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Geocaching Manners and Good Taste: Get Some! January 27, 2010

Posted by kinzuakid in Cache Construction, Education, Geocaching, Philosophy.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Folks, there has been a disturbing trend in North San Diego County Geocaches of late: the repeated leave-behinds of inappropriate swag.  It isn’t genocide or anything but it’s still a big problem.  The reasons are several.

  1. If new Geocachers run across this kind of swag and assume it is just an accepted part of the game it may turn them off to playing entirely.
  2. Experienced Geocachers and reviewers are likely to complain and flag the caches for archival as a rules violation.  This is already a risk to some of our most treasured local hides.  Caches with hundreds of finds and on every “must do” bookmark list in the county are starting to see tasteless swag, advertising, vandalized log books and religious tracts deposited.
  3. Cache owners may reconsider the amount of work it takes to maintain a decent hide.  To the hours invested creating a good puzzle or creative hide, additional hours in replacement and checkups, now we add additional hours of “rules policing”.

In all of these cases the number and quality of Geocachers and hides are likely to decline.  We as a community then become marked as just another (well organized) group of professional litterers. 

Geocaching is supposed to be a light, fun activity and, as I repeat endlessly, kid friendly.  Your attempt to be funny with potty humor, get the word out about your restaurant or proselytize your favorite sky fairy is not just pathetic, it’s downright against the rules.  Some of the locals on the trail have been talking and since we all have kids I thought I would share some ideas to keep in mind while hiding your cache or trading swag on the trail.  Please be advised that while I consider this a good set of rules of thumb generally, this advice has to apply solely to my caches as I do not have a say in Groundspeak cache listing policy.

And remember: there are no precedents.  Just because Johnny gets away with a bad hide or sneaky cache swag doesn’t mean you will.

  1. Read the guidelines from Groundspeak at http://www.geocaching.com.  You should have these memorized by now.  Then, ask yourself these questions:
  2. Is it dangerous?  Would you let your toddler play with the contents of the cache?  How about that rusty knife you are about to drop in the ammo can?  At least one of my kids Cached with me as a toddler.  Let’s not injure one of them.
  3. Is it food?  Seriously now; are we still putting candy in Geocaches?.  There’s no such thing as an airtight Geocache container.  Insects and animals WILL take that cache away and eat it.  Not may, WILL.  And who the heck wants to eat that nasty, waxy chocolate you tossed in an ammo can last spring?!  Have you never smelled some of these containers?
  4. Are you soliciting?  If you’re trying to sell me on your cable service, church, candidate, philosophy or way of life, you’re soliciting.  Stop it.  This goes double for caches that are mine.  Please don’t pepper my ammo cans with the latest Jack Chick tract or union newsletter, even if I go to your church or belong to your union.

These really are not all that difficult a set of guidelines to remember but some folks cannot handle nuance or subtlety so I will give you a recent example or two…

In the local area we have a few cachers who like to drop off calendars, pencils and other little giveaway swag with the mark of the local car dealership, church or rec center.  This is about my limit.  I get a calendar and I don’t have to look at the “Rob’s Auto Repair” number on the back.  No reasonable person will look at that swag and think anything other than calendar, pencil or “other”.  I may not patronize the local business or church, but their mention is incidental to the message and instrumental to keeping the swag free.

i.e., we put up with that level of “message” because it’s tiny and helps keep people dropping off useful swag for nothing.

Where we have a problem is when folks graduate from calendars and pencils to actual tracts/apologetics, artifacts or other obvious regalia.  Instead of a scratch and sniff sticker, we get a banana.  Instead of a calendar, we get a pocket Qur’an or Bible.  It seems silly to have to make this distinction since there is so much swag to trade that doesn’t even approach the line but experience dictates it:

  • Good: Calendars, pencils, pens, flashlights, cache containers, compasses and etc. that happen to sport a logo
  • Bad: Business cards and flyers that do nothing but advertise for the local or remote establishment or service
  • Good: Travel Bugs, tchotchkes, paperweights and the like made out of recycled materials (e.g., I have seen a TB made out of a large shell casing, the handle of an old knife and an engine gear)
  • Bad: Actual weapons, ammunition and “pinchy-things” still assembled
  • Good: Pictures of fruit, nutrition guides and scratch-n-sniff stickers
  • Bad: Actual fruit and nutrition (except sealed bottled water, if appropriate for the location)
  • Good: You witnessing for your particular creed, lifestyle or faith by being a good steward of the Geocache ground zero.  Picking up trash, replacing the log, repairing the container, being friendly to muggles and respectful of private property
  • Bad: Dropping off “Hail Star-Spawn of Cthulu” posters, “Down with the prop 934” pamphlets and their ilk.
  • Good: Handi-wipes, gloves and trash bags to support CITO efforts and to wipe up after grabbing at that nasty spider enclave
  • Bad: Anything that increases the need for handi-wipes, gloves and trash bags  (hat tip to El Calibrador for these last two)

If I might be just a bit self centered about it, I have to clean up the mess and I don’t like unnecessary housekeeping.  I love rebuilding a container or replacing a filled log; it’s the sign of a well-loved hide.  What I despise is being sent a note by the reviewer asking me to clear out some reported questionable cache swag, and “oh by the way your cache is disabled in the mean time…”

It’s not terribly difficult to triangulate the ID of cachers with bad behavior.  When you push an agenda in the cache or cache swag it not only reflects poorly on you but on whatever agenda you’re pushing as well.  Among those of us who talk regularly we have established some clear trends and our logs will reflect accurately what we are seeing.  There may be no other way to stem the downward spiral beyond shaming the offending parties but let’s hope it does not need to get even that far.

Take stock of your Geocaching manners.  Are you helping out Geocaching and the community by cleaning up, trading fairly and leaving a pleasant cache for the next seeker to come along?  Or, perhaps, are you looking at the Geocaching community as just another captive audience to suffer your vandalism, odious opinions or general lack of respect for safety and good taste?


1. El Calibrador - January 28, 2010

Good post, Kinzua Kid. Timely too.

Put this on the “good” swag list (at least I think it’s good): individual sealed packages of handi-wipes. I especially like to leave them (and use them) when I see a hide with rat poop nearby. You can buy them in a box of 100 for only a few bucks. I put them in my hides now too and have had a few “thank you” notes for them in the logs.

kinzuakid - January 28, 2010

Consider it done. I’ve updated the post as I think the advice is not just on point, but a complete miss on my part. Thanks!

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