In defence of golf coupon book decision at River Bend

Re: Tee-Off Coupon booklet and Jane White’s letter to the editor on Friday’s Advocate, Golf coupon not honoured: I read with interest your letter in the Advocate. I also received a copy of an email a few days ago that you had forwarded to our city mayor, which Legislative Services sent along to Todd Fiske, our director of golf. It is clear that you are disgruntled over the decision of our director of golf not to accept your Tee-Off Coupon on a Friday afternoon

Re: Tee-Off Coupon booklet and Jane White’s letter to the editor on Friday’s Advocate, Golf coupon not honoured:

I read with interest your letter in the Advocate. I also received a copy of an email a few days ago that you had forwarded to our city mayor, which Legislative Services sent along to Todd Fiske, our director of golf. It is clear that you are disgruntled over the decision of our director of golf not to accept your Tee-Off Coupon on a Friday afternoon.

You are certainly adamant about the “rules” associated with this coupon offering from Tee-Off, but you seem to have overlooked a couple of key ones on the Terms and Conditions of Coupon Use on their website:

— Under the heading How to Use the Tee-Off Golf Book, it clearly states on the second bullet point, “Please phone ahead to book tee time and validate coupon usage.” To my knowledge, you booked the tee time online and did not call ahead to validate the coupon’s usage. If you had, you would have been told that it would not be accepted on a Friday afternoon.

— Under the heading Things to remember while using your Tee-Off book, it clearly states at the forth bullet point, “All prices quoted are subject to change without notice.”

River Bend did not receive any proofs of this advertising to approve in advance of their publication. I have also been advised that we did not sign a contract to participate in the booklet this year, and have not for several years into the past. According to our director of golf, we have not been in the Tee-Off Coupon book every season, but in those seasons that we have been in this coupon booklet, we have chosen to honour the coupons Mondays through Wednesdays only. I have had our accounting office go through the golf shop deposits since the beginning of the golf season and there have been no Tee-Off Coupons processed on Fridays or weekends since the start of the golf season, so if you have in fact used three of them already this season, according to the reporting I have been provided, they were not accepted and processed as payment on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday in this 2014 golf season.

The whole purpose of any promotional green fee offer is to drive patron business into non-peak times, to improve on yield management of the tee sheet. There is no business benefit for us to offer such coupon discounts to our rounds of golf during peak golf periods on our tee sheet such as Fridays and weekends. Accordingly, we would never have accepted participation in the coupon booklet in the first place if one of the terms was to accept coupons during peak golfing periods. The River Bend Golf and Recreation Society’s board of directors and the City of Red Deer have mandated that the management is to seek to maximize the yield management and revenue potential of the golf course in the interests of the greater Red Deer golf community and to pay for the costs of operating the facility, while maintaining rates at reasonable and affordable levels. Our fee schedule and the promotional offers that we do participate in have been established accordingly.

You are also incorrect in expressing some nature of ‘entitlement’ because, “I am a City of Red Deer taxpayer; and a portion of my taxes do go to River Bend Golf course operations.” Aside from the fact that the total amount of property taxes that you have paid in the past decade would quite likely not cover the cost of the asphalt and curbs on the street in front of your house, or the garbage, water and sewage systems that you benefit from as a member of this community, it is quite simply an inaccurate statement.

This public golf course property is owned by the city, you have that part correct. It was originally built from Alberta Heritage Trust Fund monies in 1987 and from what I have been told, the clubhouse was built from the financial resources derived by selling the gravel that came off the property during the construction of the golf course. The property is managed under management and financial agreements between the River Bend Golf and Recreation Society, a not-for-profit entity, and the city. All of the directors of the board are appointed to volunteer terms of service on the board by the city, but beyond that the society is, by the agreement, an “Independent Operator” of this property. The society is charged under the terms of the agreement with operating the facility in a manner that is to be financially self-sustaining and is to contribute back to the City of Red Deer as well. For the past three years, the city has provided a fee-for-service payment annually of $140,000 to cover the costs of maintaining the non-golf, recreational areas and green spaces of the property, such as the boat launch, Discovery Canyon and maintenance and upkeep of the nordic ski trails in the winter months. For the first 23 years of the society’s management of this property, the golf community paid those costs from the revenues generated from the golf course.

The city does not fund the operating budget of the golf course with taxpayer dollars and never has. In fact, quite to the contrary! Between 1989 and 2001, the golfers who supported this property through the green fees and season passes they purchased contributed $2.3 million in payments to the city’s general revenues after expenses for the property were paid for, through the financial terms of historical financial models in the agreements between the two parties during that era. Since 2001, the golfers who have supported this property have contributed $21,161,718 in revenues to pay for the operating and capital expenses of this property’s operations. Those same golfers, through the society, have contributed $766,647 in property taxes to the city for use in other areas and for other priorities in the community during that same period. The property taxes that you pay do not go to pay for the costs of this golf course and, accordingly, an argument made basing that on some nature of entitlement is simply wrong.

There is a formal complaints resolution process outlined for our patrons to employ when they feel they have not received appropriate service from our employees or have a disgruntlement with a product or service offerings (Policy 4.2).

You are correct in your letter that, “the bottom line is that they were not going to budge — that was that.” I have been the general manager/COO of this property for five seasons, and in golf and hospitality management for 35 years. In that time, I have been known (and have the testimonials to prove it) for providing excellence in management and customer service, in part because I show very good judgment and deal with people as fairly and as equally as possible. You can write to our board under Policy 4.2 to complain about this letter and/or the decision if you like. Since they are all full-paying supporters of this public golf course property and some have been for many years, I suspect you will not be successful in getting this decision overturned. I do not speak for the board of directors, but I am pretty certain they will feel as I do this day; that the message delivered to you was the right one, whether you liked receiving it or not.

You are welcome to call ahead to book a tee time on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and advise our staff on the phone that you will be bringing in your Tee-Off coupon booklet to help offset 25 per cent of the cost for a foursome if you like, as every other golfer in the community can do. If you wish to speak with me, I welcome you to phone me to set up a time to meet in person.

Andrew Gilchrist, General Manager/COO

River Bend Golf and Recreation Society

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