Push to The Latest: No


There is no denying, it's been a tough season for most of us, which makes the business we have all the more precious. These are our die-hards, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. But, the story I am about to tell offers up a much different reality.

A friend of mine enrolled her 10-year-old girl in a ski program through her local town recreation center. It's a super program that busses kids to a local ski area where they get a one-hour lesson and a couple hours of free skiing. After their first outing, Iā€ˆspoke with my friend's daughter about her experience and received rave reviews. It's the kind of success story we need to duplicate a million times over. This girl is hooked and I know her parents will stop at nothing to support her new passion. But here's where the story takes a turn.

When I spoke to the mother of this child, let's call her "Betty," a different picture emerges. Betty was a chaperone that day and told me this: After the lessons, one of the kids came up to her upset because her instructor had her $10 lunch money. Upon further questioning, it turns out at the end of the lesson, this girl reached into her pocket for lunch money and a 10-dollar bill dropped to the ground. The instructor picked it up and said "finders keepers," stuck it in his pocket and walked off. When Betty found out, she took the girl and tracked down the instructor and asked him if he was "holding" $10 for this girl and he laughed and said, "Oh yeah, I thought that was for me." Typical of a young staffer, you say? Hardly. This guy was 50-plus. And he not only stole from a 10-year-old, but also from the ski area he works for. That money was slated for the F&B department.

But, wait, there's more! Betty then accompanied a boy to the rental shop to get some poles. As she was waiting in line to pay with her proper rental forms in hand, this boy went over to the pole area and handed the young kid working there $10 and said, "Can I have some poles?" The staffer took the $10 and gave him some poles. When Betty found out how the boy got the poles, she went over to the young man behind the counter and asked for the $10 back explaining she had already paid for them. He sheepishly handed the money back. Oh, and by the way, poles cost about $7.

End result of that day? The director alerted all participating parents to instruct kids to be careful with their money at this ski area. How's that for PR?

In the end, the kids won't be affected by these infractions. They had a blast. Ah, but this Mom-she'll remember, as will all the other parents in the program. This ski area, and this industry, simply cannot afford this type of negative publicity, especially now. With an off snow year, it is more important than ever to provide a quality experience that people will rave about to their friends. And that means a culture of excellent customer service from the top down. I ran into Rob Walz of Cascade Mountain and he said he accomplishes that positive vibe from his staff by simplifying his company's core values into four easy-to-remember actions: smile, hold the door, pick up garbage and say "thank you."

And, for God's sake, don't steal the kids' lunch money.

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