I think this is a rant, but I’m not sure yet what direction it will take as I write.
We were casually chatting with a friend/free lance instructor with us, and he was telling us of his experience with another group of tour operators he was hired to work with. He is a good outbound instructor, and experienced, but he still doesn’t handle groups on his own when he works with us. Reason being, we aren’t sure of his instincts in an emergency.
And the incident he told us about reinforced it. Let us call him “Raju” for now.
Raju had no bookings for a particular day, and was hired by a new “adventure sports company” in Mumbai. Well, when you’re a free lancer, you take what comes along. Heck, when you’re a business owner, you still mostly take what comes along.
Raju lands up on the location for the programme, and discovers that he is the only experienced instructor there. Well…. he has confidence in his abilities, so…. he’s ok with that. Then, he discovers that it is a group of 40 people and throws a fit. How is a person to handle rappelling for 40 people solo in a 4 hour morning session? The owner hurried to assure him that he had some experience and would help.
Well… when you’re thrown in the water, you swim. Raju begins to set up the rappelling and discovers insufficient equipment. He is encouraged to “adjust”. Great. He adjusts, and changes the site of the rappel as well, so that the length is shorter. Then comes the parade. One participant after another. Owner apparently is clueless about putting on the harnesses he himself owns. Raju teaches him. Very late into the day, they still have about 10 people left. Lunch time is long past.
Participants are bored from sitting while one person at a time does the rappelling. They are hot, hungry, and very irritated, because their promised 100ft rappel is now 40ft. At the end of the day, there are complaints about how Raju is slow. And the bottom line is that these guys are extremely lucky that no one died, but of course, no one there realizes that.
As far as I am concerned, Raju is NEVER going to be a chief instructor at Wide Aware. If my chief instructor can’t have the guts to cancel an activity when there is a shortage of resources – both human and equipment wise, I’m not interested. If I wanted yes men, I would hire yes men. I don’t. I want an instructor to speak up and make a stand when security is compromized.
Of course, such a situation wouldn’t come up with Wide Aware in the first place. We maintain a minimum of a 10 participants to one instructor ratio on our programmes, and it works well. I’m not planning on changing that. I’m hiring a vehicle for transport anyway, so where is the point in being stingy with equipment? If its not needed, it can sit around and come back untouched. Raka would throw a fit if he were expected to handle rappelling or climbing without a rope of adequate length sitting around anchored and unused for use in an emergency. And honestly, I wouldn’t expect him to adjust on that either.
What would I or Raka have done in the place of Raju? To begin with, we would have booked instructors and carried the equipment needed for that group size. If something went wrong, and we ended up being without equipment, we would have cancelled the activity and done something else that could be managed safely in the resources we had. Non-negotiable. I don’t care if I don’t get paid or have to issue a refund when the option is putting clients in danger.
When we do our mad cap adventures, we are experienced and know what we are getting into. Clients are paying us to know that for them, and we KNOW that if they had the experience, they wouldn’t be paying us. I think this is cheating and endangering the client.
Why does anyone want to make such a great profit, or offer services at such a competitive rate, that there is no basic infrastructure offered?
The ministry of tourism is making efforts to regualate adventure tourism, but unfortunately, there is nothing yet about rock climbing and rappelling below 6000m. Is there a rule that says climbing accidents don’t happen below 6000m?
But still, I recommend that that moronic operator read this link. One climbing accident is going to make all our clients leery, and honestly, there are less climbing accidents than road accidents, but that hasn’t factored in potential stupidity. It takes one.
Call me paranoid, but I’m actually seriously reconsidering hiring this Raju at all, if he finds it ok to operate under those circumstances. Will he speak up about any problem he sees, or simply shrug it away thinking it is better than “that” company anyway? I don’t even see that company as a comparison, and I have made it clear to him, but I’m going to be keeping a very close eye on the guy for the next forever, until I find him being more assertive.
I see this as his fault entirely, as the only guy around who knew the game, and allowed that huge risk to happen.