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Non-Paying Families and Children at Wheaton Labs events--is there a way?

 
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I was chatting with Paul today about the upcoming Permaculture Design Course, Permaculture Technology Course, and SKills to Inherit Property events (FYI: at the time of writing this, there's two weeks left to snag the Super Early Bird ticket prices!). Paul mentioned how he's had some truly wonderful families come. One person attends, and the rest of the family does their own merry thing at Wheaton Labs. The stay away from all the event action, and are respectful for the people who paid to attend. The lovely family has a great time picking huckleberries or walking in the woods or just chilling by their tent. And  when the event day is over, Mom/Dad/paying-attendee can easily go see their family and enjoy the beautiful Wheaton Labs property for the non-event hours together.

And then there's been times when one person would pay, and bring their unpaying spouse/partner/friend. And the friend mooches off the food. And the friend gets bored of being alone, and comes over to the event area and learns a bunch of stuff from the event that they didn't pay for.  This is disrespectful for the people who paid and it's a pain for Paul to be Event Police going around telling people to please stay away from the event they didn't pay for. This just sucks joy from everyone.

I'm thinking about places like Disney Land--I'm pretty sure you can't go stay in their hotel on site with your paying friend when you haven't paid for Disney ticket. You can't claim, "Oh, I'm not going to go on any of the rides or walk around the park. I'll just stay here in the hotel the whole time." Disney Land won't believe you. Disney Land wants you to pay to be respectful to all the other people who've paid for an experience. But, if you rent a hotel that isn't at Disney Land, Disney Land couldn't care less if you had your non-paying family staying there.

There's apparently some nice campsites and forest service land, and Air B&Bs near Wheaton Labs. It's entirely feasible for someone to have their family stay at those places during the day while the paying attendee takes part in the events, and then they can go see their family/friend each evening after the event hours.

But, maybe, just maybe, there's a way to make sure friends/spouses/children who didn't pay, can have a lovely time tenting at Wheaton Labs and NOT mooch off of the food and learning or be a distraction. Maybe, just maybe there's a way. But, when Paul and I chatted, we couldn't really think of that way. Events like the Permaculture Technology Jamboree and SKills to Inherit Permaculture happen all over Wheaton Labs. How do you keep non-paying people from mooching off of the paying people without Paul or someone else having to spend all day policing the events to make sure no one's taking part who shouldn't be?

Can anyone think of a way?
 
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People who are paid attendees all wear an identifier.
Be it a nifty, I attended Pauls event  tee shirt or a simple paper flower worn visible on clothing.
Have the whole paid attending group be the "police"
Asking any private individual to do that would be unreasonable. But if the whole group is looking and politely asking  non attendees to "go away" it could do the job.  Group peer pressure .

Just a thought.
 
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When it works fine, it works fine.  And when people "cheat" it is a big suck on the whole event.  

We just don't have a good solution to prevent the cheat, or police the cheat or stuff like that.   And having people promise to be respectful has worked only about 60% of the time.  



 
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I was at the PEP event last summer and we had to wear badges on a string around our neck.  They got in the way and were a pain for about three days.  After that we all stopped wearing them...  

I can't easily think of a way to manage this for large groups.  If there are only 8 people at an event, it's pretty easy to tell when #9 shows up.  But if it's 20 and they're in a few places and some new paying people show up on day 7 and others leave on day 5 it would be much harder.
 
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What about an event deposit. For every person you bring along, you put down a deposit equal to one event ticket in value. If these other individuals avoid the event and have a lovely time on their own, you get the whole deposit back. If they decide to sit in for events, the value of that day's event activities is removed from the deposit. This way everyone pays for anything they learn, but no one is obligated to pay anything at all so long as they respect the boundaries of the event.

It could be a barrier for a large family affording it, so maybe kids under a certain age don't need the deposit, but honestly it seems like a win-win otherwise. A simple statement of "if you stay more than a few minutes in this area, it will be acknowledgement that you intend to waive the deposit for today and enjoy learning from the event." Then if they stick around, they do so knowing they are giving up that day's worth of deposit. If they toddle off, they are out of the way of the event again.
 
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I would just say no, and insist they stay elsewhere. They're already coming to Montana (usually from elsewhere), surely they have the means to figure other accommodation out, even if it's just camping. It just sounds like a human-headache to me otherwise
 
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For families with young children (who cannot reasonably leave their children behind, as in the case of nursing mothers, etc.):

Feed everyone and charge accordingly (so nobody rides for free). If a partner/sitter is bringing the kiddos, the partner/sitter and the kiddos are expected to eat with the group. It has been my experience that, if there are young children (speaking of which, designate an age range for "young children"), the partner/sitter is too busy looking after them to sneak in some free learning. But yeah, the whole kit and kaboodle will eat your food if it's there...so just assume as much and charge for it.

Other than the situation above regarding young children, I wouldn't allow someone to bring a non-paying partner/spouse/friend. Like, you can't be away from them for two weeks? Really? Then both of you need to pay to take the course.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Paul is thinking about a workable way for this. He's thinking that if someone rents a whole structure for their family (like Shann-delier or the RMH Tipi or Red Cabin or Allerton Abbey), then their family can hang out at their rental and explore the non-event parts of Wheaton Labs.

It reminds me of some conferences I had at hotels. You could, of course, rent a room at the hotel and your family could stay there or leave the hotel room and explore the hotel or the city, but they couldn't enter into the event areas. Of course, Wheaton Labs' events take place all over Wheaton Labs, so it takes a bit more care to stay away from the activities. But, hopefully it will be possible. In the past, Paul's found that families that rented a whole structure were great and kept to themselves during the event hours. So, hopefully it'll keep working out!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Paul and I were brainstorming today. The Permaculture Technology Jamboree has something like a dozen instructors, and there's a lot of participants. This means that rentals like Shann-Delier and Allerton Abbey are booked up, leaving not enough more structures for families to rent. Paul is keen on the idea that camping for participants is free, so we devised a plan!

Wheaton Labs currently has prices for additional people who are renting a structure. For camping, this means $20 extra per week per person. So, if someone wants to camp with their family at an event, they pay to have those additional people there. Simple!




Here's some scenarios, staring the Wilkinson family of Wanda, William and their two kids Wilson and Wilma. Wanda has paid to attend the event(s), and her husband will be watching their two kids at their campground.
 
Wanda wants to go to a one week event, like the Certified Garden Master Course. That's $20 per person for the week, for a total of $120.

Wanda wants to go to a two week event, like the Permaculture Technology Jamboree . That's $40 per person for the two weeks, for a total of $240.

Wanda wants to go to two back-to-back courses, like Permaculture Technology Jamboree  and SKIP. That's $80 per person for the month, making it $480.

Wanda changes her mind, and adds in a third course, the Permaculture Design Course. That's $100 per person for the whole 6 weeks, for a total of $600.




Another scenario, staring Zena and Zander Zanthros.

Zander wants to attend one on-week event--Certified Garden Master Course--while Zena has fun hiking around The Labs and having some nice alone-ish time in nature. They pay $20 for the week.

Zander wants to attend the PTJ and Zena wants to attend the PDC. That's one-additional person per two week event, for a total of 4 weeks, and $80.

Zena and Zander both attend the SKIP event, in addition to Zena attending the PDC, and Zander the PTJ. That's still $80, because they both have free camping for the SKIP, since they're both attending it.

If, instead, Zander attended all three events while Xena had a glorious 6 week nature retreat. That would be a total of $100 for all 6 weeks.




I'm thinking this might solve a lot of problems? The attendee has free camping while paying a bit more to have their family nearby to share in the Wheaton Labs adventure (but not the courses and food!), Paul is more likely to have people who will respect the other participants, and the cost isn't too high. And, everyone living at Wheaton Labs feels better about any drama that might arise, because they got recompensed to deal with it.

Basically, what we're doing is treating the family as renters, with a discount because they don't have to pay the base rental cost (just the additional per-person cost). How does this sound to people? As a mother with two young kids, it sounds pretty good to me--what do others think?
 
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How does this system prevent the other people from wandering over into the courses and participating or eating for free?

I like D. Logan's deposit idea above, except that in rare cases it could end up letting a person who was too late to sign up for the course attend it by this method. If spaces were limited and many people had been turned away, this could feel like a problem. But it might be too rare an occurrence to be a serious problem to avoid.
 
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Freeloaders?  Compost them.  The problem is the solution.

Plastic wrist bands are easily worn, waterproof and rugged.  They are cheap enough to purchase.  I've purchased them for retreats and conferences.  Then you need to station people at the door: no wrist band, no admission, no meals, no exceptions.  

https://www.eventwristbands.com/?gclid=CjwKCAiA4o79BRBvEiwAjteoYL0gtCYM5o3OyympkipTbJekyduaOJyR9qgEuynyRVkNTcw4_qYDaRoCZjkQAvD_BwE



Someone has to be hardcore about telling the non-banded, "Get out and stay away."  Paul has bigger fish to fry.  Someone else needs to police the non-payers, not him.

If they change their mind once they arrive and want to attend, then add a "second attender" fee, and charge them accordingly.  Maybe the small discount for being a second attender?  They wouldn't get any printed materials/workbook but could audit.  Just spitballing.   I'd make it a flat fee rather than a price per event . . . again, who wants to police that and keep track of how many times Buffy sat in on a class or helped herself to a cup of coffee.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Pretty sure Paul might not be too keen on plastic wristbands, but maybe cotton ones? (I keep getting mental visions of those knotted friendship bracelets I made as a kid, or macrame bracelets). You could even just cut up old t-shirts or pants to make into color-coded bracelets for events. PTJ gets strips of denim. PDC gets old black t-shirt, SKIP gets old red tshirt scraps.

Or have a bunch of wool and cotton yarn, and have it be a little "Ice Breaker" activity and everyone braids their own bracelet.

I think a bracelet is probably a lot easier to keep on than a necklace--maybe have both, so if they lose one, they have the other.
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Pretty sure Paul might not be too keen on plastic wristbands, but maybe cotton ones? (I keep getting mental visions of those knotted friendship bracelets I made as a kid, or macrame bracelets). You could even just cut up old t-shirts or pants to make into color-coded bracelets for events. PTJ gets strips of denim. PDC gets old black t-shirt, SKIP gets old red tshirt scraps.

Or have a bunch of wool and cotton yarn, and have it be a little "Ice Breaker" activity and everyone braids their own bracelet.

I think a bracelet is probably a lot easier to keep on than a necklace--maybe have both, so if they lose one, they have the other.



There are bazillions of companies selling cotton wristbands - I picked this one randomly but it shows what they look like:  https://www.idcband.com/en-us/wristbands/cloth/


They are held close to the wrist by a little metal clip that is crimped on.  You can't lose the bracelet, and cut it off after the event.  I believe you must buy a machine to crimp them, or have someone at the gate who is really strong armed with pliers.

I have quite a collection from festivals - they're a nice (small) memento.

For a more permie feel, I do like the idea of having participants make their own, or decorate their own.  However, if a problem is people actively freeloading (as opposed to innocently wandering in) then industrially made would be harder to counterfeit.  Maybe a handmade cloth band with a custom charm that hangs off the crimping clip?

Also, you can have different color wristbands and restrict access at a more granular level.  (A for participants, B for family who has also paid for meals but not classes, C for family who has not but is allowed on the property, D for staff allowed in the main house, E for vendors who will be loading things in and out to a market area but not attending classes...)
 
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I'll second the wrist bands suggestion. Having run ticketed events before on open sites they are a godsend. It just cuts through all the bull. No wristband = no meal, no wristband = no access to the event. I understand the desire to avoid commercial bands, but their beauty is they are are incredibly durable, waterproof and unambiguously identifiable. And once they are on your wrist they can only be removed by destroying them - no passing it on to someone else so they can bum a free meal.

As an obvious visible identifier, they also allow everyone to be involved in policing - you don't have to have one person trying to memorise a bunch of faces each day to work out who belongs. It democratises the whole process. You can also use them to host different paying levels at the same event. eg a fully catered ticket is a blue band, and a self catered ticket is a green band.

A few discrete signs can help gently reinforce the paid/public divide. If you have a paid meal going on then hang a temporary sign "Show your band when taking your meal", or if you have a teaching workshop taking place bash a stake in the ground with a sign "red bands only".

When rules are unambiguous they are generally easier to enforce, and the whole community can be part of the solution, rather than it falling on one police officer figure. Key to this is making sure that the the people involved on the ground have the information needed (eg a wristband on valid participants) to do it without disrupting the event.
 
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Michael Cox wrote:

As an obvious visible identifier, they also allow everyone to be involved in policing.



I think this is key -- you create a list of the participants and assign people in groups of 2 to staff the door.  Their instructions are simple: please great people as they come in and check their wrist bands.  Maybe make a name game to go with it -- a way to make it interactive.  This is an opportunity for everyone get to know one another.

I was at a retreat once where everyone made a stamp on the first evening, and everyone received a "passport".  Then throughout the weekend, as you interacted with people, attended sessions, and even went to meals, you collected stamps in your passport.  It was meant to be interactive (obviously) as a way for people to share about themselves --- "What is your stamp?  What does it mean?"  It was tremendously entertaining and very effective -- an icebreaker.  I sat with a different group of people at every meal so that I could collect their stamps.

Maybe something like that could be used at the door --- show your wrist band, get a stamp in your passport.  Then give the door keepers 3 minutes to share with the whole group what their stamp means.
 
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On wristbands or bracelets of any kind, and safety :
For a performance/conference/tour to identify participants, no problem.
For a hands-on workshop, with power tools, machinery, and fire... NO WAY!

It might be easier, and safer to identify the "out group"... with wristbands for the few spouses and kids, than all of the participants.

It might be even more safe, to provide a bright orange souvenir T-shirt "My mom/dad/spouse got their mind blown at Wheaton Labs!" that they must wear while wandering the property. Or a safety vest for a re-usable option...
Curious and walk into a construction zone? Oh, THERE YOU ARE! I see you.

On "in groups" versus "out groups":
Compliance and policing are a hassle. It might be easier to be inclusive.
If there's a upcharge for room rental or camping for each additional person, then why not make a charge for the meal plan compulsory for each additional person as well? (possibility for a work-trade? for meal prep/cleanup) (yes, I know that here lies demons...)
Want to skip lunch and take the family to Missoula for the day, your choice... stay for three squares, fine, it's covered.
There could be two seatings for lunches to keep it "all-business" for the participants, and open to "family-time" for dinners.
 
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