Twice this winter I picked up the phone to hear a slightly defeated-sounding local business owner nervously begin their sentence with: “Sorry, but…”
And twice this winter I surprised them by saying, “It’s OK, I understand.”
The past year has wreaked havoc on all aspects of society, and in the wake of the pandemic many have sought solace outdoors. That’s supposed to be a good thing, right?
COVID has caused real pain and divisiveness, but in a much less fatal way the outdoor industry has taken its lumps as well. Increased shipping costs, difficulty in acquiring parts, mass layoffs, and even the closure of smaller companies and local businesses have all contributed to a shocking level of inventory deficiency on many outdoor goods. As a result, this has led many weekend warriors trying to locate a new bike or SUP in a frustrated race to get to the cash register first.
And you know what? It’s going to be OK, because this is bigger than us.
The first call was about my 8 year-old’s skiing lessons at Brimacombe: “We’re hoping to salvage the ski season, but unfortunately we decided to cancel the youth lesson programs so we can better manage the amount of skiers on the hill. You can expect a full refund.”
My response: “It’s OK, I understand. I feel bad for the high school kids relying on this for their winter jobs. We’ll still be skiing as much we can, though! See you on the hill.”
The representative was shocked, and couldn’t stop thanking me for – get this – actually being nice. After I hung up I checked social media and was disgusted at the vitriol directed towards Brimacombe, who were very clear about their COVID contingency/refund plans for season membership holders. After detailing a variety of options, a particularly contentious part of the policy was: “Membership and Season Pass rates will not be reduced lower than $50.00, plus applicable taxes.” Meaning, if Brimacombe needed to fully close and refund their members, they were keeping $50 to help with administrative and operational costs. Somehow people were complaining about this?
Dude, you are complaining about a ski pass. You don’t need the $50.
The second call was from my local outdoor shop, Wild Rock. Now, the last time I purchased a new mountain bike was the late 90’s, and with my kids outgrowing their grandma-bought Supercycles I made a financially irresponsible decision to splurge on bikes for all of us. All three bikes had to be ordered in, and the delivery date was given as ‘early March.’
I’ll admit, I agonized over my bike. It was moderately priced by today’s standards, but still a few hundred dollars more than what I wanted to spend. Knowing the inventory difficulties across the industry I decided to go for it, and…
“I’m sorry, but…” The company reneged on 70% of the bikes pre-ordered by Wild Rock, mine included.
It would have been easy to get upset, but about what? Something well beyond the control of a local business that I’ve dealt with for 10 years? An easy and understanding response led to a great conversation about distribution, supporting local business, and ultimately, just enjoying the outdoors. The person on the other end of the phone was clearly relieved to have an actual conversation, rather than being yelled at by someone getting a full refund. I felt like I made a friend.
I’m not saying this to suggest I’m a great person, because I’m not. I’m only saying this to remind people that it’s OK to be good to others, and that helps me be a better example to my sons. I’m also not saying this to brag that I can afford ski memberships and mountain bikes; I worked my ass off to pay off the student loans that put me in a position to provide these activities for my kids, and they are well aware that their skis and bikes can be taken away at any second if they don’t appreciate the people working at the hills or fixing our bikes. Think about this: everyone learns how to ride a bike, but it never ceases to amaze me that people don’t understand the simple benefit in saying ‘thank you’ to the person that sold it to them.
As for the title?
- Appreciate Your Local Outdoor Business
- The Impacts of COVID on Outdoor Industries
- Inventory Deficiency in Outdoor Industries Reveal Our Privilege
- We All Deserve to Enjoy the Outdoors. Just Don’t Be An Asshole About It.