It’s been a while since I’ve done any posting on OCS, but I stumbled across this post from the previous Verification Team Leader which provides invaluable information from the inside. It’s a long and painful read, but here’s what caught my attention the most:
I am attempting to abide by the guidelines within this group. I share here my letter to Jim and Casey for the reasons why I resigned as the Verification Team Leader, as many Ambs wrote to me off-site and asked for the ‘real reason.’ Here it is.
Dear Jim and Casey:
As you know, I’ve resigned as the Verification Team Leader. I currently remain on as a City Ambassador, NMW, CUQ Team Member, and co-moderator of the CUQ Team, unless you decide that it is not to be. I’ve always realized that this is your site, and the volunteers have very little to do with the direction that CS takes.
When I resigned from the verification team, it was a quickly written message to you. I had logged on, noticed yet another bug within the verification system, and realized that it was time for me to move on. I immediately remembered the bug of July 30 and 31 where everyone who tried to donate did so over and over, so their money was taken several times, many more than ten, but their profile was not updated. That bug immediately cost twelve man hours and we refunded almost $35,000 to members. I did not want to repeat that thankless amount of time working for free, with a ‘thank you’ given as a token gesture.
My thoughts of resigning actually began the week that I spent in San Francisco, at Base Camp. Jim and I spent a couple of weeks back and forth on email, trying to see if a ‘couch’ could be found for me at Base Camp. Mind you, this was not to be just a vacation for me, but Jim and I were going to work together to get me better trained. Back and forth the emails went, and the final note was basically, “We’ll house you somewhere… if you’re willing to sleep on a couch, then we’ll have room.” Not expecting anything else, I truly appreciated the housing accommodation as any true surfer appreciates an offer of accommodation.
The first weekend I was in SF was SF Gay Pride and I stayed with another CS friend. She also had another surfer (I’ll call her, D, as she has a starring role in this saga) for the weekend. We were invited to a CS brunch. Knowing that D was looking for longer-term couches due to a yoga class she was taking in SF, I introduced her to a group from BaseCamp at the brunch. When I mentioned that D was taking classes for Yoga, a couch was immediately offered to her at BC. And for a “week or so.” Mind you I had been emailing back and forth so that we could get some work done, but here was a young, cute lesbian who knew yoga, and she had a couch without any checking. Hmmm, didn’t someone say awhile back that if you’re cute and young……… and I’m sure one LT member would be very welcoming, in his mind.
A small side item… shortly after my visit, Jim, you requested a “friend” link. We were never friendly. We were friendly enough talking about work, etc… but while I visited SF for a week, you never once attempted to get to know me, to become friends.
I’ve coordinated volunteers for years, with many different organizations. Typically, an organization seeks to appreciate, thank and motivate all of it’s volunteers. I’ve never known an organization to house, feed and pay any of it’s volunteers. There’s never been (in my experience) an attempt to make the volunteer jobs of remote volunteers any better in this organization… not so if you’re at base camp. Meetings are held about how to make the dull volunteer’s jobs and lives better. More parties? More travel? More roadtrips? More alcohol and drugs? Perhaps you need more rooms for casual sex or perhaps an orgy room?
There are 100′s, perhaps 1,000′s, of volunteers who put in many hours in support of The CouchSurfing Project. 99% of those receive nothing in return, except perhaps an Ambassador flag. These volunteers work countless hours answering member questions, responding to issues, groups management, event management, locations management, AST/AMT, Ambassadors, spreading the word, and working remotely on Tech issues, and, until recently, assisting members with the Verification Program. Yet, there are a very few special volunteers who CS seem to revolve around.
These ‘core volunteers’ who live at BaseCamp or one of the collectives (mind you many may not have had a profile before becoming a ‘core volunteer’ or their profile had few references, vouches, or perhaps they hadn’t even become verified — profiles that I would be hesitant to surf/host with…) are asked to help make decisions (by voting at BC) and other important issues, but they seem not to be surfers, at all. Most seem very unwelcoming… that another someone is invading their secret society at BaseCamp. More than one person has said of BaseCamp, “they don’t seem like surfers.”
And if you’re tired of living in San Francisco, by all means, go to Costa Rica, or even to Turkey, where we can show even more appreciation to those we’ve already shown appreciation to. While “collectives” are said to be a mechanism of reaching out, most have their doors closed — except to a special few. And by the way, CS will pay you to go ‘home’ to your new house. My understanding is that to even be considered for Turkey, you’ll have had to do at least 3 hard months at BaseCamp or Costa Rica. Wow, things are hard! We’re sorry, let’s let you go to Turkey for awhile.
Many feel that the “volunteers” who live at BaseCamp are spoiled and self-righteous. Many also feel that they do not represent CS well, as many do not seem to be “surfers” at all. Many also realize that nepotism helps you to secure a spot. It’s been stated over and over that “who you know” has no bearing on who is ‘invited’ to live at BaseCamp. I don’t think so. Mrs. Gadget has housing and a position. Jim’s girlfriend has housing and a job. *Please NOTE that I have NOTHING against neither Ms. Gadget nor CaseyAnn personally.* A former house manager was a friend of TTT’s (so it’s been reported).
And not just housing, by the way. We’ll also give you a job! And a title, perhaps. Let’s not worry if you know nothing about Human Resources, Volunteer Coordination, or have no accounting background. Many members and Ambassadors also believe that it helps someone secure BaseCamp status by returning sexual favors. At least you have the rooms/space set up for it.
I’ve never been to a non-profit’s headquarters where there were rooms specifically for sexual encounters. And it comes with anal beads, mind you. Don’t get me wrong… I am a Sex Positive person. but when positions and housing and food and travel are given because of this, then the word volunteer should be changed to another word, meaning the exchange of sex for cash or other tangible items. Do you think the American Red Cross has anal beads anywhere within their headquarters? I realize we are not the same, but still.
So, if you volunteer at BaseCamp, you’ll be rewarded richly. You’ll be housed in one of the most expensive cities in the US, or live in an international location with all the amenities you could never afford yourself volunteering.
The prior verification team leader received an amount for each verification. It makes sense to motivate this person. They are your key to income. Due to poor communication and no technical help, she resigned. I was asked to step in, and I did so. Mind you, I was never told about an “incentive” nor asked if I would like to volunteer at BaseCamp. So be it. The ‘volunteers’ who took the team over, 3 of them, will all be rewarded richly for their ‘hard work and dedication.’ They will be at BaseCamp, even though one is out of the country now so that the US government doesn’t catch on to what’s happening. I doubt the volunteers at BC actually tell Customs they are entering the US to be “paid” in housing and ‘stipends.’ Seems contradictory for a non-profit trying to gain Tax Exempt status to guide ‘volunteers’ on what to say so that the same government doesn’t block their entry into the US.
So, enough about me feeling sorry and not good enough to warrant an inquiry as to whether or not I’d like to be an “appreciated” volunteer and live at BaseCamp. We’ll bring in the store manager and let them stay a good 8 months, but not to worry, no work needs be done.
Many, many times I’ve answered members questions when they request a variance from the verification team, that “what we do for one, we must do for all.” CouchSurfing does not believe this. Let’s highly reward a very few, and the idiots who continue supporting our ‘chosen’ ones, will continue to do so, or leave. Not to worry, there are 1,000′s more who would love to give their time, energy and love to CS as others leave because they are tired of the BS.
Then comes the issue of disrespect to the volunteers who work their ass off to help us protect ourselves. Recently, a highly-respected long term volunteer left a negative reference for an LT member. Hers was the second negative reference. Both centered around inappropriate conduct. Almost immediately, the reference was removed by an LT member. NOT from the volunteer team with the responsibility to handle such issues — the MDST — but by a leadership team member. The member rewrote the reference, and it was put back onto “His” profile. Then, yet another LT member removed it. Mind you, if it were any of the 1,000′s of other volunteers NOT at BaseCamp receiving the reference, we would have had to wait until the MDST completed their review, and rightly so. But, if you “volunteer” at BaseCamp, then references don’t matter, it appears that an LT member can just delete ones they don’t like… regardless of whether it is factual or not. Again, what we do for one, we must do for all — does not apply.
Long-term volunteers are leaving in droves. I do not count myself as a long-term volunteer… I’ve only been volunteering the last year or so. And from what I read and gather, that’s fine by the LT. Seems that long-term volunteers are a pain in someone’s ass… not that they remember how CS was, but because they state issues, they are seen as trouble makers. I’m now one of them, I suppose.
Another issue that was concerning me were bugs with simple fixes. Europeans consistently use commas to separate dollars and cents. However, many transactions were processed incorrectly, due to the comma. A member would attempt to donate 21,50, and 2,150 would be charged. Then it’s up to the member to notice the error, since we did not mail out receipts. I attempted and notified the LT that we should fix this ASAP, but it didn’t take top priority.
Then there’s the issue where members were using other person’s credit cards and the cards were approved. Even though the names did not match. Changing the wording from “Name has been checked” to “Identity Checked” doesn’t quite cut it, in my opinion.
The push to hit up members within their first few hours of joining is an attempt to raise funds, not to make the system safer. Period. It’s for money. Sadly, I believe that the same amount of money could be raised by asking for a donation, simply and plainly… but you seem to not want to ask for funds to keep the service ad-free and running… but calling it ‘verification’ seems to rid you of the guilt in asking for funds.
So, with that, you have my ‘real’ reason for resigning. If you’d rather I not volunteer at all, I’ll understand. I still believe in the spirit and ideals of CouchSurfing and love meeting other surfers and hosts. I do not have to be a volunteer to do that. I will remain on to help other Ambassadors and community members.
I would like to train future ambassadors on how they can best serve the community, our fellow surfers and hosts. I also wish to remain on as a co-coordinator of the CUQs… again, to help my fellow members and ambassadors.
However, I leave that to you. Either way, I’m happy to not have the stress and pressures. I never could fill my predecessors shoes, and 3 replacements will have a difficult time in filling mine. But now that they are all “corporation volunteers” they will fall in line, or lose their ‘core volunteer’ status, not to mention their housing, food and travel expenses.
Casey, this is to you personally. I believe you have great ideas and a great site here. But I also believe that you have advisors who advise you incorrectly. I believe that they only have their best interests at heart. You have an LT member who actively gropes and fondles females… female volunteers, and female guests. Many, many times we lowly members and volunteers have heard of how he places his genitalia on other volunteers’ keyboards. Again, I am not a prude… I’m a sexually positive person and believe sex should be enjoyed — with a consensual partner! He gets away with it, but it will come back to bite you in the ass. He will grope the wrong person, and there will be a price to pay. Please do not be like the Catholic Church and shuffle this person off to a place where women are traditionally treated like material objects… where his gropes will be just as emotionally damaging, but where the objects of his unwanted advances will probably not speak out due to cultural issues. Don’t put a wolf in the chicken coop. You already have one ambassador within walking distance of CS who won’t speak out publicly about the things this person has done to her, and in her home. Is this really the best you can do to coordinate/energize your Ambassador corp?