New Competition Fees

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New Competition Fees

Postby zak on Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:46 am

Someone please explain this to me and the hoards of other baristas who are suddenly realizing they probably can't afford to compete this year. The new regions are awesome and I understand the competitions will be much bigger, but 300.00 to register for non bga/rg/scaa members??? and 50.00 to judge??
300.00 is more than half of an average barista's paycheck, not to mention the other 300.00 that people will need to purchase supplies.
Everyone knew fees would be going up this year, but I don't think anyone expected them to triple. Why such a huge increase? Is Oprah hosting?
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Dan Streetman on Mon Jan 10, 2011 11:13 am

Zak,

while I understand your dismay, I think it should be understood how outrageously cheap barista competition registration has been in the past. I'm not exactly sure how specific of information I am privy to reveal, but even at the increased prices registration fees do not even cover the cost of hosting the event. I don't know who you expect to pay for barista competitions, but someone has to, or they won't exist in the future. I don't think anyone in our industry wants to see barista competitions go away.

Making the barista competition financially sustainable also helps us to strategize ways to improve. Everyone calls for more streaming/media, etc. Well, guess what to do that, and do it professionaly, costs serious amounts of money. Money that just has not existed in the system as it has existed.

The other huge mitigating factor here is, member pricing is still only $150, and a BGA membership is $45, so even if you only sign up for the BGA to get your competition discount you are up $100.

$50 to judge? YES!! are you kidding me, where else do you get 3 days of training on how to objectively taste espresso for $50? The amount and type of experience you can gain judging is unparalleled. Being presented with unique coffees, and different service styles, and analyzing objectively why they work, and what is effective about them, can have all kinds of tangible benefits to the cafe environment.

I don't want to speak for anyone here, but I have talked to many owner/operator barista competitors who say they could not put a value on what involving themselves in barista competition has done for their business, and that is from their perspective, measuring how it has taught them to become better coffee professionals.

P.S. Yes Oprah is hosting, and every competitor is getting a Mercedes
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Dan Streetman on Mon Jan 10, 2011 11:31 am

or excerpts from Marcus' desk written for the SCAA Chronicle

Deciding to compete as a barista competitor is an enormous commitment with incredible opportunities in professional growth and development. The new fee structure helps demonstrate that commitment, as well as to articulate transparency in overall event expenses

By evaluating costs to produce a high-quality regional barista competition (roughly $500 per barista per event) we have identified the necessity to increase competitor registration fees
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby jason dominy on Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:14 pm

The bottom line is, it costs a lot of put on these barista competitions. The average cost for each competitor is $500. And sponsors for these events are becoming harder and harder to find in this trying economy. So, the money has to come from somewhere. Still, if you figure, with a BGA membership, your cost is $150, which still leaves $350 the SCAA has to cover for you to compete, which is a benefit to you, not to the SCAA. Start doing the math in your head how much it costs to get a facility that can host that many people, plus has the electrical needs and plumbing needs, plus is easy to travel to/near an airport, plus has a loading dock, plus what it costs to send all the needed equipment and supplies to each venue, plus the manpower from the SCAA to staff and support it, plus insurance, plus, well, you see it adds up quite heftily. They are only asking you as competitors to help shoulder the load for something that primarily benefits you.
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Peter G on Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:57 pm

Great responses from Dan and Jason. Thanks gents.

I just want to add my opinion that a barista competition is a positive miracle of cooperation and mutual support from sponsors, the BGA, SCAA, volunteers, judges, and competing baristas. I think spreading the responsibility (financial and otherwise) among these various parties is smart and very responsible.

I also think there are LOTS of opportunities for competing baristas to approach sponsors themselves to help cover their competing expenses! As a supporter of baristas, I know that I am much more interested in helping baristas offset their competition fees than writing a blanket sponsorship check. I strongly urge baristas to take their destiny into their own hands and seek out support for barista comp fees. I reckon you'll get a lot more support than you might anticipate!

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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Rita Kaminsky on Sun Jan 30, 2011 9:32 pm

Zak and Dan-

Hey guys! As we have all judged competitions together and I consider both of you to be friends, I felt tied to this discussion. I'm not sure how much I can say because I am currently judging- so I'll try to keep it black and white. As of last year, the rules state that judges must participate in two regional competitions before taking part in the USBC. I think that's a great rule to ensure competent and experienced judges, but that's a lot of money.

Let's say you can drive to your regional competition $50
Now you fly to the next regional $300
USBC flight $300

Since judges training is early (and starts with a written test) on Thursday morning, you usually need to be in town by Wednesday night. USBC training starts a day earlier.

Hotel in region 3 nights $300
Hotel in other region 4 nights $400
Hotel for USBC 5 nights $500

One must also ask for 15 days off of work. I'm assuming most of the judges don't have paid vacations and will also have to pay for their own food and transportation. Oy! I've totally low-balled all of these costs and it's still going to be well over $2000 a year.

Okay, I guess that's it. I just wanted to throw those numbers out there and tell you that I agree with both of you, but in reality it's way more than $45 BGA fee or the $50 (x3) SCAA judging fee. It's truly a wonderful experience and I'm always thrilled to volunteer my time. I'm so lucky to have a boss that supports me, but I do wish it could be a little more affordable for others. That's a lot of money and time in our industry.
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby zak on Sat Feb 05, 2011 3:12 pm

Also very curious if there was a rule change regarding competitors who judged the year before. I was under the impression that if you judged the previous year, you had to take the next year off from competition. Is that no longer the case?
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby zak on Sat Feb 05, 2011 8:03 pm

Nevermind, answered.
Thanks Marcus!
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby ryan brown on Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:17 pm

Does anyone representing SCAA have any dissenting thoughts on Rita's post?
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby nick on Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:02 am

Ryan, I'm not SCAA and I don't represent the SCAA. I was chair of the USBC back in 2009, and I have been active with the association for years. I won't rehash some of the points others have made here and in other places online, but I do have a couple of additional thoughts:

1) The SCAA is a mutual benefit association of dues-paying members. There seems to be a fairly common misunderstanding or misconception out there that the work of the SCAA, funded by membership dues and various fundraising efforts (Expo revenue, sponsorships, participation fees, etc.) should benefit everyone equally, both members and non-members. Now it's obvious (to those truly paying attention) that the work of the SCAA extends throughout the coffee industry, but that comes with the territory.

Now this topic has popped up here and there around a few industry websites: that there's a higher cost of entry for non-members to compete at barista competitions or to judge. $300 to compete, $50 to judge, if you're not a member of the SCAA, BGA, or Roasters Guild. $150 and $0 if you are. There have been member and (higher) non-member prices for everything else that the SCAA charges for. Everything. Except for barista competition dues. They were $50 for both members and non-members. That changed this year.

People have thumbed their nose at the SCAA in the past, asking the semi-rhetorical question: "Why should I be a member? What's the value of membership?" Many of those same folks have now been seen complaining about the new fees schedule. There'd frankly be indeed no value for membership if non-members enjoy everything that members do.

I think you follow what I'm saying. It's an Association. It's not the government. To put it bluntly: membership matters. To put it more harshly: non-members really have little place to complain about anything. It's frankly pretty unreasonable that someone would complain about what things cost to non-members, especially when a BGA membership costs $45. This leads to my next point…

2) Value. If there's value in something for you at the price it's offered at, then great. If it's not worth it to you, then that's too bad, and it means that a) you can't afford it (which is truly a shame, but more on this later), or b) it's inappropriately expensive (in which case the system will fail and result in necessary changes or a collapse).

The competition rosters for the first three regionals have been full. The competitor fees went up by $100 for members, and enough people have found enough value in participation at that price.

Price increases suck. No doubt. But Marcus and others at SCAA have made their case. You don't have to like it, but I see no way to argue against the necessity to do what was done. The only responses have been from people making up bullshit what-if shouldda-couldda scenarios or baseless and ignorant conspiracy theories. And you know what? A few of those folks ended up signing up and showing up after all of their bellyaching.


I know what I'm writing here sounds a little harsh and scornful. I apologize for that. I've just been really annoyed at a lot of the b.s. and punditry out there recently about this issue. This thread is frankly the most level-headed and free-of-bullshit discussion about this topic. Hope this helps somewhat.
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Anthony Rue on Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:00 am

Nick,

I'm not gonna touch the bits of your argument where personal emotions have led to overdetermination and logical fallacies, but I will ask a question that I've not seen posted elsewhere:

How come the US competition fee structure is so out of whack with the rest of the world? Best as I can tell from looking at the history via Google, the Canadian competition costs $75cd with no price differentiation based on professional organization. The UK barista competition costs $54 usd to enter, $40 usd if you are a member of SCAE/UK. Is there anywhere in the world where the fees are as high as in the US, or where fees are leveraged to try to force people to join an organization? If the USBC is a feeder-competition for the WBC, why is it so far out of line with the rest of the world? (non-English speakers, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but my translations skills are not up to tracking down the fees in Africa, Europe, South American, or Asia...)

You can try to make the case that the competitions should rightfully be the exclusive privilege of organization members, but that appears to be not only out of line with the rest of the world but with the stated goal of the what competition in the US is looking for in a barista:

A. Has a mastery of technical skills, craftsmanship, communication skills and who is passionate about their profession, in addition to service.
B. Has a broad understanding of coffee knowledge and serves high quality beverages.
C. May serve as a role model and a source of inspiration for others.

There's no mention of SCAA/BGA membership in anywhere in the USBC rules, nor does it appear that the USBC system is designed to exclusively promote the SCAA. As you say, the work of the SCAA extends through the industry. Not every shop can afford to join the SCAA, not every barista can afford the BGA. But that doesn't mean that the USBC should any anyway discourage non-members from participating. That would be terribly short-sighted and counter-productive. The opposite should be true-- by organizing events that bring in and benefit non-members, they actually will be building a more robust organization by building a stronger community. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Man, I'd love to see the Andrew Brewbart buffoonery put to rest and an honest discussion/debate emerge. Because it's pretty clear that there are fundamental cracks in the USBC organization that will need to be addressed before they loose all of their sponsorship and it's too late to save. And that would be a shame. While I think that it's healthy to engage in public debate about these issues (and could care less if Nick thinks it is " bullshit what-if shouldda-couldda scenarios, baseless and ignorant conspiracy theories or bellyaching"), it's also something that I feel passionately enough about to participate in as both a judge and a competitor.
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Dan Streetman on Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:41 am

Rita,

you do not have to judge at two regionals to judge at USBC, but if you do judge 2 regionals you get out of the first day of judges training at USBC.

You don't have to tell me that it is expensive to travel to regional competitions (I've traveled to 14 of them in 3 years). I'm not sure what you expect the SCAA to do about hotel, and airline fees however.
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Dan Streetman on Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:46 am

Anthony,

I'm not sure what evidence you would use to support "fundamental cracks in the USBC structure", but I'm sorry I think you are engaging in the same kind of buffoonery you claim your opponents are.

Sorry everyone but these competitions do cost a lot of money to put on, and it is really tiring to defend things at every corner. Because a lot of the expenses get put into providing things that people have asked for in the past, and when/if they are done away with people will complain about again.

Case in point, anytime we go to a reasonably priced venue, everyone complains that it is lame, not cool, boring, and "no one wants to come here" Well guess what... you can not have it both ways... We either spend serious dough (up to several grand a day) on cool venues etc, or we don't and go to places where people will work with us on the fees.

Please don't even get me started on video/live streaming.
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Anthony Rue on Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:59 am

Dan Streetman wrote:you do not have to judge at two regionals to judge at USBC, but if you do judge 2 regionals you get out of the first day of judges training at USBC.


Dan,

I'd love to see some additional clarification. I asked Scott last week while at Atlanta about judging at USBC, and he told me that the rules had been changed to require either judging at one regional prior to USBC or WBC judging certification in lieu of judging at a regional-- that you couldn't take the two day workshop _without_ prior regional judging, and (if I was understanding him correctly) the only way to skip the first day of the two-day workshop was to be WBC certified.

The official PDF seems to need some clarification on the point. In various sections, it mentions 2008-09 judging requirements, 09-10 requirements, and 2011 requirements-- but it isn't in line with what Scott told me as head judge.

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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Dan Streetman on Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:42 am

Anthony,

good questions, let me ask the Judges crew for clarification on the subject and I will disseminate. I am fairly confident in my response but I do not want to add the confusion.
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby nick on Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:47 am

Anthony Rue wrote:How come the US competition fee structure is so out of whack with the rest of the world?

There are many reasons for this:
1) Many prices for many things are simply "out of whack" when you compare them from country to country. Our espresso machines cost much more to buy, sometimes more than double the price, in certain other countries compared to the US.
2) The value proposition is different. In MOST other countries, private companies host their national barista competitions, NOT a non-profit. For them, the prestige and marketing exposure from hosting the event offsets the fact that the event is negative-profit.
3) Many of those in the "rest of the world" charge admission to watch their competitions.
4) Prices pertain to costs. Remember, SCAA is NOT profiting from the barista competitions. Even then, "profit" for a non-profit means revenue for programs. The event is STILL nets out negative-profit, even worse when you factor in the labor costs involved.
5) Volume. We have, even at a reduced "six," more regional events than any other country in the world.
6) Sponsorship. Sponsorship dollars are in short-supply, especially in this economy. In other countries, the vast majority of which are much smaller than the US (usually in geography but certainly in the size of its specialty coffee market), the pond being smaller often means that the landscape is very different, and the value proposition (see #2 above) changes the "market" for sponsorship dollars greatly.
7) Professionalism. As you'll recall, in the past, regional events were hosted by local companies with SCAA supporting the competition itself. This led to a huge difference in quality these events, often effecting the ability of the competitors to perform as they prepared to. These events had cost the hosts between $5000 and $10000 per host, even with sponsorship. Now the SCAA hosts the event, but cannot afford to carry the $30,000-$60,000 sum, on top of the already increased costs to the Association (labor, etc.).
8) Some of those other countries have really wonderful, professional events. Most have very shabbily-produced events. You'd be surprised.
9) 220V power. For most event-hosting venues, each 220V-30A power drop costs over $1000 for a three-day event. Many other countries have that electricity readily available.

I could go on.

Anthony Rue wrote:The opposite should be true-- by organizing events that bring in and benefit non-members, they actually will be building a more robust organization by building a stronger community. A rising tide lifts all boats.

"A rising tide..." is a nice idea. But what you're doing is trying to defend the idea of sitting in one boat not contributing as the other boats are working their asses off to raise the tide. This is an incredibly weak argument.

Tony, like I said, price increases suck. Period. I think we can all agree on that. If you haven't read Marcus Boni's response on the subject, it's here.

"Because it's pretty clear that there are fundamental cracks in the USBC organization that will need to be addressed before they loose all of their sponsorship and it's too late to save." is sensationalistic, and exactly the kind of statement I was referring to. C'mon man. Nothing is perfect. Sausage-making is often unpleasant. The fact is, the SCAA is a non-profit organization that serves its members and therefore the community. The only reason that you're as aware of any "cracks in the USBC organization" is because the SCAA's work is generally an open book. Nobody's trying to hide anything, but nobody's perfect either.

In the previous structure, there were 10 event hosts, plus the SCAA staff director (Michelle then Marcus) planning and managing execution of the ten events. Now, there is Marcus Boni planning 6 events, executing those events, plus the USBC… and that all adds up to only part of Marcus' workload. Why so much work put on one person? Part of it is, frankly, that as those who love him and know him know, Marcus is a workaholic who takes on more than he probably should. The main reason though? The Association can't afford additional staff support right now.

Frankly, while so many are focused on debating the fee change issue, I think that the issue of staff-support is actually the single biggest "threat" to the future of the USBC regional competitions. Marcus needs support, if not to have the USBC regional event management taken off his plate altogether. The inevitable transition can only go smoothly if the USBC structure itself is as strong as it can be. The more everyone can do to support Marcus and the organization... THAT is the proper application of the "rising tide lifts all boats" saying. So let's all focus on raising the tide for all by helping raise the tide, both in our work, and in supporting the organization in this type of discussion.
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Peter G on Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:45 pm

Hey Rita!

Aida just reminded me I never responded to your question. I agree with you- it's an amazing commitment that judges make when they decide to undertake USBC judging.

I would love it if the system allowed us to help cover some travel expenses for judges and other volunteers. But that's simply not a reality, and it probably won't be. I have some experience in other competitions- like surfing competitions- and they don't normally compensate judges either.

These kinds of contests seem to always be supported by an entire community of dedicated, passionate people. It astounds me all the time, and it makes me proud to be a human being, and proud to be a member of the coffee community.

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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Ben Cram on Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:22 pm

I have been involved with the Canadian Barista Championship for the last 2 years. I can honestly say for all the work and money we put into getting ready to compete I think paying an extra $75 would be worth it to improve the overall event. I can only speak for myself and my co workers in this regard but I will say this, every single person I spoke with this year complained about the venue being held out by the Toronto airport. Everyone wanted to be downtown.

The volunteers do an amazing job putting it on at both the regional and national level, (they bust there asses,) and for the most part competitors know and appreciate this but people always point out what's missing. What's better in the states. Digital display clocks, better live feeds, better tables, better venues, enough judges stools for all 3 stations. If I'm not mistaken regional winners in the us get a paid trip to nationals (correct me if I'm wrong here,) and an origin trip through cafe imports. That's not the case in Canada, you pay your own way all the way.

Like Nick said, "price increases suck"... but the alternative might suck worse.
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Re: New Competition Fees

Postby Dan Streetman on Tue Feb 22, 2011 6:31 am

USBC judging clarification,


yes we require you to have judged at a regional this year to judge at USBC.

we do not allow anyone to get out of the first day of judges training. (considering exceptions for WBC certified judges)

sorry for any confusion from my earlier statements
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