While it is easy to assume you need volunteers or staff to run your community bike shop, it isn't as intuitive to think you need someone to greet people. This position is a great place for an extroverted volunteer who has a small amount of experience in the shop. They just need to know enough to redirect people that walk in the door. This small thing will drastically improve a customer or visitor's experience.
At the Durham Bike Co-op, we have the following document available to greeters, to provide a sort of guide to new volunteers in the workshop (obviously the details will vary from shop to shop, but this might be helpful as a start):
During co-op open hours, there are two main roles which volunteers participate in: wrenching and greeting. On a typical day, there are usually several wrenchers and one or two greeters; volunteers sometimes switch roles during the course of the day to keep things interesting. The greeter role, although it doesn't require a thorough knowledge of bike repair, is challenging: this document is an evolving attempt to suggest some strategies that have been helpful for others when greeting.
What does a greeter do?
Greeters sit or stand at a table in front of the workshop space in order to welcome people to the Co-op and explain how it functions to people arriving to use the workshop, and to limit the number of projects that enter the workshop space, so that there aren't too many projects going on at once for the number of wrenchers available. This involves a number of tasks:
- Answering questions about the co-op (e.g. why is it here? can I earn a free bike? how do I earn a bike? etc)
For these, see the Durham Bike Co-op FAQ (attached). In general, it's worth emphasizing that we do not give out free bikes, but rather facilitate a space in which community members can earn a bike through volunteering. This is because the Co-op is not a charity (that is, a space where people go to get help from others), but rather a space that facilitates mutual aid (that is, where people collectively and actively help each other).
- Asking people to sign in and out on the sign-in sheet.
- Making sure everyone who enters the space signs a waiver, unless you know they've signed a waiver before.
Very important for liability reasons! Right now we're just using the member sign-up forms, which have the waiver on them. Just write "non-member" across the top if they don't wish to sign-up to join the co-op.
- Not letting youth under 16 into the space without a parent or guardian present. Also important, again for liability reasons.
- Keeping a queue of projects not yet admitted into the workshop, and allowing them back as space opens.
Generally, the easiest way to do this is to simply use the sign-in sheet, and let people into the back as space opens. Wrenchers will tell the greeter when there's room in the workshop for another project. This is actually the reason why the greeter role was started in the first place. Too many projects in the back and not enough volunteers just creates a lot of stress and frustration for everyone, as well as making it impossible to get anything done.
- Updating the volunteer logs for those earning a bike.
Because under the "earn a bike" option it takes 5 hours of volunteering for the Co-op before starting to build up a bike for yourself, it isn't possible to earn a bike in one day. As such it's important to keep track of the number of hours volunteered. This is done on index cards (arranged by last name) in a drawer of the card catalogue. A wrencher will tell you when hours have been earned by a community member; these can simply be notated on the card by the date, followed by the number of hours. If a community member leaves with an "earned" bike, then this is also notated on the card, and their hours are reset to zero, in the event they want to earn another bike.
- Signing up new members.
There are forms on the clipboard; completed forms can just be added.
- Accepting monetary (cash, checks) donations for memberships, parts/per-use donations, etc.
There's a donation bucket for this. If you have to leave the front area, take the bucket with you! Checks should be made out to SURGE (Students United for a Responsible Global Environment -- our fiscal sponsor) with "Durham Bike Co-op" written in the note field.
- Accepting in-kind donations (bikes, parts, tools, etc.)
Call a wrencher (there should be a bell for this) to come take the donations into the back. If the people donating would like, we can write them a receipt for tax write-off purposes. The wrencher will asses the value of the donations; the greeter or wrencher can then make out a receipt using the receipt-book for this purpose, by following the form of previous receipts (make sure to include the tax ID number!).
One of the nice things about being the greeter for a while is that often they're the only ones not rushing around the workshop most of the time. As such, it's a good position from which to ask people (wrenchers and other volunteers, members, community members, etc.) how their experience at the Co-op has been going. Are they happy with how their project is coming along? Have they learned some things (or taught some things)? Have they had a positive time? Have there been power dynamics or other issues that have prevented them having a positive experience? Suggestions for how things might work better? All of these questions need not be asked all of the time, and the process of touching-base and working out any issues that may arise should be a collaborative effort of all of those using the Co-op. But the greeter, as (usually) the first and last person seen at the Co-op, certainly has an important part to play in this as well.
What if things start to get out of hand?
The front (greeter) space, while close to the workshop, is a little isolated from it. It might happen that there are situations up front, that might make a greeter feel uncertain how to proceed, or even uncomfortable or unsafe. The first thing to do, if possible and safe, is RING THE BELL! -- or, if the bell is missing, give a shout! When the bell is rung a wrencher or two will come to the front; this way there'll be more core volunteers for the day on hand to deal with whatever's come up.
Bull City HQ as well as the Durham Bike Co-op have a rule against hateful language, in particular racist, sexist, homophobic, classict, and ageist language. The Co-op also has rules against stealing, fighting, and drinking and drugs, as well as smoking inside the building (smoking out back is fine). Generally a good approach when these things do occur, or if someone refuses to cooperate with our procedures (e.g. trying to cut in the queue, ignoring instructions from core volunteers) is to first give a warning, and then tell someone that they need to leave for the day.
If things are really busy, or don't feel comfortable, also don't hesitate to have someone else greet with you!