Advice for spotting scam camps?

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sparr
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Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by sparr » Thu Jul 21, 2016 9:55 am

If a camp is a scam, taking money and not planning to turn it into a working camp, how can someone spot that in advance?

In my post history here and on reddit I've asked a lot of questions about getting involved with camps ahead of time for Burning Man and other conceptually similar events (re tickets, theme camps, etc). The prevailing viewpoint is that newcomers to camps should not expect to be involved with planning and prep, or to get any useful communication from camp organizers; just pay your dues and show up when and where you're told.

One such event has come and gone now, and the camp I paid dues to was a scam. They hadn't done any prep and didn't bother to show up at the event at all. After a few months of not being involved in their process I asked here if there was etiquette for asking for a refund (and also on reddit), and most people said I should just stick with it and keep waiting, that asking for a refund was unreasonable and I wasn't owed any communication.

I know now that that was bad advice. In hindsight, what could I have done then to figure out that it was a scam? Where I was then with that other camp is where some people are now with their BM camps; I'd like them to not fall prey to the same thing I did.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by misfit » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:10 am

yea,,, I agree. bad advice. any reason you don't start your own camp.?.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Captain Goddammit » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:22 am

If they invite you... beware.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by GreyCoyote » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:50 am

Are you sure they didnt just move and "forget"'to tell you?

I'd have that problem. Might be a common affliction. Just sayin...
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by AntiM » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:04 am

It is difficult when the camp in question has poor communication. They might not be a scam, they may simply suck at including new campers.

I wish I had better advice for you.

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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by trilobyte » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:17 am

I'm giving this a nudge to the building camps & villages board, since that's a better fit for general preparation-related questions (the year-specific boards are intended more for camps to announce/recruit for that specific year).

I don't know if there's any one-size-fits-all type of advice that would apply. Me personally, I would not join a camp unless I either knew at least someone in the camp fairly well. I'd also want to either be directly involved, or get updates on the progress that is being made. If they're local, ask to come to a camp meeting or if you can come out for a work night, get to know people first.

Coming in later in the season poses greater risks for all parties. To the camp and the campmates who spend all year (or multiple years) building a camp, the latecomers are a risk of being someone who pays their dues and then either treats the camp like some kind of hotel or they skip out on the on-playa commitments (helping with setup/teardown/MOOP patrols, etc) or some other horror story. To the latecomer who's looking for a camp in July, there's a risk that the camp you choose will take your money and not deliver the stuff you're looking for.

I also think the more amenities that a camp offers, the greater the risk. That isn't to say all the posh camps are scams, but they're still a greater risk. And with lots of amenities/less work, even when it isn't a scam it's kind of a lesser experience. Part of the magic of Burning Man (to me) is the sense of participation and involvement. Newcomer and veteran alike help to build structures or pick up MOOP or man the bar or whatever it is the camp is doing.

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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Jackass » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:19 am

Long walk, short pier. Now go!

I thought you were supposed to be all smart and intellectual like, apparently not.
Sooner or later, it will get real strange...

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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by trilobyte » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:32 am

GreyCoyote and AntiM make some excellent points. I think genuine scams (where they take money but have zero intention on even being a camp) is very rare (at least at Burning Man), more often it's a case of poor communication, organization, or execution, as well as over-selling themselves. I can see it being really easy for organizers of a group early in the season coming up with a bunch of ideas of things they want to do that year, but as time marches on the plans change or there isn't time or money (or both) to actually do those things. I guess that's one more reason to be wary of long lists of amenities, or joining a group you don't really know.

It's probably also worth pointing out that you don't actually need to join a camp. Camping solo may seem like an impossible task, but every single year thousands of people do just that, and they have an amazing time. You can still socialize with neighbors, and both lend a hand or get a hand from a stranger if it's needed (getting structure up/down, etc). You could also even come up with your own plan and invite others to join you - form your own group of whatever size you'd like.

Good luck in finding or creating the right fit!

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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by FlyingMonkey » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:36 am

Captain Goddammit wrote:If they invite YOU... beware.
Fixed that for ya :D

Kidding SPAR. I'll play nice.

If a camp is a scam then they probably wont give you your money back anyway.
I would think the best bet would be to join a camp that has a good reputation (here, FB, or word of mouth) and try to find out as much as you can about them. Or go it alone. Or, as others have suggested start your own camp.

Are you sure they are a scam or like mentioned before just suck at planning & keeping in touch.

If I didn't already have a great group of folks to camp with I would probably go solo & do what I want when I want to. I camp in my regional village & don't belong to an actual camp. Have you considered that? I'm sure my situation is not unique.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by FlyingMonkey » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:37 am

Also, are you talking about a camp at Burning Man or a regional. You lost me when you said the event has com & gone already. I know people who have joined camps not knowing anyone or very little about the camp. Some have had great experiences, others miserable. I know you have been to regionals so have you scouted perspective camps at them & possibly asked about joining?

It goes both ways & you are potentially as much of a risk to a camp in good standing as they are to you with certain expectations.

I know some camps require you to work X number of hours, preparing meals & cleaning dishes......So be sure you know exactly what you are getting in to before joining.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by sparr » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:44 am

FlyingMonkey wrote:If a camp is a scam then they probably wont give you your money back anyway.
I know. I'm pursuing a dispute via Paypal right now. Next step would be dealing with my bank.
FlyingMonkey wrote:I would think the best bet would be to join a camp that has a good reputation (here, FB, or word of mouth) and try to find out as much as you can about them.
After spending six months looking for camps, I got desperate and went with the first camps I found for each event, concluding they would be my only options. Now I know that when future newbs ask the same questions this October, I can just tell them to wait for July before committing, when there will be a lot more (and more reputable) camps recruiting.
FlyingMonkey wrote:Or go it alone.
Always a backup plan, but annoying. There's an economy of scale for things like propane, ice, shade, etc.
FlyingMonkey wrote:Or, as others have suggested start your own camp.
The next time I spend more than a couple of years in the same city, this is likely to be on my agenda.
FlyingMonkey wrote:Are you sure they are a scam or like mentioned before just suck at planning & keeping in touch.
The BM camp is not a scam, just slow at planning and bad at communicating. The camp for the other event, which happened recently, was 100% scam. I'm looking for ways to help other people spot that situation in advance in the future.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by GreyCoyote » Thu Jul 21, 2016 12:17 pm

As others have said, established camps are always safest.

Maybe get ahold of a group like Camp Gypsy Flower Power. They've got a long track record, they promise some good infrastructure without being an actual PNP, and are not super-tight on work schedules, etc. Lots of space and not unreasonable fees (sliding scale based on ability to pay). There are quite a few alumni out there with a pretty consistant experience. Many have gone on to do their own theme camps based on the experience.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Elderberry » Thu Jul 21, 2016 12:35 pm

Captain Goddammit wrote:If they invite you... beware.
Not necessarily true. If we are one or two short, we often invite rather than advertise. For us, it's kind of like pre-screening.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Eric » Thu Jul 21, 2016 1:02 pm

sparr wrote:Now I know that when future newbs ask the same questions this October, I can just tell them to wait for July before committing, when there will be a lot more (and more reputable) camps recruiting.
That would be inaccurate at best, completely wrong at worst. The camps that are still recruiting in July tend to [a] require dues of some sort, often high (not all camps require dues: neither the camp nor village I've been part of have ever required them), might be looking to fill quotas - either because they have a lot of work-shifts that need to be filled, or they need to raise a certain amount of cash to fulfill obligations. In that case there might be a chance they care less about who the person is, and more about the fact they have a body to fill a slot.

Any time anyone wants to join a camp, they need to research the hell out of them, and allow themselves to be researched. That takes time. You're basically applying to be a new roommate in an existing communal house, and should approach it as such - you will be living with these people for 5-7 days (or more), you want to make sure you get along with them. I've seen nightmares play out in camps due to personality clashes, and even in our carefully curated camp we've had horrible situations arise with tent-mates (ending with one disappearing to another camp for 4 days).

Even more important is why someone wants to join that particular camp, whatever it is. What are they offering the camp. What skills do they bring to the camp, how do those skills fit with the camps theme, what made this particular camp be the one that attracted the newbies attention? Established camps can get hit with tons of requests to join - the person who wants to be join needs to explain why they're special, quite honestly. Some camps (like ours) don't even take requests to join, we're strictly invitation only. While this has worked out for the most part, even with that we've ended up with unforeseen issues (like in the last paragraph). Nobody wants unnecessary drama and melt-downs.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Sham » Thu Jul 21, 2016 1:16 pm

Sparr, can I ask (and don't answer if you're uncomfortable) where you camped in 2015? Was it an established camp or did you go solo?

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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Captain Goddammit » Thu Jul 21, 2016 1:42 pm

How about you just don't be a disneylander.
Do your own camp, or join a camp where your friends are and this shit won't happen. Don't join some stranger's camp just because you think you need to be in a camp. That's stupid. Why the hell would you do that anyway?
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by sparr » Thu Jul 21, 2016 2:22 pm

Eric wrote:
sparr wrote:Now I know that when future newbs ask the same questions this October, I can just tell them to wait for July before committing, when there will be a lot more (and more reputable) camps recruiting.
That would be inaccurate at best, completely wrong at worst. The camps that are still recruiting in July
As far as I can tell, unless you already have the necessary social connections, June or July is the earliest you'll see camps recruiting around here. The effort I put into finding a single camp with openings prior to June was a lot more time than most people have to spend on such an endeavor.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by sparr » Thu Jul 21, 2016 2:23 pm

Sham wrote:Sparr, can I ask (and don't answer if you're uncomfortable) where you camped in 2015? Was it an established camp or did you go solo?
In 2015 I camped with a small camp in the Boston Hive village, mostly comprised of people I already knew from having lived in Boston a few years ago. Sadly that camp isn't returning this year.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by sparr » Thu Jul 21, 2016 2:26 pm

Captain Goddammit wrote:Do your own camp, or join a camp where your friends are and this shit won't happen. Don't join some stranger's camp just because you think you need to be in a camp. That's stupid. Why the hell would you do that anyway?
Because I like working on large projects, and there's a limit to what I can accomplish solo. If I want to be part of erecting a dome, or running a bar, or setting up a zipline, or running an educational venue, or a dozen other large scale things, then I've got to join a larger group.

One of the camps I've been involved with this year is making a lot of playatech furniture. I like experimenting with that sort of thing, but don't have the budget or space to build a dozen different pieces all for myself.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Elliot » Thu Jul 21, 2016 2:33 pm

sparr wrote:... ...
After spending six months looking for camps, I got desperate and went with the first camps I found for each event, concluding they would be my only options.
... ... ....
Whoa! (*waves red flag*) Sparr.... In all kindness... I suggest you re-evaluate what you wrote there. Not the wording, but how you spent six months, and exactly what brought you to desperation, and what seemed to eliminate any other option.

And please refresh my memory... so that, possibly, I may offer another suggestion: Were you present in Black Rock City during last year's Burning Man event, and if so, for how many days?
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Dr. Pyro » Thu Jul 21, 2016 3:51 pm

FWIW, Barbie Death Camp did some modest recruiting in January-February, and stopped all requests for membership last month. It seems to me if a camp doesn't have it's act together by the beginning of Spring, look out. But then, anyone can Google Barbie Death Camp and see pages and pages, and article after article, about us so everyone knows we're not a bunch of flakes. Politically incorrect bastards and a bunch of Republicans/Libertarians perhaps, but not flakes.

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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Papa Bear » Thu Jul 21, 2016 4:05 pm

sparr wrote:most people said I should just stick with it and keep waiting, that asking for a refund was unreasonable and I wasn't owed any communication.
That's not actually what was said, either here or on reddit.

Context matters, and stating that you shouldn't expect communication regarding certain matters (like when organizers start making expenditures using camp money) does not imply that a complete lack of communication on all matters indefinitely was appropriate.

You were also explicitly advised to have a frank conversation with the organizers about getting a refund, just also warned that depending on how close the event was and where in the organization stages the camp was (i.e. how much had already been spent), you shouldn't have an expectation that they'd agree to a full and immediate refund.

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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by sparr » Thu Jul 21, 2016 5:33 pm

Elliot wrote:but how you spent six months
I spent it attending every BM-related event I could find in the bay area, approaching every person I saw with some sort of infrastructure project and asking about it, volunteering at things like the BM GLC, posting on various facebook groups and on reddit, etc.
Elliot wrote:exactly what brought you to desperation, and what seemed to eliminate any other option
perception of time running out, and despair at time already wasted not working on anything of significant size. If you'd asked me nine months ago how many times I'd have a 2x4 (or steel tube, or sheet of plywood, or ...) and a power tool in my hand in the next six months, zero would not have seemed like a plausible answer.

Now I know better. Having been here through the process, I see that many bay area BM camps wait until June or July to start recruiting people, to start posting work days/parties for their projects and infrastructure, to participate in a "theme camp speed dating" event, etc. What I perceived as my one chance after so much searching was really just the earliest of a long series of opportunities.
Elliot wrote:And please refresh my memory... so that, possibly, I may offer another suggestion: Were you present in Black Rock City during last year's Burning Man event, and if so, for how many days?
I was, for 13 11 days IIRC.
Last edited by sparr on Thu Jul 21, 2016 5:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by sparr » Thu Jul 21, 2016 5:39 pm

Papa Bear wrote:
sparr wrote:most people said I should just stick with it and keep waiting, that asking for a refund was unreasonable and I wasn't owed any communication.
That's not actually what was said, either here or on reddit.
It is, if you read the responses in the context of things I said, rather than things people wanted to argue with me having said that I didn't say...
Papa Bear wrote:you shouldn't expect communication regarding certain matters (like when organizers start making expenditures using camp money)
like that. If I had a dollar for every time someone suggested I had said anything of that sort, I'd have a bunch of dollars. I never said anything about sharing information about financial matters. I said that when those expenditures happen, that's a time by which some information about *something happening* should be shared. A timing correlation, nothing more. I was disagreed with repeatedly. The consensus was that although my dues were probably already spent, I wasn't owed any communication about anything until/unless the camp organizers saw fit. Multiple camp organizers posted saying they might not involve certain members at all until on-playa.
Last edited by sparr on Thu Jul 21, 2016 5:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by sparr » Thu Jul 21, 2016 5:54 pm

Dr. Pyro wrote:FWIW, Barbie Death Camp did some modest recruiting in January-February, and stopped all requests for membership last month. It seems to me if a camp doesn't have it's act together by the beginning of Spring, look out.
I actually hadn't heard of you until one of your replies to my threads much more recently than that. Your name didn't come up at all in my long quest through the fall/winter/spring for a camp to get involved with.

I'm not sure quite where the "act together" line is drawn, but the most project-ful and active camps I'm aware of (Sextant and Love Potion Collective from the bay area, and Automatic Subconscious on the east coast, and the villages each of them live in) weren't anywhere near fully recruited or organized by the end of spring.
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Dr. Pyro » Thu Jul 21, 2016 7:47 pm

sparr wrote: Your name didn't come up at all in my long quest through the fall/winter/spring for a camp to get involved with.
Because we weren't recruiting. We don't need to. With 250 people in the Village, things kind of take care of themselves. I just responded because I thought you were being unfairly singled out. But we still aren't looking to expand.

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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Sham » Thu Jul 21, 2016 7:50 pm

You wouldn't like camping with Barbie Death Camp. They're a bunch of freaks. :shock:

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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by Elliot » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:58 pm

Sparr, thank you for answering my questions.
In a nut shell, as I perceive it, you replied with what you did for six months. Now -- if it should please you to continue in this vein -- I invite you to ask yourself why.

Sparr, you are a fairly bright fellow. You clearly have abilities -- for example, you are detail-oriented. And you are persistent. Yo ain't no dummy. But I would venture to suggest that you may have some counterproductive habits. Irrational thinking patterns.

Now.... I don't mean to brag, but I will state a fact, as a well-meant example:
My own second year, I organized and operated a 25-person placed theme camp, very successfully.

Practically anyone could do this. It's not like it's difficult. I believe it is all in one's mindset.

So I will close my participation in this thread with the suggestion... that you may want to engage in some introspection. Try to analyze why you do things the way you do. Why you feel the way you do. How you determine your priorities. How and why people so often react unfavorably to your posts, and I suspect to other interactions with you. This will be hard work. But you work hard at other things. Good luck!
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by BBadger » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:12 pm

The reputation of a camp is really the only protection against scams. Reputation whether as friends, history on playa, recommendations, etc. Even then, it's just a lower probability that it's not a scam.

It'll take time and research to find out whether a potential camp is a scam, has their shit together, or fits your needs. That's about all that can be said.

Good luck, and I hope you at least get your money back!
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Re: Advice for spotting scam camps?

Post by FlyingMonkey » Fri Jul 22, 2016 9:04 am

sparr wrote:
Sham wrote:Sparr, can I ask (and don't answer if you're uncomfortable) where you camped in 2015? Was it an established camp or did you go solo?
In 2015 I camped with a small camp in the Boston Hive village, mostly comprised of people I already knew from having lived in Boston a few years ago. Sadly that camp isn't returning this year.
Maybe they changed their name & didn't tell you. (Kidding again).

While too late for this year, it's always best to camp with people you know & have developed a relationship with. I'm pretty sure you go to regionals so next year do some shopping. Find a camp that you really think fits you, meet the folks that run it, & see if they are accepting any new campers. Better yet scout one out before the regional & take them for a test drive before the burn. The important thing is to develop a relationship with them. There are a few camps that I frequent but don't belong to & over the years I have gotten to know some of the members. I know if I needed to find a home I could join one of them & fit right in. Now considering that I'm a total introvert at heart that says a lot.

Like Eric said it's like being a new roommate in an established group. You will have to sell yourself & let them know what you can do for the camp. Don't just be a parasite that only pays dues & doesn't contribute. Let them know what you bring to the party. Your a smart guy with skills so treat it like a job interview.

You man not find your ideal camp this or next year but you are bound to if you put in the effort.

For this year I would cover as much ground as you can & when you find something really unique that fits your personality stop in to their public area & start talking to the folks there. Maybe explore if they take in lost puppies. Exchange contact info & stay in touch through out the year.

Most importantly find a place where you can do your thing & fit right in. Don't be the creepy nudist in Kidsville just because you like their meal plan. Ok, maybe that's a bad example but you get my point.

If all else fails then No Shit start your own camp. Hell, Burning Man started with a few friends around a fire on a beach. Who knows where that could take you. You seem like someone that likes to plan & be in charge of a project so go for it.

Wholly crap! I'm writing more than you typically do.


Hmmmmmm. Now what to call your new camp......

Sparrtropolis:
-Has possibilities.

Non-event Horizon:
-the camp of endless debate that spirals in to a singularity. But as you get closer time slows so the discussion never truly ends.(kidding, but not really kidding)

Bondage Dome:
-Probably been taken

Sparrs Zorb bowling ally:
-I have actually wanted to do this. Someone in a Zorb rides down a ramp & hits humans inside inflatable pins. That would be wicked. I may have to join your camp then.

Make it & they will Burn.
In your wildest dreams you can not imagine the marvelous SURPRISES that await YOU.

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