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Guest service rules

Kaye Ferry

Recently I wrote about a very unpleasant experience with one of the Vail Police Department’s code enforcement officers. Naturally, some of the police were not happy that I actually put a name in that column. They felt the matter should have been dealt with privately.Here’s my feeling on that: To begin with, I guess I should start a file on the guy because I’ve now heard other horror stories about his performance. But in a more general sense, as I’ve been told on many occasions, when you’re in the public arena, your behavior becomes public business. Even more so, when you’re in a town uniform, your behavior is a reflection on the town and the rest of us as you act as our representative. At the very least, anyone dealing with the public has a responsibility to act in a polite and courteous way. There is simply no excuse for bad manners. While not everyone agrees with Marshall Field’s mantra that the customer is always right, at the end of the day the customer is still the customer. Keep in mind we spend millions of marketing and promotion dollars each year to attract guests. We then spend thousands more on customer service training. It’s unfortunate when a guy with a quick pen and $26 worth of authority can ruin that.Oh, make no mistake, the business owners in the area are happy that congestion has been reduced. But nothing is solved if you simply replace one problem with another. In the ski school locker room hangs our guidelines for guest service. Greet the guest. Connect with the guest. Thank the guest. Ask the guest to return. Naturally, the implication is that these interactions would be delivered in a polite and positive way. I’m here to tell you, that was not the case in the experience I related. And the stories from two other of his victims were worse. They said he even swore at them.Sorry guys. Represent this community in the appropriate way or get called on it. Every single one of us and every single business feels the impact when you treat our guests rudely. CONSTRUCTION SEASON: Already the short fuses are short out there. This summer is the start of a series of much-needed renovation in the town of Vail. But it will not happen without some challenges.The phone is ringing and I’m stopped on a daily basis to discuss some of the obvious glitches in attempting to coordinate a whole village worth of projects in the public and private sector.And fur flies when those at town hall, whose paycheck miraculously appears every other Friday regardless of the economy, tell a distressed business owner that “we’re sensitive to the needs of the business community and we sympathize with you.”Get one thing straight. Bureaucrats will never, under any circumstances, understand the pressure of paying the rent and making payroll because when they have a shortfall, they simply take it out of reserves or raise taxes.So by implying, or even worse, directly stating that they understand the problems of private enterprise, they simply exacerbate the situation. As one business owner retorted last week when told “we understand” by someone at town hall, “Has your salary gone done because of this construction? Well mine is already down by 30 percent, and we’re just getting started.” Last summer, the town did as good a job as humanly possible under the circumstances. At the end of the year, sales tax collections proved that the problems associated with all of the construction were surmountable.This year, however, the projects are more numerous, bigger and not all controlled by the town, as many this year are from the private sector. That means we must all work together more effectively and understand that platitudes do nothing to solve the problem. Where the system breaks down revolves around the fact that there are no business people at town hall, which clearly translates into an inability to understand the business community. It is simply unacceptable to tell a merchant that access to his store will be significantly disrupted two months before D Day and six months after orders have been placed for that season.What’s supposed to happen to $200,000 of inventory when no one can get to the door? The business community not only understands the need for renovation, I think they’ve done an exemplary job of showing support. But they can’t function with costly surprises.It’s not malicious. It is simply grounded in ignorance of how businesses function and the time tables under which they operate. As I hear these complaints, I become increasingly convinced that until we address this issue with a business guru, the problems will continue and undoubtedly grow as we move through the greatest period of construction since the town was founded. Yet we have a system in place that we must work with in the meantime. To at least get all of the information out and provide a forum for discussion, there will be a meeting on March 8 from 8:00-10 a.m. in the Town Council Chambers. This is the monthly meeting of the VCBA. The town is assembling its staff, as well as all of the managers of public and private projects that will be under way this summer.This is your chance to listen, question and provide input. There is no guarantee that solutions can be found for every situation, but at least it is a chance for you to participate in the discussion. If you don’t at least make this effort, you too are part of the problem.Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado


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