MIAMI – The Better Business Bureau issued a summer camp consumer alert following nationwide complaints about Be Inspired Cultural Arts.
The complaints allege that Be Inspired camps were not delivering services as advertised and closed abruptly without prior notice to parents.
Lissette Ramos was camp director for the camp in Miami, which was located at the University of Miami Fieldhouse at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables.
"Just the fact it was hosted at UM, I think that's what kind of drew me in," said Ramos. "It's close to home (and) it is a safe environment."
Ramos said staff members had to scramble to purchase their own supplies for the 51 kids in the camp after the company failed to deliver.
"Once we knew we weren't getting supplies, we all went home, we started bringing in our own supplies, we would stop and buy supplies. I was paying almost $15 a day for copies, you know so the kids would have something to do," said Stephanie Farrington, a school teacher and employee at Be Inspired camp. "The whole cultural activities, I thought was a good idea, but it wasn't being done."
Staff also told Local 10 News that the company's owner was not paying them for their work.
The camp closed after just two weeks, leaving staff without being paid, parents out of money and kids disappointed.
"The summer camp seemed like a great place to work at and the kids were excellent. It's a shame that this turned into such a nightmare for the employees, parents and children," elementary school teacher Nathalie Louie said. "Most of the employees were left without work or had to find other last minute summer employment as most are Miami-Dade public school teachers."
The BBB found that the owner of the camps, Quinton Cox, has a history of taking fees for camps that ultimately were not held.
"We worked so hard. We said to him we cannot continue to work for him if he doesn't plan on paying us," said Ramos. "How could he do this children? How could he do this to parents that paid for certain activities?"
A Miami mother, Dacia Simpson, told the BBB that she is out over $210 dollars and several other parents told Coral Gables police that they were collectively out more than $1,700.
One South Florida father told the Attorney General's Office that he was out $450, adding that the business didn't offer any of the services it claimed it would.
"Now I have to find another camp and pay fees again," he said. "The University of Miami who affiliated themselves with it is not responding and already mentioned that it is not their problem. They did not vet their vendors and do not care about the bad name they will get from it."
UM officials told Local 10 News it would not comment on the situation.
The BBB gave Be Inspired camps an "F" rating for failing to respond to complaints filed with them.
Employees thought the camp was authentic due to its location. With an average of 51 kids ranging from the ages of 3 to 15, the staff had to bring things from home because nothing was provided by the camp.
According to a Coral Gables police report, parents with kids at the camp were out anywhere from $310 to $644.
Local 10 News has yet to receive a response from Be Inspired Cultural Arts.
BBB reminds parents to check with BBB prior to paying fees to a camp or organization. If past problems resulted in a poor BBB rating, a quick and free check of their BBB review would provide warning ahead of time, and may save you from losing money and being stuck with no place for your kids to go during the summer.
BBB tips for choosing a summer program or day camp:
- Find out how long the camp has been in business and check with parents of past and returning campers. Find out the camper return rate as well as the counselor return rate
- Check with the BBB prior to paying any fees to find out about the camp's handling of complaints and its trustworthiness.
- Visit the camp before making a decision. Remember that many universities and schools rent space to outside parties. That doesn't mean the camp is affiliated with the school.
- Assess the quality and commitment of the staff including the director's background, criteria used for hiring staff, the ratio of staff to campers, the staff's level of expertise in the specific area for specialty camps, and whether the camp does background checks on employees.
- Know the fees. What is the total cost of tuition? Is your deposit refundable? Are there extra charges for any activities? Are meals and transportation included? Will your child need additional money while at camp? Is financial aid available?
- Check the condition and safety of the facilities and equipment.
- Ask to see a typical daily schedule. Note the camp hours, the variety of activities that are planned, the age range of the campers, what type of food is served, the pace of the day and any transportation that is involved.
- Be familiar with the camp philosophy. Know what the camp's goals are and how each program offered meets those goals.
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