By Bob Difley
Unless you’ve been out in the boonies for several months, way beyond the reach of a radio signal, you know that the recession is not quite over. Joblessness is still somewhere near the top of Mt. Whitney, services have been cut to the non-existent, and a nervous populace is burying money under the mattress rather than spending it. OK. So (1) How can we RVers work the current economic situation to our advantage, and (2) How can we save more and spend less until this mess is over?
A look at how RV park and campground managers think and function and how they act in response to their supervisors putting the handcuffs on all spending might cast some light on how to turn their apparent inability to get things done (can’t buy supplies or parts, staff cuts reduce amount of labor available, can’t work the employees overtime, can’t pay outside contractors, etc.) into our personal opportunity.
As you travel around, tune in to the campgrounds and RV parks that you stay in–not to what you like about them, but what isn’t getting done. You will undoubtedly discover litter that needs to be picked up, grass to be mowed, brush to clear, trails to be maintained, weeds to pull, office files needing to be organized, an empty host position not filled, needed repairs to infrastructure (plumbing leaks, door hinge broken, sprinklers not working, painting restrooms and office), and much more.
You are likely to find these lapses more at government run parks (state, regional, national) where the unfortunate managers have been strapped with a smaller than needed budget and fewer than needed staff but still have to worry about being down graded or reprimanded by their next-tier-up-boss, who is also worried about his job and performance.
And here you are, a savior in an RV, to rescue the day–and maybe the job–for these beleaguered managers. Here’s the plan: Offer a trade out, where you provide the labor and expertise to perform the work that needs to be done–make a list, they sometimes tend to not see the obvious–for a free campsite. Depending on the current state of the campground, it could be for a few days, a week or so, or even for a month or more, depending upon how badly the manager needs another worker and how useful you are to his needs. And the cost of the non-revenue producing campsite you’re occupying doesn’t show up in any records–anywhere.
For the manager, it is better than a win-win. The park is cleaner, ignored repairs are taken care of, campers are happier–especially if you are the “friendly face” of the park, and whatever else you can “do for him” that will make him look good to upper management–and this is the key–without him having to request extra funds to pay somebody, without incurring overtime, with no expense to justify, all accomplished apparently due to his exceptional management abilities. You make him look good, you get free camping.
And you can do this from one campground to another, the more you add to your list, the more you will be trusted in each new situation. Two things to do to perpetuate your game plan. First, have a resume of your talents and the parks/campgrounds you have “served” at–and add the latest one to th list when you finish, and second, when your manager seems to be the happiest with your arrangement, have him write a letter of recommendation for you. Present these the next time you spot a similar situation.
I followed these tips several times. Once when passing through Georgia enroute to Florida for the winter, at a State Park we stayed in one night I found out that the host was leaving early for medical reasons and the next host wasn’t due for two weeks. We offered to fill the gap and ended up staying three months at no cost. After the two week fill-in, I traded out: (1) Becoming co-host with the arriving host for their days off (when the rangers had to collect fees–which they hated doing), (2) Building a website for their Civil War re-enactment programs, (3) Photographing their re-enactment programs, (4) splitting firewood (with their mechanical log splitter that the regular rangers didn’t have time for) and selling the firewood to campers raising “mad money” without tracks for the manager to spend as he needed–you get the idea.
Survey your talents. Use those talents to talk yourself into a position–never mind that the position maybe didn’t even exist until you arrived. Make a deal. No idea is too far out if it works out for the manager. Think–and pitch–his side of the deal–what he gets out of it. It works.
Good luck. Oh–and if you’ve talked yourself into such a position, I’m sure the readers of this blog would love to hear about it. That’s what the comment space below is for. Let’s hear from you.
For more ideas on saving money on the road check out my ebook, 111 WAYS TO GET THE BIGGEST BANG FROM YOUR RV LIFESTYLE BUCK. You can find more RVing tips and my other ebooks on BOONDOCKING and SNOWBIRD GUIDE on my Healthy RV Lifestyle website.