Why do the Americans hate us?

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    Avatar photodartymoor

    (A slightly racist whine about groundspeak and others…)

    It seems like it sometimes.

    Groundspeak recently increased the Premium subscription price, citing “Eu VAT regulations”. Unfortunately they hid this price rise behind a “Now you can pay in your own currency!” and totally mishandled it. They also broke the law, with staff stating publically that they would not give their VAT registration number. As anyone in business knows, this is a legally required piece of information if you charge VAT. Rather than repeat the whole messy arguement, let me link to the gs thread which has been ongoing for quite a while without much clarity from Groundspeak who, frankly, come across as incredibly inept and dishonest. (Note I don’t mind paying VAT at all, I just want to know it’s going where it should)


    So europeans get a raw deal and have to pay extra, even after VAT is allowed for. Groundspeak aren’t unique in this, American companies often inflate prices when charging across the pond too. I’ve worked with Americans extensively over the past decade and as a breed they just don’t /think/ the same as the British, especially in business, and it’s a rare one indeed that “Gets” us. I don’t think Groundspeak understand us at all, and seem to have no interest in trying to.

    And it’s not just Groundspeak. Garmin run opencaching.com and mail me every now and then with competitions. “Win a chirp”, “Do this and get entered into our prize draw”. All great, but read the small print – only open to US Residents. Yet they’re sending the competitions worldwide despite knowing exactly where I live, to the nearest meter! Annoying! Clearly Garmin are working in the UK as the National Trust partnership shows.

    Opencaching.com is interesting, but the website lacks depth, stats and community that I like. It also lacks caches and cachers – I have a fair number of caches cross-listed there that get hardly any finders. I also listed one there on Dartmoor which has yet to be found after almost six months.

    Opencaching.org.uk is a brave attempt and the only cache site that attempts to cater for the UK but again, doesn’t have caches or cachers. I’ve also watched activity there drop dramatically over the past year or so.

    So I’m not really happy with any of the three main cache sites.

    Groundspeak have the monopoly and I can’t see anyone taking that from them. They can afford to be arrogant and not listen to us (or any of their customers sometimes, remember Google Maps’s loss, then crippling searches recently and claiming it’s a positive) because, well, I think they have more money than they know what to do with. With tens or hundreds of thousands of premium members the revenue must be substantial, but I don’t think the costs are. They don’t often talk about hardware, but when they do it’s not at enterprise scale and the performance at peak times reflects. The americans call this a “Mom and pop business” but this doesn’t scale at all, especially when playing at international level.

    The UK’s sole concession appears to be local reviewers, who are pretty damned good to be fair. But they don’t seem able to feed back up the chain in any significant way.

    So in short, I’m frustrated that a hobby I love is not run as well as it could be. But it’s not going to change so I should suck it up and carry on…

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    I think we all have to accept that Groundspeak is a multi million dollar business and we have to play by their rules or not at all. It is not an association or a committee which can be influenced and they don’t really seem to care what their members think – and it’s not just the Brits, there are plenty of disgruntled US members as well. Not long ago they introduced that little tab on the left edge of every screen which took you to a suggestion site – that soon disappeared as they got so much criticism on it. As you say, the two alternatives are not really worth considering, so if you want to geocache you really have to embrace Groundspeak.

    One thing we could all do which would help, is to refuse to place any premium member only caches. I have argued before against their use, but still COs insist on placing them (including that new 60+ series on Bodmin Moor). If we refused to place such caches fewer people would feel the need to take up Premium Membership.


    I’ve long had an uneasiness about the monopoly that GC.com has over our hobby, and the precarious position this places us in. All our accumulated experience could be wiped out if the company ceased trading, and if they decide to hike prices (and it was only a matter of time before the did, and will do again), then we have no option other than to pay up or quit.

    I have tried my hand at Terracaching, open caching and munzeeing, and all have their pros and cons, but they are at the end of the day marginal pursuits compared to geocaching, and they don’t have the same appeal. The small numbers of players taking part in these activites ensure that they remain marginal, and they will probably not gain the critical mass to make them serious players.

    Also, since GC.com does have the monopoly, they don’t pay much heed to what their customers want, and the ongoing debate over virtual caches is one example of this.

    I did think a while ago that there might be a market for a web service that brings all of these GPS-based activites together in one place, so one could go out and find all kinds of caches and other markers on a single walk, and all the resources could be found in one place. Perhaps more importantly such a site could tally up all the various stats from the different component games to give a dashboard of statistics. Such a site would also tend to boost activity in the less popular caching sites, as all finds would contribute to the “numbers”, not just GC caches. That would probably help to balance out the market, and encourage a more co-operative attitude from GC.com.

    I personally think that the position the GC.com is in at the moment is far from beneficial to us, and anything we can do to give us a bit more control over our hobby can only be a good thing.

    Avatar photoreb10

    I think the problem is that Groundspeak is a business and all businesses need customers, who are the customers? The premium members. And they don’t really have any competition.
    So in my opinion the only people who can change the way GS relates to us is not to take out premium membership but just have the basic membership, but how many people would be prepared to do that.
    And thinking about it why was the distance between caches lowered to 0.1 miles a while back? Because in my opinion to encourage more caches in areas that were already full to the limit. After all who would pay a premium membership if there were no more caches to be found close to home.

    Tamerton Chocolates

    I did see a note somewhere that this price hike was only for new customers. The existing ones would remain in the old priceband – but I am not sure if that is true.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    If we really analyse it the membership fees are really very low compared to other things in life. If I fill my car with diesel it costs nearly £80 and I can only drive about 400 miles, less on Dartmoor lanes. So not too many caches to be found for £80.

    If you go to a premier league football match it can cost you anything up to about £60 for one game and even Plymouth charge £20. Any club or organisation you join will charge some sort of membership fee, so maybe our fees to Groundspeak are relatively cheap.

    However, they make their millions off the backs of lots of volunteers. The reviewers must spend many hours each week administering the caches and they get paid nothing. Not to mention the COs. If nobody placed any caches there would be no geocaching!

    Avatar photodartymoor

    If you look at the cost for what we get out of it, yes – that’s reasonable. But what are groundspeak providing for that? A website that’s often slow and unusable, and a database full of our content. Caches and logs are made by the users, the website just glues them together. Even the stats have been done better by others for free. The map needs GME to make it better (and why don’t GS take these very popular features and roll them into the core?)

    (BTW, car fuel. I find it doesn’t seem so expensive if you think of it as liquified explosive dinosaurs)

    Muddypuddles is right about the monopoly, and that they can afford to ignore us. It is a business, and it’s all business, but it’s not good business.

    I like the idea of a gateway site, especially if it could display everything on one great map and build PQ’s, handle field notes and do logging all in one place. That would be quite nifty!

    But if it got popular and threatened them, wouldn’t groundspeak prevent access? (the backend API is used by apps and some web services to give access to information, but this generally requires a premium membership too)

    I’m not sure they need our money so much that they care about losing a few premium members here or there. Probably prefer it if it gives them a quiet life.

    (Tamerton: Kinda. They’ve said if you have recurring membership (ie, you trust gs enough to store your CC details in their database), you won’t be affected – but that people who pay when it’s due will. But communication and truth have both suffered so far, so who knows?)

    Tamerton Chocolates

    In theory it would be quite easy to make a proxy site. I don’t think legally there is much GS can do if someone prints a set of coordinates on a different website. They have tried to stop the likes of c:geo many times and failed. It doesn’t use the API (which is what GS wants developers to use – it is horrid, esp the authentication)- but instead it parses the HTML page for a cache and prints the details in the phone app.

    I think logging for caches can still be done without authentication (and hence non-members can log member caches) but this is something they could easily fix if it was to be abused.


    Should we ever fall out with our American landlords, we could produce our own ”Catalogue of Dartrmoor Geocaches” which could be sold (not for profit I add!!!) out the back of a shack at The Cherrybrook 🙂

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