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Published: September 21, 2016
Oh, ho, ho: the ways Google can mess with you when you're picking a dropzone.
Go 'head 'n' try it: Google "skydiving near me" and see what you get.
Looking at some results? Cool. Now: tell me how many of those results are actual skydiving dropzones. Turns out, most of them aren't.
Baffled? Not surprising. There are some tricksters out there that make a ton of money from the fact that non-skydivers have a hard time differentiating between real dropzones and price-hiked fakers. Here's how they do it, and how to protect yourself.
1. You Might Be Looking At A Post-office Box.
This is a weird one, so give it a moment to sink in: the biggest issue you'll have when you perform an inline search for a dropzone is that so many of the listings aren't real.
There are several listings that show skydiving centers that appear to be in New York City. That looks cool at first glance, but buyer beware. Third party companies and way-out-of-town dropzones set up post office boxes with a physical address close to NYC, making them seem legit when they are absolutely not.
Often, they're not even dropzones. They're third-party resellers that mask their true identities with crafty search engine optimization and a national call center. They levee a big ol' markup, run your credit card the first chance they get, and very often send you on a wild goose chase to an airport that doesn't even accept the voucher they're already overcharged you for. It's atrocious.
Fun fact: Skydive Long Island is the closest DZ from the city! Bonus: public transportation can whisk you out of the city to our doorstep with ease. (This is by design, and we're super-proud of how convenient we are to New York City, our most favorite place.)
2. You Don't Have To Be Fooled.
These guys are super-shady, yeah, but don't worry: we can help you get past the "BS". This method will work for any skydiving you do, anywhere in the US, so it's a public service we're doing for the good of the sport!
Look for a physical location at an airport. The listing address, in every single case, should be parked right next to an airport. If it's not, it's third-party. Third parties won't tell you where you're supposed to go for your jump until after they have your hard-earned moolah.
Look for humans. Peek at the dropzone's website for staff bios. Real drop zones are proud of their staff and instructors. Fake dropzones don't know who the heck they're sending you to jump with and don't care.
Look for pricing up front. The dropzone website should have a pricing page that's up-front about the costs. Third parties are weirdly cagey about pricing.
3. Take The Shortcut.
Not feeling like getting your Sherlock on? Looking for an easy way to tell the difference? Never fear. We've got your back.
Just pop over to the USPA (United States Parachute Association) website. That's the regulatory organization for our sport, which sets all the (exacting) safety requirements for the dropzones that are USPA members. Membership in the USPA is not a mandatory thing, as weird as that may seem, so non-USPA dropzones are free to set their own rules or forego all the non-FAA rules entirely. You can extrapolate how this laxity works out.
It's quick work to check if a dropzone is a real operation with a USPA member status. Just look at the DZ locator on the USPA's website.
4. Get To Know 'Em A Little Bit.
Not into believing the hype? It doesn't take long to get a sense for a dropzone's "personality," totally separate from the marketing. You can sniff around for reviews on Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Reddit and Google, first of all--and you can even find out for yourself with a phone call. Call up the dropzone and get a sense for the customer service, the willingness to answer questions and the feeling of camaraderie. This stuff will definitely make a difference in your jump.
...so don't be a stranger! Give the real, live skydivers at Skydive Long Island a call, already. We're stoked to meet you and give you an experience of a lifetime skydiving Long Island!
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