A Sherpa’s Tale

sherpa porn

This story posted on Facebook is from a Burner who worked as a Sherpa this year at a multi-million dollar camp. We will keep the Burner’s identity anonymous unless they request otherwise. It is a fascinating, some might say shocking, inside look at the fancier side of Black Rock City.

“What!? You mean I’m a Sherpa!?”

A Tale from the K-hole at Burning Man 2014

By: Whatever

The hot Playa topic this year is all about Plug and Play camps and the controversy surrounding the loopholes they find to be able to run profitable business behind their private walls while on the Playa. As someone who appreciates a challenge  and a good story got share, I felt fortunate that I was able to be an employee working in one of these. Yes, I was a sherpa for a camp put in place by one of the members on the board of directors for Burning Man.

To avoid any possible issues surrounding my story , I’m going to go ahead and just use different names for everyone involved and the exact title of camps I am talking about. My intention is not to hurt any individual’s reputation. I will just share my experience of something that I personally believe is a true example of  how someone could actually do it wrong at Burning Man.

Burning man 2014 had a whole lot of talk buzzing around about all of these “turnkey” or “plug and play” type camps.

I noticed while walking down K that placers of the event seemed to have cleverly placed most plug and play camps on the outer ring of the city. This K hole (AKA Kandahar st) was lined with what I saw to be, a lot of over worked, money driven, employees and employers. Many of these types of camps are just boring closed off spaces that only allow the norms walking by to see nothing but endless lines of RV’s. Some of these camps, however, are a lot more creative and interactive with the BM festival itself. after all, an eye catching artistically designed camp would be a brilliant  way to rent out a luxurious full service suite for someone planning a vacation to the fabulous Black Rock City.

The product that these camps, like the one I worked in,  sell is an experience to last a life time. If you can afford the $17,000 vacation, you will be provided the best and most comfortable facade of the burning man festival Your purchase will make sure that you not be bothered by all those time consuming tasks like cooking, cleaning, building, and whatever else the lower class citizens do, in order to enjoy the best party EVER.  As our customer/client/guest  you will fly in to the city, be picked up by a hired driver in one of the shuttles we provide. Our guest will then  arrive to a beautifully decorated room filled with everything they need, including a real cow skin rug and lamp with a dimmer switch. The guests will be fed, watered, dressed, cleaned up after, driven around on art cars, and basically be waited on for all possible needs by a team of people that are hired to do so.

Of course, not all plug and play camps are in it for a monetary profit. they don’t all contain “guests” that are expecting to do no work.  I truly believe Some artist simply have expensive visions and need funds to bring them to life. They provide services for people that would like to  share in this vision. The clients paying for a room and experience are able to support the vision by contributing from their check books.  They benefit from receiving certain luxuries…some of which might make people question how “self reliant” that really is. They don’t need to spend the time and energy of getting there hands dirty in building them. These types of ” pay and players” are not “guests” but actual members of the city that generally share the same love of gifting that the city is based on. I feel that since the spirit of burning man is a hard one to ignore, these more vision driven, and not all the way, but still a little, profit driven camps are full of paying guests that help out anyways with what needs to be done in camp.  Call me a dreamer, but maybe they even  volunteer at canter camp or greeters while they are there. To an optimist, This scenario could be viewed as  more of an energy exchange instead of a business man looking for a profit.  It can work out as a perfect dynamic for some camps that have such massive concepts to create.

I have been a citizen of BRC for 7years. My first burn was in 2008 at the age of 18. I will be the first to admit that radical self reliance was not something I succeeded at while spending a couple hours preparing to party for a week.   I was not even close to having what I needed. I just had a bikini, a tent I borrowed from my boyfriend in chicago, a ticket and ride paid for by someone else, and of course,  my high expectations and strong sense of entitlement. I arrived already completely relying on others to make this happen for me. not very burning man is it?   I had to arrive to Burning Man  before I understood why I should give any attention to trying to live by some principles. I needed to see them in action with everyone else and  have countless veteran burners shove this gifting ideology down my throat for a couple days before I really understood that this was a mind blowingly beautiful way to live together as humans. only then my walls began to break down exposing the bright core that was hiding inside. the full blown awakening happened while i watched the walls of my tent break down from the inside of an RV.

All of my bags left wide open inside of the tent I borrowed from my boyfriend, whom I would soon leave for a Burning Man lover. The tent I put so much half assed effort building was being ripped out of ground. everything that I brought to the playa had been totally broken and transformed, including myself. That same night I watched the man burn and was so overwhelmed by how this dumb effigy could be such a perfect representation of myself. It completely broke down and changed in to nothing so that it could be rebuilt over the next year in to a newer version of itself. WOW. I just found my new home and I needed to share it and be part of it.

Since then, I have been involved in several different camps over the years.   They ranged from 10 to 200 people.   I have been part of teams in charge of preparing food for our camp, fund raising, building, bar tending, cleaning, greeting,decorating, serving coffee at center camp, spritzing strangers with water, standing behind the counter of the hug deli and  anything else I could do. The  tool that builds my happiness is the recognition that when  I when give away freely, anything that I love to receive I end up gaining much more than dancing at robot heart every night until sunrise. Getting my hands dirty ends up being a lot more fun than keeping them clean.

For 6 years I never ever attempted to, or even considered that I could receive payment for Any “work” I have done for BM.

Burning man is a gift economy after all… It would be crazy to want to change that.  right??

For the burn of 2014 I had been invited to work on a paid gig for a plug and play camp that I’ll refer to as  ” Popsicle camp”. I sent in a resume of my Burning Man experience, a photo of myself, signed contracts that I didn’t read, filled out tax forms, and wrote a brief description explaining my character and purpose.  I must say, it was fucking awesome to  write a resume about my  burning man experience.  BM is where I go to over indulge myself in having zero real world responsibilities. No plans or expectations just me doing what I love and choosing to be involved in any way i wanted.  my only reason to do anything was simply because i wanted to do it for the experience of doing it. there was no sort of expectation of a return. My efforts were merely gifts given to others for my own enjoyment.

About a month before the event I attended an interview to meet  my new temporary boss. (I will call him “Pete” for this story)

I entered to a room of a Beverly Hills hotel and was relieved to see Pete resembling  some sort of guru vibe in all white cotton clothing. He was sitting on the floor with is bare feet and showing off his colorfully painted toe nails. perfect! a burner like me! SOLD!

During the meeting Pete was passionately expelling how he had created this camp which had a greater underlying purpose and intention. He described himself as social activist who didn’t wear it on his sleeve. He inspires change by changing people’s perception through experiences.  He described his intention as a place that is a total work of art and lavish gift for everyone to enjoy. The camp would bring in some powerful and influential people to join. The experiences that our camp would provide them would be a way of encouraging their own personal transformation. The perspective of these important people would shift and they would be able to change things in our society. well, It is a good reason to have a plug and play camp isn’t it? If luxury promised is what will get these people to this place, then lets give them that. We will do the work in order to give the gift of perception inception in their minds.

The big spending and Idea having man with plan that put pete in charge will be called “JT” for the sake of this story.

JT is a CEO of a leading healthcare investment fund valued at $650 million. He is a 6x burning man lover  and a very discreetly added new member for the burning man board of directors.  Pete worked for JT the year before by throwing  a party for JT and his friends on the playa. That year I assume that it was another paying gig for pete.

Popsicle Camp would have 120 customers that will pay $17,000 each to be taken care of by 50 employees working for a wage that was capped.

The invitation/brochure to entice the paying customer to buy was amazing. I was in love! not because of the job, but because of the vision. I have never seen a burning man camp with so many promises focused on the most beautiful and positive intentions. there was a massive budget and structured execution plan that was so detailed and tight. These people knew what they were doing and had planned every little detail to achieve perfection. there was no stopping this ball from rolling.

Of course, As to be expected, with any burning man plan with such extreme expectations that required so many players,  these expectations were quickly turning themselves in to disasters the moment this production set foot in BRC. after all, this place is known to be one of the most humbling environments on the  planet and  is notorious for extreme unpredictable weather and citizens alike.

The building crew for the neighboring camp was in collaboration with our camp. 90% of our camp had been built and designed  by the neighboring camp. Lets call this camp “the Missing Motel” The Leader of this camp is a brilliant visionary that seemed to be very passionate about inspiring creativity with his own art. The Missing Motel rented our camp these extremely unique and beautifully constructed canvas “rectangles” that would be homes to myself and guests included. Missing Motel Build lovingly crafted every single detail of  popsicle camp. Everything from our private bathrooms, our rectangles,  and every piece of furniture in it,  the lay out of the camp itself and a majority of the beautiful details that made this camp an actual art instillation to be admired by everyone passing by.   Popsicle camp, from my perspective, had just invested money in property that would use to just rent out to cover the expenses and then make a profit as well. The money  popsicle camp paid to the motel  would go towards funding a large portion of the actual missing motel itself. which of course would be constructed out of the same rectangles and beautiful bathrooms. I was told by a member of the motel that the price my camp paid to rent 1 rectangle, would be used to pay the cost of producing and building 2 rectangles for the motel.

It was a Missing Motel containing over 100  of these rectangles stacked to 3 storys and that are made of canvas and wood. every person who stayed in these rectangles is staying in a literal empty canvas. A temporary home/art piece revolved around a desire to inspire anyone who enters.

The motel crew was expected to arrive the monday before the festival in order to begin building the popsicle camp and their own camp as well. Due to circumstances that were uncontrollable, the motel crew ended up missing the first 2 days so they started the entire thing already behind. the first unfulfilled expectation had begun sparking an immediate tension between the two camps.

On the Invitation and registration for popsicle camp they promised  to provide flushing porcelain toilettes that visitors of our art could learn about and experience as well. these were not just places to dump waste, but were actually considered to be art installations. the design of the sinks, toilet paper holders, and even  the stairs to walk up to them were all creative pieces that would inspire and a beautiful element to something that is usually unpleasant on the playa.

The tragic outcome of this promise turned in to criminally over worked staff members that were contractually obligated to spend countless hours with out any extra pay to be dealing with the shit of the customers giving us money. It continued to disappoint when there was actually never a real intention to share these with visitors. These were strictly for popsicle camp customers and employees ONLY. even The neighboring camp that created and built them were not allowed to use them. The gift for us to be able to share with visitors became a members only, selfishly enjoyed, porcelain toilette shit show of an art instillation. A clear demonstration of  some false advertisement I believed. The “efficient” showers and toilettes  of our 170 person village would use around 1000 gallons a day, or so I have been told.  They ended up breaking constantly. This meant that crew that was hired to teach about MOOP, run electricity, and do structural building, and tear down, were suddenly required to spend insanely long hours cleaning up shit.  When they could no do it, pete would be over at the missing motel demanding their services. This ended up happening the entirety that I was there. The staff was also told that absolutely none of the people from the missing motel were allowed in our bathrooms. Even the ones that built them. pete clearly struggled with the reality that everything was not going exactly as planned. His high expectations were crashing to the playa ground in front of him and showing what his real intentions were. He ended up having a fit at the artist and leader of the missing mote.l in the middle of the street one afternoon. The topics he screamed about were mainly focused on money. expressing that He paid this much so the motel owed him this much work and things regarding contracts and expectations . The artist patiently stood there, watching the breakdown of someone losing control. pete was so desperate to establish his dominance he went as far as unplugging the music to the missing motels camp. all the while the artist being disrespected and degraded stood there patiently and acted as a blank canvas for peter to express his emotions on.

Our camp had a couple of art cars that we rented from other artists. Our staff would be in charge of driving. They would directed to only allow members of the camp to ride on them. The DMV rules of the festival require that any art car driving is required to be for public enjoyment. We were told to go against those rules and be sure that we maintain our members VIP status.

Popsicle camp advertised to customers and to Placement that they would build a lounge out on the street in front our walls that would be cooled to 45º and contain a bar inside where hot and dusty passers by could enter to cool down and indulge. there were was said to be  be one of our guests/paying customers passing out our specialty eco friendly popsicles as gifts. Every paying customer in our camp would actually be “REQUIRED” to do this . The front of our camp was advertising that a second  iced tea/water lounge would be on the street and all of our customers would be there from 2-4pm every day passing out even more popsicles to people.

Neither of these structures had been built. There just happened to be more important priorities, which revolved around making sure that the paying customers never needed to use a porta potty.

I did, however, witness one very nice customer passing the Popsicles out in the front  one day. I’m not sure if that continued much after.

We had a massive dome built that would be open for the public to enjoy. There were specialty drinks, music, dancers, couches, coffee tables with Alex Grey paintings, snacks, and much more. This we did have, and it was BEAUTIFUL.  I only ended up bar tending one shift. I went in ready to rock it. I had invited the people of the missing motel to come and have a drink. During my shift we had many of our paying guests arrive from their air planes. They were welcomed by me with a warm hello and an offer to have a drink. While serving our guests, there were random visitors and the folks from the missing motel. I was told that only our members that had paid to camp there were allowed to have drinks. Considering that we had a visible full bar and a menu containing our specialty cocktails, you could imagine the embarrassment I felt when telling some people they can not have those advertised drinks, and telling others they can. Suddenly our public dome contained some VIP options. “Only those with the VIP wristbands can have a drink, can I offer you a peanut?”

With such a strong focus on making sure the customers had anything their hearts desired, the emotional and physical needs of all of the workers seemed to  never be considered.

There was of course an email from pete stating that

“Each of you on the Event Crew will be expected to work approximately ten (10) hours each day, divided into two (2) separate five (5) hour shifts. You will have a three (3) hour break between shifts. Ultimately each of you is expected to work as long as necessary to fully complete whatever needs to be done. As weather and other factors can quickly change plans on the Playa, please be mentally prepared to do whatever it takes.

We are planning for each of you to get at least one full day off during the week. ”

“Each of you will be compensated $180 of shift pay for each day worked. If you do indeed get a day off during the week, you will not be paid for that day. If you get a half day off, your pay will also be divided in half. There will be no tracking of hours or overtime provided. Each of you is required to complete a W9 form as well as an employee agreement and a waiver of liability to participate as a contractor for this event. ”


So, since things did continue to go wrong, there were people working 15-20hr days leaving them all exhausted. I never was actually given a break or told that I could have one. But I am not the type to hurt myself while on my working vacation. I did take breaks on my own when i needed one, and no one ever was upset, or at least ever expressed it. I was sure to be there when I was needed as to not leave any one hanging.

The pre burn email stated that

“We will work together upon your arrival on Sunday afternoon, from 6pm to midnight, to introduce you to every single element of camp.”

No one ended up EVER receiving a schedule. By tuesday evening, Peter had finally told us what our jobs would actually be. After 3 solid days that everyone had worked well over 10hrs with zero breaks, everyone was exhausted. some had not even left the camp at all, and those that did were only able to do so briefly. Pete and the guy being paid to positively motivate everyone told us at this time that “Inside this camp we are not at Burning Man, We are at work” they then led us around the camp and showed us the duties that we were actually hired to do. It was a lot of bar stuff and food service. The details of how Pete wanted these things done were extremely detailed and had made something that could potentially be really fun in to a very easy job to fail. Why would someone want perfectly measured specialty cocktails at a bar in burning man? How could someone expect a full staff to actually want to work in a festival of self expression with no room to self express? My fire inside was growing with every neurotic detail. This camp was an actual pop up restaurant that even had the same staff of his real restaurant working there. He expected this place to run as close to an actual business as he possibly could. This was not our camp, it was his. I was not at home, I was in a live in JOB.. Just as the walls surrounding us could not have seemed any taller, pete ended the meeting with telling everyone that we were all required to work for the rest of the night knowing that everyone there had already worked a solid 12 hours. He was sure to remind us that our contract said that we agreed to do whatever needed to be done, and that having time off was not a guarantee.

The sad part was that so many of these workers allowed themselves to be treated this way was because peter was also their employer in the default world. The majority of them had never attended the festival before so they did not understand how much this went against everything everything this event is about.  They were, however, fully aware that If they did not meet their expectations at Burning Man, they would risk losing their jobs. Some of these people even had contracts about future business plans that were tied in to this company, so an entire career could be ruined if they walked away.

I had no tie with these people in the future and did what I needed to do for my own sanity, Take a break. I wandered next door to the missing motel. I stood on the third level and looked down at my camp, It was hideous. High walls made up of storage containers and gray yurts. There was a courtyard filled with uniformed bikes and seqways. there was no color to be seen. Behind the camp there was nothing but playa. no art, no camps, no people, just dust and a trash fence in the distance. We were as close as we could be to being outside of the festival. In front of me there was this beautiful chaotic city happening, In the core of stood a tall man with his feel planted solidly on the ground. No stage for him to stand on, simply a man. Behind him there stood a temple crafted with love and filed with a piece of every burners heart. Past that a wooden structure of two people loving one another that was scheduled to burn in a couple of days. there was a very limited time left for me to be part of this event. I spent an entire day not entering the city that I came to be part of. An entire day dedicated to people that built tall walls to separate US from THEM.  This  event is meant to brings people together  and it felt like it was invaded by a wall of money and power there to make sure we would be separate.

I headed back over to the camp after about an hour and walked in another meeting for everyone. This would be the third meeting we had that day. I explained to the positive attitude guy that I needed to take the night off. I would not allow my own needs to be put aside for the sake of making sure the bar was fully stocked the proper way. He was understanding and let me leave. I spent the night contemplating if my commitment to be part of the team was worth sacrificing my own principles. I was in front of the camp on a couch that was meant to be part of our tea serving lounge which was forgotten. I was chatting with a fellow camp mate who felt the way I did about the entire situation and we were approached by a man who wanted to do what burners do, and join our conversation and build a connection. We welcomed him in and filled him in. We were discussing the scenario we had found ourselves in. He informed us that he was actually one of the customers in our camp. He was genuinely sad to hear of how things had turned out. He explain that JT was a close friend and offered to talk to him to see they can help fix this. He offered to see we could be paid more for what we do as a way to make this ok. I was too tired to explain to him that he seemed to have missed the point. I don’t hate him for doing what he thought was the right thing. He wanted to help. I was just sad to see that he had missed the point. How many other people are missing out on the event because they keep trying to pay for it to happen for them?

The next morning the staff had a secret meeting in a yurt where no one else could see us. Every single person in there went around and told their feelings. Every person in this meeting was in tears.

Some girls were talking about how these paying “guests” would grab at them while they were working.

Others were upset because they had been there for over 10 days had still not been able to see what burning man is.

There were virgins that were not allowed to stay for the man burn because peters restaurant back home needed them there, while peter was out of town enjoying his Burning Man experience.

All of these employees were promised to be involved in the Burning Man experience and suddenly found themselves in the most inhospitable environment you could be in and working the same exact jobs they have in the default world. The difference is that their job on the playa is much more difficult to handle and with a capped earning limit paired with a contract allowing their boss to work them as long and as hard as he desires while they stare at a 10ft wall just hearing the noises of the outside world. So many hard working people were only experiencing Burning Man through catering to all of the customers that would be. My new friends had not been able to do anything for themselves and have worked non stop since they arrived. Everyone just kept trying to make it work and stick to it. Do their job and do it well. I was blown away by the dedication, and disgusted at the same time. I walked out of the meeting. I could not watch such amazing people miss out and then help out the person who caused this to happen. How could so many amazing people not see that if they all walked out together the people who need to have to control will be faced with humility and the customers who want to buy our time will have to be faced with the need to be self reliant…which would have been successful in following through with our original intention. I could not allow myself to enable this sort of behavior, and decided I would not be part of this.

The only employees that seemed to be enjoying their jobs fully were the girls that had been hired to have fun. These girls were not considered staff but were paid to be guests. They would be paid to take the men out for fun adventures on the playa and to pay them total attention while at the camp. Their titles were “Mistresses of Merriment”.  Our camp was rumored to have had a satellite camp. I am not sure where it would have been built but it would be a place that our VIP camp members could go if they would not want to be seen. I can have my own judgments on what this all would be intended for, but it is only a rumor as of right now.

I was in the back of the camp when pete came to me and demanded my attention. I was in the middle of speaking a member of the BMorg about what was going on. I walked over to speak with Pete and told him that I was sorry to not be meeting his expectation, but it was a direct result of him not following through with his. He then told me to immediately pack my things and that I was no longer allowed to drink the water or eat the food that I was promised would be provided. He did not hesitate to cut those things off from me, which if I was not prepared, would lead me to be left starving.

2014 caravancicle adI later found a sign posted outside of our camp that stated they were looking to hire a new person to help out. A sign advertising a paying job!!! AT BURNING MAN!!! I wonder how much money they had offered them and if anyone actually took the job.

I kept up with the workers of the camp after I had left. They told stories about guests never washing their own dishes and not cleaning any of their moop. The $900 bikes provided for them were all unlocked and left around the entire festival. They spoke about mr. positive energy guy turning in to a giant pervert that sexually harassed some of the girls working. There were many stories about the poor treatment from the guests and of emotional out bursts by pete. I also heard stories about how many of the guests did seem to have a small transformation, and how there were some fun times being had by everyone.

Was the camp a success? I don’t know. It all depend on who you spoke to I suppose. Maybe the folks who were paid the most would say yes. I know the people who visited the camp generally had some negative experiences. I personally would say that this camp is the GRAND PRIZE WINNER of the VERY FIRST EVER “YOU DID IT WRONG AT BURNING MAN!! YES! REALLY!!” award.

“BUT, what about Radical inclusion?”


193 comments on “A Sherpa’s Tale

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  24. The BMOrg yet does not understand the outrage. They burn Jim Tananbaum in the Wicker Man as the scapegoat, removing him from their board, but, within their Afterburn Report, they state the difficulties with Concierge Camps are solely of that Concierge Camps must be more interactive.

    No, the difficulties with Concierge Camps are in due of they employ Burners as near slaves to cook, and clean, and #nopants, and serve rich arses as it is done in defaultia. Within the prior Burner culture, behaviour in this manner was not appropriate. The change the BMOrg did, burning Dr. Tananbaum within the Wicker Man, while solely changing the name of these camps to Concierge Camps, terming sherpas as concierges, and stating of that the Concierge Camps must be interactive, is most appalling to Burner principles.

    And, they are to pen the non-disclosure clauses within the concierge contracts in a more harsh manner. Good bloody luck in the enforcing of that.

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  45. I worked at this same camp and have a drastically different perception.

    I feel like 80% of the people that visited the camp were impressed and happy and inspired by the vibe and hospitality. 20% came at times when we were serving wine & beer instead of the specialty cocktails to preserve the hard alchohol for our big party. We gave out fruit and popsicles everyday.
    Of course the author (someone who committed to working at the camp and then wasn’t willing to put in the work and was fired) is not the most neutral source of information- as she was clearly looking for evidence to back up her issues with the camp. And the dramatization and negative ‘expose’ of someone there for 2 days while it was still getting dialed is causing a lot of harm to the people who spent months of their life and a lot of love- creating this camp.
    I won’t try to counter every point that I found wrong or over-dramatized. I just want to say that most people who attended, worked, or visited the camp found it an overall positive experience.
    Since this conversation seems to strike a chord– I think instead of going for an easy sensationalized path of blaming or scapegoating some group– there needs to be a larger dialogue about maintaining the integrity and principles of BM while allowing it to get so huge. If the non-commercialism tenet is so important– what about the radical inclusiveness? How do we ensure that the tenets are upheld?
    We need to have a mature dialogue and be creative in inviting people to raise their standards of hospitality and inclusiveness… not degenerate to finger pointing and exaggerated slandering.
    I personally see it as a WIN that we (burning man) have gotten so irresistable that millionaires are compelled to join… and an opportunity to build bridges and make more amazing stuff happen both there and in the ‘normal’ world. Why would we want to burn that bridge and scapegoat these people?? I am all for maintaining high standards and inviting everyone to step up their game. For integrity and accountability. Let’s just keep the Openness and friendliness that makes people want to participate.

    • Yikes. Your posted perspective here misses much of the point, and seems to ignore why people have gotten upset. If your “open bar” needs to differentiate between who’s paid to be there (or gifted a spot in your camp) vs. who is just a regular playa peon, so you know who gets wine/beer vs. who gets a specialty cocktail, you’re certainly NOT being “radically inclusive.” It completely flies in the face of what Burning Man is all about for so many people. In that case, why not just keep the bar closed. Have some tact and be discreet about what you have, vs. what others don’t. Anything less is just rude.

      So the Sherpa made a commitment to this job, realized it wasn’t what she wanted for her Burn experience, and quit. Happens all the time with employment, no big deal. What disturbed most people was that after that, “Pete” withdrew the promise of shelter, food and water for this human being. In the desert.

      If you don’t see the wrong in that, I’m not sure there’s hope for reasonable dialogue on the subject.

      • ‘Was there something else?’

        Yes, mizsophia owns an awesome business providing most burnerly circus acts, providing fire spinners to events. Might she have organized circus acts for the K street Cirque Gitane within 2014, might that possibly be her sherpa labours? Might employing Burners as circus acts be the rationale of the 2015 theme being a Carnivale, a Circus, with the theme purposed towards assisting the Concierge Camps to provide interactivity towards the community?

        My belief is Larry must go, in the same manner as Dr. Tananbaum.

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  47. Reblogged this on Terry Gotham and commented:
    The plug-and-play dialog continues along, with this account, via a “sherpa.” The multi-million dollar camps had vets hook them up, and they’ve given an account of what went down. Suffice it to say, shit’s fucked up and crazy. Enjoy the read my friends, and understand that this may not be something that can be reversed. This is the desert of the real, in all its non-participatory glory.

  48. OK, since we’re all talking… I’ve been now for 10 years and this was my best year yet. For personal reasons maybe, but the best just the same. Thank you all for that. And I have worked there a few times in the past…. $1000 to drive a truck in from LA and my labor a few of times for a free ticket. It was great. But *I* was always free. They were grateful when I showed up to work. That may be different now… contracts scaring people… But this tourist trade made the New York Times (and you’re all angry) – and that gives me hope. Rich people should have fun too – just not at the expense of others. Good on you for not working yourself too much. But does anyone out there think Pete the Promoter is really going to sue for damages because you didn’t show up to your 8AM tantric dome building session at burning man? He’s got more to lose. That might be the real lesson here. Think on that (and we do have playa names for a reason 😉

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  51. I want to raise awareness on using ‘Sherpa’ vs. ‘sherpa’. ‘Sherpa’ with a capital S refers to the ethnic group people of people, while small S ‘sherpa’ refers to the trekking support activities Sherpa people have become largely identified with. Indiscriminate usage of these can be disrespectful to people and is in conflict with a community that’s adamant about issues like headdresses being disrespectful to both Native Americans and LNT values.

    Before anyone voluntarily labels themselves a sherpa or intentionally gets paid to be one for Burning Man, please also consider the amazing levels of superhuman effort, individual and communal responsibility, situational awareness, and life-threatening activities required of most real sherpa on a daily basis for almost no monetary reward. If you do voluntarily or by employment identify as a sherpa why not try and emulate most Sherpa and do your work with extreme humility, selflessness, strength, and a peaceful smile, and actively help create transformative experiences for others, without sacrificing your own values.

    That last statement is one way to help the PnP ‘issue’ (which at it’s core is to me the larger ‘observer vs participant’ issue): If you’re a sherpa, act like a Sherpa. PnP camp attendees and the larger group of observers expecting an experience with minimal participation aren’t going anywhere. Increasing numbers will show up with the expectation that an appearance = an experience, diluting it all more and more. But for the ’appearance’ camps, it’s the experienced sherpa with the real power to turn observers into participants and keep that spark of transformation alive by exemplifying the values. Don’t let the walled observer vibe around you oppress you and think you are some ‘powerless’ servant and this bad sherpa playa experience is happening to you; you always have the power to make the experience you want and give it to others. If you can’t make change that way, go back to the Cacophony roots – prank those observer fuckers, be subversive. And if all else fails – you are at Burning Man: walk out on the street, hug a new friend, go to their camp.

    • I really like this perspective: if you’re a sherpa, try to act like a Sherpa. Be proud of your actions, others are relying on you, be strong and carry the load. Complete the mission, even if it takes stamina.
      Pranking can only backfire, as it will encourage many more rich people to close ranks, and turn what only looked a bit like fortresses, into actual walled compounds with security. There are many rich people at Burning Man who participate to the max, why should they be punished because of BMOrg’s policy? Protests are more effective when seen, that means Center Camp, Esplanade, First Camp, The Man, The Temple.

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  53. I have no sympathy for you Sherpa Girl. You filled out tax forms and signed a contract which based the hours you would agree to work, on what is quite possibly THE MOST unpredictable thing on the planet….the weather at Burning Man. You were going against the 10 Principles, you knew that, and you did it anyway. Then it all blew up in your face. Anybody that has ever taken even a pup tent, a bicycle, or a flashlight for that matter, to BRC could tell you the odds are very good that it will not go according to plan. You weren’t a Virgin Burner…you should have known better.

    You do make a good point tho’, about your “customers” missing out on the experience as much you and your fellow slaves. I do have a tiny amount of sympathy for the Mega Plug-n-Players. They are cut of the same stone as the spoiled brats on stupid MTV shows like Cribs or My Sweet 16 and seem to find no value in anything unless it can be described in amounts of money spent. “These shoes costed $10,000 !!” “This tent costed $20,000 !!” blah,blah,blah. They will probably never know that handing out $5000 worth of popsicles or $10,000 worth of gourmet cheese sandwiches from their million-dollar Megaplex Monstrosities and their VIP Art Cars built by slave-labor doesn’t even compare with meetings of random strangers who may provide nothing more than a light, a foot of duct tape or a hug when you most need it. They won’t ever know the fun of spending months to build something just to burn it to the ground. They will never know the beauty of sitting thru a whiteout dust storm in deep Playa with a pretty girl (you don’t have to pay to do it) from their Exclusive Palaces of Porcelain Toilets That Don’t Work. I pity their souls…if they have any.

    I don’t remember the exact quote or who said it, but… when something has become a caricature of itself, it has died… when and if, Burning Man becomes nothing more than a bunch of rich fools all trying to out-do each other, keeping score in dollars earned-or-spent and paying servants to make it all happen THEN it WILL be dead even if there are 100,000 people out there.

    Hopefully, these people will learn to enjoy BRC for what it is before they turn it into the next Vail or Las Vegas. And if they don’t learn? Well then they can Fuck Off because I’ll find a New Secret & Awesome Town AND THEY WON’T BE INVITED.

    • I have to say I am really impressed with how she’s handling all of this… I’m appreciating her sincere writing style and forthcoming nature about it all. One of my favorite comments of hers so far:

      “I believe saying they are ‘not living up to the standards of the community’ is not very fair. Every camp is different and every person has a different experience. Some people would never make it there with out first attending a sort of plug and play style, and some of those may actually feel the desire to begin participating. The standards of the community is broad subject, considering how unique we all are.

      besides that, I was personally thinking about starting a camp that I would call “sherpa refugee camp” we would have volunteers go to turn key camps and rub the shoulders and wash the feet of sherpas and then hand out flyers for our camp. our camp would contain bunk beds, a bar, and food that people would donate. we would also deliver letters of resignation for them if they ran away to our camp.”

  54. Here’s an alternate title for this story… “Leaving Lost Wages” lol, (how playa lessons never end)… me wonders if the thing about this event and why burners.me is so damn conipulating is that it’s that art thing… That it’s good art if it stirs shit up..

    On another note… can’t remember who told me how they wandered into a lavish camp at the back of the city and had a magical experience in a grand chandelier ballroom feast on the edge of nowhere… guess they slipped through a chink in the armor of the belly of the beast. Reminds me of the first cacophony santacon, when we crashed mobbed a party at the Fairmont Hotel ballroom and all the wealthy diners figured we were a special hired act… totally classic, guzzling wine bottles off their tables and dancing the ladies off their feet, before the security came and next to muscled santa out of our next stop at the Tiki bar.

  55. I’m a 7 year Burner with my first being 2001. I commented to a friend this year “Man there are a lot of segways and they aren’t even decorated.” After reading this, I feel like a dummy. I was nieave to think this something like this could never happen. I feel like my experience was for someone else’s entertainment. “Hey, look at all the Burners! Look at what they’re doing. This place is nuts! Where’s the Disney Man gift shop? I’m going to HAVE to buy a shirt.”

  56. I feel terrible for what you went through. You do however bare some responsibility for trying to make money while at BM. I don’t buy the intentions thing unless you are naive and it doesn’t sound like you are. It is the same attraction in the default world to celebrity life style. People will take a certain amount of abuse if they get to hang out with the rich and affluent. In burning man temptations like fancy camps, air conditioning, private bathrooms, gourmet food and fancy cocktails are what draws people into these camps not to forget the connections and the click that it will create in the default world. We are all taking part in what BM has become. We all go for the seat on the art car and don’t care if our mate didn’t make it.

    • Zal, I’d say you’re really speaking for yourself when you say “We are all taking part in what BM has become. We all go for the seat on the art car and don’t care if our mate didn’t make it”, and not the vast majority of people.

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  58. BM hasnt been truly “free” for years now…

    Last time I checked, it was almost $400 just to get into BM…Into THE DESERT..Dont fool yourself. The BM of old is no more. It hasnt been for roughly 20 years now…Sure you can enjoy a good party and “burn” but those principals are a joke…

    • Blazeaglory…you seem to forget that with a growing crowd of people attending BM, the cost of the wonderful things provided to us by the BM Org (the event organization as a whole, a ticket vendor, the “What, Where, When” books, potties, ice, a med tent, etc.) inevitably must grow. There’s this little thing called inflation that nothing is immune to. Nothing in life is truly free, but BM does everything it can to embrace the free society more than any organization on earth. And the principles (spelled correctly, I should point out) are, in fact, being 100% honored. There is no principle that says, “Radical Never-Spend-Money-To-Prepare-for-Burning-Man.” But as this article was written to bring about a conversation on the plug-and-play camps, I invite you to share your thoughts on the actual topic at hand…unless of course, you haven’t been going to the burn for 20 years or so and thus, have nothing current to contribute.

      • the only part of the event costs that has really been increasing is payroll and “BLM and Other”. Even though BMOrg haven’t been hiring, and BLM haven’t increased their cut…hmmm…wonder if “Other” and “Decommodification, LLC” have anything in common?

        The cost of inflation is borne by the Burners, not BMOrg. BMOrg have been increasing ticket prices much faster than inflation, I should do a post on that.

        • When I went in 1994 the ticket was $150. $150.00 in 1994 had the same buying power as $239.76 in 2014. A Burning Man ticket was what, $400 this year?

          • Wait, what? I think your memory is faulty, or you got ripped off.

            My first burn was in 1996, and the ticket was $35.

            Backed up by this thorough article: https://ignitechannel.com/burning-man-tickets-evolutionary-tale/

            Although, I think prices rose as the event got closer. I bought one from the “box office” on Wednesday — it was at some saloon outside Reno as I recall, and you had to get there before 11 PM otherwise you’d have to sleep in a parking lot for them to open up the next day. I’ll have to dig around to see if I still have the ticket, but I know for certain I didn’t pay more than $70.

      • I havent said anything that isnt true have I? I agree with all that you have written but on the same note, you cannot fool yourself into thinking that BM is actually “Free” and that the everyone abides by or holds true the “principals”… The topics you bring up help to prove my point.

        BM is just another big party except this one has evolved from something much deeper and takes place in the desert with some “principals”.

        I know all about BM as I first attended back in the early 90’s when it was still almost FREE with a registration list and no tickets or fence. I have been to BM almost every year since (excluding this year)

        Anyways, Plug and play camps fall into the inevitable transformation of BM into just another big party. I could care less what rich people do with there money and I do know that some of that money goes to fund projects on the playa. I believe in letting people live their lives and to each their own. If rich people want to seclude themselves in “plug and play” camps, so be it. I quite like the camps when I need to relax. I can always talk my way into most “plug and play” camp’s and relax in the AC and grandeur but I prefer the playa and my RV…For me, BM is a chance to shed my yearly skin and immerse myself into other people’s life’s while getting SHIT FACED wasted on multiple substances and then getting laid.

        My entire point is that BM is an IDEA masquerading as a big party in the desert. If you really think about it, we are all MOOP when on the playa…

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  61. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. I used to say “OK these camps exists, but they do their stuff and I see no problem in this”. But now… I really understand how poor they are, in their hearts, their meaning of the burn experience, their notion of respect, how wrong they are and most of all how dangerous it can be if many other camps like this one keep on going to the burning man.

    I feel sorry for your bad experience, you did the right thing in leaving this slavery.

    We have to be careful with this or soon the playa will be filled with tourists bus, and the solution is not the one said in some other comments : we don’t have to abandon burning man for other festivals due to these rich unrespectful people.


    • well said – like you, I used to think we can’t fight this so we have to tolerate it, but this Sherpa’s tale has made me change my position. It’s not good enough that a $30 million business supports such atrocious worker conditions, both for its own team (DPW) and for the commercial companies it’s cutting deals with to build up this new on-Playa revenue stream.

      All the people saying “Burning Man is not just a party”, have succeeded. Hope they’re happy.

  62. You and the rest of the staff need to talk to a labor law attorney. There are huge violations of both federal and state labor law here. If you are going to make Burning Man a business……you need to run it like a business. That includes providing ALL of the state and federal worker protections. Or pay the consequences.

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  64. Wow. This article inspires a lot of disgust and heartbreak over the slow evolution of the Burning Man experience. It seems like a fair amount of people have already commented with a lot of my thoughts and feelings on this, so… a question:

    These people worked 20 hours at a time with no break, etc, etc. in the default world, this will have violated a number of labor laws. Since paid work has never been really been a part of the playa until recently, I don’t know, but… Isn’t Black Rock City still part of Nevada? Didn’t you have to fill out tax forms? Granted, I don’t know what your contracts stated, and it’s not an ongoing operation that investigators could drop in and observe, but couldn’t these concerns be taken somewhere?

    • There is a ready solution for those that bristle at the devil’s pact involved participating with Burning Man… attend a Regional or unaffiliated burn.

      I went to several this summer (Nest, Nowhere, Borderland) and all of them were very personal, genuine and hewed very closely to my personal values. Creating our camp, visiting others, all out party-time, quiet time for sunrise contemplation, growth, challenges. The Borderland in Sweden was simply magic and is now the home I perennially long for and look forward to creating. Nest was similarly powerful and has had a lasting impact on me, well beyond anything I experienced in BRC.

      Simply put, the depth (if not breadth) of my experience at transformation festivals has been directly inverse to their size: Borderland population: 300 co-creators, Nest: 200.

      And every few years I will re-join my longing Burning Man camp for the heat and spectacle of the big city.

      • I agree with you completely. Burning Man this year was a fantastic, reaffirming, all-out test of my physical and mental capabilities. I had an amazing time.

        It, however, didn’t come close to the feeling I get standing in the field that holds my regional burn (Ohio – Scorched Nuts), looking up at the stars. Scorched is 300 of my closest friends coming together to create something unbelievable.

  65. Horrible story about treatment of people etc. But part of the problem are the so called “veteran” burners like yourself that contribute to it. You make a comment that nothing is sold at burning man. But you agreed before you even went there to sell yourself. You were trying to have your cake and eat it too. You got a burning man ticket to a sold out event and were getting paid to be there . Sure it sounds great. But already you are going against everything the event stands for. Then it wasn’t glamorous or like you thought so you write an article on how terrible these people are for paying money to go a festival of giving.

      • There is a reason these camps are at the 9 o’clock side of K street, They get first crack at all the RV service trucks coming into the city on the service road. I saw many RV dwellers chasing down full or unavailable trucks as they reached my area at 6:30 & D.

    • Plug and Play camps will happen no matter what. A lot of them are not breaking many rules and plenty of people pay for them. So if I could be paid for doing what I would already be doing, then what is the harm? I did not take the job because of the money, I did it to be part of the initial intention set behind it. The intention to change…If you read it it explains why I joined in the first place. The plan of this one was progressive and beautiful. But maybe you did not catch that part…I know it is a long one…

  66. Thank you for sharing your personal story. Darling, don’t worry about the grammar, that is not the point of your telling. However, I would consider taking up the offer for some editing by the kind burner who offered. It may help reach more people, and I think that is worth the effort at this point in the revealing of what is going on. I have been following this PnP/Turnkey Camp story closely upon returning and appreciate all the feedback.

    I was teary-eyed half way through – it really broke my heart for all the people who were missing out. There is a clear and present danger in the commodification of people and objects – those at both the bottom AND the top of the pyramid scheme all suffer, just in different ways. This story really demonstrates what happens when the default world enters the world of Burning Man. For once, we get to be the purveyors of justice against those who think they can buy their way into any experience, and that includes buying people and canned experiences. Some may say there is still a pyramid scheme going on with the Org, but I implore everyone to remember there are more of us than them. By a huge margin. Don’t give up your personal power. Burners have inexhaustible amounts of energy and creativity to create and inspire change.

    It is 100% unacceptable that this PnP was allowed placement by the Org, in addition to all the behind the scenes perks. This board member should be immediately ousted. I also agree with a vast majority of the perspectives shared from smart burners above about labor laws. The default world is full of over-stuffed, addicted, thieving, conniving, power hungry masters of psychopathy that suffer from a terrible sickness. I urge our community to call out their behaviors and force them into the open for all to see. This is a far cry from Burnier-Than-Thou; in fact this is about standing up for our principles. No one else is going to do it for us.

    • I would be willing to bet that not only will this continue next year with more luxury camps being added, but the org will allow more board members to join them in order to protect their investment in the luxury camps while the prices to “rent a luxury spot on the Playa” will only go higher.

      The BM feedback request are out there, so be sure to fill them out, although I assume at this point they will probably be treated like writing a member of the U.S. Congress. There might be a polite reply, but in the end money is what matters most to them now, so nothing much wll be done to change the way things are. The owners are running BM to make a massive profit, and as usual with these types of things, the greedy feel the only thing better than a lot of money is a lot more money.

      All of BM’s principles seem to have been blown away in the dust.
      BM has been bastardized by the greedy and is probably unfixable.

      The only way to really make it all good again is to begin a new yearly city, somewhere else, and put rules in place from the start to never allow the default world to be part of it.

      I wonder who will be the new “original 20” that will start this up?

      • This type of attitude is what will get us nowhere. Please stay at home and sit on your hands until you can find a way to participate with something constructive. Putting out that we will fail and that the org is some evil overlord places all the power in an external force. If you want evil go to a bilderberg group meeting. Pretty sure there is a lot of bright soul in the BM community and the BMorg. Go take a walk in nature and remember who you are. So says the Yvel Queen.

        • If you think this…. “This board member should be immediately ousted”….
          is really going to happen… then… well… I guess we will see what we will see.

          The org is now in this for the money, period. They sold out a long time ago.

          Being naive and passive has never changed a thing in this world.

          • You are right Marcus – being naive and passive has never changed a thing in this world. Sounds like an avenue worth per-suing for your self.

        • The what queen? If I didn’t think you are delusional with your comment the last sentence proved it for me.

          I’m constantly amazed by the pseudo-burners with their interpretations of ‘radical inclusion’ that seems to mean only those that share their opinions/beliefs are welcome. What a travesty.

          • Jeez t groan. Share an opinion about something of value for someone to consider. Bitching about other people who put something out there without actually sharing your own thought is small minded. I can assure you I am non-delusional and someone you would want on your side. If you don’t agree with what I say, offer something without attacking. That is how adults carry on. My playa name is Yvel Queen. I won’t share the story with you as you are not behaving in a very friendly manner. Later skater.

        • “”Yvel Queen
          September 13, 2014 @ 3:08 pm

          You are right Marcus – being naive and passive has never changed a thing in this world. Sounds like an avenue worth per-suing for your self””

          Please try to make sense when you post. Thanks.

  67. This article made me fume. Not because of the privileges demanded by the rich, not because of the way they cut themselves off from about 90 per cent of what BM is, but because of the egregious treatment of “the help.” Those poor saps lured to the desert to work many more hours than agreed to for a wage that somehow does not rise in concert with the extra labour, in boiling temperatures, with apparently no chance to see the festival — despite the promises made to them — and then when one has had enough and walks out (surely a hazard of the trade for every unreasonable boss) the exploitative bastard running the show turfs her without food or water. The fucking bastard! I would very much like to find out who this SOB is so I can dispatch him some dogshit by mail.
    To the author: I reached out to you via Facebook to offer my help with a rewrite if you would like ( which I am only mentioning as you note above that your article is a little on the rough side.) It would be my honour to help out in any way I could. Thank you so much for telling us your story so that we filthy peasants might get – glimpse behind the curtain.

  68. Ban those camps…if you can’t pack it in, have your own stuff and carry it out…you cannot have the experience…radical self-reliance…remember? What is becoming of Burning man if they continue to grow in this way? Time for a radical change…

  69. Thank you. I came looking to fuel my own disgust for PnP, but now I just feel so sorry for everything about this. You should be praised for writing about this and being open and surprisingly balanced. Man, the world is so fucked up right now, such ugly things happening in all directions, and now that shit is leaking into the playa like people were carrying it in buckets and spilling it everywhere and making poopy footprints in the dust. That’s what literally happened, I suppose. Author, I truly feel sorry you had to go through that. I wish I could have read about you leading the Popsicle Revolution.

    And I feel worse for people who simply cannot let go of their consuming avarice, their default habit of exploitation, or just their shitty fucking attitudes.

    Burning Man is the great sanctuary of innocence and fun. At least that’s what it was to me. I can’t bear to think of this kind of karmic rot sitting at its core.

    • My thoughts exactly… I didn’t know what it was out there this year, but it was like I could feel a strange new negative energy that had never been present for me since 2000… now I know where it was coming from.

  70. So the Wolves of Wall Street bring their “default world” lifestyles of greed, entitlement and excess to the playa and it becomes yet another Vegas. That is quite the transformational experience, indeed.

    What I really don’t understand are all of these veteran burners with their heads in the sand that advocate a blind eye towards all of this because “it really doesn’t affect their experience at the Burn”. How do you continue to support an organization or this event that so brazenly disregards the very principles that are supposed to be so important, differentiating and allegedly life altering? How is it acceptable for the organizers to literally sell the Burning Man experience to anyone willing to pay their price, yet the artists, photographers and other contributors so essential to the providing the experience are prohibited from doing the same in the name of gifting or volunteering? That is like saying your country club is okay because it only discriminates against people you don’t associate with anyway. The wolves really are fleecing the sheep.

    Whateves….I guess it’s still a great party. Enjoy the continued commidification of your “unique” experience. Perhaps those evil SeaWorld theme parks that allegedly exploit their “caged animals” can be replaced by a Burning Man inspired theme park that simulates ( and therefore exploits ) the experiences of Burners; only two tickets to ride that art car and one to climb to the top of that structure. At least all of the drugs will help minimize the number of complaints.

  71. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA… your 7th year attending burning man? sounds like you deserved what you got… I totally disagree with the entire situation, the plug-n-play camp, the paid staffers, the huge A-hole Bmorg board member supporting and creating an elitist enclave… HEY Bmorg, you cant bring heaven to a heathen… they have to ask for and seek it themselves… EPIC FAIL… you included SHERPA.

  72. Maybe we should do an Adopt a Sherpa action. Setup a pop up bar nearby, where Sherpas (especially first time burners) and connect with other camps and provide them with some interpersonal connections that are independent of their employers. Then if they feel exploited, they have an alternative community to lean on.

    • Lovely! Even better, enlist some of the larger art cars w/ sound systems, dance floors, bars, to come by occasionally and park out front for 30 minutes with the party in full swing and a huge sign reading “Sherpa Escape Vehicle!” The lights and sounds of the outside BRC world would wash over the camp. We might see a sudden PnP labor shortage if they ride off with the art cars…

  73. When you are in the midst of something new and awesome in the world, and you know that not many have heard about this yet, bask in it’s glory for as long as you can, because sooner or later word will get out and too many people will flock and then it will “sell out” and then the politics and money ruin it… aka “get it while the getting is good” nothing great lasts for ever.

    Thanks for the tale of the death of burning man. I never attended and I never will… I will be there for the start of what ever is next.

  74. The bigger story here is that the BMOG supports these camps with early arrival passes and access to the tickets they need for guests and staff.

    Burning Man clearly wants to grow a worldwide movement and/or a New Age/pagan/Wicca religion. Having the same people back year after year limits their reach and stifles growth. They want new people from all over the world and influential connectors from the worlds of business and politics. Comfortable fly-in accommodations are all part of the plan to enable this.

    I for one hope that the powerful people who come to the Playa have some kind of transformative experience that they can incorporate into their lives for the good of mankind. So many of us are at the mercy of these people whether we care to acknowledge it or not.

    • Replace the words movement/religion with business/profits and I think you’ll be more accurate. The ideals have proven to be empty and its obvious the owners are more interested in money and influence then any true cultural change. Some of the management team appear to also love playing somewhat of a guru role but it’s all a sham. They’re in reality no different than any other money grubbing businessman.

      Plus claiming BM to be a transformative experience I think is little more than egotism. A lot of people think going to BM makes them special and make sure they have an audience they can bellow to about their pseudo transformation or the wild and wooly event they had the courage and stamina to attend (what a joke). For many in our society it’s all about getting attention and it’s gotten worse now that corporate and government big wigs are attending.

      • I hear you but I think that the founders are already rich beyond what we are allowed to know from the regional events alone. This was done largely with volunteer labor which makes them among the luckiest people alive. I believe that money is only a partial motivator at this point. Legacy is more important.

        • I agree with you for the most part. Unfortunately the behavior I see from the wealthy in our society is that they never have enough. The more they have the more they want. It’s a disease of sorts that is killing our society (wealth inequality) and the planet.
          I also agree with you that in addition to avarice the BM senior management are, like so many other wealthy assholes, obsessed with their reputation and historical status. I don’t know if they realize that sell-out is what they should be remembered for.

  75. If you are experienced and take the job, wouldn’t that be a way “IN” and thereby educating the guests on what the real BM deal was? Being a mole and getting the inside scoop on these camps is really intersting to me. Getting paid is nice but I guess I wouldn’t put up with the shit for long. It sure would be fun to fuck with them in thier own camp though… possibly winning over some but enfuriating others. These places are here to stay and while you may not like them or agree with them, fucking with them seems to a solution myself and my camp are ready to deal with! Our weapon of choice, the leaf blower! Look out popsicle camp, yer goji berry smoothie be gettin’ all dusty n shit!

  76. Re: the “Misstresses of Merriment”
    At my Burn in 2013, I met one of these women, who was staying with a top Google exec. She was in from NYC and one of her girlfriends invited her to come along, all expenses paid. This exec flew out about 10-15 women to be his “guests” at his Burning Man plug n play. They got tickets, private flights into BRC, RVs accomodations, Segways, and food/drinks covered. His camp was staffed with multiple sherpas and security.

    In exchange for being his guests, the girls are basically expected to attend to his “needs.” They party with him, flirt, help with with whatever he wants, enjoy drugs, and sleep with him. These women are essentially imported prostitutes. Just like in the default world, even BRC has human trafficking. It’s a big business for some of the plug & plays to provide partygirls for these wealthy executives.

    • “human trafficking” is not ‘come play at burning man for free and fuck rich guys.’ also, prostitution is legal in nevada.

      • It’s not legal in Washoe County or on federal land.
        Prostitution in Nevada is only legal in counties with less than 700K residents (and only if that county chooses to issue brothel licenses; not all counties exercise that right).

        • Burning Man takes place in Pershing County.
          It took me a few burns before I figured out the answer to a mystery. Why were there so many totally stunning girls with perfect make up, walking the Playa *by themselves* just after sunrise? Then it dawned on me: their clients had finished and kicked them out of the RV, and they were looking for their next customer.
          Drugs are illegal on Federal land too, but I think someone at Burning Man did those once or twice.

          • It doesn’t matter that they would operate in Pershing County. All prostitution has to be conducted via licensed brothels. Someone working for themselves is still afoul of the law. But as you point out, that doesn’t stop a bevy of illegal activities on the Playa.

            Some of these plug & plays and other large sound camps are associated with various “modeling” agencies that send girls out. One of the founders of a very famous sound camp owns a modeling agency and will send a bunch of girls from his agency out to BRC to be eye candy/entertainment. The girls are even provided expensive costumes (lots of ornate feathers and leather); it’s a totally imported experience. The girls dance at the sound camp, pose for photos that are redistributed through social media, and entertain the rich men & music talent who pay a lot of money to stay in their camp.

            It’s all business on the Playa.

          • The company contractually behind the plug-n-play camp being discussed here spent $6 million to acquire 2 modelling agencies.

            “On February 5, 2013 the Company entered into an acquisition agreement with Sexy Population, LLC and XS Modeling, LLC. The Company acquired an 80% interest in Sexy Population, LLC and XS Modeling, LLC. The Company issued 5,600,000 shares of Series A preferred stock with a value of $1.00 per share.”

            For more details see http://burners.me/2014/09/05/plug-n-play-goes-all-the-way-to-the-top-of-the-pyramid/

  77. It’s a great writeup – certainly fascinating, depressing. This story needs to get out. BMOrg and the Burning Man Project should be aware of what business this Board Member is up to. Commodified camps like this shouldn’t be allowed to exist and shouldn’t enjoy all of these insider perks (placement, tickets, attention, security.) It’s the most flagrant violation of at least 4 of the 10 principles I’ve ever seen. Disgusting, really.

    I just wish the author spelled “customer” correctly, because “costumer” (especially on the playa) has a totally different meaning, and it made the read a bit confusing. And I’m sure these douchebags actually did pay someone to be their professional costumer/stylist out there too…

      • “The tragic outcome of this promise turned in to criminally over worked staff members that were contractually obligated to spend countless hours with out any extra pay to be dealing with the shit of the customers giving us money.”

        Dear burnersxxx,

        This is an illegal violation of labor law. Clearly these sherpas are legally employees not independent contractors. They are owed overtime, and with a good lawyer, a whole lot more.

        This is actionable!!! ie. go to the labor board, or if at possible, lawyer up and then go to court!!!

        If possible please communicate that this is a legally actionable case, and that the author should document any additional information (i.e. hours/days actually worked) ASAP as well as contacting other sherpas.

        Best Regards

        • THIS!

          Seriously, this stuff goes beyond just an influx of default-world BS into Burning Man. This sort of thing represents an unacceptable *regression* in terms of respect for individuals and worker rights, and it’s taking place *on the playa*.

          Last I checked, BRC is still in the U.S. If individual attendees are going to put up with having to conform to federal and state regulations, these operations sure as hell better expect to have to provide basic employee protections. I’m gonna guess this has been a gray area for awhile in how certain camps run, but I think this is making it obvious that we collectively need to address this issue – now.

          I am not surprised that the influx of big money into the event has brought these sorts of deeper social issues and ills in along with it, but I am still deeply disappointed to have this crap start showing up in our culture and society.

    • I agree, the whole thing may or may not violate laws, but any honest soul will know it violates & makes a farce of those great BM principles. So what. To do. ?

      Introducing the well-heeled & -connected to the energy of BM is one thing. OTT cynical profiteering on the part of the already highly-remunerated BM — this endless milking profit & prestige in BM side-deals, contra BM’s well-known ethos, is fubar and just fugly to follow.

      Obviously the underlying spirit is still alive on the playa. I’d love that to survive. On this site’s threads there is both piercing critical insight *and* copious gratuitous internet cynicism which can make us forget this. I’m grateful to burner.me, though, for their spirit of trying to keep ’em honest, and their hard work in doing what they do.

      My rambling is all to say that it’s *overwhelmingly sad* for me that the organizers have gamed the spirit and labor of BM to line their own pockets and pad their own egos in so, so many ways (as so often illustrated in this blog’s posts) in the name of libertarian capitalism.

      And if they happen to read this, and have any honesty left, I want to say directly to them: you need to be ashamed for you money-grubbing, your eg-grubbing and, well, your betrayal. Somehow. Can you check yourself, and stop being arseholes? No? Then just fucking quit. And don’t destroy BM on your way out. Please?

      For BM to keep its soul, the founders need to get out of town. Fat chance, I know. Petition, anyone?

  78. As a 4 year Burner I have felt extremely lucky to have gotten 2 tickets in the first round of sales each year. I wonder how a camp gets 120 tickets. If the Burning Man Organization is assigning them/selling them to a plug and play camp then it is the BMOrg’s fault this is occurring and is their responsibility to insure the principles are adhered to. This particular camp should not be allowed tickets next year.

    • there’s no question in my mind that these camps can get all the tickets they need. There’s virtually an unlimited supply, as long as Burners are prepared to pay the scalper price of $650.

  79. Hard to escape from the underlying society (though of course not mixing with the money stuff to begin with would have helped, but that doesn’t excuse the Pete guy for being an asshole). Wish there were stronger labor inspections that gave incentives towards not abusing workers in the way the restaurant workers were…

  80. I don’t know who wrote the main article, but they certainly don’t know English grammar. I was so distracted by the misspellings and poor punctuation that it was difficult to read. Did she graduate from high school? What a sad situation.

    • Oh, god. The Burnier-Than-Thou grammar and spelling bee haters are here. AGAIN. “Forget plug-n-play camps, the real controversy is someone on the Internet’s spelling!”
      Be part of the solution, not the problem. “Radical inclusion unless I don’t like their punctuation” , “everything I get Gifted needs to be of maximum quality or I’m going to complain about it”.

    • Was gonna say the same thing. If the writer is not a native English speaker, then OK. Otherwise, Christ, couldn’t read much past halfway.

      As for the actual content of the piece, it’s an interesting look into the PnP phenomena. Sounds like even the most well-funded camps are as much of a clusterfuck as the rest of us. Kind of comforting, ha.

      • forget the haters, Beth. They expect someone employed as a sherpa for $18/hour to be Shakespeare. It is THEIR command of the English language that is poor, if they couldn’t read this. I think you wrote your story really well, and as you can see from most of the comments here, we all understood it, got the message, and are outraged with you against this practice.
        Those few who are criticizing grammar, spelling, and punctuation are probably close to BMOrg, and since they can’t defend the indefensible, pick easy targets to attack – hoping in vain that we will be so distracted by their criticism, that we will somehow forget worker abuse and sexual harassment in a BMOrg director’s multi-million dollar for-profit camp.

  81. This story feels like fiction, so much of it are parts from previous burners.me posts that I felt like I was re reading them. Unfortunate people exist on and off the playa, but to have across the board experience from someone who “changes names to protect others” but uses descriptions already provided by burners.me just gives me the impression that this is clickbait/ fiction to keep the negativity going.

    • Your comment sounds like ignorance. None of this story reads like fiction to me, and the fact that someone has written about this totally independently of Burners.Me is only further evidence that this really happened. Stop reading from the BMOrg playbook “BMOrg is good! We’re saving the world! Burners.Me is bad!”

    • I can vouch for many of the details in this story (but not all since I wasn’t in the camp), and that it was from this year’s burning man.

      I know the writer and visited the camp in question many times throughout the week to visit working friends.

      -Josh (CuriousJosh)

  82. Some pretentious Los Angeles dude turned out to be a full of shit douchebag? Say it ain’t so.


    *Sxxx – I normally wouldn’t post external links without permission, but have a look at that event & you’ll see it’s highly relevant.

    PS: Must be a member of the facebook burning man group to access it.

    • I think a “First Camp invasion” would be more effective if the protestors want Black Rock City to change positively. Once we start turning on each other, it’s all over.

      • Here here. I don’t think the patrons of these camps deserve a hazing. The people at the top who profit off of volunteer labor should be held accountable for their actions by those who have vaulted them to their status.

  83. I am sure the paying customers had a good burn, as they should have!! It’s too bad the paid WORKING conditions were not ideal. With only 0.17% of the burner population being in Popsicle camp, the rest of the burn is still safe and this story really doesn’t merit much more air time, besides maybe on a brief FOX NEWS snippet about how BMORG is coordinating these activities. Over 99% of the other burners created an amazing environment through their gifting and sharing.
    Next time, read that contract before you sign it.

    • You don’t think this story deserves more air time? Is that because you don’t want Burning Man to receive negative publicity? This is a huge story for the event, and should be hammered home.

    • burningurious all I can say is FUCK OFF! I bet you have never been put into a bad situation miles from any of the basic amenities and then told you can either suck it up or leave! BMORG is rotten to the core and is only interested in one thing MAKING MONEY! So don’t go kidding yourself about any of that wonderful, sparkle-pony horseshit they go spreading around to the masses. IF any “transformation” does take place it is purely coincidental. I’ll give you just one example among many;
      The individual that decides which “volunteers” get to eat during the event (that’s right folks there are hard-working VOLUNTEERS that do NOT get fed @ the commissary during the event!) This particular individual took delivery of a $13000.00 (with the optional $200 a pop deluxe wheel package)”golf cart” for their personal use on playa! That money would have fed a lot of volunteers! On top of that they fully expected said PERSONAL vehicle to be maintained and serviced by DPW staff! IF that isn’t a real “Well let them eat cake” attitude…. And we all know how THAT particular chapter in history ended. BMORG is rife with all manner of decadent, amoral behavior and shady (to say the least) dealings with contract/paid staff. They get away with it because there are so many willing, starry-eyed idiots that would kill to take your place. AND THEY REMIND YOU OF THAT FACT EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF EVERY SINGLE DAY! So no burningcurious it isn’t JUST the working conditions shit… The dust, the heat the desolation? I could take that all day and twice on Sunday. I managed to do it for a long time. It was the avarice, the decadence, the greed and the overwhelming sense of entitlement that finally got to me!

      • James, a query, do the awesome Burners within DPW, the fortunate within DPW whom are paid cash, obtain a 1099 form, or do they obtain a W2 form, stating the cash paid towards them, after the burn? Is this form from the BRC LLC, or, is it from a different corporation? Is this, within 2014, the same as of prior burns?

        I am presenting this query purposed towards an update upon my estimate of the BMOrg cash out post. Much obliged, in advance.

    • And another thing…While I’m at it. At one point there were over 100 volunteers working @ The Nevada Properties (The Ranch) the nearest medical facility is over 120 miles away (the clinic in Gerlach had to close due to lack of funding!) and there were NO EMT PERSONNEL PRESENT! We were told to “be extra careful.” Sound like an organization that has staff interests in mind? Communication at The Ranch was/is spotty at best, there is no “land-line” phone and cell service may have improved of late but not soon enough to get the word out about a roll-over accident that took place in 2013. Kudos to the DPW crew, there were people on-site within 10 minutes. It sure coulda been a LOT worse though!
      So burning curious.. Still think it’s a good idea to volunteer or work for these people?
      Unless things have changed DRASTICALLY since my tenure, I sure don’t!

    • It’s kind of significant that Burning Man Project appoints new directors without telling us, then it turns out that their latest director is the brains and financial clout behind this camp, which sounds as far on the wrong end of the “acceptable” Plug-n-Play spectrum as you can get. To me it is a clear indication of the direction BMOrg want the event to go in, just like having an AirBNB guy on the board and then different camps selling packages on AirBnB this year. When we exposed this at the time, we were shut down with howls of irony. “It’s a joke!”, they cried. “It’s all a farce!” Yet, from Facebook yesterday:
      “We ended up at Sk8Kamp which is where our natural home should have been. Our buddy…took us in and gave us the playa experience of a life time with the best Airbnb scenario we could ever pray for and we all rocked it!”
      Stealing signs from other Burners is not going to stop BMOrg. That’s what they want us to do! Fight amongst each other while giving Them a leave pass for whatever Decommodification violations their hearts desire. Hell, they called their royalties company Decommodification LLC, they’re shoving it in our face and laughing at us.

      • How many other businesses are you aware of that notify their customers each time there is a change in management? There are no stockholders that I’m aware of outside the borg.

        Thinking otherwise is somehow assuming that this is not a business but a civic organization/community. That ship sailed a long time ago.

        • While I agree with you, we were told as recently as this year that things would be different, now that “the Burning Man Project has fully completed its transition to a non-profit”. Although there is no legal requirement for them to inform the community about changes at the Board, if they really want us to dip in to our wallets to fund their overseas jaunts and panel appearances, they should treat us like constituents. What sort of tyranny is it, if the people aren’t even supposed to know who’s in charge?

        • Non-profits that take advantage of tax-exempt status have significantly higher disclosure and transparency requirements than private (or even public) companies. They are required to disclose their board of directors, the highest paid individuals within the organization (and how much they make), etc

          The BMorg now has a web of shell companies and non-profits to manage various parts of their organization. It really depends on which “board” this newcomer is a member of – a profit making arm of the BMorg? Or the non-profit arm?

          IMHO, once you start having the tax attorneys, accountants, and venture capital guys into the group, the counter-cultural roots of the event are done-zo.

          Juplaya and the regionals seem to harken back more to the original intent of BM.

      • Not sure about the other AirBNB packages, but the Sk8 camp did seem to be more of a joke than an actual plug n play experience. For $15 per day, Just about $100 for the week, cannot say it is a for profit venture. Besides, who really would want to live underneath a skate ramp? Image the noise of constant skateboards jumping and landing above your head. It would be fun for a night, but not much more!!! I agree using a commodified site to promote this is not correct…..

        • that’s how they start. Year 1, it’s all a farce, who would rent rooms under the skate ramp? And yet people did. Someone saw the listing, and put their dome up on AirBnB also. Year 2, will be a few more listings. Others will be inspired to create an AirBnB funded camp. Within 5 years, it will be a regular practice on the Playa.
          The exact same pattern happened with hotels, starting with Ashram Galactica founded by a former BMorg director. Oh what an ironic farce! Hotels are now everywhere on the Playa, not just K street, as very real, for-profit businesses. Somehow the irony slipped away…
          BMOrg now have *2* directors employed by AirBnB on their board. Hospitality is clearly important to them, big name DJs and sound camps clearly aren’t.

          • For the record: since its inception, Ashram Galactica’s “hotel rooms” have always been an art piece, a lavish labor of love, participatory gifts, that have been bestowed upon random lucky guests (raffle winners) at the end of every night. Their Gilded Lily Bar is open to all, welcoming and free. In my opinion it is one of the most generous theme camps on the playa and shouldn’t be confused with any of these commercial enterprises, plug-and-plays, or whatever.

            Yes, it’s ironic that an inside joke for all Burners to enjoy (“what? the only 4.5 star hotel on the playa?”) predicted what would be happening years later (actual businesses renting out living space for customers.)

            Chris Weitz, the original concierge and founder of Ashram Galactica, was never a BMorg director but he was on the board of the Burning Man Project. Again, this is a different group. And as you’ve reported in your blog, he’s no longer on that board.

          • It is not a different group. Why are you spreading confusion and misinformation? Is it because of your personal ties to these people?
            Chris Weitz’s wife is still on the board OF BMORG.

          • It’s a nomenclature thing. It’s an issue of clarity. There are certainly valid, tragic concerns surrounding this, and you know, better than anyone, that I’m just as outraged as anyone, eager for this information to be spread — and then there’s bombast and irresponsible conjecture that cloud the discussion at hand. (The previous article about Caravancicle would have been better off without the comments about virus outbreaks, CDC and vaccinations, for example.) That errant noise tends to get people tuning out.

            I’ve always agreed, anyone on the Board of Directors of the Burning Man Project should be considered an “insider” with privilege, access, perks, influence and power. Obviously. But it’s a different group from the “Burning Man board members who represent who Black Rock City, LLC” as the links above show, and that is the group MOST people assume when they see the word “BMorg,” that’s all.

            I now understand you’re using the word “BMorg” as a larger umbrella term.

          • The simple point is at the bottom of the link you posted.

            LAST UPDATE 2010

            Just because something is posted on Burning Man’s web site, doesn’t mean that it’s true or current. It is now September 2014, and Black Rock City, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Burning Man Project. The Burning Man Project is in charge of BMOrg, not BRC LLC.

            Really struggling to understand your motivation with this.

  84. “Stand ye calm and resolute,
    Like a forest close and mute,
    With folded arms and looks which are
    Weapons of unvanquished war.

    And if then the tyrants dare,
    Let them ride among you there;
    Slash, and stab, and maim and hew;
    What they like, that let them do.

    With folded arms and steady eyes,
    And little fear, and less surprise,
    Look upon them as they slay,
    Till their rage has died away:

    Then they will return with shame,
    To the place from which they came,
    And the blood thus shed will speak
    In hot blushes on their cheek:

    Rise, like lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number!
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you:
    Ye are many—they are few!”
    -Percy Bysshe Shelley (Masque of Anarchy)

    To the author, I suggest you explore the concept of gifting, as all the “gifts” of previous service had motivation for your own enjoyment. I’m serious. I have been guilty of “gifting” that way in the past, and you can only be free of this nonsense through self-care and rationalization. Having said that, I believe you have a very good case to fuck your employer for hostile work environment, if they threatened your life, YOUR FUCKING LIFE, by depriving you of water, shelter, and nourishment, in a scathing place that is so eloquently described on every fucking ticket as completely inhospitable- “YOU MAY DIE!”

    To the racist (what is it with this “sherpa” bullshit??), classist, misogynist future (if not current) rapers, we see you. We’ve seen you before, weaklings, as you exploit the proles, grope those gals, and suck meat from the till of those who know the Earth. We summarily pity you, you are nothing-and-never-will-be-misers scratching coins together as your soundtrack, while we dance to the songs of laughter and whimsy. For Free.

    Look for Revenge Party on Playa 2015. We’ll prank the fuck out of the meanies. SORRY ‘BOUT IT!

  85. While I appreciate the tell-all nature of the story, I think the author is missing her own point. As a sherpa she wasn’t a gift to the greater good, she was a commodity bought and paid for. She exploited herself out there, yet writes “A sign advertising a paying job!!! AT BURNING MAN!!!” What’s the difference if the cash for work trades hands on or off the playa? None.

    And, “I personally would say that this camp is the GRAND PRIZE WINNER of the VERY FIRST EVER “YOU DID IT WRONG AT BURNING MAN!! YES! REALLY!!” award.” I think the author shares that award with camp as much as anyone else in it. The difference is, after 8 burns, she should have known better.

  86. Btw I am pretty sure we met on the love seat, you were smoking and I asked if there were ashtrays and you looked pissed off and now that I understand the story you seemed like hired help and not happy, super sorry you went through this I plan on speaking to the org about how they are selling our art and all the hard work we bring not Kool, email me and weshould talk what’s happening is not ok or Kool and it’s commercialization help stop it. Much gratitude for telling your story well written and privided explanations to the surrounding camps what the hell was going on there, I senses a riff in the force when we came through the dark side was creeping in. Camp w us gypsies next year!

  87. That…was a story so terribly unlike anything vaguely like my many burn experiences that I feel rather ill. In fact, I’d like very much to close my eyes & pretend it isn’t real; getting back to the default world was going so well until I read this. Can someone please, please add some more details to this horror story?

  88. Wow thanks for sharing we were wondering as we were camped at 915 n g we walked up the 9 to k and walked into the most lavish Camo I’ve ever seen in 17 years and met a few very exhausted people one of whicm was I n charge I introduced myself as we stood on the cowhide rugs unde the massive chandelier in what I would call a mansion built on playa. The man said he had encountered much pro Kens w trucks and set up and was not even close to set up me ruining a yurt and few other thibgs, I saw no people but we looked out back and the courtyard was all tear drop canvas tents back inside was a table that sat 70 people and all the fur ishibgs were antique I said you are gonna give the most deicatant camps a run for the money he said they were way beyond that. I did not understand the interactivity or what was happening other than lavish adornments. We were simply gypsies and not used to such amenities. A little Indian bartender came out and we walked up to the bar he made appertif cocktails and had an elegant bar but we all noticed they did not jump to serve us. It makes sense now that these three mega camps which were still full set up on tues morning afterburner when we left must be contracted as nothing still had been touched not even the ambiance of curtains in all the little canvas squares wow super ridiculous but that is what ive known bm to be ridiculous I feel bad fir the planners and workers we stopped there on the last night and someone in the street said it’s an abandoned mansion w tons of food n liquor just laying out and no one around. I guess that answers your question how things went, ego kills dreams and dreams are just that dreams. Doubt the mansion squares n dome returns.. but we will be back because we are gypsies if the plays seas

  89. The easiest way to stop this from happening is for people, especially “experienced Burners”, from taking paid jobs at these camps. People will always do what others enable them to do. Talk about selling out; is that the “gift” being given to the rest of the community?

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