Weasels of the Month

Denise McMahon, Chairperson Desert Storm Rally Weasel of the Month - March 2010

I have been a volunteer for many things for at least 25 years. I have volunteered at car races for at least 10 years. Recently, I volunteered as an amateur radio operator at a car rally, called Desert Storm. These races are usually held in mountains, forests, and deserts where cell phones usually don't work. As a volunteer, I don't expect much. I expect the to be given the information needed to do my job, long hours, and little else.


I got an email Mar 5, saying "We will have a *Event shirt *Subaru swag *Water to take with you for Saturday and we will have water being given out both days (Sat/Sun) by one of the advance cars before the stag goes hot and/or sweep...so we want to make sure you are taken care of..."

Well, when I registered, I got a shirt. Unfortunately the shirt size I asked for had a hole in it, so they gave me a smaller shirt. There was Subaru 'swag', which consisted of a plastic water bottle with a Subaru logo, some lip balm with a Subaru logo, and a carabener style keychain with a Subaru logo. I am not a swag expert, but I have gotten significantly better stuff at trade shows and conferences. I don't consider a plastic water bottle and some lip balm to be significant enough to mention as swag.

There was no water given out at registration. There was no water given out on Saturday or Sunday either. Considering the event is in the desert, and is most of the day, water is a pretty important thing to have. Fortunately, I brought my own.


A email on Mar 6 said: "Volunteers that register early will be get $5.00 towards their Spaghetti dinner at the CIty of Blythe Fire dept." Another email said "...you can go to watch the rally cars be shown off at the City of Blythe Fire Dept and eat a really nice Spaghetti Dinner, that the fire fighters cooked up for a good cause, and the cost is about $5.00 for a full course meal made low cost for the volunteers, etc." We did get $5, but the directions were rally style directions from a nearby college, not the hotel where we were. It was not the City Fire Department, but rather the Volunteer Fire Department. Also the dinner cost $6, not $5.

They said that they would give the money to the volunteers who checked in early, but after we registered, we were told that we had to come back later in order to get the money for the dinner. Why couldn't we get it when we registered? Why not make arrangements with the fire department so that a ticket was given to ensure that the money went to the volunteer fire department rather than being spent elsewhere?

Afterwards I got an email saying: [About the spaghetti dinner] "Now on the spaghetti dinner...well when it rains it pours as they say...if someone told me that the dinner prices had changed at the last moment;"

"I could have easily giving you a dollar but no one came up to me to say anything...it would have not been a problem...I have done in the past with no problem but the firefighters up it from $5.00 to $6.00's and forgot to tell us..well I know they have a lot to get done as well."

The prices have been $6 for at least 20 years. Multiple sources have confirmed this, including the Fire Chief at the dinner.


In the Mar 5 email, it said: "But we have a main meeting first and give out our volunteer drawings for non-ham and licensed ham volunteers 2 sets of each of $50.00 gift certificates to show how much we thank you for your efforts."

They called out my name, but I didn't realize it until they said my call sign, as they added 3 letters to my first name, and mispronounced my last name. I was lucky enough to win, but the gift certificate was for $25. Nothing about the problem with amount was said at the time the gift certificates were given out.

After I sent an email complaining about the incorrect amount of the gift certificate, I got a reply email from the head organizer saying: "Gift certificate was stated as below (2) gift certificates at $25.00's each..in a grand total of $50.00's for drawings for the comm people. But on a later e-mail..we did state $50.00's each since we saw another entry come in to help out on giving a bit more...but the person who purchase the Ham Radio gift certificate had already got the $25.00 ones and forgot I told them to get an extra $25.00's more. If you were the one that got the gift certificate at $25.00's then we will get you another one for that same amount."

Nobody tried to contact me.

I sent email to the head organizer, asking what happened to the $50 gift certificates. I got a reply Mar 15, saying "The person who got me the gift certificates put down the wrong amount. We will correct and send you another $25.00 gift certificate. We apologize. Every organizer committee member is a volunteer and do so many task over the course of the months. We do appreciate you coming out and volunteering your time."

On Mar 24, I asked again about the gift certificate. I got a reply on Mar 24, saying "I am getting Barry to get you one since I am not a licensed ham and my husband can not get to the store for another week. It will be another $25.00 gift certificate. So Barry said he will ge this to you. It has not been forgotten. If you send him your mailing address he will take care of this."

Now this is interesting, as you don't have to be a ham to get a gift certificate. In addition, they could have sent me a check. In fact, they could have included the check with the gift certificate, dealing with the problem on the spot. However, they did nothing, until I asked about it nine days after my first email.

Then I got an email from Barry on Mar 24, saying "Denise forwarded your email to me to take care of. I apologise, but I didn't know you were expecting another gift certificate. I'll see about getting another one for you."

So, Barry wasn't told anything, until Mar 24.


After the dinner, we had a meeting which started at 9pm. During the meeting there was a break, and it turned out that during the break the organizers decided to have another meeting, which made the break last a long time. The meeting went on, and I asked to leave at 10:30pm, as we had a Saturday morning meeting at 6:30am, and had to get to the campground. I was the first person to leave the meeting at 10:30pm. It isn't a good idea to have such a late meeting, when people need to get up early the next day. The needed information was not given out at the meeting, such as the locations which needed to be staffed and more importantly the locations of where people needed to be.

I got an email on Mar 9, saying "We will meet in the Hotel Lobby and get a general orientation of what is expected, how we will operate, information needed, what to do when something happens, and where the nearest Porta Potty is located."

I never saw a Porta Potty on Saturday or Sunday, nor was Porta potty locations discussed. Fortunately, I brought my own toilet paper.


On Saturday, I was there at 6:30am. It the email from Mar 9, it said " The lead vehicle will be placing people at the blocks as we drive the stage." That sounded good, but there was no lead vehicle. No map of the route was provided. No GPS coordinates were given. No distances were given.

Since they thought they didn't have enough volunteers, they decided to split up me with the person I carpooled with. However, they were wrong. The reality was that because they did not get the information to the stage captains on what areas needed to be staffed, they thought that they needed more people. As it turned out, there was enough people for our stage and I did not need to be separated.

I wasn't too happy, but agreed to it (like a fool). Since nobody showed up to take up to our positions, the daughter of the chief of communications drove us out. She told me where my station was. I exited the car with my radio, some water and a chair. It turns out that it was the wrong stage, and the wrong location. After about 30 minutes, people figured this out, and someone came to give me a ride to the correct location. I was unimpressed.

There were many delays, and they finally ran about four of the seven stages. It turns out that a bunch of cars got stuck in a sandy wash. Since someone knew the route, there should have been someone around to help tow the vehicles out at places where people would likely get stuck. Our group got together to go to the next stage. The person who was supposed to show up at the finish of the stage to drive us to the next stage showed up, went around the vehicles that were waiting for him and drove off without stopping and without saying a word. He also did not have communication since we were the communication. As we were going to find where we were supposed to be, we heard that the stage had been cancelled. Eventually, we found a car pulled over. We went up to them, but they were random people who were on the stage (which is illegal as the stage is closed to the public when it is being used.) We drove on, and finally found the person, who had stopped at the finish line of the stage, to set it up. It turned out that the stage, and another stage were cancelled. We were supposed to get lunch provided to us, but none ever came. Nobody told us where the lunches were, until we got back to the hotel.

Someone ended up getting one of the lunches when they went to the nearby college. The lunch was supposed "personalized", yet no one asked a thing about what each person wanted. This claim was false because the reality was that instead of buying food, they got a loaf of bread and some cold cuts. It was not personalized and there was not much food.

A friend, when asked how things could be improved, mentioned the lack of anyone taking us out on Saturday (as well as Sunday). He got a response Mar 24 saying [About Saturday] "Dave Belcher took you guys backwards on the stage since he felt there was one car that could not get through a sand wash and might get stuck."

Well, nobody took us out either day. Clearly, the head organizer didn't know what was going on and was only concerned with defending herself rather than undestanding the problems and taking actions to improve things.


The Mar 5 email said: "After you come off the stages. We like for you to come on down and enjoy a evening at the races at the I-10 Speedway in Blythe. It is at the Colorado River Fairgrounds and we will have directions for you on that at registration. You can get a hot dog/hamburger, drinks, etc. I think Greg from Lucas Oil is allowing the (first 50) volunteers to get in for free BUT I will clarify that next week when we talk [this was never clarified]. What you will do is go into the white building near the pits and sign a waiver and get an additional wristband to put on and this gets you into the track for free."

We decided to go to the races, to see the cars on the track. We tried to get in, but were told there were no free tickets for us. We eventually found the person in charge who told us that 53 tickets were purchased, 44 for the drivers and their crew, and 9 for desert storm officials. Nobody ever told us there weren't free passes for us. The track also wanted to charge for parking, but we said we were with the rally, and they let us in for free.

We went back to the hotel, hoping to find out what was going to happen on Sunday, but nobody was there, and the billboard was gone.

Afterwards, an email was sent about the track event free passes: "Now as far as me being a lair..I like to clear up something there..I do not lie... but the track director...Lucas Oil said first come and first serve...and they were suppose to take you to the white building to get you in but some from the previous year remembered to go where and got in fine..but they were only going to do so many so I said first come and first serve."

It wasn't first come first served, the drivers, their crew, and nine others were given wrist bands in advance of the race. This doesn't seem very honest.


We decided to show up the next morning around 6:30am, since no one said anything. They also said that there would be something posted in the lobby of the hotel, but they did not say when (it appears to have been put up late at night). It seems that they assumed that everyone was staying at the hotel and was willing to constantly check for updates. It turns out there was a meeting Saturday night, but nobody told us about it. They wanted us to show up at 6:00am, but people objected to that, since there was no way to inform anyone, and they agreed to 6:30am. I am not sure why this wasn't sent out in email before the event, or discussed on Friday, but it wasn't.

Due to the lack of organization and lack of information, the person I carpooled with and I were considering leaving since we did not want to deal with the same mess on Sunday. The only thing that kept us there, was that the drivers would be hurt if we left, and so we stayed, as we had already agreed to volunteer on Sunday.

We showed up on Sunday, around 6:00. There were a few people there. A volunteer decided to go rogue and take action by getting a copy of the secret rally book which contained all the information which the workers needed. This is the only reason why Sunday went well, in spite of the organizers. The secret rally book included maps, directions, GPS coordinates, and the locations we would cover. They cleverly made a copy and billed the head organizer of the event. I had no idea why we weren't given the same info for Saturday. (On another event that I have volunteered for, the information was provided online, as well as mailed to me before the event.)

A volunteer tried to get the stage 2 information for Saturday and it seemed like they did not want to give it out to the workers. It was only relative in that the distances were based on the start of the stage and did not include the distance to get there, which made it almost completely useless.

I had decided that I would not allow myself to be split from my carpool person. Nobody showed up to drive us out to the course, but since we had the rally course notes, we deployed to the course. One of the people of our team parked off the course, right next to the the outside of a 180 degree turn. The notes we were given said that we should park 100 feet from the course, in case anybody went off course. Before each stage, there are three cars that inspect the course to make sure everything is good. Nobody mentioned the car too close to the course (with a person inside) right next to the corner. During the race, someone went up the embankment of the corner, and the person decided to move the car further away.


After the race, was a 'banquet' and awards. The letter from the organizer said "You are also welcome to a Mexican food buffet at the awards ceremony on Sunday after the final stage is done, which is at approximately 2:00 pm." To me, this implied that the dinner would be free to the volunteers, but that was not the case. Again, another deceptive statement from the organizers.


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