Well, at least you didn't get tagged with the needs archived flag!
Great post. Some of the newbies have been rather sour and belligerent lately. Bummer. But they still don't cancel out those wonderful logs that show up from appreciative visitors now and then.
I understand about the premium thing, but I also would urge you to pick and choose a percentage of good, easily maintained caches you own stay regular and accessible to the newbies.
In our densely populated area, rich with hides, publishing as premium has become necessary because of some bad apples. Premium tag is not fool-proof, but it does help with jerk vandals and bored teens.
However, I also agree that it is essential that we have a selection of geocaches, good ones, available to the newcomer. The barrier to entry to play this game is still pretty high when you consider the need for tech to play, but it's gotten better with GPS enabled smart phones. Having a good selection of free geocaches must be maintained to help recruiting IMO.
I received a DNF on one of my caches in Rosenberg yesterday. Kirbydox Left Between H and I. The cache has been out for 3 years and I have NEVER had to replace it. Since I was at my computer at the time, I immediately sent a message to this cacher to look again because it is not your typical light pole cache and not an easy cache for a newbie. They looked again and couldn't find it and replied that I was full of it. IN THIS CASE(!) I had to disagree with the cacher. Today I took the 30 mile roundtrip drive to check on the cache and it was there. The cacher has ZERO FINDS. I channeled BaytownBert and tried to teach this newbie about unusual hides without totally giving it away.
On the bright side, the log was full and needed to be replaced, there were a lot of cool songs on the radio I listened and sang to on the drive and I got to spend some quality car time with Wolfie the dog. Oh, and it wasn't raining yet either!
I'm also thinking of making all my caches Premium Member Only.