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Anyone who has worked at a center or who bowls a lot knows what the cracking sound in an alley means. Someone has decided to throw a ball directly at the sweep; or a child who didn’t know any better rolled too soon or too late; or some teenager thought he would look “cool.” Often times, the culprit ends up being an adult who has had a few too many drinks and tries to get a good laugh from his friends by throwing more than one ball down the lane. This past weekend, I dealt with one of “those” adults.
It was close to closing time, and there were only a couple of lanes going. I was at the front desk, and I saw a group of people, in their twenties, all gawking at the lane in front of them. I turned just in time to see five balls rolling down the lane. A couple of balls were in the gutter and the rest were actually on the lane. Five bowlers had decided it would be hysterical to throw the balls at the same time! NOT REALLY THAT FUNNY!
I’ve seen bowlers try to get a dead ball by throwing another ball directly at the dead one, thinking both would get past the sweep. Does it work? No. You end up with two dead balls. I’ve seen the perfect roll interrupted by the sweep coming down just as the ball is about to hit the head pin. The first reaction is to blame faulty equipment, but 99.9% of the time it involves a child, sitting on the ball return rack, pushing a button that engages the sweep. Hey, buttons are meant to be pushed. In each case, I always try to give the customer the benefit of the doubt and, at the same time, correct the behavior.
Back to the five balls rolling down the lane. Normally, I give customers a warning when I see they are breaking a rule. For these five who decided to try to break my company’s machine, no second chances. Their game got turned off instantly.
Maintaining a level of professionalism is always the hardest part when dealing with customers who are being reckless. You want to treat them like a five-year-old, but then come the possible complaints to your general manager or, even worse, to Yelp. I have realized in my three years in customer service, the best thing to do is to treat everyone like a V.I.P. Be kind, yet firm with your words. However when their inconsiderate actions cause harm to the center’s equipment or someone else’s safety, turn off the lane.
All stories need a happy ending. To finish mine, the bowlers, whose game I turned off, came up to me and apologized. It was one of the most surprising, yet rewarding apologies I have received.