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Cheating in Geocaching: is it Hurting the Game? | The Geocaching Junkie

I’m a member of a lot of Facebook groups related to geocachingA LOT. More than I’d care to admit to, frankly. I do find it interesting when the same topics come up over and again. I can easily waste too much time scrolling through the comments to see conflicting opinions: sometimes helpful and fresh, at other times needlessly unpleasant. Occasionally though, I’ll see a comment or opinion that makes me stop and think. Such was the case when I came across a recent discussion on armchair logging.

What is Armchair Logging? 

In case you haven’t heard of it, armchair logging is when someone logs caches online without having ever found the cache, or even visited GZ. Essentially, without even leaving the comfort of their armchair at home. Since the ‘point’ of geocaching is to navigate to a particular spot and find something there, there can be little argument that this is cheating.

On geocaching.com, you’ll find four ‘steps’ under ‘Log a Geocache‘:

  1. Find the cache.
  2. Sign the logbook.
  3. Trade SWAG or trackables.
  4. Put the cache back exactly as you found it.

Everything else could be considered superfluous, like logging an FTF find promptly online so others don’t go running out thinking they’re still in with a chance. Not too nice if you’ve wasted your time, effort and fuel getting to GZ to be faced with disappointed, but at the same time, just the way it goes. Nobody is obliged to log straight away online, no matter how much it might annoy us if they don’t.

But finding the cache and signing the logbook are integral to geocaching. If you don’t do either, but you log online, you have to be cheating, right?

What about Throwdowns?

In case you’re not familiar with the phrase, a ‘throwdown’ is when you get to GZ, can’t find the cache, assume it’s missing and replace the container without the cache owner’s permission. Geocaching.com states that throwdowns are “strongly discouraged.” And look, I get it: you’ve gone to a lot of trouble to get to GZ, maybe you’re visiting a new state or country that you’re unlikely to return to any time soon and it’s more than a little galling to come up empty handed.

For me, the best part about geocaching is the adventure in getting to GZ. You can still record that adventure online with a DNF. Some of the most interesting stories I have are when I didn’t find the cache. Not adding another number to my tally won’t change that fact.

Does it Matter?

Someone has decided to log virtual caches all over the world without leaving the comfort of their own home. Someone else has failed to find a cache at GZ and decides to replace it on behalf of the CO. How do these things affect those of us who don’t see the point in doing these things? My gut feeling when I see stuff like this or even read about it happening (even if it’s thousands of miles away), is mild irritation.

Armchair logging is not something I would do or have ever considered doing; the appeal of just logging stuff online without ever experiencing the journey to GZ just isn’t there for me.

Throwdowns are trickier because I’ve been in the position of going to a lot of trouble to find a cache, only to not find it. An example that springs to mind is when I was in Italy and searching for a cache to fill a Jasmer and I couldn’t find it. But I didn’t replace the cache. I didn’t find the cache so how can I claim I did? If I know the cache owner and I converse with them and they agree to me replacing their cache: that’s a different story. On the flip side, I have been the ‘victim’ of throwdowns on my own caches and it annoys me greatly. In most cases, this was when there was maybe one, but often no, DNFs on the cache so I had no idea there could be a problem. Each time it’s happened, I have thought long and hard about deleting the logs from the cachers who ‘threw down’. According to Geocaching.com’s guidelines on throwdowns, I am well within my rights as the cache owner to do so.

In the most recent case, I decided to check on the cache in question and indeed, it appeared to be missing (despite no previous DNFs). This of course does not justify a throwdown. I promptly removed the film canister that was placed (the cache hidden was a small tupperware) and replaced it with the proper sized container. Despite thinking long and hard about it, I always seem to come to the same conclusion: “They are only cheating themselves!”

But really, when others do this, who are they hurting? Does it really affect my enjoyment of the game? I’m by no means condoning this type of behaviour; I think my thoughts are pretty clear above. But why waste my time worrying about people who are so obsessed with stats that they are willing to seriously fudge the numbers (to put it mildly)?

I am interested to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think the propensity to cheat in geocaching is affecting the game for those who don’t cheat? Is the integrity of the game marred by those who armchair log or place throwdowns?

Happy Caching!

Sarah

© 2018 | Sarah McLarkey | All Rights Reserved

18 thoughts on “Cheating in Geocaching: is it Hurting the Game? | The Geocaching Junkie

  1. I believe you already said it yourself, they are only hurting themselves! It is however, incredibly irritating reading logs of known “cheaters”. One issue I have that you did not mention, is one cacher just telling another where the cache is. There is a local father-son duo near me who are actually good friends of mine, but the father often finds the cache first, then brings his son along a few days later and just tells him where to go. Or if there is a difficult puzzle, the father will solve it then give the answer to junior. To me, this seems very unfair, especially if you yourself are struggling with this particular hide and/or puzzle. “Must be nice” I always think to myself. But as mentioned previously, they are sadly only hurting themselves.

    1. Yes, I can see how that would be annoying because the hunt is half the fun! I have been known to PAF and beg for exact instructions when I’ve been tearing my hair out at GZ for far too long 🙂

  2. I don’t think it affects me, although here in Mexico the caching thing is not as widespread as I wish, and I just got my first cache published not too long ago, so I don’t really know. Arm-chair logging to me seems sad, because on the one hand, they miss out on the adventure, and on the other hand, they waste time doing something online. But anyway, if they enjoy that as much as I enjoy caching the right way, let them be 😛

  3. I stumbled upon your website today. An interesting article and food for thought.
    For the most part I think it is only an observant fellow cacher, and for the most part only the CO who knows who has armchair logged. As much as cachers can be annoyed by armchair logging, I guess the bottom line is that it is only the cheater who is hurting themselves because they cannot state with virtue that they have found every cache represented in their statistics. We each have varied reasons for our actions, sometimes it is the competitive nature in us making it a numbers thing, as I have experienced within myself, however, in saying that I also stop and think about the fact that I want to be able to say I “Have” found every cache I signed a log for. I could not live with myself for anything less. Some of us fail to see the adventure in getting to GZ and the adventure in finding the cache. In some ways I am one of those cachers and that is ‘not’ how I want to be. I don’t feel satisfied with travelling an hour to find one cache, but I guess if my one goal I was going hiking for the day to see a scenic view, then that one cache would be worth it, otherwise no, I want more finds in the day.
    Now, what absolutely irritates me is cachers who claim to find over 100 caches in a day. I am lucky to find 10 a day and 15 on a very good day. I know you can find something like 50 for a PT working between dawn and dusk. I have heard of cachers who have been out in a group and sign logs as a group not as each individual cacher signing the log and their cache find tally goes up by the thousands.
    I have noticed ‘some’ new cachers are the ones who are marring the game – snitching trackables, logging a found amongst a few DNFs among other things, and in my case, breaking my trackables hotel.
    I guess at the end of the day, the game is affected by cachers who armchair log and place throwdowns, because it impacts the entire geocaching community as a whole (I wont elaborate on that as I will be writing for too long), however, I don’t think that really affects me personally that much as I am playing my own game and don’t really get bogged down over what others are doing.
    COs have the power to delete logs and maybe they should because not doing so is somewhat condoning the behaviour and doesn’t set a geocaching standard. But then there would be armchair logging on caches with absent COs.
    It’s a no win situation, so I think we cachers need to play our own game and each CO needs to be led by what they feel best.

    1. I think we all have our irritations about what others do in the game – I decided to write only about the two most obvious forms of ‘cheating’ there is. I would be writing all day if I listed every dubious action I’ve come across. I have, however, once found 90 caches in a day and to be honest, it was SO not for me! We were aiming for 100 but we couldn’t be bothered keeping up the pace for micros stuck to fences and we ended on 90. Never again!

  4. Hi Sarah,

    I think in terms of armchair logging I have gone through all phases from irritation to anger to amusement and total ignoring. Luckily it stayed that way, I just ignore profiles posing with literally unbelievable achievements. I do not ignore fake logs on my own caches though… if I discover them, I just delete them without further notice. I am not sure to get all of the fake ones (and I do not care) but at least the obvious and stupid ones are highlighting themselves among the regular logs. Same with “discovering” my coins and bugs in places I have never been. …and I never got any complaints!
    It is like you say: they only cheating on themselves, as they do not experience the adventure getting to GZ, especially for really nice caches!

    With throwdowns it is different. I think it somehow (and someone) ruins my own type of game if I am looking for a cache, discover a container (yeah) and may later learn that this was just a throwdown and the real hide was something much more clever. I can understand that one can be frustrated not finding the container, especially if there weren’t any DNF logged before. So be the first one! It often was the case that I was just blind to find the container and others succeeded.
    My most famous DNF was at the former oldest cache in Germany (https://coord.info/GC77), really an adventure for me to go to, but it was clearly gone! Before me there were Found-Logs even on the very same day. I had a very nice conversation with the owner and he confirmed that the container is gone (after checking my photos). So he put that cache on Not available and then something unbelievable happened: Geocacher from all over Germany posted their found logs months or even years before (I saw them all as I had this cache on the watch list). The top of it all (and the end of this old cache) was a throwdown. The Cache Owner was so mad that he archived this famous cache (and still the “Found-Logs” were coming in until he got that listing with the help of Groundspeak into a status were further logs are no longer possible). I can’t judge if these “Found-Logs” were all fake, but I would say visiting the oldest cache in a country which is really out in the countryside is a milestone for a cacher and unlikely to be logged months or years after visit.

    I can imagine you being mad if throwdowns happen to your own caches. So far that never happened to me, but I think I would feel just the same. On the other hand, you can’t change those honks (Honk in german = someone with strange behaviour and assumably an IQ below old bread). So don’t care too much about that. If you are mad, it is you being mad and not the one who did this to you… so it doesn’t help at all 😀

    Keep your faith in the majority of our community and most of all keep enjoying the game!

    Thomas

    1. What a story Thomas! I have heard about this happening with old caches and in fact, the most recent online discussion I saw was one about the oldest cache in England and the fact that so many people were seemingly armchair logging it. It somehow makes even less sense to me to armchair log an historic cache (or worse – to do a throwdown)!

  5. I had never heard of these terms before. I didn’t think cachers would do this. At the end of the day, they have only cheated themselves, not us….we have the story to tell.

    1. I agree Eva and as another commenter said ‘if there is a way to cheat, people will do it’. It’s just a sad reality and one which those of us who don’t cheat will likely never fully understand!

  6. I have been “policing” my logs for a while. Never got any of the people that were removed saying anything about it. I have read horror stories (on reddit, so I have to take it with a grain of salt) where people were harassed by the armchair loggers, or where there are people so nasty I am surprised they weren’t lynched.

    You describe it as a mild irritation, and I agree, but a mild irritation over a period of time can get to some people. I personally think if you cheat at a game where there are no rule real enforcement, no ending, no winning…then you are crazy. Cheating at cards with a clear objective? Wrong there, but I can understand it. Cheating at geocaching? Not as wrong, since there are absolutely zero benefits, THAT is what I don’t understand. These people have complex mental mechanisms going on where they get satisfaction from it, as we regular cachers get satisfaction from actually finding it.

  7. Hiya Sarah, many thanks for another fine article. Sometimes I plan a day’s walk and note that one cache on route has had a number of DNFs. If I know the CO, I will often contact them for permission to replace if I can’t find it. I can’t remember anyone saying no.
    BTW a great day in Bray on the 1st.😀😀
    best wishes
    Terry

  8. I don’t allow cheaters, I check their profile and look at their other finds to make sure they were in the area during the time of their find on my caches…don’t be afraid to delete false logs…tell you something else, too…these so-called ‘leaders’ of the game are posting IMPOSSIBLE numbers, anyone with a calculator and three minutes can figure out how many they need to do every single day, rain or shine, 7 days a week for years and years and there’s just no way…additionally, take a look at those ‘leader’ finds…I’ve seen their double and triple finds logged on the same caches, their multiple runs down the ET Hwy and logging it under different group names each time, etc…they are desperate and doing anything to ‘stay in the lead’…it degrades and cheapens the game as a whole, makes it a game of liars and cheats. Yes, Groundspeak now allows only one find per account on each cache, but they should have had that policy from the beginning.

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