Saturday, July 2, 2011

Inconsistent and Unfair = No Way to Run a City Pool

In our county, there is only 1 public pool. It isn't free. We went once before and had a great time. Aside from not having a lounger (you have to rent one!) it was great. The girls passed a swim test (thanks to a patient lifeguard) so they could go on the slides.  I managed to get comfy with no lounger and settled in to read.We lasted a solid 2.5 hours before the skies darkened. We headed home excited to come again.

Today was the day! We were excited and ready to hit the pool.  The girls were antsy to take the swim test again (yes, they have to RETEST every single visit) and I brought my own lounger this time.  Except this visit got off to a different vibe right from the start.

"There's no outside food or drink. If we see it we will TAKE it."  That was said in the most polite southern twang you can fathom - but it was rude! The lady pointed at signs - I agreed to take the cooler back to the car (even though the last time we came, I had the exact same cooler and no one said a word and I saw no signs.)

So we paid ($3 per kid and $4 for me) and went off to get settled.  The girls got wet and splashed some. I took the cooler back to the car. I came back and they told me they were going to do the swim test.  I agreed and proceeded to set up my stuff. I just got settled, book in hand (wishing for my Coke!) when they came back, in tears.  Turns out it wasn't the same lifeguard as last time.  She passed one kid and failed the other.

I had promised the girls to make a fuss if needed.  After all, they might not be the next Olympians, but my girls can swim and paddle well enough to get out after the slides.  After discussions with the lifeguard (who was very young, impatient, and quick to refuse to allow a retest) I went to discuss things with a higher up.  I found the Asst. Rec. Dept. manager.  She was pleasant enough - but she wasn't going to budge.  Refused to even see the ridiculousness of having kids retest each visit! I stayed calm but got louder as our conversation went on.  She finally realized she had to do something to placate me: refund my money or give my kid another chance.  I knew she wouldn't budge on the swim test issue - I could see it in her attitude (which, while pleasant, was one of "I know better than you do.")  So I continued to reiterate my points (paid money, took snacks back to car, passed test last time, not fair to kid) until she offered the refund.  I jumped on it.  Took back my $10, packed my kids up (they were already ready to go!), and high-tailed it.  We had seen some folks we knew - one followed me and asked what was up. I briefly explained and she was outraged as well.

In the car on the way home, we all 3 vented - and I began composing a letter in my head. At that point, I wasn't sure if it would go to the rec dept or to the newspaper.  I just needed to tell someone!  In the end, I wrote to the head of the Rec Dept. I feel they need to know why the pool has problems making money - inconsistency and unfairness.  Here is what I wrote (names and identifying details removed, of course.)


First I would like to express how pleasantly surprised I was by our first visit to the City Pool.  We really enjoyed our time - the facilities were great and my kids loved the slides.  It was well worth the money.  We were considering buying punch cards so we could come often.

Unfortunately, today changed our opinions.  We will not be back to the City Pool.  On our first visit I very openly carried in a cooler bag with snacks and drinks. No one pointed out signs or told me I couldn't.  Today I was politely told that there could be no outside food or drinks or they'd be taken.  That startled me, but I agreed to put the items back into my car.  I wonder though, what if my family had health/dietary issues? It is unfortunate that personal food items aren't allowed, even with an inspection.  But I understand that some people won't follow rules.

What really bothered me today was that the swim tests are not done in consistent fashion.  On our first visit, my daughters (ages 8 and 10) were given a little coaching before being "passed" on their test.  Both can swim and paddle well enough to come off the slides and get to the side of the pool.  Today, someone different gave the test.  With no coaching and very little patience one of my girls did not pass her test.  The other did - and both my girls have fairly equal swimming/paddling skills.

This, of course, upset my girls. After speaking to the lifeguard (who referred me to the concessions stand), I spoke to some other folks.  They explained that there wasn't much that could be done, that the lifeguards watch the pool and slides. It is the lifeguards who must be comfortable with the skills of the kids.  I understand all that - but how do I explain to my child why they passed last time but not this time?  It just isn't fair.

All the folks I spoke to were very pleasant (and I tried to stay calm as well) and somewhat understanding. The asst. manager finally offered to give me my money back - and I took her offer.  It is simply unacceptable to me that I'm paying my hard-earned money for an afternoon at the pool - and then one of my kids can't go on the main attraction.

I feel that the Recreation Department needs to consider a more formal, consistent way to test the swimming abilities of kids.  Perhaps do swim tests at the top of the hour only and record names (perhaps via the parent's driver's license number or some other way) in a notebook so the kids only have to test once per season.  Or at the very least, have the same person do the tests all the time.  Or even allow kids to retest after practicing - it is an intimidating thing to swim the width of the pool twice.  It makes me sad to think there are other kids who passed once and not the next time simply because of inconsistent procedures.

Thanks for your time and for one great visit to the pool.  I appreciate that City opened it this year.

So, did I over-react? Maybe. But you try explaining to an 8 year old why she can't use the slide when she did last time.  She was ready to kick the lifeguard's butt. And the 10 year old was no better - it isn't as much fun when you are doing something alone. Do I expect any kind of response - nope. I figure it'll just go straight to her "trash" folder in email.

So we are looking (again) for swim options for the summer. And really the only other option is the YMCA. I'll have to call them tomorrow and see what we can work out. They have a fantastic pool in a nearby town.  I'm not sure if it is included in the regular membership or not.  If it is, it will be worth it - the family monthly fees are listed as $64.  This is about 6 trips to the city pool (fewer if my husband had come.)

I'll keep you posted!

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