Loosen it up, racing clubs, if not you might not be able to have any grandchildren.
What we’re talking about are all those rigid corporate-riddled rules which stifle the consumer-related enjoyment of racing due to over-zealous minions who don’t know any better- and so sour a day at the races by enforcing things like dated “dress codes”, sometimes, where none even exist, and who wouldn’t know a pair of Versace jeans or a pair of expensive Ice Cream sneakers from a jar of Vaseline.
What’s sad is that these order-takers are left to their own means until the proverbial shit hits the fan and middle management runs like headless chickens to cover their asses for a half-arsed and cavalier attitude regarding their job responsibilities.
Apart from wagering, every racing club is judged by their venues- the quality of the product of these venues- food, drink, selection of wines- and the quality of staff. And here, if someone from within a racing club with no experience in, for example, the F&B business, is given the responsibility of managing these venues, one is not only looking at a revenue generator losing money for no reason other than ineptitude, but also switching on a very important on/off key in the consumer experience.
The other problem is that when a venue is seen to be organized chaos and questions are asked by those upstairs, panic and passing the buck sets in along with knee-jerk reactions by boffins who behave like schoolchildren caught playing hooky.
This always means finally starting to do SOMETHING- anything- and just for show.
Alas, this sudden bout of new-found “enlightenment” due to being caught having been napping for months and even years, creates an atmosphere of fear for junior staff, which can be noticed by any savvy consumer.
In turn, this means being some place uncomfortable which consumers don’t need as they’re spoilt for choice.
It’s, like, bad vibes, man, so, let’s make like a banana and split, Cheech.
Lose a consumer once, and you’ve lost them forever, and no amount of back-peddling can bring back a pissed off or turned-off customer.
They have hundreds, if not thousands, of other options and, unlike General MacArthur, they shall not return. That venue has been exiled to St Helena’s along with Napoleon.
It’s like a bad experience with an airline. No amount of letters of apology from the President of Damage Control and Groveling plus frills like extra air miles or even a Diamond Card will help.
That passenger has switched flights and is on Emirates, Bangladeshi Airlines, Air Lanka, or one of Tony Fernandez’s crappy budget airlines.
As for “dress codes” at race courses- it’s almost an oxymoron- it’s something that really needs thought- not ‘cos it might turn off “just a punter”, but because it could embarrass an owner with considerable clout whose guest has been stopped from getting in.
This also applies to the array of different badges needed to get one from here to there, but not from there to over there, or badges that can’t even get you in to where you’ve been invited.
So while a little bit of power goes to little heads and one security guard radios three other security guards to ask what the hell to do next, the disgruntled guest says, enough is enough, gets back in his car and goes where he’s welcome and without all these rules and regulations just to watch some races.
It’s not exactly as if one is attending the Oscars, the Grammys or The Emmys and rubbing shoulders with Branjelina, Jay-Z and Beyonce, Chris and Gwyneth and the Beckhams while the paparazzi scream out your name and ask for one more picture.
No, let’s stop this silly pomposity and realize that one is meant to be attending a casual bloody race meeting with no unnecessary hassles which no consumer needs.
It doesn’t mean dressing and acting like a yob, but save all that pretentiousness for those boring cocktail parties where name cards are exchanged, names are immediately forgotten, hors d’ouvres are served, champers is sipped, and everyone is so appallingly veddy veddy polite that you need to rush to the nearest McDonald’s and inhale some Chicken McNuggets a la Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet just to make sure you’re not dead.
The major problem with managing customer expectations and the customer experience at racecourses is that, often, these responsibilities have been given to the wrong people.
An executive at any racing club is, for example, not an F&B person and probably doesn’t even know what F&B stands for. Fat Burgers?
The executive who puts their hand up and thinks they are “versatile” enough to manage restaurant staff, understand P&L knowledge of how a bar is worked so bills don’t slip through the cracks, or which person has placed what order, has just been handed enough rope to hang themselves.
Racing executives should stick to what they do best within the confines of the sport- and for what they have been hired.
Be a jack of all trades and a master of none with the inability to guide and lead and what one sees is a jackass and a joker. And there are plenty of those in their regular gigs.
Try to do anything more than they are, perhaps, capable of, and most make absolute knobs of themselves.
They also lose the confidence and respect of many which has a boomerang effect by raising red flags as to whether they actually know what they’re doing- even in their high priority roles as highly-paid racing executives.
Once this happens, there is a domino effect which creates a negative pall that can hang over even the best of racing clubs like a bad smell that refuses to leave.
After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And too many racing clubs have been carrying too many weak links for way too long.