We had a surreal experience last night at hockey practice.
For those of you involved in the sport, I don’t have to tell you that it requires many hours of driving to a rink somewhere – sometimes, hundreds of miles away – on a frequent basis. I would conservatively estimate that during season, we are at a rink between six and ten hours a week. This time is spread across practices, games, scrimmages, and clinics.
In short, it’s not an inconsiderable amount of time.
And while other sports have limitations regarding playing spaces, ice hockey is unique in the high cost of access to the playing surface (at our local rink, the RDV Sportsplex, ice time runs around $300 an hour) and the limited number of ice venues in some areas.
So, where’s the part about “respecting customers?” I’m getting there.
Each week, our travel teams – about five of them – have 2 hours of practice scheduled and paid for. Costs are mitigated to a degree by having teams practice half ice. These practices are scheduled (and are standing) months in advance, and are paid for in advance.
Last night our kids were “shooed” from the ice. No. “Shoo” is much too cute a word.
Screamed off the ice is more accurate.
The rink had sold ice time – ice that we had already purchased – to another buyer. And We were being screamed off the ice.
This was not a mistake. We’ve been practicing every Thursday since the end of August from 6-7:15.
Usually, when the ice is cleaned at the end of a session, it’s one guy on a Zamboni, honking the horn and waiting for the ice to be cleared.
Last night, it was three people – and the Zamboni pulled halfway onto the ice, with 40 kids on the ice.
The rink workers – particularly the female worker – were yelling at the kids to get off the ice. Not just yelling. I really can’t describe how venemous it all was.
So, I really don’t know what the hell was really going on. Using my g-d given common sense, I know it goes beyond a simple scheduling mix up.
But here’s the thing:
- Don’t piss off the people paying your salary in the biggest down market in a half century. It’s bad business, and just plain stupid.
- Don’t yell at kids when you have a problem with adults.
- If you have an unpleasant “surprise” you are going to spring, do so before your customers start using your product, and not until they are in the middle of what they * thought * they paid for.
During all of this hub bub, the local hockey organization was holding it’s board meeting – just outside the rink doors – when all of this little slice of heck broke out (I had to beg off the meeting because my three year old is a three year old and needed some Dad face time, and I wanted to watch my nine year old practice).
At the meeting, they were to discuss the future of the organization (name change, bringing more kids into the league, relationship to RDV, etc.).
Sounds like I missed one hell of a meeting, based upon the rink reaction.
Whatever the background story turns out to be, I must say that as a parent I was taken aback by the vitriol and treatment a bunch of 9-12 year old kids received, from the people ostensibly there to serve them and provide a safe practice facility.
Kids who have paid $900 a week since August to play at that facility – not including tournament time and clinics and hockey gear bought in the pro shop and skates sharpened once a week in the pro shop and concessions bought… you get the idea.
Don’t treat your customers like you don’t respect them.
They might start believing you really don’t.