Monday, May 17, 2010

How The World of Golf Has Changed...

The current world of recreational golf in the new millennium brings with it many consumer interactions that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. In reality, it has become a paradise of sorts for anyone with the inkling to consider using smart-alec responses.

Alas, the snarky one-liners are never an appropriate response because the focus in the industry is to find ways to accommodate the customer and educate at the same time. But, there are always those on the consumer’s side of the counter who have no desire to be educated. These are the people who can make the business a challenging proposition.

Here's a bit of fun, a real-life example from the occasionally baffling world of golf in the Okanagan Valley.

A gentleman arrives in the golf shop to play golf. He is wearing blue jeans and a dress shirt that has obviously had the sleeves torn off at the shoulders. All of the shirt’s buttons are undone. His entire upper body and his arms are covered by tattoos. He is wearing large steel rings on the fingers on each hand. His cap is being worn backwards. He is carrying a case of beer. There are other patrons in the golf shop, including a couple of ladies.

The Dialogue…
Gentleman: “I have a tee time around one-o’clock with my buddies. I don’t think they’re here yet.”
Golf Shop: “Okay. Let’s get you checked in. However, we will require you to wear proper golf attire here. Do you happen to have a golf shirt with you?”
Gentleman: “What do you mean? I’m wearing $12,000 worth of artwork here?”
Golf Shop: “Sir, please. We’d appreciate if you would wear a golf shirt with sleeves and a collar at our facility. Do you happen to have one in your vehicle?”
Gentleman: “That’s bullshit!”
Golf Shop: “Okay, sir. I can help you find a shirt.”
Gentleman: “I’m already spending $75 to play your golf course. And now you want me to buy a shirt? That’s just bullshit!”
Golf Shop: “Well sir, I can find you a shirt, one that you can use today. There will be no charge. And I have to ask you to refrain from cursing in here.”
Gentleman (throws his credit card on the counter): “Well you’re pissin’ me off. Just get me a shirt so I can get outa here.”
Golf Shop (swiping the credit card through the machine): “Sure. If you would enter your PIN number here, we’ll get rolling. And by the way, we’ll have to ask you to return the alcohol to your vehicle. We have a restaurant upstairs and a beverage cart on the golf course if you’d like a beer or two today.”
Gentleman: “You mean I can’t bring this out there with me?”
Golf Shop: “That’s correct, sir.”
Gentleman (while walking away from the counter with a borrowed golf shirt and his credit card receipt): “Geezuz, what’s up with this fuckin’ place?”

The Resolution…
The facility wins because the employee in the golf shop maintained his composure and represented the club in a professional manner. The downside is the potential for the gentleman and his friends to become more of a problem while on the golf course. In this case, most facilities just kind of cross their fingers and hope for the best.

What You Would Really Like To Say This Customer:
“Sir, I cannot comment on the folly of your $12,000 investment, but it’s just not a look that is going to work for you here. Did it ever occur to you today to simply dress like you give a damn? And you’ll have to lose the beer. Or, you can simply leave the premises. And don’t let the door hit your ass on your way out.”

Of course, the customer service nature of the golf industry these days pretty much commands that employees must bite their tongue from time to time when unruly consumers choose to vent their spleen. It’s definitely a bad deal, but revenue is so frequently the bottom line in an industry that is seemingly on life support in so many ways.

And so, many of us who work in the industry these days simply deal with the crap in the best way we know how. For those of us in our 30’s and 40’s who grew up with the traditions and behavioral expectations associated with the game, the antics of many consumers are actually quite disappointing. It’s just not something many of us witnessed very often during our formative years.

Indeed, behavior and attitudes have changed in our society, so there is no way for the golf industry to fully escape the stupidity and boorishness of people who choose to object to any and all forms of what use to be referred to as “common sense”. And it's also really hard to say if there are any real concrete answers out there as to how to stem the tide of this nastiness?

I suppose only time will tell.

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