, and he should be a prime prospect to advertise in your guest guides. In fact, if there is more than one brand of fuel available within easy reach of your business, the willingness to participate might dictate which brand you choose to associate with your business.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Starlink … Is it Right for You?

June 8th, 2022
Starlink Logo

You have no doubt heard about Starlink, the satellite-based high-speed Internet service from SpaceX. To say that Starlink is innovative and groundbreaking in every way imaginable would be quite an understatement. Primarily intended to provide broadband Internet to people in remote locations, Starlink differs from other satellite-based Internet service providers such as HughesNet. Unlike conventional satellite networks that use small numbers of enormous satellites in geosynchronous orbits over 22,000 miles into space, Starlink employs a “constellation” of 573 pound refrigerator-sized satellites in low Earth orbit at an operational altitude of only 340 miles. Based upon those orbital heights alone, the improvements in signal latency are tremendous.

At the time of this writing (late May of 2022), there are currently about 2,400 Starlink satellites in orbit, mostly operational and some on standby. SpaceX is launching another 50 or so into orbit about once a week, essentially as fast as they can be built. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has licensed SpaceX for 12,000 Starlink satellites, and international regulators are expected to license another 30,000, totaling the 42,000 satellites that SpaceX hopes to eventually deploy in its “megaconstellation”. Each of the satellites presents the connecting point between end users and fiber optic gateway ground stations that provide the Internet data that is being requested. The distance between an end user and the associated ground station also influences the overall connection speed and latency, and SpaceX is continually adding new ground stations while also introducing a new generation of Starlink satellites that will communicate directly with one another at the speed of light via laser, minimizing the number of ground stations needed.

In case you haven’t already guessed, I am a Starlink subscriber who is quite enthused with the service. Until recently, people waited up to a year for their Starlink equipment, but the service is readily available now. I am based in a heavily wooded, rural location in Western Massachusetts, and at any given time, I am connecting to one of anywhere from 6 to 12 satellites that are within view of my very carefully mounted antenna. Depending upon which satellite is connecting with my equipment (a fluid process that is constantly changing), my data might be coming from a ground station in Litchfield, CT; Lunenburg, VT; Beekmantown, NY; Lockport, NY; or even Sullivan, ME. It you really want to geek out and monitor your connections in real time, I highly recommend the third-party Starlink Coverage Tracker at starlink.sx.

Back to My Original Question

Is Starlink right for you? Maybe. Starlink is primarily designed to provide high-speed Internet service for people in rural and underserved areas. Until now, my only option was DSL (which I think is an acronym for “Darned SLow”) or paying Comcast $20,000.00 to extend the cable to my residence so I would then have the privilege of subscribing to their service. With Starlink, you are seamlessly connecting to a satellite within the constellation that is within reach of your antenna, so latency, download speeds and upload speeds will continually fluctuate but are roughly 20 times the speed of DSL. With our DSL phone lines now ported to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) through Ooma (for both my business and residential services), I was able to cancel our services with Verizon, effectively offsetting the Starlink subscription fee. Every service and device in our household that requires an Internet connection is running through Starlink, with bandwidth to spare.

The rule of thumb is that, if you have fiber optic or cable available, one of those would be your first choice. If not, Starlink will be your first choice. There are three options currently available.

Residential

I am subscribing to the residential service. The equipment consists of a rectangular antenna, a WiFi router and power supply, a 75 foot cable, and what I would consider a temporary mount. This equipment will currently cost you $599.00, plus $50.00 shipping. It is said that this is about a third of what the equipment costs to manufacture, and one of the things that I really like is that everything is marked “Made in the USA”. The antenna is really remarkable. It sets itself up, motorized to track satellites in real time, and it is heated and programmed to automatically melt snow and ice in the winter. Choosing the antenna location is accomplished through the Starlink phone app, which will also show you obstructions in real time, including any resulting loss of signal. I mentioned that the mount was temporary. There are a variety of heavy-duty permanent mounts available as accessories that can only be ordered after you already have your equipment. In my case, a roof pivot mount and flashing mount were another $101.00. You will probably also want the optional Ethernet adapter, which is another $25.00. I found that my desktop computer does not have a very good WiFi adapter, and using the Ethernet adapter (that I have attached to a gigabyte switch) made a BIG difference in connection speed. The recurring fee for residential service is $110.00 per month, with no data limits.

Business

There is a Starlink option for businesses, with faster Internet speeds and greater throughput that partially result from an antenna that is twice the size of the residential unit. It is intended for businesses and storefronts with up to 20 users at any given time, and multiple kits can be run through a single centralized account to increase that bandwidth. This option comes at a price. The equipment currently costs $2,500.00, and the monthly subscription fee is $500.00. Talk to your WiFi network provider to see if this is a viable option for your campground. As with all Starlink services, a clear view of the sky is essential.

Starlink for RVs

Starlink for RVs became available on May 23, 2022. Up until now, subscriptions were for only one fixed location. This option allows use anywhere you travel where there is active coverage and an unobstructed view of the sky. Currently, that coverage is spotty in the Eastern United States, except for Northern New England and upstate New York. Active coverage is generally available in the Plains States and most of the interior West, with spotty coverage in parts of Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington. Keep in mind that Starlink is being rolled out to first serve remote areas where Internet access options are otherwise limited. Active coverage is generally available throughout Southern Canada and all of Mexico. Active coverage is expected throughout the rest of the United States, including Alaska, by some point in 2023. Starlink for RVs has the same equipment and cost as Starlink Residential, and the monthly subscription fee is currently $135.00 per month. The service can be paused and un-paused on a monthly basis to coincide with individual travel plans. For this to work effectively, you will want to choose to stay at open grassy campsites whenever possible rather than heavily wooded sites, since tree coverage will definitely degrade service. This plan also makes sense for people with a summer home in a remote location, but without excessive tree coverage. Bear in mind that this service cannot be used while you are driving down the road in your RV, although that type of mobile service is in the planning and regulatory approval stages.

In Summary

There are factors other than price and tree coverage to take into account when considering Starlink. Do you want to help make the world’s richest person (Elon Musk) even richer, or reward him for his genius? Other concerns include potentially negative impacts upon astronomy and concerns about orbital collisions and eventual re-entry into the atmosphere, but SpaceX is addressing those concerns. For example, these satellites have an onboard autonomous collision avoidance system and an onboard propulsion system that is designed to safely de-orbit each unit at end of life. Taking all of these factors into consideration, I am pleased with my experience so far.

This post was written by Peter Pelland