Terrible Volunteer Experience

I must first comment to say that next to all of the volunteers I encountered at Championships were friendly, helpful, and pleasant to be around. Truly embodied gracious-professionalism. However - there was one in particular I as both a mentor and a FIRST participant had a serious issue with.

There was a particular woman outside of the pits - where they had the extra pairs of goggles. On the first day I didn’t have my own set to get into the pit with or use for the day. So I asked very politely if I could sign them out for the day - and instead of trying to work something out I was met with the following dialogue.

Me: “…May I sign a pair out for the day”
Her: “YOU NEED TO HAVE A MENTOR SIGN THEM OUT”
Me: “Sure. I’m a mentor. Ill sign”
Her: “IF YOU WERE A MENTOR YOU WOULD HAVE SAFETY GLASSES OF YOUR OWN”
Me: “I don’t pack the equipment - I actually travel to my team from college…”

and here’s where is really got me fired up:

Her: “WELL THEN YOU AREN’T A REAL MENTOR.”
direct. quote.

I must comment to say: WOW. How any volunteer with FIRST could say such a thing is beyond me. That was probably the rudest thing I have ever heard at a FIRST event - And these are the people we let deal with our guests…but it gets worse.

I borrowed a pair of glasses from another team member for the remainder of the weekend(Scouter). On Saturday morning - I was putting them on as I walked into the pit and they snapped in half right down the middle. The same woman was present and not wanting to go through that again I sent one of my students in to get me some gorilla tape so I could attempt to tape my glasses back together. Sadly the bridge wouldn’t seem to stay on my nose - and so reluctantly I had to ask to borrow a pair.

I explained my story and showed her the broken glasses and after a brief exchange of trying to get her to compromise she said -

“FINE. take the D*mn glasses”

and reached towards the bottom of a filled bucket to find the ugliest, oldest, dirtiest pair she had.

I filed a complaint both days with the other volunteers - but obviously nothing was done to correct it. This thread is not to jump on one person but to hopefully promote an interest in finding a solution to the problem. It is partly my fault for not owning my own pair - but to be met with this sort of hostility at a family event - and to have my integrity as a mentor questioned…that is unforgivable. While volunteers are donating their time, I think FIRST should try a little harder to find some graciously-professional people. Not like what I had to experience. Or at least provide a channel so that we can report incidents like this…
/end rant

Wow, you really got chewed out. I empathize with you as a college mentor, as there have been instances of the “not a real mentor” mentality, though not like this.

There have been some volunteers with whom there has been friction (mostly queuing staff) but never to the level of profanity.

FIRST could have some people that the volunteers don’t know interact with them to test their integrity, and these volunteers could be dealt with accordingly. Even if it is a volunteer job, it’s preposterous to be so rude, and hopefully this way they can be replaced by another person if they are so unruly.

Something similar happened to me last year in St. Louis. My team was moving through the pits to go outside (I forget why) and I was the only one with no glasses. They wouldn’t let me use a pair because I was a team member, and I had no way to contact any team members or mentors to get me some.

After ten minutes one of the volunteers kindly went to my pit to notify a mentor of my problem and I finally had a pair of glasses with which to make my 15 second trek through the presentation booths and out the back door.

I’ve never encountered anyone at a FIRST event that swore at people or were anything but the nicest people on the planet. I hope she didn’t have the opportunity to talk to many people, because I would honestly have left the stadium and never came back if I were a spectator, sponsor, or anyone else like that.

I usually sympathize with the queueing staff, especially during the early quals. Their frustation is pretty understandable, but the safety glasses people really don’t have the same stress on them. Still, behavior like this is just entirely inexcusable.

From what I was told by one of the people I reported her to, the had apparently received lots of complaints. That is bad because

A) that means she encountered lots of people.
B) Because nothing was done to try and fix the situation (But I guess that was the theme this year).

Do you really think this is necessary?

Anyway, sorry you had this bad run in especially if you were as polite as reported and she was really yelling at you. Pack your safety glasses ::safety::

I love that you are a metor that also helps the future be bright. In this situation I would see a point that FIRST should buy saftly glasses to lend. I think if many teams and students should send emails and call their regional director and FIRST staff to make them aware of this situation.

FIRST does have safety glasses to lend…there were boxes of them…I believe they are for “visitors” - but when you have several boxes of them I don’t see why an adult cannot sign out a pair for the day. I would’ve gladly traded in my license for a pair. Compromise is fine - unwillingness to isn’t.

Wow. I must consider myself lucky at this point, as most of my experiences with FIRST volunteers have been very pleasant, and none of them hostile anywhere near this extent.

I do have to say on the other hand, atleast it wasn’t a FTA or Robot Inspector you had to deal with.:smiley:

No one should yell or insult anyone either a volunteer to attendee or attendee to a volunteer. The point of not dispensing the glasses was to prevent running out which would prevent others from accessing the Pits. Perhaps the leaders at St Louis could post reminders that safety glasses are mandatory prior to the event or perhaps a team could set up either safety glass sales and/or rentals at the door: can you say fundraiser!!!

Is that really necessary?!

Check your reputation dots- I put an email address you can contact to address those volunteer concerns. I hope it helps.

As a volunteer coordinator for a regional, I know I wouldn’t want any of those attitudes representing my event. It’s entirely possible your message was never passed up to the proper authority.

At every regional I’ve ever been to (so far 2 different ones, so not a wide variety), the safety glasses people do three things:

  1. Hand out safety glasses to anyone who needs them (they shove them in your face)

  2. Enforce safety like they were getting paid for it (and they were volunteers)

  3. Give people (teams and visitors) safety advice and dafety memorabilia given by a local team.

Never once have I found an unpleasant safety glasses distributor , so this is a shock. I don’t know where FIRST gets their volunteers for championships, but it seems like they may need to do a bit more screening than normal (maybe have FIRST alum do the jobs that involve human-interaction. If anyone we know more about what’s going on). Our CA regional-level safety glasses distributors are great people, and the people at champs should be 10 times that.

I’m sorry that you had to go through that. While champs can be stressful, I see nothing stress-inducing about handing out safety glasses.

Of course we don’t know the whole story (maybe she found out her team lost a match), so we can’t make accusations that this person isn’t fit to volunteer. I do think, however, that FIRST should be more careful as to who they have volunteering where.

Just my opinions.

(We had a bad experience with the FTA so I’m still a little bitter about that, sorry)

I appreciate it. The man who told me they had received several complaints seemed to have some sort of authority but maybe not.

The only questions I got where about my age. (I was the main contact for my team at the time) and she wasn’t sure I was a mentor, but I finally had to show her my ID. Then she laughed about it. I guess glad that I was helping.

A Safety Patrol member chewed us out for using lead solder at North Star. It was totally unnecessary. Sometimes these people need to just focus on the really unsafe practices (things involving poor use of power/hand tools or potential electrocution, etc) instead of telling us why shooting a soft foam ball into a labcoat supported by 2 mentors and a student (all wearing safety glasses) in our pit is somehow unsafe (this happened at Midwest).

I understand that those volunteers are just trying to prevent injuries, but sometimes they pick the wrong things to start an argument about.

I met her as well. She wasn’t that gracious to older mentors as well. I had left my glasses in the stands, and was trying to get something to eat, when I got a call from one my of the students in the pit. They needed to ask me a quick question about something. I explained this to her, and said I needed a pair of glasses for two minutes. She said it was up to each mentor to have their own and that I should go back and get mine. I said that the student had a rather urgent question, and that returning to get them would take about 10 - 15 minutes at least. She said, “Fine, but I better see them back here right away, and you better have your own the next time.”

The whole thing about a college mentor not being a real mentor is a whole different argument, but will say that the safety glasses people tend to be a little bit on the intense side.

A particularly frazzling scenario at the Peachtree Regional was each morning, I was stopped by a particularly enthusiastic volunteer would stop me and a group of students at the front and stand next to us to make sure we didn’t pass. Ultimately, this caused us to send text messages and calls to other members on the team to ferry us some side shields. I can only imagine the headache at worlds.

I don’t know what’s being told to the safety glasses inspectors at the front, but surely there must be a way to relay the importance while not coming across as rude or insensitive.

  • Sunny G.

I think I know who the OP is referring to because my dad and I had a bit of difficulty getting safety glasses Saturday morning as spectators.

It seems like there are quite a few volunteers who don’t understand the spirit of FIRST. It is important that the people supervising them make sure that this is understood.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying something like this. Anyone and everyone in FIRST has earned the right to complain. There is no reason the field issues should not have been addressed before championship just like there was no reason for this volunteer to not understand their job. I understand that perfection can never be achieved but seeking perfection will lead to excellence, this year had a feel of being satisfied with good enough and people are frustrated with that. (Vince Lombardi paraphrased).