Carnes: Paying for champagne and getting Boone’s Farm
Imagine splurging to rent a sports car for your once-every-few-years special vacation and being handed the keys to a Toyota Corolla at the counter.
Imagine renting a limo and discovering the price doesn’t include a driver, or a set of golf clubs and discovering it doesn’t include a putter.
How about using points to get upgraded to business class and being bumped to another flight with seating only in the back row or renting a “ski-in-ski-out” unit only to discover it involves a 10-minute walk through muddy slush?
Now imagine ordering ski rental equipment for your family of four online through a phone-automated AI bot, pre-paying for top-of-the-line gear, traveling a few thousand miles to your hotel, getting a good night’s sleep, enjoying a nice breakfast, heading to Gondola One, trying on the equipment that was oh-so-conveniently delivered slopeside and then — and only then — discovering your wife’s boots are too big, the kids bindings are too small for their boots, your skis are a foot shorter than you, poles perfect for Kevin Hart and each helmet is apparently sized for a Smurf.
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Welcome to Vail Resorts’ vision of doing to the gear rental experience what they’ve already done to the on-mountain food service experience.
To paraphrase a wonderful social media post: Vail Resorts is the Joel Osteen of the ski industry — promising the world yet delivering nothing but disappointment while still taking your money.
This is getting embarrassing.
Vail Resorts CEO Kirstin Lynch told investors dining revenue has underperformed this season. Not the quality of the food or the service — the revenue.
This tells us everything we already knew about Vail Resorts’ priorities, and you can bet your bippy this same corporate mindset will reign supreme over its new “My Epic Gear” program.
By the way, those letters can be rearranged to spell “Pricey Game.”
Anyway, there will be “no need to ever step foot in a gear or rental shop,” they boast, not even pretending to hide their contempt for locally owned businesses while again highlighting their ultimate goal of complete domination over every aspect of the ski industry, regardless of the consequences to those who helped them gain industry prominence in the first place.
This “increase guest capture and spend” mantra is a direct insult to a local legend like Buzz Schleper and other long-time rental gearheads like Craig Arford and Jay Lucas.
Sure, a gambling man thinks it could backfire and potentially be a boon for local shops over time, but I’m not aware of any shop owners eager to take such a bet.
I love automation and innovation and am a total nerd when it comes to being an early adopter of new products, but this ridiculous one-size-fits-all corporate approach has already ruined on-mountain dining in the eyes of our guests and will certainly do the same to the gear rental industry.
Independently owned local businesses deserve better, and Vail Resorts should stay in its lane of ruining mountain experiences across its resort properties. In the meantime, imagine hiring Helmut Fricker for a private gig and instead being entertained by a 10-year-old wearing a plastic Oktoberfest hat with a kazoo.
What scares me more is the thought that we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.