Hey, want to see Bearskin’s brand new toy?
It’s our high-tech, state-of-the-art, Minnesota DNR fishing license machine. It has a large touch screen monitor, so we can actually see the data we input. It connects to the real world through an Ethernet cord, not a dial-up phone line. It prints fishing licenses without crumpling them into paper fan shapes or cutting off half the name. It’s way, way smarter than the Bearskin Lodge cash register.
Bearskin Lodge has always sold Minnesota fishing licenses. It’s not something we do because we’re going to pay off our mortgage with massive fishing license sales. The DNR pays us $1/license. We do it as a service; unfortunately this service has not always been a positive experience.
For the past few years, every time we sold a fishing license Bearskin probably invested $10 in paid employee time trying to make the license machine work right. Entire fishing seasons could have passed by while guests waited for puzzled Bearskin employees to problem solve about extracting crumpled, misprinted, incorrect fishing licenses from the jammed machine. The DNR would not be pleased if they ascertained how often we’ve sent a fisherman out on the lake with a mangled blue piece of license paper containing half the data.
Last winter the DNR announced they were adopting a new licensing system and that only a limited number of sales outlets would be receiving the expensive new license machines. We applied to receive a machine and like many other businesses along the Gunflint Trail, our application was turned down. Of course we were livid about this—and also sort of relieved. There is nothing enjoyable about repeatedly having to ask people what they weigh and how old they are while you enter and re-enter data into a troubled fishing license machine.
Heaven help the poor employee who mistypes one digit while entering the data. Once I sold a license to a 6’7” nonresident whose license purchase was so jinxed that the sale took almost an hour. When we were finally done and the problematic machine spit out a mutilated, smeared license, I noticed that it said he was only 3’7”. “Please, please,” I thought to myself, “please don’t detect my typo and ask me to fix this.” I handed over the license and watched his eyes linger on the print a little longer than usual. Then he quickly shoved the license into his pocket and nearly ran out the door. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to deal with a correction. When he buys his license this year, perhaps somebody will wonder about his enormous growth spurt.
So when we first heard that we wouldn’t be getting a new machine, we were only semi-heartbroken. Bob wrote a convincing letter to the DNR about why Bearskin truly needed the updated equipment, but the idea of encouraging people to buy fishing licenses online or at gas stations along the route to Bearskin was appealing. The online option is especially attractive for two reasons: you can lie about what you weigh in the privacy of your own home and (this is the best!) you can REPRINT YOUR LICENSE every time you lose it. For some of us, loss prevention is the real deal maker.
Bob is very persuasive. The DNR decided that Bob was right and Bearskin did deserve to have a license machine after all. It arrived this week and truly, it is a beautiful thing. We can see what we type. The paper feed for printing licenses works correctly. Fixing a 3 foot height difference typo is actually feasible.
Purchasing a license will still take some time. You need to furnish a driver’s license or state ID, as well as your social security number. There are several options for scanning driver’s license info into the system that could speed up the purchase, especially if you regularly buy a fishing license. But in our trial runs so far, we still often end up keying in a great deal of personal info. It may not be faster, but it might be better. The new system probably won’t be trouble-free, but we’re hopeful that a fishing license purchase at Bearskin will no longer be a traumatic experience for you or for us.