ReserveAmericaSucks.com
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Many people haae had negative experiences with Reserve America when trying to make camping reservations in our US State Forest Campgrounds.  Read about it here.  

Reserve America:
They've sucked the joy right out of camping.


2-1-10 update: I am sorry to see so many frustrated campers today. I hope you all get a site somehow despite the RA site being down for so long today. This guestbook only holds 100 or 150 entries total. I have all of the emails from whenever a new post is made, however, you all can't see the past few years worth of posts, and I don't want your good ideas to be lost to posterity. Several people mentioned a facebook page, so I made one that has a discussion tab. If you just want to vent a little and don't have a facebook page, use the guestbook. But if you would like to leave something more permanant: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reserve-America-Sucks/298261430208

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Rather than waste any more of my time speaking to Reserve America's disrespectful, rude employees, I decided to use my angry energy constructively and put up a website where frustrated customers can vent their frustrations about RA. 
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This website was originally posted in Summer 2004.  I was going to let the site expire in 2005, but after reading all of the stories from the other people who have been extremely unhappy with the customer service they received from RA, and also because of the incredible rudeness of the RA employees posting hateful invective in the guestbook, I decided to invest another $8.95 to keep this going another year in hopes it may help everyone who is frustrated to air their concerns.)
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I've been camping at the same state forest campground between 2-4 times a year for about 8 years now. A lovely, peaceful place called PineWoods, tucked away in the Southern Kettle Morraine State Forest in Southeastern WI. In the past, you just drove through, found a site that you liked that wasn't taken, filled out a slip, paid the ranger, and set up camp. Three years ago or so, they changed that. There were still a few non-reservable sites that you could show up and camp in, but for the most part, you had to make reservations ahead of time through a company called ReserveAmerica. I've done it a few times now, and the fees weren't toooo bad ($4 or $5). After what happened today though, it is my very firm belief that Reserve America Sucks. I'll never do business with Reserve America again. They've completely sucked the joy out of camping for me, and if you have 15 minutes to spare, I'll tell you why.

When we went to the ranger station in June 2004, they told us that they no longer have any sites that can be reserved in person, and that all reservations are now through Reserve America. Fair enough. I love the Internet and the ease of doing things online. So, I went to Reserve America's website and made my reservation. I winced as I paid the $9.50 reservation fee they tacked on to my bill, on top of the customary $8 per night that the parks charge! (I found out later that their parent company also owns Ticket Master, so go figure). So I paid the $25.50 for two nights.

Towards the end of the following week for unforeseeable reasons of family illness, we realized that there was just no way we'd be able to go camping in 3 days as planned. So, I called reserve america to reschedule our reservations, which their website says you may do up to 3 days ahead of time. However, the young lady I spoke with informed me that we could not, in fact, reschedule because it was technically about an hour past the 3 day period, and that we'd have to cancel the first reservation, and then make new reservations.

I told her that I knew that the $9.50 fee was non-refundable and that it's okay to charge me the fee and reschedule. She replied, "no, there's the $9.50 non-refundable fee, and another $5 cancellation fee, and then there's the..." at that point I was too shocked to process anything else. Basically, the fees totaled $22.50, and I had paid $25.50 originally, so my refund would be a whopping $3.

That's roughly a 95% penalty fee for canceling the reservation

So, even though I hadn't wanted to cancel at all, simply to reschedule our reservations, and although I had called 3 days ahead of time to reschedule as they say their policy requires, it was going to cost us $48 for 2 nights of camping. Shocked, I politely inquired about what could be done to rectify this, and was told "absolutely nothing". She said that I could "call the customer service department, but that they would definitely say no too, so it wouldn't do any good. And, they have kind of a long wait time today anyway". But she'd be happy to refund my $3, and then I would just have to pay another non-refundable $9.50 fee to make another reservation right away, plus the $8 a night (that I already paid, darn it) bringing my total to $25.50, and would I like to do that now on the phone?"

At this point, I told her to leave the reservation as it stood, thinking maybe we could just check in, have a campfire and roast some marshmallows for a couple of hours, and then I could have convinced myself it was worth $25.50 and made another reservation in another month, and it wouldn't be a total wash after all. I went to Reserve America's website and logged into my account to look up the policies she had referenced, and I found that she had gone ahead and deleted the reservation anyway, although I had very clearly told her not to. No matter how you look at it, that's just plain terrible customer service. She didn't even pretend she cared. The impression I got from her was simply "That's the way it is. Are you going to give us more of your money or are you going to hang up and stop bothering me now?" But in her one and only defense, she did refund my $3 promptly when she canceled it.

I realize that she was "just doing her job" as pointed out by the numerous RA employees who spam the guestbook, but, that's really a secondary issue.  The primary issue is customer service, or lack thereof.  Any company who charges such ridiculous fees, ought to give some kind of value in return, even if the value is simply well trained, helpful employees who know how to speak politely to the customers who pay those fees. 

I also realize that the national forests have chosen to use Reserve America to schedule campground reservations of their own free will, and that it probably saves them from having to hire more people on site. They probably even split the profit from those ridiculous fees with reserve america, or at least I sincerely hope they do. I understand that the money has to come from somewhere. I think the $8 a night campground fee that the state charges for the tent campgrounds I frequent, is actually really cheap, and I happily pay the $18 annual fee for the Wisconsin park passes every year, and I joyfully donate to the State Conservation Fund with my tax return every year. It's just natural that it costs money to maintain our forests, and all of you RA employees who misunderstand that point, are just wasting your bandwidth repeating it over and over again.

What I take issue with, is the fact that we are forced to use a system that has some very obvious inherent flaws, the most obnoxious of which is their employees.  After reading all of the horror stories that unhappy campers have posted in the guestbook, I realized that if for no other reason, I needed to let this site stay up another year or more in hopes that it would influence the decision to renew or cancel the contract with RA next time it is up.

I just can't help thinking that there has to be a better system than the one currently in place. For example, the one that I have posted in the FAQ.

This is where you, the reader, come in.  I'm sure that you intelligent people can come up with a myriad of other worthy options as well. Please write to your congress people and state parks departments with those great ideas, and please leave your alternative ideas in the Guestbook!

Thanks for reading, if you got this far. And please, boycott campgrounds using Reserve America whenever possible. Ask your state forests to implement some other system. There are many more cost effective options that would allow them to both make money, and keep it all for themselves. These are just my opinions, and you may not agree, but bless you anyway for reading this far and giving me some of your valuable time.

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