Scam hunt or legit?

jaydawg

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So I booked a hunt with Richard Holmes Safaris and paid a deposit. It’s for next year and the rest isn’t due till the end of the hunt. I just got an email from Richard Holmes asking for me to pay some or all of the rest of the payment due to financial woes through COVID. I’m not planing on paying more regardless, but I’m starting to worry it was a scam. Any thoughts or experiences with this? I’ve heard really good things about Richard Holmes, I just find it odd to receive an email like that. (This will also be my first time in Africa)
 

One Day...

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I would encourage you to email, call or WhatsApp Richard or Marion. They have the reputation of being good people. I do not think that it is a scam in the sense that they operate a very legitimate operation and are totally capable and, I am sure, fully intend to deliver on their commitment to you.

This being said, 2020 and early 2021 have been extraordinarily difficult for safari operators with essentially very little to no revenues and still substantial expenses (land leases, vehicle loans, lodge mortgage, payroll, etc.)

All operators are suffering. It is murmured that possibly up to 30% of safari operators will not economically survive COVID. I do not know where the number comes from, but there is no doubt that some operators regularly operate on very tight cashflow, do not have substantial borrowing capability, and do not have the reserves to survive one or two years without income. This is less an issue for larger operators who are well funded, own substantial collaterals, and have the wherewithal to wait and survive at least one year and possibly two years, but this is dramatic for small operators.

I have no idea what financial stress Richard Holmes Safaris can or cannot withstand, and I am reasonably certain that they do not make this cash call without reason, but this is not necessarily a predictor of failure. Therefore, in view of the above I would say in general that the risk in such cases is not a "scam" in the usual sense, but the very real possibility than some operators have gone, and will go bankrupt during the COVID crisis and will not be able to honor hunts they booked and for which they received deposits in good faith.

The Huntershill group (Huntershill Safaris, Comre Safaris, Huntershaven, Rocklands, Cherokee, Vetvlei Safaris) has actually been able to use the mostly dead 2020 season and the weak beginning of 2021 to invest into the operation and upscale the comfort of our various lodges, doing all sorts of facilities work easier accomplished when clients are not here, but I also know of some other operators who are really hurting for cash...

Each will make their own decision, but an act of kindness in helping them bridge-fund may go a very long way in building a friendship for life with your safari operator...


I hope this gives context to your situation and your question...
Thx
P
 
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Kevin Peacocke

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I know of a few operators who are in dire straits, but battling on, as these folks are wont to do. I don't see any harm in them asking, you can just decline if you dont want to pay. Their web site looks good, it seems they offer something unique and you should have a great hunt. Nice area too.
 

BRICKBURN

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Contact them directly and ensure it is a legitimate request.
If not, then they can inform all their other customers as well.

It is these types of situations that are abused by scammers.
Relying on an email from a trusted source and asking for money.

The victims (Outfitter and Hunter) are taken advantage of by the hunter not making sure the request was from the proper source and just sending money without further verification.

If they are just looking to future hunters to finance their operation, you decide how you want to reply.
 
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Hank2211

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Assuming a legitimate request, this is a difficult situation.

Personally, I would see the request as a sign of financial issues, which would not be at all surprising in the current circumstances. The challenge is when they use next year's revenue to fund this year's expenses, if they aren't able to raise enough, they may well not be around next year to provide the contracted services.

The model is not unusual in the safari business - next year's sales pay this year's expenses, but it's frankly not a solid business model. It relies on a continuation of sales into the future because without those, the bottom falls out. But it's a model that many financially strapped businesses use, not just in the safari business. Often it works, but very often, it doesn't, especially when a 'black swan" event intervenes.

So this depends on your tolerance for, and willingness to accept, additional risk that your safari operator may not be around next year.

I certainly feel for these businesspeople. I also feel for so many of the businesses in my local area which are suffering and going out of business. Not a great situation.
 

Scott CWO

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So I booked a hunt with Richard Holmes Safaris and paid a deposit. It’s for next year and the rest isn’t due till the end of the hunt. I just got an email from Richard Holmes asking for me to pay some or all of the rest of the payment due to financial woes through COVID. I’m not planing on paying more regardless, but I’m starting to worry it was a scam. Any thoughts or experiences with this? I’ve heard really good things about Richard Holmes, I just find it odd to receive an email like that. (This will also be my first time in Africa)
Wow, a tough deal. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I’ve been in this industry for 30 years. Things slowed down back in the 08-09’ recession and then roared back. Now it’s CV.

What percentage have you already paid? Is it a package deal or will you still owe trophy fees? I would not send the final balance, especially on a package deal hunt. Unfortunately, to keep in good graces, you may want to send something to show you want to help but I would definitely hold something back to give them incentive to still have you come so they can get the rest.

Do they have hunters coming this year? They should do everything they can to get most of their hunters to come this year. Clients just need to get tested before they fly. It’s not that hard. I’m going in June.

In this industry, this is the problem with 50% deposits for hunts that are years away. My outfit just takes 15-25% down and the rest of the 50% deposit one year before the hunt. When someone demands a 50% deposit to book a hunt for a future year, I am guessing that they need the money to pay immediate bills. Then something like CV happens or a recession and we see the financial house of cards tip over.
 

rookhawk

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Assuming it is legitimate, it is sort of problematic:

1.) As a human being, we want this company to survive. First reaction is to help them out.
2.) As a sensible person, only a fool would order a car, put half down, then hear "we're having financial troubles at the factory, can you pay for it all now?".
3.) As a pragmatist, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. They stand a chance of spending your money on things unrelated to your services to be rendered right now, fulfilling you with a lesser hunt later as they might "double sell" the highest quality animals, throttle back on maintenance, etc. (I'm speaking in general, not saying this is what a particular individual would do)

If it were me, to manage my risks, I would assume that 50% of my money is gone for good and that you're not getting your hunt next year. Sunk cost, goodbye. I would then couple that with my humanity and say to myself, how can I mitigate my losses here? The answer would be: Get on a plane soon, demand a discount, and hunt RIGHT AWAY. If they need the money, they will take you early. They should give you a present-value discount because money to save their business now is better than losing their business.

You would lose the convenience of your confirmed dates, altering your life to hunt as soon as possible. They would lose profit margin in exchange for an infusion of immediate capital.
 

curtism1234

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Assuming not a scam and you have trip insurance (or substantial risk tolerenace) I would consider asking if you paid in full they would ammend the contract to provide an additional animal credit of 10% value of the hunt (not a specific animal).

After all, they asked you and it doesn't really cost them

Just a thought
 

BeeMaa

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Assuming it is legitimate, it is sort of problematic:

1.) As a human being, we want this company to survive. First reaction is to help them out.
2.) As a sensible person, only a fool would order a car, put half down, then hear "we're having financial troubles at the factory, can you pay for it all now?".
3.) As a pragmatist, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. They stand a chance of spending your money on things unrelated to your services to be rendered right now, fulfilling you with a lesser hunt later as they might "double sell" the highest quality animals, throttle back on maintenance, etc. (I'm speaking in general, not saying this is what a particular individual would do)

If it were me, to manage my risks, I would assume that 50% of my money is gone for good and that you're not getting your hunt next year. Sunk cost, goodbye. I would then couple that with my humanity and say to myself, how can I mitigate my losses here? The answer would be: Get on a plane soon, demand a discount, and hunt RIGHT AWAY. If they need the money, they will take you early. They should give you a present-value discount because money to save their business now is better than losing their business.

You would lose the convenience of your confirmed dates, altering your life to hunt as soon as possible. They would lose profit margin in exchange for an infusion of immediate capital.
+1
Sounds like a reasonable compromise to me.
As long as you (and they) have the availability.

Either way...you are in for at least a phone call or FaceTime.
You need to be talking to them directly and in real time.
And you need to have a plan as to what you want to do before you call.
 

Frederik

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There are a lot of Outfitting companies out there in South Africa and give and take 40% of them are 100% reliant on hunting don't have another business running, farm operation etc.
But in these times there are some who create something new of this demise a lot of the outfitters welcomed local South African hunters for the first time in lockdown.

Yes it might not get the books into positive numbers but at least it kept things running.
I know of outfitters who started trading in fruit and veg wholesale.
Getting a team of woodcutters in to cutting down Mopane trees for firewood/braai wood and selling it.

There is a huge market in local hunters and if there is a will there is a way.

I have no idea or dont' know Richard Holmes safaris from anywhere so if you could get trip insurance in place that would be good and then be honest with them if you don't feel comfortable with paying more. Arrange your hunt sooner than later all great ideas and input.

I have also felt the hardship of CV and had ten out of 12 workers/painters go, luckily my wife has a steady income but we are bunkering down and making plans to survive this and come out better on the other side with the Faith and Grace of our Almighty God.
 

Tokoloshe Safaris

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You have a contract that they furnished, both parties should honor that contract. I would expect no more or no less from our clients.
 

rookhawk

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You have a contract that they furnished, both parties should honor that contract. I would expect no more or no less from our clients.

@Tokoloshe Safaris this is the advantage of coming on multiple safaris. You arrive as a client and you depart as a friend.

Contracts become simple verbal agreements thereafter and it makes life very easy when there is mutual trust. I do not envy those trying to sort out "first dates" between the parties.
 

chonk34

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That request would make me pretty nervous. In my line of work we are trained not to make concessions on the terms of an already-signed contract without asking for some kind of consideration in return.

I recall that our outfitter called my dad prior to our hunt and offered him a steep discount on a glamour animal (I forget which one exactly) if he increased the size of his deposit. In that case, the outfitter got a cash infusion prior to our hunt and my dad got a better deal for his animal on the tail end.
 
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curtism1234

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@Tokoloshe Safaris this is the advantage of coming on multiple safaris. You arrive as a client and you depart as a friend.

Contracts become simple verbal agreements thereafter and it makes life very easy when there is mutual trust. I do not envy those trying to sort out "first dates" between the parties.

Working in the financial sector for over 15 years, I can safely say "never trust anyone with money"

Always get it in writing. A true friend and well run business will understand
 

rookhawk

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Working in the financial sector for over 15 years, I can safely say "never trust anyone with money"

Always get it in writing. A true friend and well run business will understand

In 8 safaris I've had 2 contracts that were methodically reviewed by the parties. Thereafter, they got emailed and archived solely for purposes of permits and legitimate governmental purposes only. They aren't worth the paper they are printed on in civil matters, but are a gesture of formality. There is no practical way to recover damages for breach as the effort to enforce the contract exceed the value of the contract. I appreciate law and governance, but also the practicalities of its use.

I don't want to do business twice with someone on a personal level that I trust so little they need a contract or a deposit out of fear of a civil dispute, nor that I trust so little I need a contract or deposit for the same. Any paperwork passed is for governmental/licensing reasons.

For an African safari, the sole purpose of a contract with deposit is to ensure that the dates are truly booked, so the client has skin in the game. Otherwise, the operator will not be able to sell the hunt and they'll be out the opportunity for those dates with short notice. You want to have a relationship in life after you've met someone that they can 100% count on you and you can count on them. This goes into general demeanor, helpfulness, tip, doing what you say you're going to do or greater and doing so before the deadlines. I have 100% confidence and trust in the Africans I deal with that I've forged over many years of knowing them. That's the luxury of experience amongst acquaintances.

The original post doesn't have that experience and I get that, but its also why he must tread carefully at this moment. If one of my safari operators asked me for a big deposit, I'd probably decline. If they told me the situation was bleak and they needed cash to do X with the money, I'd probably send it knowing it will work out in the end. The big difference is whether this is a known friend or is this a stranger you're trying to do business with under the letter of a contract.

Back to my prior conclusion: I'd not spend a penny more. I'd ask for a discount in return for the inconvenience. I'd hunt there as fast as possible. That's the only way to be sure you're getting any hunt at all, rather than losing 50% of your money (current situation) or 100% of your money. (proposed situation to send more without services rendered) That's the best scenario if everyone is acting in good faith under difficult conditions in Africa.
 

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