Towels and farewells

Towel Day has passed me by in the last few years (actually it’s passed me by since its inception) but I noticed it last week and as it reminded of a towel-related customer experience I’d intended to write something and shamelessly exploit the hashtag for a link or two. In the end a mild virus – barely even man-flu – was enough to put paid to that plan but, as it’s quite a good lesson in customer experience I won’t save it until next year.

I have been a sporadic gym user over the years and, prior to moving to the new, low-cost gym that’s conveniently at the end of my street, I was persuaded by one of my sons to join – along with him – a more up-market outfit also a few minutes’ walk from my house.

I duly went through the induction and kept up a reasonable regime of weight and cardio-work but never felt I enjoyed going to the gym, even though I enjoyed the exercise. Being an upmarket-ish sort of place they handed you a nice clean towel which you were asked to deposit in a bin on the way out having availed yourself of the swim, shower, sauna and steam facilities.

And this, I realised, was the root of my dissatisfaction with the place.

Despite pleas to do so, not everyone felt compelled to deposit their towels in the bin on the way out, meaning that the men’s changing room was usually littered with a few used towels. Not a great customer experience but to someone with memories of chilly and damp changing rooms as a schoolboy rugby player no worries. But, being an upmarket-ish kind of place, I suppose you could expect a few people there to be possessed of such a sense of entitlement that they felt it beneath themselves to carry a few square feet of damp cotton to the bin at the exit. Being a conforming type I always dropped it in, but this isn’t about my perfect manners or a comment on the lack of gym etiquette shown by my fellows…

When my son moved to college he cancelled his subscription and I kept going as I had signed up for one of those customer-hostile ‘discount’ deals that tied me in for another few months. My enthusiasm continued to diminish though and, on the last day, I shared my feelings with the desk staff. I had come to realise that during the two years I had been going, not once had anyone thanked me for dropping off the towel or said goodbye to me. Both are such a common courtesy that I am, in retrospect, not surprised that other members didn’t bother to drop off their towels.

I don’t know if my piece of feedback made any difference – unlike my current practice I didn’t bother to write to the organisation – but I’m particularly sensitive to it now in almost any establishment. In a scruffy pub in South Wales last Saturday where we had been sheltering from the rain and watching the Aviva Premiership final (that schoolboy rugby experience marks you for life) the manageress behind the bar said a cheery farewell thus proving that when your business is genuinely about creating a good customer experience courtesy will come naturally.

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