Wednesday, July 30, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 13 - The CSR's of TVC

Tuesday was the recently added 4th day of work each week we voluntarily added to help blunt some of the effects of being understaffed, plus we can make up a little lost ground from the 7 weeks we were not able to work.  TLE reported for duty at 7:30 am to begin her training so she can open the office when we take over Bill and Debby's Monday through Wednesday shift.  This will happen just after the weekend of the 16th......from then until we depart on September 2nd we will work Monday through Wednesday, and then Saturday for our fourth day.

We are beginning to see improvements in the campground.......we received our first ice delivery in almost a month, the electricity has been restored at the pool.....we lost power about 11 days ago due to the power outage, and have been running the pool pumps via generator since then to keep the pool open.  We received an ice cream delivery for the first time in a month......essentially vendors are being paid again.  The problem was not money.....the problem was invoices were not being submitted for payment.  With Duane's arrival all that has changed.  Those of us who were here before Duane's arrival kept the campground running as best we could, but none of us had authority to pay bills, or submit invoices for payment.

My shift began at 8 am, and I was greeted by the ubiquitous line at the door awaiting the opening of the office/store for business.  We all "grabbed" a terminal and began providing customer service.  

There were calls from customers on their way up to Lake Tahoe verifying what site they were in, asking if it was raining here yet (more on that later), asking if they could change sites to be closer to friends, and the usual panoply of issues.  There were those appearing before us in person who didn't like their site......too much sun, not enough sun, too many trees (satellite TV), too many pine needles and pollen, too much dirt (this is a forest), people walking through their site (a legitimate concern), "why did my site # get changed?", and on it goes.

All you can do, and all that is expected, is that you deal with the customer in front of you, and not worry.....yet.....about the two standing behind them waiting to bequeath upon you their problem in search of a solution.  Don't misunderstand, there are people who just come in to thank you for a good experience, and are so happy they make reservations for next year.  Unfortunately the easy stuff does not necessarily stand out in your mind......it's the memory of the problems, mistakes, etc. that sift through your mind after you clock out for the day.  On the fortunate side I learned long ago, back in my workaday life, how to separate work from my private life.  My family will tell you that 99.9% of the time my work was left at the office, or on the soccer field.  If you don't separate your work life from your private life you'll go nuts.......:D

Around 11 am I went out to the ice house with 3 other male employees (Bill, Billy, & Ray) to help unload the ice shipment and put it in the ice house.  We made quick work of the job forming a "chain gang" of sorts.  Fortunately Bill had two pairs of gloves with him, so there was no frost bite to my hands this day.  The rest of the day went pretty fast, and the magic hour of 4:30.....quitting time for me......arrived.

Also, around 4:30 it began to sprinkle lightly just as I was on my way home from my shift, and by 6 pm it was raining pretty hard.   The much needed, and appreciated rain (appreciated by all but the tenters) was accompanied by lightning and thunder.....some strikes not too far away.   Nevertheless, by 9 pm the rain had stopped and we could see campfires begin to dot the landscape around our coach......people come here to enjoy the great outdoors, and by gosh they will get their enjoyment!

We will be off Wednesday and Thursday, and then put back on our customer service hats for the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First Saturday

The one thing we miss when we are workamping is the "every day feels like Saturday" feeling when I wake up on Monday, or Tuesday, etc. Well, Monday did feel like Saturday again, because we had a day off before returning to the TVC office on Tuesday.  My day started with me driving the VW over to "Higher Ground Autoworx" to find out why I am losing coolant.  We first realized there might be a problem last Thursday when we drove up to Tahoe City to ride out bikes into Squaw Valley.  I was initially referred to "Eloise Automotive" by Bill and Debby, but they do not work on European cars there, so the kind gentleman there referred me to Higher Ground, where they do specialize in BMW's, Mini's, Audi's and VW's.  It is around a mile to the shop, so my plan was to drive over around 8:30, drop the car off, and walk home, however, the sign on the door said the hours on Monday are 9-5.  No wanting to sit there for 30 minutes I decided to drive back to the coach, pick up a light switch that I needed to exchange for a different one at DIY, head there, and then back to Higher Ground by 9.


The plan worked great, but when I returned to Higher Ground at 9:05 they still weren't open, but just as I arrived I received a phone call I was expecting, so I took the call and waited to see if the owner would arrive while I was on the phone.  As I finished the phone call 15 minutes later the shop was still not open......I had noticed they had a "key drop box" so I decided to park my car, drop my key in the box, and call the number on the business card and leave a message about my car, then walked back home.

I had barely arrived home when my phone rang.....it was John from Higher Ground asking me to relate to him the symptoms of the VW.  We talked for a few minutes, and he said he would try to get to it later to do a pressure test on the cooling system, and call back with the recommended repair.

The walk home took about 20 minutes, and even though it was still early the outside temps were already well on their way to the "guessed" high for the day of 81......not warm by Phoenix, or Palm springs standards, but warm for us.  After putting around the coach and trailer for about an hour I decided to take my Kindle outside and spend the rest of the day finishing a good Zane Grey book I started a week, or so ago, but hadn't had time to get back to since then.

Around Noon I got another call from John at Higher Ground with the diagnosis and prognosis for the VW......the water pump has begun leaking so that is the source of the coolant loss, and is what needs to be fixed.  I knew he had a few cars ahead of me, so when he told me it might not be ready until later in the week I told him "Fine".......we really don't drive it that much, and are here until Labor Day.  So, some time by the end of the week we'll get our baby back.......there you go.......we continue to spend more in repairs on our cars, than we do on the Newell!

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading, and I took a couple of delicious naps.  around 6 TLE began preparing the evening's meal........Jambalaya!  We sat outside talking and eating until almost 8 pm before heading in for the evening.....a fine First Saturday to be sure!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 28, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 12 - Five out of Seven

If this was baseball 5 out of 7 would be a pretty good day at the plate.....I'd be batting .714......but this is not baseball.....it is the TVC Office.  Sunday was the fifth day I had worked in the office out of the past 7.  That I had worked 5 out of the past 7 days was the result of my 3 days off last weekend to go mountain biking, and is an anomaly in the over all scheme of things, but it was enlightening to me.  There are a few folks here who do work 5 days a week, every week since May.   I could not do that, and I don't really want to do that, because then every day would not feel like Saturday.  Nevertheless, Sunday was, indeed, the 5th work day out of the last 7 for me.....for TLE it was the sixth work day out of the last 10.

As we did Friday and Saturday, we started our shift at 9:30 am, and stayed pretty busy all day long.  I headed out to do "site checks" around 10 am, and was finished around 12:30. Once again there were almost 150 sites checking out Sunday.  There were a few people who did not check out on time, but in the end it all worked out.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the office facing what seemed like one problem after another.  A lot of our problems stem from reservations taken by the "Call Center".  They often promise things they can't deliver, and we suffer the consequences.  Problems like one gentleman who arrived believing he had a pull through site, full hookups, and 50 amp electrical service. The site he was booked into was a water and electric only site, not pull through, and only had 30 amp.  I totally get his point of view.....it's "our" fault.....to him the "Call Center" and the TVC Office are one in the same.  All you can do at that point is apologize, and then work your butt off trying to find a site that remotely resembles what he was expecting.  Then there was the lady who also arrived expecting a pull through site, and, in fact, was expecting to be in a specific site (providing lots of shade) she had requested when she spoke with the "Call Center".  What she got was a back in space, with sun exposure most of the day.  The "Call Center" promised she would have the site she requested, but TVC doesn't guaranty that you will get the site you want, and we spend a great deal of time giving the "disclaimer speech" whenever some requests a specific site.  Most of the time we can deliver their requested site, but on occasion we cannot, therefore the need for the "disclaimer".

There are many more examples I could relate, but you get the point.  Some days are like that in the customer service business, and you just have to "roll with the punches".  At the end of the day we were able to solve 99% of the problems to the customer's satisfaction, and I think that is a pretty good average.  Of course, I spend my time thinking about the 1% I couldn't satisfy, wondering what else I could have done.  Like everyone in the office, I want to see people leaving the office with a smile on their face......not a frown.

We headed for home around 6:15 pm thankful we have a day off Monday......I admire those who work 5 days a week, but after 3 days in a row my brain is fried......:D

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 11 - Yasgur's Farm

Real Saturday began much like 5th Saturday with TLE and I making the walk to the TVC* office around 9:20 am.  Our start time for Friday, Saturday and Sunday is 9:30.  On Tuesday TLE will start at 7:30 am to do her training for "Opening"....I'll start at 8.

On Saturday the "Departure List" had 150 sites being vacated, so my site check rounds took quite a while to complete.  Now that I'm getting out every work day in the golf cart to make my rounds I'm becoming more familiar with the layout of the campground, and Saturday was a much better experience, plus I had the chance to stop and talk with a few campers about their experience staying here.  By the time I returned to the office almost half my shift had expired. 

Meanwhile, back at the office, life was quite hectic according to TLE.  There were many, many calls from people trying to find out if we had a site for one, or two nights.....one maybe, but two.....almost non existent.  Our per day price for a non-hookup tent site is $44, which, by comparison to most places we have stayed over the years, is quite pricey.  We rarely pay more than $40 for a full hookup spot, but this is a popular resort area and the prices at most private campgrounds in the area are comparable.  Nevertheless, quite often after we have found a site for the caller, and they are still basking in the elation of the moment, once they hear the price they often end the call advising they will check other options and call back.  In most cases those calling at the last minute for one night are traveling on a tight budget, and are used to paying about half that amount.  This is not a criticism of the pricing policies for TVC*.  They (Encore Resorts) charge what the market will bear, and the success of that pricing policy is evidenced by how full we are on a daily basis.  Back in our workaday lives we were on the other side of the counter handing over our credit card to pay those high resort prices at Zephyr Cove (Nevada side of Lake Tahoe), and Meeks Bay Resort (California side, south of Tahoe City), so I understand the mentality of paying those high prices just to be at Lake Tahoe for a week.  Would we do that now?  No...we live on a modest fixed income, so we try to stay at places like Lake Tahoe in the "off season" when rates are more palatable, or, as we are doing this summer, trade labor for a highly reduced rate. 

We were off duty by 6 pm, and walking back to our coach when someone asked if we were coming back later to hear "Yasgur's Farm" band play some 60's and 70's tunes.  That was not on my mind at the time, but we decided to answer in the affirmative, and after dinner walked back to the big tent for the evening's entertainment.  For those who may not remember, Max Yasgur owned the dairy farm in the Catskils where the 1969 Woodstock Festival was held.  


"Yasgur's Farm Band"

We spent about an hour singing along to tunes from our youth, and I was impressed with the job the band did covering so many iconic tunes from the 60's and 70's.  We were joined by many, if not all, of our workamper friends here at TVC, and were very glad we took the time to spend an hour at the performance even though we were tired from our day of labor.

We were home and in bed by 10:30 looking forward to Sunday's shift, and our day off on Saturday.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 10 - Solo

Fifth Saturday was anything but.......back to work in the TVC office, and it felt like a real Friday!  As you can imagine Friday's can be hectic at any popular RV park, especially during peak season, which TVC is smack dab in the middle of right now.  TLE and I went on duty at 9:30 am, and the office was already a madhouse.  I began preparing my lists of those departing the park on Friday, and those arriving, and was not quite done when it was time for another office meeting with Duane, the new onsite manager.  A campground, like TVC, which is an aging campground at 50+ years old, which has lacked an onsite manager for almost a year, needs work, and someone to organize and direct that work.  Duane seems like the guy to get that done, and some evidence of his determination to improve conditions is already manifesting itself.  Please don't misunderstand my intent, or direction here.  TLE and I have enjoyed our stay here in spite of some of the deficiencies of the park.  We are fully self contained, so we do not need to use the campground restrooms, or showers.  Admittedly, the restrooms need some updating, and a really DEEP pressure washing type of cleaning, but to be fair, they are cleaned twice a day, every single day.

We rarely have need to drive the interior roads as we walk, and bike most of the time, but the interior roads need repaving, and no doubt they will be within the next year now that Duane is here.

Probably the most frequent complaint we receive is the poor quality of the WiFi in the park, which is provided by Tengo Internet.  If you have traveled in an RV on a regular basis you will know that Tengo Internet is not highly thought of by those of us who need reliable internet.  As I jokingly relate, it works well between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am.....otherwise it is slow, and often you cannot connect after 6 am, and before 11 pm.  Based on Duane's report we will either get better WiFi from Tengo, or we will employ another vendor to make it better.  I don't think the problem is from lack of coverage in the park......there are 7, or 8 repeating towers in the park.....the problem seems to be adequate bandwidth to go around to the several thousand people who occupy this park when it is near capacity.  I am using it right now, and it is almost 7 am.....I can already see a significant degradation in the speed since I began using it at 6 am.  Since I do need reliable broadband I switch over to my Verizon hotspot on my Samsung Note 3 phone when Tengo begins to crash, but even that fails me sometimes on the weekend when the Verizon towers in SLT get overwhelmed by the influx of weekenders.

The meeting probably lasted 20 minutes, and we were back to our respective jobs.  Coming only recently from the workaday world I still have a mild loathing for too many meetings.  I don't mind meetings every couple of weeks, or even one on one meetings to clarify my responsibilities, or improve my performance.  There is a tendency by those in management, sometimes, to believe that frequent meetings will fix problems, but they don't.  Problems get fixed when employees are led by example, have clear direction, and clearly defined responsibilities.

It took me another 30 minutes to get my paperwork in order before I headed out in the golf cart to survey my domain and do my site checks.  Being that this was my first doing site checks on a solo basis I concentrated mostly on making sure those who were supposed to be departing were either departed, or in the process of departing.  If everyone who is supposed to be leaving has done so then it makes the arriving customers happier, and reduces the number of problems we must solve.  I had three pages of people departing, so it took me a while to make my rounds through all for sections of the campground, but finally, after about 3 hours, I was done.  Then it was back to the office to help out with those arriving, and those with questions.

(I had to switch over to my hotspot at 7 am to finish this blog post, as the Tengo Internet crashed right on schedule).

The time passed by pretty quickly, but by 6 pm my brain was fried, and so was TLE's.  We took a slow walk home, changed clothes, and then relaxed for about an hour.  TLE made a nice salad for dinner, and then we sat watching "mindless" TV for a couple of hours before heading off to bed.

You may wonder why we chose to return to the workaday life a couple of times a year, and put ourselves through "this".  The answer is quite simple.....we need to supplement our income periodically with "workamper" type jobs.  We can earn decent money in a short period of time, and then we are back to our nomadic lifestyle.  The money we earn from this job, and the Amazon job in the Fall will go to replace the tires on the VW, the trailer, and the remaining three tires on the rear of the coach, as well as perform the necessary periodic maintenance (oil change, new air filter, fuel filters, 23 gallons of coolant, etc.).  By removing these items from our monthly budget through the money we earn, we are able to have more disposable income, which means more fun, more adventure while we are in travel mode.  As long as we are healthy, and physically fit we will continue to seek out jobs such as this one.  A side benefit, as you know from reading our blog, is the people we meet, and the new friendships which are formed.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Olympian....

Fourth Saturday we decided to put the two Cannondales on the bike rack and drive up to Tahoe City to ride the bike path along the Truckee River into Squaw Valley.  The last time we did this ride was at least 7 years ago when we were staying at Meeks Bay Resort.  There is a bike path that begins about 1 mile north of Meeks Bay and runs all the way into Tahoe City.  Since there is a lot of construction in progress along the entire route to Tahoe City we opted to drive into Tahoe City, park, and then pick up the bike path there.

Normally the drive to north shore takes about 40-45 minutes, but this day it took almost an hour and twenty minutes due to all the construction, and traffic at 10:45 in the morning.  As we were approaching Tahoe City we opted to pull into the Transit Center to use their parking lot, instead of fighting the mind numbing traffic in town.  The bike path runs right through the Transit Center, so it was a perfect alternative to downtown parking.

We were on our bikes and pedaling along the Truckee River by a little after Noon.  The trail along the river is mostly in the shade, and on this day the ride was quite pleasant.


As would be expected, the river was jammed full of rafters, and the picture above is just one small section near the the top of the river.....it looked like this all the way to River Ranch.


As we rode along I was reminded of the first time we took this raft ride with my father, Art, back in 1976.  It's hard to believe that it has been 38 years since that first raft ride down to River Ranch.  It almost felt like I was in a time warp.

The total riding distance from the Transit Center to the back of Squaw Valley, the home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is only 8 miles, and in no time we found ourselves at the entrance to the valley.


As we rolled along the road to the head of the valley I was pointing out homes to TLE my family had rented back in the 60's and 70's when we used to frequent the area.  We found a Starbucks in the Village and each got a frappuccino before retracing our steps back to Tahoe City.  

By the time we reached Fanny Bridge it was 2 pm, and we were both getting hungry so we stopped in at the Bridgetender Restaurant for a couple of brews, and some onion rings.

The drive home at 3 pm only took an hour, but was still slow due to the ongoing construction.....we were hoping they would quit at 3 pm, but they were still going strong.

Around 6 I turned on the BBQ to grill a filet mignon, while TLE baked some potatoes, and cooked up some broccoli.  We sat outside watching the sun set, and just enjoying being at SLT.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Third Saturday.....

Even though Wednesday was one of two days off before we return to the "office" on Friday, I had volunteered to come in to the office to learn how to do "site checks" with Bill.  He is the only one who does them right now, which means they are only done on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday each week.  Our busiest time is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so now I will be filling that position when on duty over the weekends.  

I arrived at the office around 9:15 and while I was waiting for Bill I helped check in a few customers.  As I have written previously, there are four sections here at TVC.....A, E, F & G, as illustrated in the site map below.


The point of doing "site checks" is two fold....before heading out on our rounds we obtain printouts of those scheduled to depart on a given day, and a second list of those scheduled to arrive, or who are already in the park.  We check to be sure those scheduled to depart are in the process of "departing" by the checkout time of 11 am.  On the printout for those departing we make notes of those sites that have someone arriving to check into those particular sites at Noon.  We only have an hour to get those sites cleaned before they are re-occupied.

Now, on the surface, it does not seem this would be a time consuming task, but indeed, as I learned through first hand experience Wednesday, it takes over 2 hours to make the rounds throughout all four sections.  One additional thing we check for are those who checked in late the night before (after office hours), or in some cases, in the previous few days, who have not "registered" at the office and paid whatever balance due they may owe for their stay. Occasionally some either forget to register (honest mistake), or who decide deliberately not to register and then leave without ever paying their balance due.  We only charge for one night's stay in advance, so if someone is staying 2-6 more days, they may get up to 6 days free if someone does not "remind" them to register.   So, in a few cases we may have to knock on a door, or leave a note for the unregistered customer to visit us in office to formally register.

Just as we finished with our site check rounds the batteries died on the golf cart, so we had to walk back to the office.....maybe a 100 yards.....and call maintenance to come tow the cart back to the office to be recharged.  In all it took us around 2 hours and 15 minutes to make the rounds.  This weekend I will be on my own, but it will be a nice break from spending all 8 hours in office each work day.

I returned home just before Noon......just in time for lunch, and then a nap......I was still tired from my weekend of fun, and then two days on my feet in the office.  Around 1:30 I went outside to finish putting away the rest of my mountain bike stuff, and finish unloading the VW.

TLE and I spent the rest of the afternoon reading....me outside, TLE inside most of the time, and then around 6 she brought out the fixings for "stir fry" to cook outside on the camp stove and the induction burner.  We sat eating, talking and just enjoying the outdoors.  The temps are quite moderate in the early evening now that we are into late July, and it stays comfortable until almost 9 pm, even in shorts, flip flops, and a t-shirt.

Around 7:30 I started a fire in our portable fireplace, and were joined by our neighbors, John and Deb, who are also spending their first summer here at TVC.  They alternate between working at RV park jobs, and living on their 40+ foot sailboat down in Mexico during the winter.  In their prior lives John was a "shipwright" for 35 years in the Oxnard, CA area, and Deb was a real estate agent.  They now spend 6 months on their sailboat, and 6 months in their 5th wheel trailer trying to be where it is not hot most of the time.

Third Saturday was a good day, and I am looking forward to 4th Saturday before we return to the "office" for the weekend shift.

Thanks for stopping by!