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Watering Down Groundspeak’s Guidelines?

She’s a cruel mistress, fate … just ask American water-filtering vendor Multi-Pure.

Eight days ago, the Nevada company placed a geocache outside its Las Vegas headquarters to celebrate its 40th year of operation. Now that hide – which I believe contravenes Groundspeak’s guidelines on commercialism – has disappeared.

On Tuesday, company spokeswoman Trina Boice posted a DNF log on GC.com, stating: “I checked our geocache last Thursday and it was still there … today it’s completely gone. Anyone know what happened to it?”

To my mind, GC2NJQB H2O In The Desert has either simply been muggled or it’s been removed by a local seeker also disgruntled about the cache’s obvious commercial nature. As Boice hasn’t temporarily archived her company’s hide, I presume she plans to replace it.

For those needing a refresher course, Groundspeak’s cache placement guide states:

“Commercial caches are disallowed. As a general rule, reviewers will not publish cache pages that seem commercial. A commercial cache has one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. It requires the finder to go inside a business, interact with employees and/or purchase a product or service.
  2. It has overtones of advertising, marketing or promotion.
  3. It contains links to businesses, commercial advertisers, charities, political agendas or social agendas.
  4. It contains the logo of a business or organization, including non-profit organizations.
  5. The name of a business or commercial product is on the cache page.
  6. On very rare occasions, Groundspeak makes an exception for a commercial cache. Arrangements are made before placement. If your cache is commercial in any way, please contact Groundspeak for clarification about how to comply with cache listing guidelines.

To be fair, Multi-Pure hasn’t specifically broken the rules on its cache listing page – its blurb reads “Where can you find water in Las Vegas? Easy! Look outside my office window!”

However, a quick scan of its blog reveals the following announcement:

“In honour of Multi-Pure’s 40th anniversary, we’ve created a special geocache for others to find and enjoy. We’ve entitled it `H20 in the Desert’ and filled the cache with fun Multi-Pure swag.

“To see the clues about the location of our cache, as well as learn more about how much fun geocaching can be, go to: GC2NJQB

“Here’s a clue for you … when you come to Las Vegas in April for our special 40th anniversary conference, you’ll be much closer to finding the geocache.”

Likewise, one of the four Found logs implies masses of advertising material as well as a discount card. FTFer Zzyzx989 wrote: “I almost didn’t go for this one since the co-ords for ground zero were on the roof of the building, but the hint made the find possible! Took some info and a keychain flashlight and I will bring the card back soon!”

Also of interest is this statement on Boice’s blog: “My kids and I get a real kick out of geocaching on the weekends.”

Yet the tally for her GC handle Boice Boys is zero finds and one hide. She could, of course, have created the login simply for this promotion, but it would explain why her cache co-ordinates lead seekers to the roof of Multi-Pure’s building, rather than the carpark by her office window.

It’s very much a catch-22 situation. Obviously, our hobby stands to benefit if Multi-Pure advertises its geocaching promotion to customers, but isn’t allowing that hide tantamount to opening the floodgates to every other business with a savvy PR rep?

For the record, I don’t blame the GC.com reviewer here. But as hindsight is 20/20, I do believe Groundspeak should be contacting Multi-Pure to work through this issue.

*Tell us what you think … Where should Groundspeak draw the line? Would you publish Multi-Pure’s cache if you were a reviewer?

13 comments

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  1. Jr and Juju

    Wow how things change!
    In 2008 we place a cache outside of a glass shop that had been closed for over 5 years, called “looking glass” GC1GMPE. The reviewer told me it was a commercial cache. it took a week of emails to convince the reviewer I was not promoting this business.
    Groundspeak has changed! They used to require each cache be individual, now now you can line them up 520ft from each other. Are they going to allow caches on commercial properties for sponsorship monies now?

  2. dogcacher

    We have run into issues with the Groundspeak reviewers when doing charity events. Many other “sports” in the US do charity events but the founders of the geocaching sport rarely allow charitable geocaching events. Every year several of our members from several different states do charities that promote animal rescue and adoption. The reviewers always ban our “temporary caches” and make us list the event in the forums instead. We have had many die hard geocachers get nasty with us because they can’t add to their numbers when participating in our events. I say what ever happened to just participating for the fun of it. The “sport” seems to have lost it’s sense of fun for many. When you can no longer do something for a good cause or to celebrate a milestone like MultiPure you diminish the camaraderie of participation. But alas perhaps geocaching is heading in the direction of so many “pro sports” it is all about the money.

  3. kjwx

    Yes, it’s certainly a very fine line and I wouldn’t have a problem with commercial caches if they’re labelled as such. Perhaps Groundspeak needs a new category for these.
    For me, the distinction lies in the cache owner’s intention … I don’t have a problem with a hide at a chocolate factory or in a bookstore/library – unless the placer owns that company or packs their container with advertising or promotional material for said establishment.
    If that’s what they want to do, they should be honest about it being a method of advertising and pay their money to Groundspeak.

    1. Cumbyrocks

      It would be interesting to see what would happen if Groundspeak did make commercial caches. The race for FTF’s would certainly heat up…imagine all that product you could secure.

      Now, I wonder if Ford are interested in putting up an Explorer as a FTF prize….

      1. GSV

        Perhaps Groundspeak needs a new category for these.

        They do: they’re called Waymarks.

  4. Eddy De Clercq

    Hi,

    In my eyes, it’s not the first time that Groundspeak seems to be rather flexible when it suits them the most. I wrote this > 1year ago: http://searchjaunt.idizaai.be/breaking-your-own-rules/ It seemed that I was shouting in the desert that time (and I stopped writing).

    Cheers

    Eddy

    1. Cumbyrocks

      Hmm, I see your complaint but disagree. The caches you mention are VERY special one off caches and therefore the rules, which Groundspeak set, can be broken. A cache on the International Space Station and deep deep deep down in the ocean is a fantastic news story for the hobby and certainly reduces my annoyance with all the stupid 200ml snaplocks I find.

  5. sTeamTraen

    Well, firstly, it’s Groundspeak’s site. They’re not some kind of privatised custodians of a game which was defined as being uncommercial on tablets which came down from a mountain; they can, if they choose, allow anyone to publish anything they like, when they like.

    And secondly, the guidelines are called “guidelines” for a reason. Groundspeak is not running a zero-defect manufacturing operation here. If a “borderline” cache listing gets listed, well, it’s not like they shipped 300 tons of hamburger with salmonella, or 50,000 cars with defective brakes, that have to be recalled in case someone dies. Often, the cache owner may just get a lucky break in this kind of case. That may be tough on someone who was called out for what they consider to be the same issue a few months ago, but that’s just the way these things go. (If you get a speeding ticket for going 37 in a 35 zone, you don’t stop next time you see the cops and harangue them for letting people get away with 38.)

    Anyway, all of that is not really important here. The cache page looks completely innocent and there’s no reason for the reviewer not to have published it. And as it stands, the cache listing is still fine today: the water company is not getting free advertising for their products out of it (which is the basis of the “no commercial caches” guideline).

    So, why should Groundspeak contact the water company? Has anyone logged “Needs Archived”, or written to contact@geocaching.com about this cache? Should Groundspeak really be expected by the community to conduct pro-active investigations into whether one (1) of the One Point Three Million caches out there might be inconsistent with a guideline which Groundspeak has created *in its own business interests* ?

    1. Cumbyrocks

      “they can, if they choose, allow anyone to publish anything they like, when they like.”

      Agree entirely. However, this is not a commercial cache approved by Groundspeak. This is a standard cache that is clearly a commercial endeavour. (note: full of advertising material and see their blog post).

      “…you don’t stop next time you see the cops and harangue them for letting people get away with 38”

      I don’t think the finger has been pointed at Groundspeak in any way here (at least not in the post) for allowing something to occur that shouldn’t. The issue is a company published a cache that is essentially commercial but pretended it wasn’t.

      “the water company is not getting free advertising for their products out of it (which is the basis of the “no commercial caches” guideline)

      I disagree. The company is clearly getting commercial mileage out of this cache through the existence of advertising/merchandise in the cache and through it’s blog posts that clearly demonstrate this cache is part of it’s 40th anniversary celebrations. There might not be anything on the listing page but that only points to the fact that they misrepresented the cache to the gc.com reviewers.

      So, why should Groundspeak contact the water company? Has anyone logged “Needs Archived”, or written to contact@geocaching.com about this cache?

      As kjwx wrote: “isn’t allowing that hide tantamount to opening the floodgates to every other business with a savvy PR rep?” That’s the reason Groundspeak should be in contact with them; essentially to protect their business – and in the process they will be protecting the game – which is something I bet few would disagree with. Who wants to be stumbling across rubbish commercial caches all over the place that are merely planted outside the business front door? Give me a good walk away from the shops any day.

      Someone probably does need to bring it to the attention of Groundspeak by posting a SBA note. I tend to think that is more the responsibility of the local cachers/reviewers than those halfway across the country. If it happened in my neck of the woods I certainly would.

      1. sTeamTraen

        The company is clearly getting commercial mileage out of this cache through the existence of advertising/merchandise in the cache and through it’s blog posts that clearly demonstrate this cache is part of it’s 40th anniversary celebrations.
        The guidelines don’t say anything about the contents of the cache, as long as they’re not actively harmful – it’s been established often enough (either Groundspeak or the volunteers have said so explicitly in their forums) that promotional swag is OK.

        As to the external link to the cache page, that’s an interesting one. I guess that Groundspeak’s ToU don’t forbid it, because in general they can’t determine if there’s a relationship between the person or organisation which posts an external link, and the true cache owner. The link is just a simple fact and Groundspeak can’t be expected to police every page from which someone pimps their own (or someone else’s) cache.
        There might not be anything on the listing page but that only points to the fact that they misrepresented the cache to the gc.com reviewers.
        Well, that’s one interpretation. Another is that the cache placer contacted their reviewer in advance, asked exactly where the line would be drawn, and wrote up their cache page accordingly. The fact that they seem to be very close to the line without actually crossing it suggests either “intelligent design” 🙂 or amazing luck.

  6. Dodger

    Thanks for bringing up this important topic. I would love to hear the author’s thoughts on this…

    The Allegheny Geotrail (AGT) caches here in Pennsylvania have always gotten under my skin. The “trail” is a joint effort between Penn Soil RCD and the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry and Tourism. The whole thing is designed to promote tourism in what they bill as “The PA Wilds”. I love this part of Pennsylvania and am glad many people enjoy it, but it really burns me to see it “canned” like this, with Groundspeak’s assistance no less.

    Check it out here…

    http://www.alleghenygeotrail.com/

    1. kjwx

      As for Geotrails: National parks which use geocaching to encourage visitors to get outdoors – yes. Tourism bodies which use geocaching to make a buck by sending finders to whichever businesses are willing to subsidise their project – no.
      Of course, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be the odd highlight in amongst such commercial geotrails or numerous dud hides in the park versions.
      Thankfully as New Zealand is trailing behind in such matters, I haven’t experienced either yet.
      But don’t get me started on how libraries, district council events departments and the like are now incorporating geocaching into their promotions. This SHOULD NOT be a hobby de jour. While there’s obviously merit in libraries holding ‘learn to geocache’ workshops, I can’t fathom how or when geocaching suddenly became a modern-day white-elephant stall or shooting gallery attraction.

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