And the health club customer is trusted to follow the towel rules.
Likewise, we trust people in our casino business to follow our rules. Don’t take doggie bags at the buffet. Use only one coupon per day. Don’t let another player use your players’ club card to accrue points in your name (although I never fully understood that rule).
And don’t steal the towels from our casino’s hotel rooms!
Well, we all know how some people can be. It’s always the 2 percent that make the 98 percent of us suffer.
I knew a couple of years ago that my health club might have a towel pilferage issue. Some new towels showed up that had those devices that are common in clothing stores; the ones designed to set off alarms (or however the heck they work) if someone attempts to shoplift. That approach lasted several months and then those towels, or those devices, disappeared.
Then our health club got new owners and some changes began to happen, most of which were positive. The health club staff improved on their hellos and goodbyes. Things got fixed faster. There were some cosmetic improvements. Sure, there was some streamlining and prices went up a little, but on the whole, things were getting better.
Then came the new towel policy.
It started on a recent Saturday morning, one of the busiest times at my health club. Upon checking in, I was instructed to go to the area near the stairs, where I could pick up my towels under the “new towel policy.” Just hearing “new towel policy” made me shudder.
There was a line. You could still have the same number of towels, but now you had to stand in line to get them and return them. You had to sign them in and out (and print your name, and try to remember a number that was assigned to the transaction).
There were four “towel administrators” there, obviously being trained, plus one “towel guy in charge,” with a clipboard.
The poor health club kids tried to put a good face on it. But the health club patrons were upset. The wait in line. The hassle. The challenge to their health club routine.
“Whose idea was this?” one patron asked. Clearly schooled, the clipboard guy quickly blurted out, “Well, we’ve been losing $50,000 a year in stolen towels, and we wanted to try a new system, rather than eliminate towel service.”
“Well, staffing this towel center will surely cost you more than $50,000 a year, and what cost do you put on ‘guest dissatisfaction?’” asked the patron (oh yeah, the patron was me).
The next day, I was steeled to deal with the new towel policy. But miracle of miracles, all the towels were back in their usual places. The new towel policy was gone. Not a word was said by the health club staff.
As I reflect on this experience, I realize casinos confront these types of situations often. Yes, it is right to try and prevent towel pilferage. Or taking buffet food home. Or grabbing handfuls of the complimentary candies at hotel check-in.
But before you lay down the law or surprise your guests with the “new policy,” think about getting their input first and communicating what’s going on and that you’re not just being cheap. It will probably also save you a ton of angry posts on Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor and any other guest venting mechanism of this new social media world we are in.