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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sportcentre in banning nasty customer shocker!!

Today, something happened that I never thought I'd see... Da Management are banning a nasty customer!

Since I've started working at the sport centre, I have found that our various customers can be classified into three types, following a standard bell-curve distribution.

90% fall into the "indifferent" category. They come in, exchange a few pleasantries or merely grunt, before going off to do their favoured activity. I tolerate them, they tolerate me. They are the human equivalent of a baked potato - largely innoffensive and unlikely to cause either upset or excitement.

5% fall in to the "pleasure to serve" category. They come in, ask how we are, and share a joke. Many of the parents bringing their kids fall in to this category. They often loiter around during the kid's lesson, have a cup of coffee and pass the time. I may even miss some of them when I finally leave. They are like a nice bottle of red wine. You could happily spend an evening in their company.

Sadly, that leaves the remaining 5%. They are rude, demanding, sometimes offensive and often unreasonable. A few seem obsessed with the notion of writing to their local MP to complain about a lack of service. They often get very upset when they turn up unnanounced at peak time and can't get a court booking. Everything is usually my fault. They are like marmite.

This weekend, I am covering a sick colleague and have met some of the customers that I have only heard being bitched about in the staff kitchen. One particular gentleman has finally over-stepped the mark.

We caught him on the back court using his video camera to film a friend's coaching session. Because of child protection issues, we have a very clear policy on filming within the centre. Anyone doing so has to register with us at reception and the filmees need to sign a waiver. If necessary, we will insist that they switch to an end court and film in such a way that no other customers are in shot. We reserve the right to check what they are filming and refuse permission if we see fit. This is laid out quite clearly in prominently displayed signs. I recently re-printed them using a whopping 120pt text and bright red ink.

The duty manager told him that he must come to reception and fill in a form and show some identification. It was a busy afternoon, so she left me to handle that whilst she supervised a cleaning crew. He filled in the form but claimed not to have any ID.
"it's OK, everyone knows me here. Ask any of the coaches, I'm a registered Badminton coach"

I explained that I don't normally work weekends so if he could wait a moment, I would grab a coach and sort everything out. There were plenty of coaches milling around in the office and I would be back in about 10 seconds.
"This is bloody ridiculous. I don't have time to hang around. I'm a registered coach."
I pointed out that it was a long-standing policy of the centre and that I would be back in a few seconds. I restrained from pointing out that as a registered coach, he should be aware of our policy and the importance of following these procedures.

"This is beaurocracy gone mad. You're starting to fucking annoy me now. I have better things to do with my time than hang around here for this nonsense." He stormed back into the centre. I quickly grabbed the manager and explained what was happening.
"I can't stand that man. He is nothing but trouble - I'm sick of him" she snarled with great feeling.

Then a small miracle occured. The centre's top dog happened to be in and he came over.
"Are you having problems with Mr X again? What has he done this time."
I explained again.
"Right, that's the final straw. Sane, I want you to right an incident report. I will not tolerate him swearing at staff. I shall attach a copy of it to the other reports on file and write to him, telling him that he is no longer welcome at the centre. In future you can ban him and have him escorted off the premises."

I was gob-smacked! Anyone who has ever worked in the customer cervice industry will know that customers are allowed to get away with bloody murder before any action is taken against them. In the past, management's response to abuse from customers has usual been a sympathetic "some people are just like that, you have to put up with it". I have never had to fill in an incident report, except in rare instances where we think that someone may try and cause trouble for the centre. Then we do it just to make sure that our facts are straight in case of a letter of complaint some weeks down the line.

Anyways, the file we keep on this customer is quite enlightening. First he isn't a "registered coach", he is a self-appointed private coach. He does have coaching skills, that much has been confirmed by our staff who have discretely watched him coaching his own kids, but he isn't registered with any of the main coaching bodies. In the past, he has been warned that he can coach his own kids but he cannot use our premises for paid coaching. He has also been the subject of complaints from other customers who have not appreciated his unwanted advice or offers of tuition. He tries to ingratiate himself with the staff introducing himself to anyone new as "Mr X, I'm a part-time coach, everyone knows me, I'm down here all the time" and learning the staff member's name. But when confronted, he is often abusive and threatening. He usually appears during peak times at the weekend, when he can sneak in more discretely. As long as he doesn't appear with a bag full of shuttlecocks or appear to be coaching anyone that isn't his kid, there isn't much that the centre could do except keep an eye on him. I must point out, that whilst we are strict about child protection issues, we have no reason to suspect that he uses the videos as anything more than a training aid.

So Mr X, within the next few days you will be receiving a letter banning you from the centre. All members of staff will be given a copy and should you decide to ignore it, you will be asked to leave, with or without the assistance of the large gentlemen who manage site security. Go on, make my day...



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