Monday, May 3, 2010

The customer is always right

(THE PETE SHEETS is a new project that I've been working on for a little while now and in the weeks ahead I'll have a web site and much more to coincide with this blog. THE PETE SHEETS provide in-depth, comprehensive analysis of racing from Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, Western Fair Raceway and the WEG circuit. Beatable favorites, spot plays, live longshots, trainer change angles, Pick Four Analysis: THE PETE SHEETS have it all! The goal of the project is to increase both the handle and overall popularity of harness racing in Ontario.)

I love Tim Hortons coffee. I drink more than I should really, but I can't get all of this work done without it. The other day, I went through the drive thru and ordered my usual: extra large with two cream and one sugar. I gave the lovely woman at the window my $1.72 and she gave me my fix. I don't know about you, but I can't drink it scorching hot, so I often don't get to it until several minutes after I've ordered it. On this particular day, I didn't even take my first sip until I had made the short drive back to the house. Upon doing so, I quickly realized that my XL2C1S tasted more like a Coca Cola than a coffee! Man there was a lot of sugar in it! I dumped some down the drain and fixed it up the way I wanted it. These things happen.

Later in the day, my wife and I were running (driving actually, who actually runs?) some errands and it was time for Tim's stop number two. She likes me to get as much exercise as possible, so I thought I'd appease her by walking into the store rather than driving thru (I was hoping I could trick her into thinking this was the way I always did it, not just on the occasions that she was with me). Anyway, I was so angry about having to do it her way that by the time I got all the way across the two-tiered parking lot and into the store, I was looking for a fight. Apparently no other husbands were out with their wives because there was no lineup. The wonderful lady behind the counter said, "Can I help you?". "Hi," I said. "I went through the drive thru a few hours ago and when I got home I discovered that my coffee was prepared incorrectly. I drank as much of it as I had to to make the trembling stop and then I poured the rest down the drain." She quickly interrupted me by saying, "Well it sounds like we owe you a coffee, what can I get you?" I couldn't believe it! I wasn't looking for a free coffee. I was just imploring her to make sure this one was an XL 2C1S. Actually, I'm lieing: I just wanted something to bitch about because I had to walk in the store. When all was said and done, not only was coffee number two prepared perfectly, but it was free to boot! My earlier frown was turned upside down and I had an extra little spring in my step as I made my way back to the car that was still all the way across the parking lot. In her special way, my wife grinned at me and rhetorically said, "See, that wasn't that hard, was it?". No, honey, it wasn't.

Whether it be Tim Hortons or McDonald's or even business dealings with the communists at Bell Canada, the number one rule is that the customer is always right. When you let them know that your coffee is wrong, they apologize, fix it and give you one on the house. When you kindly (drive back thru and) inform them that they forgot to give you sweet and sour sauce for the McNuggets (that you only order when your wife's away for the weekend), they give you a coupon for free McNuggets. If you throw yourself when they charge you for "reactivation fee" because a bad month at the track caused you to be late paying the cell phone bill, more times than not they'll waive that fee. Why? Because they have to do all that they can to keep the customers happy because without the customers, there wouldn't be any business.

Why should our business be any different? I hear a lot of talk among the leaders of our industry about marketing harness racing to new customers. Probably not a bad idea, but how is harness racing supposed to build relationships with newbies when it already has a hard time keeping present customers happy? Last night alone, gamblers used the popular message board, to raise several issues that need addressing. The 2nd Leg of the Ontario Spring Series was the most talked about of them:

"You want to clean up the perception of cheating that continues to plague the Standardbred industry...Then please eliminate the way we run these types of series, Ontario Spring Series and the like, anything that doesn't go 1 elimination week and then a finals...If we wanna give away 20, 20, simply run 1 elim at 40 and then the finals for 80. These things stink to high heaven and do nothing to forward this industry!!"...Bert

"So true!!!"...p3score

"Got that right win the first leg coast the second.....lets see how PEBBLE CREEK gets driven in the finals"...TIMEBOMB

"you are right, it's pathetic and there has got to be some common sense kick in sometime doesn't there? It's just a joke. The two favs that are already int he final are ducking to the inside at the half at 1-9 and 1-100. it's just (expletive)pathetic"...Elway7

Wow, huh? This stuff isn't made up, either. These are real comments from real customers. For far too long, perception issues such as this one have been mismanaged (or unmanaged in many instances) by the governing bodies of our industry and yet at the very same time, most can't seem to figure out why both the handle and general popularity of our beloved sport is dwindling? Here's hoping that the powers-that-be soon start addressing the legitimate concerns of our customers (which, by the way, doesn't happen to be that drivers don't show up to their horses two minutes prior to post parading) before the few that are still loyal decide that they are tired of being treated like they are always wrong.

Time to make a coffee drive...

I'm sure that there are a series of other factors, but I was proud to see that since the launch of THE PETE SHEETS earlier this week, the handles at Flamboro, Grand River and Woodbine (the three tracks for which we've produced THE PETE SHEETS to this point) have increased noticeably, just as they did at Western Fair when we put a little extra work into our product there. Such improvement is the main goal of this new project and it was a reassuring to once again see that the old saying is true: if you build it, they will come! Thanks so much for all of the support. We're working day and night but it doesn't even seem like work most of the time.

Send us your feedback via email to and be sure to spread the word! I have several meetings with prospective sponsors in the weeks ahead and the more interest THE PETE SHEETS is shown to be generating, the greater the likelihood that they'll be supportive of the project.

Georgian Downs and Grand River are today's featured tracks and you can request your own copy by sending an email to In the week's ahead, our web site will be complete and downloadable versions of THE PETE SHEETS will be available.

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