Agents: Go Wild? No, gone crazy
Madison — Happen to be a retailer who hates the DNR’s Go Wild license system?
Not to worry. Things have gotten better and are about to improve even more, according to Mark Rappe, who has been working since mid-March to smooth wrinkles out of the Go Wild system.
Retailers want to believe Rappe, but they’re not holding their breath in the meantime.
Norm Sandmire, of Norm’s Small Engines in Richland Center, said he could describe the Go Wild system in two words.
“It sucks,” he said.
Don Stanke is one of Sandmire’s employees and he has a bit of a tech background. He’s a little more sympathetic to the DNR’s situation with Go Wild, but not by much.
“The DNR released a not-quite-completed project,” said Stanke. “It still has some issues. It is somewhat better (following recent system updates). I haven’t threatened to throw the machine out into the parking lot in the last week. They’re getting closer, but they are not there yet. The scanning is sketchy at best. The data base still has hiccups. It locks you out.”
Mike Henricksen is the owner of Big Mike’s in Siren. He has customers from the Twin Cities who have a background in computer software.
“Those guys have told me we might have new equipment, but it’s new equipment using 1990 technology,” he said, commenting on the on-screen touch keyboard that often doesn’t work.
“I paid for my own remote keypad so I don’t have to use the keyboard on screen and stylus,” said Henricksen. “So far it’s been a disaster. I hope it gets better. My older people are having trouble on customer side of the machine. They now have to enter their Social Security number while others in line are watching and they don’t like that.
“I know the DNR is trying to put a good spin on it, but I’ve talked to a number of shops from here to Superior and no one is happy.”
Henricksen said that in April it often took him 45 minutes to run a conservation patron license.
“This is a big disaster. I own the place so my time isn’t worth anything. But if your employee is sitting there 15 minutes and you’re paying that person $10 an hour, you have $2.50 into a license that you get 50 cents for.
“The license agents I’ve talked to are not just kind of unhappy, they are wild,” said Henricksen.
“We often have them lined up 10 to 12 deep. I’m not sure what I’m going to do this year. I can’t send them anywhere else.
Kurt Justice of Kurt’s Island Sport Shop in Minocqua shared the pain of Sandmire, Stanke, and Henricksen. He has seen all of their issues, and then some. Justice put in a new, larger counter so that he would still have retail space at the front door. He said the Go Wild machinery takes up too much space.
Greg Wade owns The Log Cabin Store in Danbury. One thing that irks him is the long wait on the phone for technical assistance.
“It takes 15 to 20 minutes to get through on the phone. Meanwhile, my employee stands there looking at the system,” said Wade. “The DNR has added a dedicated line, so that has helped a little bit. But, we shouldn’t have to call them. The ALIS machine worked. Why wouldn’t they have tested this system before they put it out in the whole state? I just don’t get it.”
Expecting delays for the fishing opener, Wade dedicated two employees to running the Go Wild machine. He paid those two persons $280 for one day and he took in $96.40 in DNR license commission that day.
“I lost $184. Every day you operate this system you are losing money. Why put the burden on the small business? I can’t believe they do that,” said Wade. “The customers were very frustrated from waiting in line. We had 15 people lined up on opening day. The 15th person had to wait two hours. They get mad and leave. Are they mad at the DNR or at me? The could be mad at the store and might never come back.”
Wade liked the old ALIS system. He could issue a resident fishing license in two to three minutes. He said it takes at least 10 minutes to issue a Go Wild license, and that’s if everything works on the first pass.
“With the ALIS at least I felt like I was breaking even. Now I know I’m losing money,” said Wade.
Wade is concerned about delays on Memorial Day weekend. He sells upwards of 500 ATV trail passes on that weekend each year.
“This machine will not handle that,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
The retailers have to buy the external keyboards if they don’t like using the touch-screen keyboard. They also have to buy printer cartridges and paper. Henricksen said one day he sold $182.25 in licenses and made $2.80 in commission. Another day he made $3.30 on $246.75 in sales.
“That’s before we pay for the ink, paper or the person running the license,” Henricksen said.
Retailers interviewed for the story said they paid anywhere from $30 to $92 for a printer cartridge.
“You can buy cheap ones for $30, but they don’t work well. I don’t like those. You can buy one from Staples for about $70. It works well and lasts a long time,” said Wade.
The fastest time in which Henricksen has completed a patrons license is seven minutes.
“It usually takes 15 minutes or more.”
Like Justice, Henricksen also gave up counter space begrudgingly for the machine.
“I had other stuff there, but now I have to put the machine there. Sure, the DNR can say, ‘Well send it back if you don’t like it.’ Well, no. The customers expect us to have licenses. We have to have it for our business.
“The other machine worked fine. They should have put these in 40 to 50 places and tried out the system before making everyone take them on at the same time,” said Henricksen.
Wade said Go Wild just has too many steps in trying to complete a license sale.
“There are a lot of little things that you have to do to generate a license. It is not user friendly for this day and age. I have Twin Cities customers say this stuff is old. The DNR can tell me it’s up to date and I wouldn’t know,” said Wade, who also has problems with his printer shutting down if the license sale takes too long.
“It takes me 10 minutes for a resident fishing license. And a lot of customers don’t like paying for the Go Wild card. They think it should be free,” said Wade.
Rappe promises that Go Wild will slowly begin working more swiftly and smoothly as more updates are made.
“We have already made a lot of improvements – one example being the log-in time. If the system sat idle 20 minutes or more, it would log out. It’s well over an hour now. It was a security issue – we did that for the agent’s protection with the dual (customer) screen,” said Rappe.
“The touch screen calibration is now much more usable than when it was released. About 10 percent of the agents still have software issues, but we are running updates on those now. Anyone without the updates are still having trouble with the touch screen. The printer going to sleep may be more of an educational piece. The printer will wake up when you send it a command. If it looks like the printer is asleep, there is a button that can be used to wake it up – don’t use the on/off power switch,” he said.
Rappe understands that some agents may not be happy about buying printer cartridges and paper. He said it should cost about 6 cents per page to print with most of the cost in the paper, not the ink.
Agents make 15 cents per stamp and 50 cents on most licenses. Some licenses do require more than one page of printed paper to complete the sale.
“If you talk to 10 agents, one (agent) will complain about the commission. It’s not really a Go Wild problem,” said Rappe.
As for the length of time it takes to make a sale, Rappe said all license outlets and systems are up and running.
“We are now starting to focus on system efficiency and effectiveness. We are making updates on a weekly basis. A couple of weeks ago we were doing it a couple of times a week. At this point we’re on a weekly update schedule. Last week (May 13), we made an update on 92 different items. We’re making corrections on a weekly basis. For family and husband-wife fishing licenses we have made lot of improvements. Also on the conservation patron license, but we have more to come on that,” said Rappe.
Another item that’s been fixed? The glitch that surfaced once an agent got past signature page used to take up to two minutes to navigate. That’s gone.
“Now most transactions should take place in two minutes. We are continuing to work with the agents,” Rappe said.
The DNR is going to host a meeting in June for up to 50 agents to talk about the flow of sales process and get their feedback. Details of that meeting have yet to be set.
“We’ll continue to make progress. Our objective from the beginning was convenience and ease of use. If we’re not hitting the mark on that, we’re going to address those areas,” said Rappe.
Some license agents may be happy to hear about the June meeting, but in the meantime they feel like the DNR has put them in a tough spot with the public.
“We’re not the enemy of the DNR. We’re trying to help,” said Henricksen.
Wade might not quite be willing to go that far. “I hope to get all of the license agents in the state to throw the machines out and let the DNR sell the licenses themselves,” said Wade.