Respect Your Customers. Or At Least, Pretend To.

Respect Your Customers. Or At Least, Pretend To.

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.

3 thoughts on “Respect Your Customers. Or At Least, Pretend To.

  1. Mr. Hinson,
    RDV Sportsplex Ice Den made an error on our ice-cut schedule last Thursday. The ice had not been sold to anyone else. It was OYHA’s ice until 8:30pm. The error was solely on the timing of the cut coming fifteen minutes prior to when it should have occurred. This created mass confusion on the ice with my staff, the players and the coaches. My staff failed to provide good customer service to the coaches and players on the ice and I am very sorry for that. They have been disciplined for this. RDV Sportsplex and I, as the Ice Den Director, appreciate OYHA’s business and we value the partnership created over the past few years. We work diligently to deliver quality ice and a great to place to play hockey each and every day. I am working with the OYHA President to credit the ice time lost and to work even harder to earn OYHA’s business. If I can be of assistance to you in the future, please let me know.


  2. Debby,

    Thanks for your reply and explanation.

    Any errors in what I have written here are my own and I appreciate your clarifications in any points of fact that I have given. I have edited the portion of my comments where I misstated the ice time being sold to someone else.

    From my perspective, a problem that could have been easily – easily – explained and resolved with a five minute conversation between the staff and on ice coaches ballooned into what you described – mass confusion.

    I’m very glad to hear that RDV is taking this as a serious issue – because it’s not simply an issue of hurt feelings, but of courtesy, customer service… and most importantly, player safety.

    RDV is a fantastic ice facility – better than the practice facilities of many NHL teams – and is something that Orlando should be very proud to have and offer to the community.

    And it is my sincere hope that my family and I will continue to enjoy many future hours there.

    Thank you again for your efforts and action.


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