Pathway Passes to Nowhere
and Other Tales of Customer Disservice
Pathway Passes to Nowhere
GSNEO has a program called Pathway Passes. When a girl sells cookies or fall product, she earns money for the council and for her troop. She herself does not get any money, but she does earn credit toward council-sponsored programs. The credits are called Pathway Passes and are good toward the cost of summer resident camp and designated council-run programs.
So far, so good. Thousands of girls earned Pathway Passes and began looking for ways to spend them. Some girls DID get into the programs of their choice. Maybe not their first choice all the time, but they got to do things they wouldn't have otherwise. The passes worked for them. However, plenty of others couldn't use their passes. Summer camp sessions filled up too fast, or the girls were too young to be away from home. But then the short programs during the rest of the year filled up - or they were offered at too great a distance for their parents to drive.
There were many, many girls who had earned credits but were unable to use them before they expired. Complaints were sent; the deadline was extended. But there still were not enough programs for all the girls to use the passes that they had earned. Parents asked the office to expand the range of what the passes would cover. But no. The passes could not be used for troop camping, day camp, or service unit events. Nor could they be used for annual national dues or purchases from the council shop.
It is not known how many girls have been left with useless passes. Troop leaders don't want to "go public” with their complaints, because they do not want to be dismissed from their volunteer positions for criticizing the council. But they will tell you quietly at service unit meetings how disappointed they are. How disappointed their daughters are with the broken, empty promises. Note that the girls EARNED the passes by raising money for the council. The council stresses financial literacy. What financial literacy lesson is it teaching? At the same time that the council was telling girls with expired passes that they were out of luck, the board awarded the council CEO a ten thousand dollar bonus.
One mistake is human error.
The same mistake happening over and over is a system failure.
Or worse - it may be that the leadership of an organization has decided to set its priority on style over substance. When money is allocated for making things look good on paper at the expense of providing essential services, the essential services are sacrificed. They may still exist - but they do not get enough money to operate effectively. Their staff training is short-changed, there is little supervision, and no accountability. Broken equipment or faulty computer systems are not fixed. High demand and low support means employees quit, which means spending yet more time and money recruiting, screening, and training new staff. Expectations are lowered. A culture of incompetency develops - where ineffectiveness is expected.
Early Bird Bait and Switch: 15 cadettes "not enough" for an overnight at camp
Former troop leader Kim Mitchell of Bedford Hts. relates this experience from 2010: "We were a troop of 15 girls who were using our Early Bird Registration Troop Incentive to register for an outdoor program that costs $40.00 per girl. We were told that the event had been canceled due to low registration. We were not given enough notice to select another program as the Incentive had expired soon after registration. It was not until after I had contacted council (HIGHLY IRATE) that we were offered the option to register for another outdoor program costing $5.00 per girl, but it was not local and not of interest to a Cadette troop. We had been strongly encouraged to Early Bird register the girls with the promise that we would be rewarded with this great incentive, found a fantastic event that included camping, cooking and fellowship, only to be herded into another program that the troop had no interest in attending. Thus, the incentive was not used and the troop became discouraged and has since disbanded."
"Why don't you just take them to Great Wolf Lodge Instead?"
In May, 2010 Brownie troop 170 of Strongsville had reservations for two cabins at Lejnar. They had been paid for since early February. Eight days before the campout, a council staff member called the leader to inform her that the cabins were double booked, and they were being bumped. There were no other available sites on GSNEO property. The staff member told leader Janie DeVito that she should take her girls to Great Wolfe Lodge instead.
“...Council's suggestion that we go to Great Wolfe Lodge was insulting to me.
"First I filed a complaint with the council on the overbooking, but much worse was the horrible way in which it was handled. I immediately got a call from a Ms. B. …..very nice and apologetic. She told me that she was very upset because not only did they double book, they determined some time ago that there was a problem and no one notified me until last Thursday, 9 days before our departure. She offered us a comp weekend through the fall of 2011 but I doubt we will go this route again......free or not, it is not worth the aggravation.
"Quite simply the camping, like every other experience I have had with council, is bogged down with excessive bureaucracy. I should be able to do this completely online. Instead I made a dozen phone calls. No-one would tell me what was available. I had to call and ask if xxx was available on xxxx date. They said yes or no. They did not offer up other properties available on that date nor did they tell me what dates the sites I wanted were available. They told me to find another location and date and call back again....I couldn't believe it. I filled out form after form and sent it in. Never did I get one piece of paper back. As a leader, I should be able to view what is available and when on line. I should be able to complete a reservation request online with all of my information and I should get a confirmation. Do they have any computers at council?
“It was clearly our preference to go to a Girl Scout camp for our event but they have lost my business. I understand the human error in the double booking. I cannot understand the way council treats the VOLUNTEERS.....that is unacceptable.
“We ended up going to Jellystone in Mantua and have two large cabins, however, the cost was 4x what we had planned, and we had to go back to the parents for $$$$$ which was a horrible position to be in a week before the event.“
When I called Janie for permission to include her story, she said I could use her name and the follow up: She even had trouble getting the troop's money refunded. It took three months of calls to several office staff including the CEO. She did attempt to arrange for her free weekend in the fall, but every time they picked a site and date, it was already booked.
Jayne is still a GS leader, but she will no longer attempt to stay at a council-owned property. ader, but she will no longer attempt to stay at a council-owned property.
We goofed. You lose.
Two sisters in North Ridgeville signed up for a 2010 summer resident camp program. Their registrations were post marked on the day registration opened, and their parents' check was cashed. Summertime drew close, but the expected confirmation letter had not arrived. Mom called the council office only to discover that the registrations were nowhere to be found, and the girls' chosen program was now filled. There were no acceptable alternatives. Two more girls could not be accommodated under any circumstances. A refund was issued. But a refund was not what they wanted. They wanted to camp.
Customer service? What's that?
A Brownie troop was camping for the first time at Coach House in Crowell Hilaka in January, 2011. They had planned to go sledding on Saturday morning, then come back to Coach, change their clothes and make grilled cheese for lunch. Their conformed departure time was 12 noon. The day before the campout, the leader got a call from “T”, a council staff member, saying that instead of the 12 pm departure time they will have to leave at 9:30 am. “T” was conducting the Energizer Bunny program at Hilaka from 10 to 12:30 and she needed time to set up in Coach starting at 9:30. The leader was very upset that they had to change their plans, but she said ok. When the camp monitors found out, they offered to let her and her girls come over to Chagrin Valley to make their lunch when they were done sledding. In the end, they decided that was too complicated and they packed up their stuff by 9:30 am and then just left once they were done sledding. The girls had a great time, but they were very unhappy about the way council had gone about this, upset that they had to change their plans.
It was because of the follow up from this incident that we learned that the usual council practice was that if a council-sponsored program was to be held in a building, troops should not be allowed to rent the building for the weekend. Technically, the site had been double-booked (yet again). It was only coincidence that the program only overlapped with the Brownie Troop by a couple of hours.
Interestingly, one of the justifications for "transforming" camps into Premier Leadership Centers is that the council would not have to take up an entire troop site in order to run a short program. Yet Crowell HiIaka has a classroom and a dining hall that could serve that same purpose - if the board allowed those buildings to re-open. Or, short programs could be scheduled for Sunday afternoons after campers have gone - or weekday evenings.
In any case, even when scheduling glitches occur, the rights of the customers - of the GIRLS - should always be respected. There was no excuse for a staff member to preemptively kick a troop out of its rented site for anything short of a life or death emergency. Every possible solution should have been explored first. The fact that it was not is a function of the lack of staff training in customer service. (The camp monitors followed up on this situation and the Brownie troop received a compensatory free night.)
Program Aide Training repeatedly under-supplied
Program Aide training certifies an older girl to assist in programs for younger girls. The training consists of an overnight at camp, where the girls learn leadership skills specifically for using in Girl Scout programs for younger girls. This is a win/win situation because the older girls are prepared for more responsibility, and their skills are often needed by the inexperienced leaders of young troops. However, volunteers arriving to teach program aide classes at Crowell Hilaka have arrived to find no supplies, or completely inadequate supplies waiting for them. Once may have been a simple oversight - more than that makes it appear as the council management is not taking PA training seriously. The volunteers made emergency runs to stores to obtain groceries to feed the girls or to their own home supply closets for program materials. Yet the council office is charging the girls a decent fee for this training.
Why is the system still not fixed? Why are important programs not being given the priority they deserve? Why is money NOT being allocated for girl programs when girls provide the lion's share of council funding? Where is it going instead?
More - stories
For what is worth here are some of my stories. The long and short of it is, I have had countless gift certificates for the council shop expire. We EARNED them for numerous types of things....Early-bird registration etc.....but if we earned them, why do they have an expiration date? We have done the work to earn them; they should be valid till we use them.... like most Gift Certificates. Council seems to be good at recycling one thing, unused funds. $$$$$$$$$$ Moral of the story: The early-bird does not always get the worm!
After witnessing the last dog and pony show I have not been to the GS corporate office. I have been to disgusted with it all. I will get over it!
Summer 2011 Rainbow Day Camp. I think it rained every day at least once that week but Kim & Debbie & all other volunteers managed to supply rainbows for all! I think there was 100 spots available. I believe they filled up immediately...I could not get my troop in but I managed to get Sam and Katrina in by volunteering 4 out of the five days! We all had the time of are lives and can't wait to go back! REVELATION! That was the week I remembered how important camp is to girls! I met some of the most inspiring Girl Scouts I know. Mother Nature, Miss Lucy, COW, Opie and many others! These camps need to be taken over by the people that love them the volunteers!
Interesting enough we tried to register for CORE camp and never got on the computer at the right time. We were shut out numerous times. Obviously it is not offered enough times to promote camp usage. The secret is my co-leader had to stay up till midnight to register 11 of us....midnight turned into 1 AM because their was a glitch in the system. 30 spots were turned into 40 for Dec. 10, 2011 at Ledgewood. We had a seasoned Girl Scout leader and two of her Cadettes run the show that week-end. $22.00 a head, she had 2 groups stay one night each. This was her first experience after her training directing CORE camp. She was a awesome instructor. The thing that bothered me the most is she had to spend $100 of her own money for food to make ends meet! What council supplied her with for supplies was totally ridiculous.....even right now it makes the back of my neck hurt! OK do the math: 80*22.00=$1760.....for a week-end that volunteers ran a program and they could not compensate her for supplies needed to feed us! I really can't believe how they treat and manipulate volunteers....
- Miss G