May 23, 2016

Life Lesson: In-tents Hornswaggling

It is not a secret that my family is a big scouting family. I was a scout, my brother was a scout and both parents were leaders. My dad's father was also a scout and long-time scoutmaster. That's one of the reasons why, when my son expressed an interest in scouting, I stepped up and said I would help, which meant I was the then den leader.  I have become very active with the kids, being a leader in the Girl Scout and Boy Scout program, and my leadership has extended beyond that as a facilitator to other adult scouters and so much more. I enjoy what I give and receive from being a leader, I know that my kids see value in my leadership (which means my own children as well as the many other youth that I mentor) and mostly I appreciate the skills that my kids have received as a result of their participation.

My sin attending a cross-over of a
Cub Scout joining the Troop. 
My kids are good scouts. Most recently my son and his best friend built a Gaga Ball pit at their school - They did the research, ran the fundraising, picked out the materials and built the structure. Yes they had guidance from teachers and parents, but the thing is, they had an idea and ran with it. Someone asked my son if that was his Eagle Project. While it is Eagle worthy, he and his friend wanted to build it because they saw and need and "just wanted to." My son is often the first volunteer, he helps a local Cub Scout den as their Den Chief, has been working hard to work through rank advancement, was selected to be part of a troop that participates as the Governor's Honor Guard on Mackinac Island and was recently elected as Patrol Leader and selected to join the Order of the Arrow.

My daughter too is starting to see the value of leadership too. Most recently when she found out a local nature area needed some signage she decided to take on the project for her Bronze Award. She is a helpful scout, and an active scout who has repeatedly been a top seller and as a result is working on her own business of making and selling dog and cat treats.

My son is 12 and my daughter is 10.

I don't want to sound like I am bragging, even if I am a bit, but I mostly wanted to share all of this to illustrate that we are a strong scouting family. Yes, my kids might have gotten much of this from me regardless, but the values that scouting brings is important to us.  So why is this important to my blog post today? Scouting directly relates to a recent Life Lesson my son experience.

As a Boy Scout, my son does a lot of camping. As one of his Assistant Scoutmasters, I camp as well and LOVE the tent that I purchased for myself when we began the adventure. I have stayed warm, and dry on every campout we have been on, including the Klondike (February 2015) where we had record cold temperatures! Alps Mountaineering has not let me down. (I highly recommend their products and love the fact that they offer scouts a substantial discount through their label. (If you are a scout or scouter that does not already know about this, be sure to check it out!)

My son however has stayed in the tents that the troop has provided. As he will be participating in more non-troop activities through OA, staffing local events, etc. he has decided to get his own tent and upgrade the youth size hiking backpack I purchased used from him two years ago. Since a scout is "Thrifty" though, I suggested he look at all options for tents before buying.

As I was on Craigslist Saturday, I was pleased to see a Eureka "Scout" tent for sale for a very reasonable price. I showed my son. I suggested that since he was buying a new backpack, perhaps he should save his tent money a little longer. We reached out to the guy and arranged a meeting for the next day.

Typically I don't mind used equipment, in fact it can be a great way to try new equipment for a reasonable price. Besides, I knew he would likely need a backpacking tent in the future and the Eureka TL-4 would give him a great, high-quality, tent that would work in most seasons. Seemed like a solid win and the photos shared indicated the tent was in GREAT shape. Plus the guy was selling it at a very reasonably price that we could not pass up.

When we arrived at the designated meeting spot, the guy shook my son's hand and they exchanged pleasantries. Before we went, I suggested to my son that he would likely want to take the tent out of the bag and possibly even set it up before making the purchase. The seller however kept talking about his scouting experiences and even went so far as to say, "After we spoke yesterday I got several calls from people who were interested in my (Eureka) tent. They even tried telling me they'd pay more and that they would get it (the same day). I told them I was selling to a scout and couldn't let the kid down." He then went on to say that the tent looked exactly as pictured so my son (and I) took him at face value and did not open the tent. We even bought an additional sleeping mat that he was selling.

We did not set the tent up last night since we got home late, so today while my son was in school I
Spending the night in their
Wilderness Survival shelter
opted to set it up. I knew that the directions were missing but was able to download those. I knew the directions were missing at least. We specifically asked about the poles and were told they were in perfect shape and there were no stains, holes or rips in the tent. When setting up the tent though, I quickly realized that the poles were not in perfect shape, several had a good bend, then to make matters worse, I noticed some yellow staining (cigarette smoke?) across the white part of the tent and found that the tent was completely sticky in the inside as well as under the rain-fly. This means it was likely not properly stored and is not weather ready.

I am looking into solutions now, and have reached out to the manufacturer to see what Eureka recommends, but I am most dis-pleased that my 12-year old was taken advantage of. In a big way. The tent was misrepresented and the guy discouraged us from opening it, hinting instead that he should be trustworthy as he was also a scout. Sadly that is not the case.

My son is not home yet. Certainly I could let this be a life lesson about "look before you buy" or even "you get what you pay for." I feel strongly though, that this is likely a lesson in disappointment and that not everyone is trustworthy. I feel as much to blame as the guy who sold the tent to him since I should have insisted my son open the tent. As of right now he will be disappointed to not have a tent that he can use though and I am now searching for a solution that he can have when he attends his OA Ordeal, NYLT and other scout camping programs he is attending.

So what would you tell your child? How would you handle the inevitable disappointment?

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