Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Am I out of line to get my back up over this situation?

Asked by Dutchess_III (46623points) September 17th, 2017

I volunteered to work at the local Bluegrass Festival. It was 4 hours a day, Thurs., Friday, Sat. I worked in the Mercantile, where we sold the artist’s CDs and other merchandise of theirs.

There were 3 full time women who work behind the “counter”...behind folding tables. They work every year. They’re kind of the bosses of the place. They have comfy office chairs and carpet laid down over the concrete..

There are 3 floor workers. We are out on the customer floor assisting customers and answering their questions. I like it. I often get to me the sometimes-famous artists and get to know bits about Bluegrass I didn’t know, although Bluegrass was a huge part of the reason I moved to this town from the city.

The customers come in in waves. They come in after the end of a performer’s set, looking for their CD. We’re busy for 15 to 20 minutes, then we’re dead for 15 minutes

We floor workers are not high school kids. We are not teenagers. I’m 59, and I was the youngest one out there. As one lady said, “I’m closer to 80 than 70.” The third worker was a guy who was every bit of that, and had recently undergone dialysis.

Here is the problem They expect us to stand out on that concrete floor without sitting down, for 4 hours, so we can be ready to help customers at all times.

In recent years I’ve developed some back issues, and my back really starts hurting after 15 minutes and I just need to sit down for a minute, inbetween rushes. I need something reasonably comfortable that supports my back.

I KNOW the other workers are in pain too. It’s obvious, and they told me. They’re standing, but pressing their backs against one of the sturdy, round, steel temporary fencing they put up to delineate our space, to ease the ache. The old guy couldn’t even stand up straight.

When I came in yesterday, one of the workers I was relieving, who was about my age and somewhat over weight, was trying to sit and rest on a 4 X 4 wooden rail thing that runs along the length of the wall in the barn, where they tie cattle and stuff up during the fair. It was about as wide as a balance beam, and had NO back support because it was made for cattle to be tied to, not humans to sit on. She was just desperate.

Well, fuckit! I brought in a splendid camp chair and put it in an out of the way corner on the floor.. Maybe you can’t tell from the picture, but it in no way impedes the people who are in line to pay for their stuff, and when customers were there no one was sitting in the chair. It doesn’t impede anything.

Well, I was told that that was “frowned upon,” by some unknown Bluegrass official. I was told if I had to sit down they allowed as how there was a bench near our designated spot, but not in it, and we could sit on that. They didn’t mind that, they said. A fucking, hard ass, slat bench with a hard ass, slat back. Yeah. Does wonders for the back.

Well, I left that camp chair where it was and watched my coworkers sink down into in relief for a few minutes once in a while. It’s not like we’re kids who don’t know how to work hard, or have to be told to get up to tend to customers!

I saw several customers sink into it gratefully too. Bluegrass is a lot of hours of walking from place to place to place, and no place to really sit, except at hard picnic tables.

And all this is in conjunction with walking a thousand fucking miles from where they made us park, on the other side of the fairgrounds, to get to and from the building.

I told them (the three gals,) as I was getting ready to leave yesterday, that I’d leave the chair there until the next day, when they started closing shop at about 5:00. They just nodded mutely.

Was I wrong to put my foot down? I just can’t believe they didn’t take our ages into consideration with their dumbass, useless rule.

So should I write a formal letter of complaint, or just request a different venue for next year and leave it be? I love working the mercantile, but I just need to be able sit down in between customers without feeling like I’m going to be hauled off to jail.

It’s not like the festival is over run with volunteers. Show some damn respect, man.

One thing I’d like to clarify. The three women, in their comfy chairs with the carpet, are working from opening, at 9:30 a.m. to closing at 11:30 p.m. Looong 4 days. They’re up and down, and they work their butts off before and after Bluegrass too, so I certainly don’t begrudge them their comfort. But somebody understands the need for people to have some place to sit down sometimes. Somebody knows that people can’t stand for infinite hours at a time.

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16 Answers

SergeantQueen's avatar

I would write a formal letter of complaint, and if that goes nowhere, request a new venue.If you have previous medical conditions, or are just having back pains in general, you should be allowed to do whatever to make that go away/make it easier to work.

You are volunteering your time to help with this event. None of you have to be there working (I’d make sure they know that, they might consider you easy to replace because you are a volunteer, but still. You are still giving your time to make their event run smoothly). You should at least get a comfortable break to make standing more bearable.
It doesn’t really make sense to me how they are ok with you sitting on a bench that isn’t in your designated spot, only near it. But are not ok with you sitting in your own chair in the designated spot because they want you ready to help customers. Seems to me that you are more able to help customers if you are in your assigned spot vs. you being outside of it…

Dutchess_III's avatar

That was my logic too. I’m more aware when I’m IN the place, than outside of it. And no one has to walk out and around the corner to find me.

It’s not a “previous medical condition.” They are logical “medical conditions” of aging. Like I said, at 59 I was far and away the youngest person out there.
And they need to take that into consideration without expecting doctor’s notes or whatever. It is so disrespectful to treat us like we’re dingy teenagers who have to be told what and what not to do.

Would you mail a letter, or send an email?

SergeantQueen's avatar

hmmm. An email may be better because 1) It’s faster, and 2) unless they delete it, they can’t really claim they never got it. Plus, they can’t say that you never sent one.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I could send it snail mail, certified. But that would be a bit agressive I think.

I gotta get ready to go back and rescue my camp chair! I’m curious to see if it’s still in the corner.

I took the chair in on Thursday, but stashed it when they indicated it was a no.
When I went in on Friday one of the floor workers sidled up to me and whispered, “I put a chair up there for us!” It was a hard metal folding chair. But it was better than nothing. She also put one on the other side of the shelving.
When I went in on Saturday, both chairs were gone. That’s when I said “Fukit,” and unstashed my camp chair and set it up. They want war, they got war!!

zenvelo's avatar

It isn’t being 59! If you were 25 you’d still need to sit!

I’d go with @SergeantQueen‘s suggestion, send an email. Send it to the volunteer coordinator and to the “board” of the festival.

And, if you get no response, don’t volunteer next year, but a month before, write a letter to the editor of the local paper about how abusive the festival is to volunteers.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Young people are notoriously stupid when it come to understsanding the rigors of aging. I certainly was, though it surprises me that people msnaging a festival such as yours could be in such a business and remain ignorant of the simple requirement for comfortable chairs for staff, senior or otherwise.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I could have stood for 4 hours when I was 25! I could walk for 20 miles with no sweat. Now I can’t walk 100 yards without hurting.
And it’s not like we couldn’t take a couple of breaks, but for me, there was no telling when my back might spasm and I needed to sit right then. To be treated like a child was incredibly disrespectful.
Jesus. They could have at least provided us with stools.

I’ll start on the email and run it past you guys.

zenvelo's avatar

You need a pair of RedDeerGuy’s pants!

jca's avatar

They seem to not comprehend that you’re all volunteers. You’re giving your own free time up for free and you can just as easily say “fuck it” next year and let someone else do it.

I’d go with the email. I’d send it to the head of the festival and the boss of the volunteers. If there’s anybody else important you think should get it, put them on it, too.

Explain the whole thing like you told us.

I would think they’d be so grateful to have you volunteer, they’d give you all whatever you need so that you’re comfortable and happy, to a reasonable extent, of course.

NomoreY_A's avatar

I second the email idea, and no, you’re not wrong to be upset. I have some lower back pain problems myself, so I know what you’re talking about. They should consider that you guys are oldsters (sort of) and can’t do at a 20 yr old can do. If they don’t want to play ball, consider another venue. My back would be up over that as well, but probably go out in the process.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I almost have the letter written. Above all I’m pissed at the lack of consideration and respect, and being treated like a teenager who needs to be told what is acceptable and what isn’t.

If they’ll even have me back next year, and if they don’t remedy that venue, I will ask for a different assignment. Maybe driving a golf cart rescuing people WHO CAN’T WALK 50 MILES!!

jca's avatar

@Dutchess_IIIL Please let us know if they respond! Good luck!

The Update Lady

Dutchess_III's avatar

♥ I will. I’ll run my letter past y’all for editing first.

JLeslie's avatar

I didn’t read the answers above.

If they have chairs, everyone should be able to have chairs. Either it’s ok or not. When I worked retail manager’s has chairs in their offices, but when out on the selling floor they did not sit, no one did, except for small exceptions for people who had injuries (extremely rare exception).

I do agree that people sitting in certain environments can mean less productivity and can be perceived by a customer as though employees are not proactively helpful, but in this specific situation you describe I think chairs should be fine. A tall stool might be better because it’s easier to step off into your feet, and you are closer to standing height as people approach.

Another solution is taking a break after 1.5–2 hours. I realize you said in just 15 minutes you’re already in pain.

I think write an email, or make a phone call, and make various suggestion asking for what they think will be best to remedy the problem. Asking for their suggestions, like a stool vs. a low chair, makes them part of the solution, and maybe they will take ownership and responsibility for solving it rather than answering with a flat “no.” This is a volunteer situation, so I think they need to be accommodating, unless they have more volunteers than they know what to do with.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie Not asking you to read the answers. Just read the details. That should answer your questions.

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