Given the tough economic times, it should come as no surprise that Atlas Quest has been hurting. Premium memberships are down, subscription renewals are down, and ad rates for the few areas that show ads are down. No one is immune—and when someone has the choice to pay for food or buy a premium membership, understandably, they'll choose food first.I've been cutting back expenses. The location to store the nightly backups have been moved from a service that cost $60/year to one that costs about $10/year. Planned upgrades have been put on hold. Amanda got a cheap home-made tote bag for her birthday. These actions, however, have not been enough.
But thanks to recently passed legislation, Atlas Quest qualifies for some of the money from the economic stimulus package directed towards small businesses! Hey, I'm as surprised as you are!
Now that I'm in business with the federal government, they will have a greater say in how things are run. For instance, I'm not allowed to pay myself more than $250,000/year, and bonuses will be capped. You've probably heard about those types of restrictions already—they get most of the publicity from the news media. There, are, however, additional strings attached, some of which may affect you.
- I may not refer to this money as a 'bailout.' It is an economic stimulus or economic recovery—not a bailout.
- I am not to tell people that I am not allowed to call it a 'bailout.'
- The name Atlas Quest, they have decided, is not appropriate. It sounds more like a bunch of students looking for their geography books the night before an exam than a bunch of crazy people with inky fingers looking for rubber stamps. Hearings will be held to decide on a new name, but Crazy Bunch of People With Inky Fingers and Looking For Rubber Stamps are currently being favored.
- Due to the buy-American provision, support for countries outside of the United States will no longer be supported. It is feared that letterboxes in foreign countries may encourage Americans to go abroad and spend money there. This should have little effect for most people, but could hit Canadian letterboxers hard.
- Don's contribution to the Letterboxer's Code of Conduct must remove all references to guns, unless to suggest that they are dangerous and should be outlawed.
- Blue Diamonds are considered discriminatory, since only a select few boxes get special recognition. To recognize everyone's efforts, additional levels will be added including purple cats, rubber chickens, and—for the lowest tier—brown turds.
- Marjorie will henceforth be called Betty, a good, solid American-sounding name. It's a low blow, I know, but the feds wanted to deport her to Canada! I could only change their minds by making her more 'American.'
- I will be required to publish at least three books about letterboxing, to help the printing industry. Only one of them may be a children's book. A ghost writer may be used if I do not want to write them myself, but any ghost writer must be an American.
- I must charge carbon offsets for every clue distributed. (Exact rates still to be determined.)
- With the federal government now standing behind Atlas Quest, I'm optimistic that we can strong-arm the NPS into allowing letterboxes everywhere on their property.
It'll take some time before I can implement all of these changes, but look for them coming down the line in the next few months. Changes can often be a difficult thing to adjust to, but with our share of the economic stimulus package, we have a solid base for decades of successful growth. These are difficult times, but remember in these dark times, you have nothing to fear but snakes and spiders.