I once oversaw a hotel inspection program at my previous organization, and occasionally would conduct “executive inspections” of properties and guest experiences. I can’t help but look at consumer experiences through the inspector’s lens, but with the owner’s hat on, too—including the golf experience. I’m all about “UI” (user interface) and “UX” (user experience). Such was the case recently in California, where I visited a public course with my brother-in-law, Jens.
Earlier in the day, I checked the course’s online tee sheet for afternoon availability because my plan to play needed to remain flexible. There were plenty of openings. Jens and I showed up around 2:20 with a palpable anxiety to get out on the course. I approached the gentleman behind the counter with a smile and said, “We’d like to get out for nine holes,” to which he replied matter-of-factly, “We don’t have a nine-hole rate.”
Keep in mind, with dusk beginning around 5 p.m. that time of year, there was little chance of squeezing in 18 anyway. Not to mention, the place was looking pretty slow. I inquired further, “Really? Why not?”
“We just don’t,” he replied. OK. Being the undercover industry guy, I pressed him. “Really? I don’t get it. In this day and age, that seems strange.” I could see my brother-in-law getting uncomfortable. The pro shrugged, “We can’t offer nine-hole rates, or people might book nine holes on Saturday morning and eat into our normal 18-hole prices.” I said, “You could restrict nine-hole rates to certain times of the day, you know.”
Then he added the consolation prize. “If you wait until 3 p.m. to tee off, our twilight rates kick in and you can save $14.” Looking around the shop and peeking out the window, I saw no one else around getting ready to tee off and wondered if I should watch the clock for 30 minutes to save $14, thinking how ridiculous this all feels.
Because we were anxious to play and I didn’t want to be around this guy anymore, I acquiesced to pay for my 18 holes, half a cart and rental clubs. I later noticed on my receipt I was charged a nine-hole rate for the rentals. Despite my desire to point out the obvious double standard, I didn’t have the energy to continue the price strategy discussion with my new friend.
There are two takeaways from this experience. One, with the push toward dynamic pricing and more variable rates, owners and operators will be well-served to equip front-line staff with proper techniques on handling customers who don’t see logic in (seemingly) illogical pricing policies. And, more critically, how the front-line staff handles conflict may be more important than the reason for the conflict. An easy solution, short of bending the price policy, would have been for the gentleman to say, “You know what? Sorry I can’t do anything about the price, but I’m going to throw a couple of cold beers on your cart for you guys to enjoy. Have a great time out there.” All’s well that ends well.
How do you think this conflict could have been resolved better?