The Portland, Maine area is lucky enough to have two fabulous play spaces for children. However, I have decided to stage a loosely followed boycott of one of them. (This means that we will still be attending the birthday parties being held there but will not choose to initiate a visit.) The owner’s customer service and demeanor has been atrocious.
It all began when Liam was about 4 months old. The mama group I’m in would meet at this play space because they have a cafe with delicious paninis and lattes. This outing would save our sanity, making us better wives and mothers. Our large group would relax and chat mommy stuff while the babies laid on blankets, not moving yet. This play space was fairly new and sometimes only 1 or 2 other moms there besides us.
The sign posted said that babies under 6 months were free to get in. Adults needed to pay $5 though. So, essentially I was paying $5 to then spend money on lunch. At the time this was a small price to pay for real, human interaction. One day, the discrepancies started. No one was ever charged the same price twice for a latte. Then the owner started demanding that we pay for the babies, who were all under 6 months. She claimed that since we took up so much floor space we should be paying for the babies. Every mom told her that they wouldn’t pay because her sign said 6 months. I pointed out that she did not have a line formed out the door, and if she had to turn people away because of us then I could understand. In fact, sometimes we were the only customers there at the time. Still, every time we walked in she would slyly demand $10 instead of $5, hoping that we would give up the fight for once.
The owner constantly complains to the customers about how she’s not making enough money. I always feel like I’m being swindled and overcharged. It’s not a feeling I would go out of my way for.
The week Liam turned 6 months old we gave up our battle, even though his birthday wasn’t for a few more days and anywhere else I would have played the 5 month card still. The owner asked for $10 when we walked in the door and I paid it without comment. The next day we were at the other play space in our area, whose 6 month rule is the same. When they asked me how old the baby was and I said his 6 month birthday was in 2 days the gal behind the counter said, “Great! He’s still free!” What a difference in customer service.
I know it’s not just me dealing with the Dragon Owner. A mom I know has twins and bought a discounted punchcard to the play space on livingsocial.com. Each punch is worth 2 adults and 1 child. My friend asked the owner to punch the card twice but she refused, making comments about how she needed cash for the second baby because my friend got a discounted card and she loses money on those cards. She made my friend feel badly about having a discounted punchcard. The owner refused to punch the second hole and my friend paid cash for the second baby so that she could get inside and meet the rest of us who were waiting for her.
Enough is enough. We all the economy is bad right now. We all know that businesses can’t be as forthcoming with discounts. But making your customers feel guilty and responsible for your business’ financial problems are rude and in poor taste. Being inconsistent with your posted prices is unacceptable. So, even though the lattes are tasty, there are other places to spend my money. Places who will appreciate that we’re all doing the best we can and won’t try to wheel and deal a few dollars off the top.