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Breakage, loss and damage

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barbeito

Host

Since joining WWOOF.pt I've many WWOOFers pass through my farm. As well as lots of wonderful work and enriching personal interactions I have also been left with a pile of broken articles.

I know that many WWOOFers have very little money, but so do I.

To date, breakages, losses or damaged beyond proper function, include
glasses (50)dropped
mugs (20)dropped
plates (15) dropped
water jugs (2)dropped
secateurs (14) used to cut wire or lost or improper use causing bent blades
scissors (3) used to cut wire or lost
pencils (15) lost
saws (4)left in rain, bent or used to hack at stoney ground
coffee pot (1) excessive force
chairs (2) rocked on or stood on on uneven outdoor surfaces or left in rain
stools (6) left in rain and rocked on
door handles (2) wrenched
bathroom taps (1) tightened with excessive force
garden taps (2) leant on or hit
wheel barrow (1) forced over obstacles with heavy loads.
spades (6) improper use
clothes I lent (5) left in rain or ripped by brambles
rubber boots (3) used to kick and dig stoney ground
gardening gloves (25) left in rain or lost
saucepans (2) dropped on stone floor or teflon scraped off with forks and knives
plants (100) trampled, ripped out of the ground as weeds, or left unplanted in the sun
kitchen knives (2) used as leavers or used to scrape metal and stone
drill bits (15) snapped through improper technique
the list goes on...

There are other negligence costs too, like when WWOOFers leave lights on all over the house, leave the gas stove on, leave water running, don't close bird cages properly so wild animals eat the birds in the night

The best WWOOFers actually replace what they break or damage without being asked (Few).
Next best WWOOFers offer to pay for the broken item but want me to go and buy it(Few).
Most WWOOFers apologise but don't offer to pay, even when I suggest this (Most).
Some WWOOFers neither apologise or even tell me. I just find another broken item in the rubbish (Many).

What should hosts do?

I have stopped providing gardening gloves, because they get left out in the rain and lost. I never lend my clothes, hair clippers, electric razor etc, to WWOOFers any more after several incidents with tearing or being left in the rain, left lying around dirty.
I almost never let WWOOFers use power tools.
I give each WWOOFer secateurs with their name on for the duration of their stay and tell them that they must buy me a new one if they loose it (This works well).

What does WWOOF Portugal think about this. Are breakages things that hosts should just accept as an acceptable cost of WWOOFing? I have heard WWOOFers express this. Taking this line would only make things worse because WWOOFers are much less careful if they know that they don't have to replace what they break.

Would it be possible to include in a code of conduct that WWOOFers should offer to pay for what they break or is this too much like kindergarten training?

What do other hosts think about this? And what does WWOOF Portugal think? What do WWOOFers think?

Looking forward to reading responses,

Guy
at
Quinta do Barbeito

Expired user

Hello.
As a mature male,older generation wwoofer,your storey is sad.Having very little money,or no money is
no excuse to disrespect other people and their property.Of course accidents will happen,
none of us are perfect,but things can go to far...In many situations in life which involve groups of people,
such as work , living areas ,such as flats ,communes etc etc the saying goes, " nip it in the bud from the start "...
So ,in the case of wwoofing,friendly diplomatic and tactful verbal " rules of the house" have to be explained
from the outset ,when wwoofers arrive on the property.Wwoofer hosts... it's your property and it is a privalige
for others ,to have the wonderful chance to be part of your property and life for a period of time,wwoofers need to
remember that they are the guests!
Sadly the old sayings of ,"common sense,is not so common" and " it's not my problem" are
so true in many aspects of our world now,a world which also has ever increasing problems with the meanings of
"respect " and " tolerance".I am not perfect by any means,but looking back now at my strict family and school
up bringing which at the time i hated......i now feel so lucky that's how it was " in the old days" ...
unfortunately gone for ever.

Hope this has helped in someway.

Expired user

[quote="Barbeito"

What should hosts do?

Would it be possible to include in a code of conduct that WWOOFers should offer to pay for what they break or is this too much like kindergarten training?

What do other hosts think about this? What do WWOOFers think?

Looking forward to reading responses,

Guy
at
Quinta do Barbeito

[/quote]

I will give you three examples. But I could give you more than 30.

1. Never use this cup! Clear and understood. Because it is an expensive one and we just have fourthem for certain times. It cost 250 SEK. What happened? A wwoofer (Scotland) used it and broke it two days later he was told not to use that cup.

2. Two wwofers here at the same time. One from Holland and one from France. They got very clear instructions. One row each of carrots. Leave just one carrot-plant. Then space 2,5 cm then one carrot plant and so on. We had just these two rows but pretty long ones. They worked together and discussed how to do. Dutch guy made it perfectly. The French guy left five to ten plants all together and then a space for sometimes two centimeters sometimes five centimeters sometimes ten centimeters. So about 50% of that years carrots production went to hell. The most intensive and diffucult part is to weed when you nearly see the carrots, which we do ourselves. So this was an easy job. No problem for anybody to understand and see what to do.

3. Strong tractor (105 horsepower) with new brakes. wwoofer (Israel) where told never in any time use the handbreak. Better stop the tractor with a gear for stoping. Because tractor is so strong that if handbreaks is in use it does not matter. What happen? Male guy (had driving liscense) drove the tractor with handbreak. Totally glas of the break-system. I had to save money for three years (And drive without any breaks which was not pleasant)and then go to repair station. Cost me over 18.000 SEK.

My calculation is that all together that some wwoofers are expensive to have nearby you. Some is opposite. Some costs money - bad buissnes - bad change. Some is opposite. Over some years hopefully it will be at least an "economically" zero-situation.

So my advice to you is: Try to find out for your place and situation a method to find the good wwoofers. That is very difficult. References from other hosts are the best. But most wwoofers have no references. Profile does not say much and many do not have. Much mail-contact is good but mailing and disscusing over mail is an intellectual thing. Reality is another. Sooner or later you will have the ability to see the personality of different kinds of wwoofers. Send them away directly when you think this will not work. Try to get a back-up-host where you can send wwoofers who does not fit in in your system.

Good luck!

Now you have got an answer from one wwoofer and one answer from a host. That is all and that will also tell you about how rest of this "society" think.

rodrigo

Coordinator

Hi Guy,

I think there are two kinds of situations: Accident or Negligence.

The accidents happens and I don't think we should blame or ask for paying for the broken item, but on other hand in case of clear negligence, maybe the WWOOFer could be kindly asked to replace the damaged item?

One good rule to avoid problems, is to never give to a WWOOFer a task that requires an expensive tool, unless he/she have knowledge and competence enough to work with it.

As a popular host you may be ready to deal with this conditions, and I don't think it is a "WWOOF Problem". In any situation where you contact with dozens or maybe hundreds of people every year that will be for sure something broken.

Best wishes,

barbeito

Host

Thanks for your reply Rodrigo. How do you distinguish negligence from accident? And in exemplifying your distinction, how would you classify the cases that Felicia describes?

rodrigo

Coordinator

Hi Guy,

I think it is up to each host to decide what they can or can't give access to the WWOOFers and to decide case by case if it was accident or negligence, but when you are dealing with dozens or sometimes hundreds of WWOOFers per year, you may be sure that somebody will break something.
I don't think it is a problem about WWOOFers, but a problem of numbers. If you have one hundred paid workers working for you something will probably get broken too.

Best wishes,

Rodrigo

barbeito

Host

Thank you Rodrigo. Your response side-steps answering both of my last two questions.

It is unhelpful to simply pass the onus back to the volunteers and host to decide on a case by case basis. There are helpful and useful distinctions between accident and negligence. It seems to me that in most cases the distinction between accident or negligence should be clear, independent of host or volunteer opinion.

An [i][b]accident [/b][/i]is simply an undesirable incident that no-one could possibly foresee

If a host has foreseen and successfully communicated an undesirable incident along with an explanation for how to avoid that incident, then it seems reasonable to attribute negligence.

[i][b]Negligence [/b][/i]occurs when instructions that have been understood by the volunteer are wilfully ignored. The case of negligence is especially clear if the justification for the instructions was explained.

I take great care to try to foresee what can go wrong and be misunderstood. And in order to check whether I have successfully communicated, I usually ask volunteers to explain to me what I want them to do and why. This is a very useful delegation routine. But still things go awry.

Host says to volunteer, "[i]don't do action A to object O because it will break[/i]"
Volunteer still does A to O and O breaks"

[b][u]Question 1:[/u][/b] Can you give examples for A and O where the outcome can be called an accident and not negligence?

Sorry to pose more questions to side step. :wink:

Here is a real situation:

I instructed: "[i]This is powdered quick lime, CaO. It must be changed to white wash Ca(OH)2 by mixing into water. The chemical reaction that follows produces enough heat to melt plastic buckets so one person must carefully add the powder a little at a time to 4 times the volume of water and the other person must stir all the time. Quick lime is caustic to skin and lungs. Do this here (outdoors). Stand up wind, use these gloves, goggles and this long mixing stick.[/i]"

I supervised the mixing of the first batch. The next batch they did on their own. In my absence, they cut corners, and dumped the whole bag of powder into a dry bucket and poured water on top. Oh dear! They put the melting bucket into a second bucket which also melted.

[b][u]Question 2:[/u][/b] Was this accident or negligence?
[b][u]Question 3: [/u][/b] Does the opinion of the host or the volunteers actually change whether this was accident of negligence?

In this case, I am guessing that the WWOOFers wanted to see the the plastic melt just for fun. But they didn't offer to pay for the buckets.

In anticipation, thank you for suggesting that I use a metal bucket. :wink: That is not the issue, nor, in this case, the piffling cost. The issues are two. One is trying to arrive at a useful definition that distinguishes negligence from accident, and the second is a principle of whether it is reasonable in the eyes of WWOOF.pt for hosts to ask volunteers to pay for things they break due to negligence.

Looking forward to fancy footwork around questions 1, 2, and 3.

Expired user

Hej Guy,

I can absolutely understand that you are pissed off.
In my opinion it is a natural course of action to replace something I
have broken by accident or made useless in some way.
You can never know how the peolpe you wrote with via E-Mail are in
reality and that is a point I never feel good about.
If you aren't prepared to deal with this anymore I would suppose to
stop hosting WOOFer or send those impolite ones away. If a host wasn't decent
I would always leave, even if it would mean that I have paid the journey
for nothing.

Greetings from Germany,
Zaara