May 25

Where customer service is a a true oxymoron

Ted ‘Ludacris’ Birkhahn and I played tennis yesterday at a facility so horrific and staffed by people so incompetent that it almost defies description. In fact, in an era where outstanding customer service is seen as the price of entry for most businesses in most industries, the Midtown Tennis Club not only stands alone in its shabbiness but, indeed does so in a blatantly defiant way.

To wit, the Midtown Tennis Club:

– has poorly maintained clay courts that, in many areas, have been worn through to the underlying macadam. This makes for an experience more akin to ice skating than tennis.

– the front stairway is partially blocked to make way for an escalator. It’s a nice touch considering one has to climb about 4,000 steps to reach the front desk. But, the construction has remained in the same unfinished state since 1989.

– the locker rooms are dirty, drab and lacking of air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter. And, the two shower stalls feature only scalding hot water in hot weather (it was a true delight showering in 130 degree water after having just played two hours in 90 degree temps) and Artic-like cold water in winter. Another nice touch is the clay pellets one tramps through with momentarily clean feet on the way from the showers to the lockers.

– the courts have no extra back or side footage, so one often finds oneself smashing into the walls or nets to vainly retrieve a volley.

– the piece de resistance, though, is the friendly, smiling and always attentive staff (not). The sullen and surly women behind the counter not only lack any and all social graces, but they take forever and a day to check players in and then, in a deft servicing touch, will invariably either under or overcharge, forcing players to wait as they re-enter credit card information into a machine that had to have first come online in the Eisenhower Administration.

So, why you ask, do the Ludacris one and I frequent such an establishment? That’s easy. The Midtown Tennis Club is a virtual monopoly in the area in which it’s situated. There are so few clubs and so many players that management can afford to treat its customers with utter contempt and its facilities with complete neglect.

Until a player is seriously injured on the poorly maintained courts or a competitive facility is built in the ‘hood, the Midtown Tennis Club will remain a proudly defiant non-participant in the global and noble quest by most businesses to provide superior customer service.