Woman upset by ‘humiliation and shame’ at Dartmouth campground

A Dartmouth, N.S., woman says she felt “completely humiliated and destroyed” after a campground refused to honour a booking for her and her daughter because she didn’t have a credit card in her name to pay for it.

Lee Cripps went to Shubie Campground in Dartmouth with her 11-year-old daughter to enjoy a night of roasting marshmallows and sleeping under the stars.

She called the campground ahead of time to book a site and learned that her Visa debit card would not be accepted, but that she could pay on location with a credit card when she got there.

Cripps, who doesn’t own a car, spent weeks preparing for the outing, taking the bus to pick up supplies and then cooking and packing. She chose Shubie Campground because it is accessible by bus.

But she ultimately decided to ask her ex-husband for a lift because of all the gear she would have had to lug.

“We loaded the car and off we went, I could smell the campfire — so exciting!” wrote Cripps in an opinion piece on Hello Dartmouth called “When Policy Replaces Humanity: Camping is a Luxury Not to be Wasted on the Poor.”

But things went awry when she tried to pay for the booking with her ex-husband’s credit card. A staff person informed her that the card had to be in the name of the person who made the booking.

When her ex-husband accompanied Cripps inside to authorize the payment and offered to sign a waiver accepting responsibility for any damage, the staff member still refused, saying for liability reasons, it was the campground’s policy that the card must be in the name of the booker.

“Emotionless and unwavering is how I would describe the staff,” Cripps wrote. “Unapologetic, even.”

“We weren’t like a car full of irresponsible people, you know, with a trunk full of beer,” Cripps said in an interview on the CBC’s Mainstreet. “We were just a young family just looking for a good, happy experience camping and roasting marshmallows — literally that’s all we wanted to do.”

Cripps’s ex-husband offered to cancel the original booking and book a new site in his name that he would pay for with his card.

Once again, the staff member refused, saying since he wouldn’t be camping there, that wouldn’t be permitted.

‘I was just looking for respect’

Cripps and her daughter eventually left.

“We both had a hearty cry on the way home,” she said.

Cripps said sometimes she is made to feel that she is less successful than others because she doesn’t have a car or a credit card.

“I was just looking for respect and a little grace,” she said. “I just expect as a customer to be granted the respect allotted to every person regardless of income.”

‘I’m devastated,’ says campground owner

Since the incident, Shubie Campground has posted a public statement online saying the business is “deeply ashamed” of how the situation was handled.

“I’m devastated,” said the business’s owner, Kristi, who was emotional as she spoke with CBC News. “I’m heartbroken. I can’t believe that a camper was left feeling that way. That’s not who we are.”

CBC agreed not to use Kristi’s last name, as she says her family has received threats since the incident. There’s also been an online backlash against the business.

The campground has offered Cripps a free stay at its yurt, free S’mores, a gift card to compensate for the groceries she bought, and transportation to and from the campground.

“Whatever it takes,” said Kristi. “I want that little girl to have that experience, and I’m hoping that she’ll forgive us and give us a chance to make amends.”

Kristi said the campground has also changed its payment policy to allow someone with a credit card to make a payment and booking for another person. The business will also allow a cash deposit.

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