Email sent to organizers, sponsors and KCBS after a disastrous trip to Vermillion today.
Your poor planning and dismissive attitude today at the Ribs, Rods and Rock N Roll contest in Vermillion, S.D., accounted for the most disappointing day I’ve had in competition barbecue since I starting judging in 2008.
My wife, our friend and I were “confirmed” by email to judge this contest. I was “confirmed” on June 28 by Maureen Cashin. The check-in was to begin at 9 a.m.; the judges’ meeting at 10.
We arrived to sign in at 9:50 a.m., after a four-hour drive from Aberdeen, S.D. At the check-in area, we quickly learned that you had overbooked judges, and many more had shown up than would be needed to judge. When I grabbed you to find out what happened, you said you had enough judges already and we weren’t needed.
Rather than apologize for wasting our time, or say you screwed up, or even muster, “I’m sorry, I am busy right now, if you can give me a few minutes we can sort this out,” you snickered and asked, “Who taught your class? They should have told you to be there on time.”
We left after just 20 minutes in Vermillion.
Jen, we were there on time; this wasn’t our fault. We left Aberdeen at 5:45 a.m., and drove four hours to Vermillion (you acted as though that was no big deal; it was to us!). Had we been late, none of us would have had a problem being told our seats were given to non-KCBS judges. Even in this situation, we would have understood. There is no “right to judge.” We are there to support the teams, the contest and KCBS.
But we don’t need to be insulted, especially when we did all that a contest requires. You weren’t doing us a favor — we were helping your contest!
As a matter of fact, check your email: You received one from my wife around 9:30 this morning, letting you know the three judges from Aberdeen were running behind but were on our way. We know that the organizers are concerned about having enough certified judges. We wanted to take that worry from you.
And for your information, I took my CBJ class in 2008. I just passed my master judge test this week. And in five years of judging — 33 contests in six states — I’ve never seen such a lack of respect given to judges.
It was also the first time I’ve ever been ashamed to have talked up competition barbecue to my family and friends. While I have been to dozens of comps, my wife and friend were just certified this summer, and have only judged a handful. I was embarrassed, and felt as though I let them down.
I’m a big boy. I can understand and accept if you or your team made a mistake in booking judges. I will not accept the “It’s your own fault” routine you pushed off on us. You owe it to the judges to let them know not to make the trek to your contest if you don’t need them.
Jen, here are the mistakes you made:
When you tell judges they are “confirmed,” that means they will be judging your contest! You seem to think it means, “We received your application; show up on Saturday and you may or may not get to participate.”
You may not know this, but many judges keep very detailed lists or spreadsheets to keep track of mileage, what day they applied, when they were confirmed, etc. Your “eligible to compete for a chance to judge” concept is at odds with that effort .
Here’s how it should work: You need 36 judges, then the first 36 certified CBJs who apply should be confirmed. The other 5, 10 or 50 should be told they are on a wait list; if a confirmed judge cancels, you go to the first name on the wait list and let them know a spot opened and they should come to Vermillion.
Check-in time is not a deadline. “Check in at 9 a.m.” does not mean judges must check in by 9, or be in line to check in by 9. It means, “check in begins at 9.” And check in traditionally goes up until the judges’ meeting, or until all the judges have arrived.
But you even screwed up enforcing your own skewed rules. One CBJ at your contest today signed in just after 9 a.m., then went to walk around the festival. When he returned before the judges’ meeting, there were no seats at the tables. He was left out from judging, and instead volunteered to table captain to get everyone out of an awkward situation. You didn’t even have the courtesy or the guts to own up to your error and get him his judging spot.
Your confirmation email did not explain any of your exceptions. Nowhere did you or your representative say, “Judges, we confirmed more of you than are necessary. If you come Saturday, show up early so you are sure to get a seat. If anyone wants to be a table captain or volunteer or be on the wait list, speak up.” This has been the norm at every other contest I’ve judged.
You didn’t apologize for your mistake. You blew me off.
Apologize, let us work and graze at the volunteer table. Make it right, as best you can. It’s the absolute least you could do.
We might have only been three extra judges to you. But we rearranged our lives and made plans to be there for your contest. Show us some respect.
Finally, the most important lesson for you to learn: Never, ever be rude to volunteers. KCBS contests run on volunteer power. Judges do not get paid; we do not win cash prizes. We get to eat good, great and (sometimes) terrible barbecue, and we do it week after week because we enjoy it. It is a costly proposition, and we don’t ask for much in return. In this case, we didn’t get anything.
You have shown how little you value your volunteer judges’ time and effort.
Our final total on this wasted Saturday:
- Eight hours of driving from Aberdeen to Vermillion (four hours there, four hours back).
- 560 miles of wear and tear on my car.
- $80 worth of gas. I filled the tank last night for the trip there, and filled up just outside of Vermillion on the way back.
- $40 in lunches we didn’t expect to to buy.
- 12 hours of wasted day. We could have saved $120 and stayed home.
And, if it makes your life any easier, you’ll have three fewer judges to be bothered with next summer.