Camping is a luxury not to be wasted on the poor

Update follows article below

“We’re going camping!” I exclaimed to my 11-year-old daughter.

“Yay!!” She responded with delight. Our first camping trip of the season, everything was in place – not without effort.

I’m a 47- year-old single parent without a car. Getting everything in place means making daily outings by bus to retrieve the items needed to make our trip a success. Going to the dollar store, NoFrills and WalMart or Canadian Tire in one day by bus usually isn’t happening, especially on the weekends when it can take over an hour just to make it out to Dartmouth Crossing. I’ve listed these locations because in a modest single income household – Shopping at “name-brand” locations usually isn’t within my budget.

Everything was in place – the shopping, cooking and packing, done over a couple weeks. I called to book it, and the gentleman on the phone assured me, when he asked for my credit card and refused my visa-debit- that paying on location wouldn’t be an issue.

I booked at Shubie Park, because it is accessible by bus, but in the end, I swallowed my pride and asked my ex-husband to give us a lift – we had so much to carry! He kindly agreed.

Shubie called that day to confirm that we were coming and I said yes, they iterated the need of a credit card. I then asked my ex for the use of his credit card (cash in pocket to return the funds immediately to him) and again he agreed (did I mention how much I dislike asking for help?). We loaded the car and off we went, I could smell the campfire – so exciting!

Upon arrival I was met with much less than enthusiastic staff who asked for my card. I gave him my Ex’s. They refused it immediately – “The credit card needs to be in your name.” they stated. Oh. I felt defeated. I went out to the car and my ex thought it would be fine if he went himself to pay, so again in we went. “No, the card has to be in the name of the person who booked.” Emotionless and unwavering is how I would describe the staff. Unapologetic even…

“I’m willing to accept responsibility for these two ladies,” my ex responded. Nothing but “It’s our policy” was the response. Well, what if I agree to stay with them?” he prodded. “The booking was only for 2 people – she said it on the phone – pointing at me. It’s our policy” They continued to retort. “Look,” he was frustrated by the lack of compassion and the overuse of the word ‘policy’, “You have me by the balls here, I don’t understand. You have my card and I give you full permission to use it to cover any damage that they might infringe on the location…”

Well the use of the word “balls” was enough for them to shut us down completely. They claimed inappropriate language and if they could have released a giant, metal wall – Get Smart style – to come down between us at that point, they would have. My ex asked, “Ok, so how about this, so cancel her booking…”

“Already did, “ they interrupted coldly.
My ex continued “…And I’ll book a site for three,” he asked…
“No, we know you’re not staying with them. You’re being inappropriate…”, their eyes rolling.

At this point a long time friend who is staying at the campground for a period of time came in to the office meet us. He tried as well to vouch for us to no avail. I was a puddle of tears – sad, angry, happy – I cry, I can’t help it. I pleaded, “Please, it’s just myself and my 11-year-old daughter! We just want to camp overnight and roast marshmallows! I worked so hard to get us here!…” “It’s our policy” They reiterated, again so coldly. I felt the sting of shame and humiliation. I’m an honest person. I run a not-for-profit community art gallery and pride myself on working really hard to create an atmosphere of inclusion and accessibility. I also work really hard to provide a good, comfortable, healthy home life for my daughter and show her that it is possible to live honestly, comfortably within our means, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to manage. I have no interest in getting a credit card – even if I were excessively well off. Shame on you, Shubie Campground, for not seeing the humanity of the situation and waving the word “policy” around like we were common thieves.

I left Shubie Campground humiliated and ashamed. They’re the ones that should be ashamed. A little grace and humanity would have made our weekend a success and made me feel like the valuable part of society and successful parent that I am and strive to be. They had an opportunity to assess the situation, be kind and make our day, we weren’t a car full of rowdy teens – (but if we had been , they’d let us camp with a credit card!), just a mom and her daughter.

As it stands, I’m tired and embarrassed. I had a lot of generous friends step up and offer me use of their cards, for that I am grateful, but I’ve also received a tonne of advice on how to camp ‘illegally which just isn’t my style, and I’d be too nervous that something would happen and we couldn’t get help…

Who knew sleeping in a tent was such a luxury only the rich can enjoy…

UPDATE

I appreciate wholeheartedly that the Shubie Campground Administration has offered a genuine apology regarding the experience with their problematic credit card policy.

I am truly astounded and overwhelmed by the support our Dartmouth Community has shown over this experience. I’m really feeling the love. So many people have reached out – some, total strangers to me and my family- to offer support and alternative camping opportunities at no cost to us. Amazing. I have spoken with Shubie Campground over the phone and she has responded with an offering for a night’s stay in their yurt complete with firewood and s’mores and a $50.00 gift card to Walmart.

On the flip side, Shubie is feeling quite a backlash and although the support is incredible, I actually feel badly about this. It was not my intention to “bring Shubie Campground to its knees,” it was, however, my intention to shed some light on the experience after reaching out directly with the letter to their management who were less than sympathetic and once again waived their “policy” flag around.

They had an amazing opportunity to offer up great customer service and they missed the mark. Instead, the staff acted disrespectfully and fully without compassion and complete and utter disregard for the unique circumstances at hand, and I left without my dignity intact. That being said, I wish them no ill will, and ultimately, I want them to change their policy and be more welcoming and appreciative of their visitors. I’d like to be able to camp there in a dignified fashion with or without a credit card.

Fundamentally, the experience was traumatic, but it has forced me to reflect on the question, “How do we feel valuable in our communities without being big-ticket consumers?” I believe that I am not alone in this experience. If not only with Shubie, then throughout the daily grind, feeling valued in any aspect of our lives is invaluable for everyone. And though I try desperately not to fall prey to “consumer culture” and to the socio-economic pressures to achieve the specific standards of what we’re told “success” is, when I do find myself in the position of being a customer (usually modestly), I expect to be granted the same respect allotted to every person, regardless of income. I am supporting your business, please be appreciative. I’m finding that “great customer service“ is an increasingly rare occurrence, and that is a very sad fact.

In the end, I’m a Dartmouth girl and I love Shubie Park, and though I have yet to camp at Shubie Campground, hope that with time I will feel less embarrassed and more welcome to do that. Right now, however, it’s too new and too raw, and honestly I’d hate to have to deal with the same staff. I thank Shubie for reaching out and for her apology, I believe she truly feels terribly about everything. I hope it’s enough to put positive changes in forward motion very soon. Thanks to everyone for the phenomenal support and kind words. Thanks to Shubie for the recognition of their error and that their policies need to be adjusted.

Lee Cripps
Dartmouth Artist, Proud Parent