You Want How Much For That Campsite?!?

Ahh, you have to love Americans' capitalistic tendencies. I mean, where else can you spit in the face of someone hoping to enjoy a low-cost stay in a national park by reserving a $20 campsite in Yosemite National Park and then putting it up for auction for $249 on Ebay?

OK, to be fair, that price is for three nights in that campsite, so the person auctioning site No. 48 in the Lower Pines campground in the Yosemite Valley is only seeking $189 for his trouble in securing the site via the federal government's nation-wide recreation system. And if you can't find time to head to Yosemite from August 24-27, site No. 402 in the North Pines campground is reserved for August 12-15 and being offered for a mere $174.

Another seller with a conscious is offering a campsite in the Upper Pines campground July 25-26 for a mere $27.

Park officials say there currently is nothing they can do.

“Apparently it’s been going on for a couple years. It’s not just us. It’s anyone on the reservation system. There’s nothing that says that sites aren’t transferable," Yosemite spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman tells me. "We don't condone this. We’re looking for ways to prohibit this, including working with Ebay. But it doesn’t fall under the penal code for scalping.

"The bottom line is these sites should be available to the American public for a reasonable price. That’s what camping is all about.”

Thanks to Glenn Scofield Williams for tipping us to this story.

Comments

Why not have the reservation service make these reservations non-transferable, and require a photo ID when the campers arrive for their stay. That is how low cost airline and hotel reservation people handle this situation. If after a set time, the person who reservied does not appear, then open the site to people who are there looking to get a site.

anyone insane enough to pay that much for a national park campground deserves it!

i have no problem that people are making a profit off the pain and misery of the experience: whether it's camping next to a bathroom with lights on all night and a glowing soda machine (bryce- north something or other...) or a campsite with no level ground (yellowstone- canyon) or getting shoehorned into another site so they're conversations are completely audible and their lanterns light up your entire campsite (rocky mountain np) or being so close to an RV that you can hear what the people are listening to (barbara bush's memoirs, capitol reef, fruita cg) i can't stand most of the main national park campgrounds. the park service, in many instances, should be ashamed of itself for providing such a horrible experience to the families who have made the effort to pack up their kids, drive them across the nation and then endure the crowds at a np. and people wonder about declining visitation...

a little off topic rant, i admit, but who cares if people are making money off ebay through selling their reservations? they probably already got robbed through all the "reservation fees" and minimum stays the reservation concessionaires charge anyway.

Alot of parks state and federal charge 20.00 a night for camp sites. thats 600 U$D a month for something our taxes paid for. The governments are out of control...

There are many nice sites in the Yosemite Valley campgrounds. There are no soda machines, and I've always gotten the site I've reserved, which I choose so it's not next to the bathroom. It's not wilderness camping, but many of us enjoy camping in the valley for various reasons. The $20 per night is similar to state park campgrounds in CA...a bit high, but I think worth it. There are no reservation fees. Sites are difficult to get during the summer months, so apparently others enjoy them also.

I think the ones who should be ashamed are the ones trying to capitalize off this, when they add nothing to the value, just grab them so others can't get them, then auction them at whatever the market will bear; I just can't see how anyone thinks this is "OK". If people are going to pay artificially bloated prices, why not have the NPS charge more, at least they give us something in return, which can't be said for ebayers.

As mentioned, it's simple enough to make reservations non-transferable and require ID when checking in, so I just can't see why there's "nothing they can do". Nonsense, they need to take care of this issue while it's still relatively small, or the greedy ones will get wind of it, and buy up whole blocks of summer reservations to scalp.

More power to the persons who want to voluntarily exchange lawfully obtained goods or services in a free and open market. It's nobody's business what someone else does with their campsite reservation once they have purchased it from the NPS. Making them nontransferable will open a whole can of worms that is something the park service would be wise to steer well clear of.

Beamis, your post sheds the most clarity on the subject of 'em all! Bravo!!

Gary---I'm glad you're also a free market capitalist. Happy July 4th!

The problem is you can't tell the honest person (intended to use the reservation, something came up) from the dishonest person (grabbed a reservation knowing full well they weren't going to use it with the intent of reselling it). Since there's no way to sort these people out, you shut it all down. If the government did that -- for example if they auctioned off the last 5 campsites for each day and made more money in line with higher demand -- people would be screaming that it's unfair.

-- Jon Merryman

Why is reselling something dishonest? The person buying the campsite reservation on eBay is paying for the added value of not having to deal with the concessionaire or sitting on the phone with credit card in hand waiting to make the transaction. Obviously it was worth it to them to pay what they did, because they willing forked over the dough. In economics this is known as a "value-added" commodity.

This year I wanted to go to the Alabama-Georgia football game, so I went online to Stubhub (a ticket reseller) and found that tickets for that match were averaging about $350. I know the original price for these same tickets is around $40. Does the high the mark-up bother me? Not at all. That is what is known as the "market value" and I don't begrudge a season ticket holder for trying to capitalize on it. For Alabama football games, this season, it is a sellers market.

I will watch the game on TV and know that many of the people in the stands were happy to pay the market value for something that originally cost much less. Capitalism is a great thing.

Beamis...capitalism also breeds pathetic consumptious greed! The parks are not pawns to enhance the pockets of the greedy. We learn to share not exploit!

So you don't invest? You don't own stocks? Would you be ashamed to sell your house for twice the price you paid for it? I sort of doubt it.

We have to share not exploit! I guess our concept of exploitation are totally different. In capitalism all transactions are voluntary, while in government they are not. If you don't pay your taxes you go to jail. If you don't like the way the post office or the park service is run, well too bad because they are both government monopolies. Pay your taxes and shut up!

Now who's the real exploiter?

i agree with beamis. who in their right mind would pay that much for a campsite in a national park? let someone voluntarily do it if they want. it's not so much a widespread problem at this point, it's a blip on a highly topical blog. and frankly, the park service wastes enough of its budget mucking things up, like that totally lame new visitor center at arches, to try and regulate small things like people auctioning off their campsites on ebay. if we're going to worry about this, then let's just forget about unimportant things like stopping the spread of invasive species, declining interp program budgets and rising entrance fees because they already get so much attention anyway. (use your sarcasm detector here)

Beamis, I know there's a little bit of larceny and greed in all of us, but were not talking about the parks being part of the stock market or the New York stock exchange. Were talking about a feasible price system within the parks that fits the needs of every visitor. The parks should never be used for some type of football scapling to the highest bidder. Geez, this is all about money, and not enough about taking poverty inner city kids (example of have nots) to enjoy these beautiful crown jewels called the National Parks. However, your point of view is interesting.

$25 to enter Zion and Yosemite is larceny, especially for a taxpayer funded facility. Confiscating our wealth through a corrupt tax code to drop bombs on Baghdad is larceny. A voluntary exchange of goods and services between consenting adults is NOT larceny. It called free trade.

The person who purchased the reservation is happy and so is the person who bought it. This is what makes for a free and happy society. Therein lies a huge distinction.

Those left outside the process are not happy. Trade does not exist in a vacuum. Let's say one guy owns the water, your neighbor owns the boats, and you own the navigator schools, and assume that all are equally valuable. If your neighbor gives his boats to the guy who owns the water, tell me that doesn't have an adverse effect on you as the owner of the navigator school since one guy now owns 2/3 of the resources in the trade equation. When you realize that trade never happens on equal footing, that there is never any assumption of fairness in "free trade," then a lot of other people get affected when two other people make a deal (and that gets exacerbated the more resources owned by those making the deal).

When Bechtel builds a road to a mine because they were sold the rights, who and what is still hurt? A lot of people, animals, and land who had nothing to do with the deal but are still affected by it.

Theft and larceny is the lot of governments and private individuals alike all based on the lie of entitlement.

For more on where I'm coming from an anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian perspective, read John Locke, Yellowstone, and the Dogma of the Right to Private Property.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Beamis, good points well taken! But I also think, that those that can out bid a average smuck like me, probably is one happy camper with the big bucks to spend. Now, that doesn't make me happy...does it!? I guess, as the old adage goes: "he with the most toy's wins"...sad but true. With that kind of philosophy (or adage) I don't think this makes one holistic happy society. Of course, who said life is fair. Ask the poor kid in the ghetto's if he can afford a pair of decent hiking shoes to trek the trails of Yosemite. Probably not! As far as free trade is concerned (NFTA, as a example with Mexico) perhaps we wouldn't have this huge problem with illegal immigration in the states. Such a imbalance! Just a thought or fuel for the fire.

Jim, excellent response. You have done your homework!

Jim----I'd like to recommend the work of the Austrian school of economics, most especially that of Ludwig Von Mises.

True freedom is derived from private property and the voluntary exchange of goods and services. The government as equalizer always ends in disaster and tyranny. Just look at history.

It's not that difficult folks -- you ask to see some ID and ask for the reservation number before you give the guy his space. No ID match, no campsite. Even an illegal alien with no English skills can manage that process. There won't be an empty site during peak demand seasons -- there'll be someone getting there bright and early (probably me) hoping to be first on the waiting list, and then the park gets the $20 of the person who reserved and didn't show, PLUS the $20 of the person who actually used the site. Why would you deny the park of the money it's entitled to? If I rent a condo to someone for a week at the beach, they're not entitled to turn around and rent it to someone else -- it's not their condo.

I had six tickets to Cal Ripken's last game purchased at $10 apiece. Could have sold them for $300 apiece or more on eBay, but I opted to sell two of them for $10 each and I made sure it was someone who really appreciated it, not some sleazeball off the street slinking up to me asking if I had an extra ticket.

Now there's a place in society where costs have spiraled out of control -- professional sports. If people weren't spending so much money on overpriced tickets to baseball, football, basketball and ice hockey, they'd have money to burn for park entrances fees. Think about it -- family of 4 at a single NFL game would cost about the same (or more) as reserving a campground for a fortnight. Unless of course you're going to the 'Bama game in which case you can rent an RV for two weeks instead :)

One final thought -- you think all these intrepid entrepreneurs are paying taxes on the money they made reselling campground reservations and sports tickets? Any tax experts out there? I don't know for certain, but wouldn't you think they should be paying income tax on that money they made?

-- Jon Merryman

I totally agree. Non-transferrable reservations would be the way to go here. If people think they need to bid on a public service, they are way off base. Public means open to everyone and to me, at a reasonalble price.
Should people want to pay a lot, put a donation to the Yellowstone organisation. Then you know it will be put to good use.

"If people think they need to bid on a public service, they are way off base. Public means open to everyone and to me, at a reasonable price".

In a nation where equality is everything, and where advantage need not be earned, but only redistributed, how could anything be more virtuous?

Well at least I understand the socialist mindset of most of the readers of this website. This will not keep me from howling in the wilderness about the virtues of the free market and the advantages it holds over the statist vision of government dominated wild land and recreation areas. Your faith in Big Brother astounds me.

Beamis,

I'm a little surprised you have me pegged, after my remarks, as a "government as equalizer" sort of person, especially when I criticized government solutions, pointed you to a set of essays where I said that a government "right" to Yellowstone National Park simply does not exist, and let you in on the fact that I was "anti-authoritarian."

Most of the people here, I would suspect, are not socialists but liberals in the John Rawls sense, meaning that they believe that free enterprise is okay so long as there is some kind of safety net. Perhaps, there are a few socialists, who would see a large state solution as the means to the ends of a stateless society. I don't throw in with either of those camps. Both to me are paternalistic and arrogant in their faith of knowing what's best for the world; I think I understand and appreciate the libertarian impulse not to give up control to people who would urge global solutions to things they cannot possibly understand at such a macro level.

Nevertheless, I critiqued the idea that free enterprise makes for everyone being happy. In fact, it doesn't. There's no guarantee of that at all. You can become decidedly "unfree" if you aren't at the top of the trading chain. I did not say, "Therefore, governments should control campground fees at a fair market value" the way that liberals and socialists might. I didn't say anything at all. For me, the struggle is on different terms, against hierarchy (in the grand sense) and the presumptions of people who justify various types of these hierarchies. So called free market capitalism and socialism are both on the same continuum.

All that will still come down to the question of what I would do about the question of campground fees and who should control their sale and whether they should be available for re-sale. If one doesn't support the government or private individuals having control, and small-scale collectivism (my preferred choice in a different world) isn't a viable option given the practical reality, then the only question is which solution has the best tactical possibility of contributing to a world where our ends are possible. I believe that comes by supporting public control, not because public control is justified, but simply because the more diffuse the ownership right that is claimed, the more abstract it is, the easier it is to actually resist. And, resisting this privilege is the main aim I have. I think anyone who actually looks at libertarian views closely and really wants to protect life, liberty, and property (as opposed to the "right" to life, liberty, and property), will see that capitalism and the "free market" is a fool's gold (so to speak). The best way is to see that we have no basis to say that one being is more worthy than another and to resist all the forces that enforce arbitrary values to the contrary.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

"You can become decidedly 'unfree' if you aren't at the top of the trading chain." I disagree. I am certainly not at the top of the trading chain, nor do I aspire to be, but the free market offers me a virtually unlimited set of options with which to innovate, collaborate and grow that have nothing to do with climbing some hierarchal ladder of domination and control.

All of society's innovations and advancements come from the free market. Toyota is building hybrid cars because its customers and the market demanded it, the iPhone, which is about revolutionize personal electronic communications, was invented because the market place was ready for it and needed it and getting around the country cheaply via Southwest Airlines was accomplished because they saw that the old hub-and-spoke design of conventional air travel was expensive and inefficient, so they just came up with a new point-to-point system that has revolutionized air travel to the benefit of its customers and the economies of the areas they serve.

I'm very happy to have the choices that I do in a the free market of ideas and capital. All transactions are voluntary. I can participate up the point that I feel comfortable and then opt out when I feel like that enough is enough. With government's ability to levy (confiscate) my wealth to use on destructive things like unjust wars, farm subsidies, theft of people's land (Grand Teton & Shenandoah N.P.) and the illegal detention and spying on of innocent and un-indicted persons is something I have little to no control over. As the old reggae songs says "No matter who you vote for, da government always gets in."

Your idea of small-scale collectivism is never a good road to go down because it never stays small and by forcing anything in that direction always distorts it and eventually destroys it. Just like in nature, economics is a force for efficiency and growth. The collection plate at my church is where small-scale and voluntary collectivism works best, but here we are answering to a much higher authority.

"You can become decidedly 'unfree' if you aren't at the top of the trading chain." I disagree. I am certainly not at the top of the trading chain, nor do I aspire to be, but the free market offers me a virtually unlimited set of options with which to innovate, collaborate and grow that have nothing to do with climbing some hierarchal ladder of domination and control.

How unlimited are your options? Anyone can find unlimited options, in a manner of speaking, from within a prison cell. They can count sheep, they do push ups, they can scratch themselves, they can imagine all the things they aren't doing. From the standpoint of number, even the smallest atom has within it unlimited numbers of options. But, that's to equivocate, no? When we say unlimited, we mean something else, and if one thinks that Bill Gates, the President of the United States, you, a child dying of AIDS in subsaharan Africa, a prison inmate, a woman on the Pine Ridge reservation have the same unlimited choices, you'd be guilty of a blind delusion. If you mean to say that within our own limits, we have so much we can do, that's a truism. It says nothing about justice, especially whether we can justify our particular range of choices as opposed to someone else's.

All of society's innovations and advancements come from the free market.

A most startling thing to say! What can make you so sure? Let's keep reading.

Toyota is building hybrid cars because its customers and the market demanded it, the iPhone, which is about revolutionize personal electronic communications, was invented because the market place was ready for it and needed it and getting around the country cheaply via Southwest Airlines was accomplished because they saw that the old hub-and-spoke design of conventional air travel was expensive and inefficient, so they just came up with a new point-to-point system that has revolutionized air travel to the benefit of its customers and the economies of the areas they serve.

Wow, quite remarkable. These are the great innovations and advancements of civilization under capitalism? I'm quite impressed. These apparent innovations and advancements only make my own case stronger.

I'm very happy to have the choices that I do in a the free market of ideas and capital. All transactions are voluntary. I can participate up the point that I feel comfortable and then opt out when I feel like that enough is enough.

You know that's nonsense, and I allude to my example in my first response to you. People are deeply affected by the choices of others through no choice of their own. Freedom does not exist in a vacuum (nor does anything else in nature). We cannot atomize relational choices into their component parts and see how they move as though nothing else in the system matters. So, each of our choices causes an involuntary reality for some other being. Even if you and I trade voluntarily, the new reality where that trade happens and affects everything and everyone else, came quite involuntarily. Perhaps, that's why we live in a world where iPhones and hybrid cars are mistaken for human progress. Who set the market on determining those values? More importantly, who didn't? Who was left out?

With government's ability to levy (confiscate) my wealth to use on destructive things like unjust wars, farm subsidies, theft of people's land (Grand Teton & Shenandoah N.P.) and the illegal detention and spying on of innocent and un-indicted persons is something I have little to no control over. As the old reggae songs says "No matter who you vote for, da government always gets in."

That's only because there isn't a movement of solidarity strong enough to stop it in part because we are cannibalizing each other using this myth of free trade. My notion that public interests are easier to resist than private actually is an adaptation of Aristotle's views on the subject, someone you libertarians love to quote. I've just inverted the purpose.

Your idea of small-scale collectivism is never a good road to go down because it never stays small and by forcing anything in that direction always distorts it and eventually destroys it. Just like in nature, economics is a force for efficiency and growth. The collection plate at my church is where small-scale and voluntary collectivism works best, but here we are answering to a much higher authority.

I'm not looking for a world without struggle or trying to control the fate of our world. All collectives will break down just as all our bodies break down in death. Just the fact we live in a universe where we can't know the full implications of a single one of our actions should make us humble about trying to understand what allows for "efficiency and growth" much less trying to determine the specific application of those values. The question isn't whether small collective ownership is infallible but whether it is rational given humanity's relatively blind place in the universe. For a lot of reasons too myriad to explore here or at this time, I think that it is the most rational and most consistent with our experience. Everything else is far too large for us to grasp and control.

Anyhow, this is interesting, but people here will want to know we really do care about campground fees in the parks. I will assert again that there is another path between the right of public control over spaces and so-called free market control. And, if we see this issue in isolation, we will never get at the larger implications. I mean, aren't people tired of these issues constantly popping up like weeds? No matter how you answer this question by itself, you are going to be pissing a lot of people off.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Bottom line, if someone wants to pay for a campsite reservation that another person obtained legally, well then, that is just fine with me. Both parties are happy, end of story.

No, it's not the end of the story. If I might have gotten that spot for $20, but you snapped it up and sold it to some rich guy, then what am I supposed to do? I didn't ask for that reality. Now, the rich have access, and those who have a special skill for snapping up campsites have a business. And, everyone else is left out in the cold. A lot of people aren't happy, and that's just the single issue of the campsite itself (there are a lot of other intertwining things as well).

Again, your market is not the vacuous paradise you'd like it to be. There is never an end to the story of even the smallest action we take in life.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I am curious why your first assumption is that the reservation was sold to some "rich guy"? It may very well have been sold to a group of Tibetan monks or bought by a church charity to be given to a poor family from the projects or maybe even to a downtrodden Native American from Pine Ridge, SD.

"Now, the rich have access, and those who have a special skill for snapping up campsites have a business." Well maybe. I've made a lot of money on eBay selling things I've bought at yard sales from people who could've probably used the extra money. What should I have done? Passed up the opportunity because I knew I'd be haunted by the dictum: "There is never an end to the story of even the smallest action we take in life."

You know, your world view can get to be a bit paralyzing.

Real life requires real actions.

0r as Prince Hamlet once said "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

I wasn't making an assumption; I was speaking to a hypothetical situation. But, as for yard sale items, there's nothing that says you couldn't just give them some money, share the profits of your ebay sale (though that sale in itself is rife with difficulty), or organize with them against a system that puts you at odds with them and judges success and value by a profit margin. You had plenty of other choices, and plenty of other actions possible to you. Most of us with any kind of privilege at all do (if only to organize), but as long as we live with the veil of powerlessness, we are going to think that all we can do is live to maximize our goods at the expense of everyone else. And, that's a travesty on so many levels.

But, let's take what you are saying seriously for a moment. It's true that I breathe and move, and I don't understand whether my breathing and moving is for good or for bad. I breathe anyhow. Fair enough. What I don't do is build an economic system where I pretend that my success at breathing is an honest-to-God value whose capital should be maximized and re-invested. In the natural world, we breathe, and we let the chips fall as they may. We take action because of what we are prone to do by nature. In the capitalist world, we see that we are breathing, turn our breath into a commodity, and do our best to maximize that value as though no other alternative could possibly be worthwhile. That's not nature; that's abstract at its worst. It leads to relative powerlessness for most and the sad fact we as a world haven't lived anywhere near our potential. In making a commodity of one aspect of our existence, we've forfeited much more coherent values. Instead of breathing, it's the price of our breath (or our life, or our iPhone, or our progress, or our eBay item) that matters. And, that's why we are talking about such obtuse things as whether a campground spot should be re-sold instead of the birds of the air and the touch of our lover's cheek.

We are active beings by nature; we don't need a mechanical system to dictate our actions for us - all the capitalists and socialists and the liberal hybrids (perhaps, a pun intended) should be very careful of losing sight of the trees that make up the forest.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I'm a bit astonished at some of the reactions. This being a National Parks site, I thought there would be folks here who have an appreciation that we even have such resources. Instead, I see greed and capitalism-at-all-costs professed as "how it should be". What are you guys doing here, anyway, looking for some way to profit from the national park and forest system? I'm glad you weren't around when they were established, we'd have a bunch of McDonald's and Holiday Inns instead of a national heritage.

Sure, call in and buy up the campsites that you know will be in demand, because it is summer and that's the only time some folks can get off work to go there. Then sell it to the richest SOB you can find, boy, yeah, that's America in action! Get yours, to heck with everybody else, right? Even though you added absolutely nothing of value to what you're selling, call in early and get what you can, then gouge what you can out of some poor working guy who couldn't get through on the phone for his reservation because you and the other profiteers had the lines jammed up. Now THAT's putting our national parks to good use in the good old American way...for your personal profit, yup boy.

And what's this about a can of worms being opened by making the reservations non-transferable? You make your reservations; if you can't go, you call and they refund all but $10 of your money, big deal, what's so difficult about that? So you can't give them to your buddy, if he wants to go then go with him, or have him call and make his own reservations. If that's a "problem", I'd hate to see what happens when actual real problems come up.

I'm glad that this forum doesn't represent the norm, at least out in our part of the west. Many of us here consider Yosemite a national treasure, and are grateful that folks had the foresight (and the fortitude to battle greedy capitalists who saw only dollars, sound familiar?) to at least try to preserve it for future generations.

That's right, encourage profiteering from anything you can find; grab up those campsites and auction them off. Then we'll see a bunch of spoiled yuppies in their rented motorhomes filling up what used to be a nice place, no doubt traipsing through everyone else's camp, leaving out their food for the bears, and working at their laptops while the kids watch DVD's from their campsite, so they can keep up with their ebay sales and investments.

Some of you don't deserve to have national parks; you deserve what would be the product of your dream, a bunch of paved strip malls where people can do what's really important, make money.

hi gary- aside from respectfully suggesting you might want to check your tone (see the last paragraph in your comment, re-read and please reconsider...) i would also like to suggest that you might actually want to investigate the cash (at least the national forest reservation system) extortion fees charged (minimum night stays, reservation fees, etc.) by the concessionaires and then possibly consider writing your congressional team (skip the nps/usfs folks) and direct your passion in that direction. it's the government, not the commenters on this site, degrading the overall values in our cherished national park system by allowing the "concessionaires" to "profit" by running the reservation systems...

Gary, and tell 'em "Anonymous" told you so... ;-)

-- Jon