Thursday, March 12, 2009

Change Refunds and Up Satisfaction

In times past, insider gambling on horses (when purses were equivalent to a Happy Meal) was something to be concerned with. When you can hit a tri by doing some funny business and cashing $2000, it was big money compared to the purse. Racings response to this was to regulate several things, including stuck in gates, breaking horses, and declaring a race official regardless of myriad issues that may happen during, or before a race. This was not a terrible policy of course. If a horse did not look to have a good break from the gate and a driver knew he had money down he could break the horse and get a refund. And with racing being the only game in town, tracks keeping the money and not having to refund it was not something they were going to change. They liked money from people who had no other place to gamble. They could not shop at another store and racing knew it.

But in 2009 times have changed.

If a football game does not start, or something strange happens, even your neighbourhood bookie will give you a refund.

If a slot machine stops in between a cherry and a bar you get a refund.

If a lottery ticket spits out a letter instead of a number, you turn it in for another one.

Can you imagine the customer response in a casino if a machine makes a mistake or a dealer makes a error and the response was “all bets are final”? Even if it was a policy you would be getting a free buffet coupon or a couple of beers from a trained customer service professional.

During the accident last week at Woodbine the ORC judges ruled by the letter, as was on the books. Two horses finished, so that’s that and the race is official. A day or two later I bet a horse at Aqueduct and he got stuck in the gate. I looked up at the quarter and could not find him anywhere. The inquiry flashed and after a brief period the race was declared official.

We have people betting their hard-earned money on these races. If a horse breaks at the gate, or gets stuck in one, the customer did not even get a chance to play our game. Think if you were new to racing and one of your very first bets had this happen. You would immediately think you could turn in your ticket for a refund and as a customer you would be incredulous if it was any other way. But you would be sadly mistaken, and you would certainly be upset and wonder why in the hell you decided to play in the first place. Is this really the way we want our customers to feel after betting a race? In 1950 they had no choice but to come back. Now they have plenty of choices.

Today customer service is of the utmost importance for all businesses. Racing is working towards building a better customer service plan. But how do you capture customers when the rules you are working under were written for a different era? Many things in racing need an overhaul, and we have to fight and claw for every customer out there. A good start would be a change to the refund policy. Don't think like a bean-counter, think like a marketer. Not only will they just churn any refund money right back into the pools anyway, they will be a happier customer, and Lord knows we need more of those in racing.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not quite the same but...
Today at Tampa Bay in the 4th race the # 7 horse a 4-5 chalk comes over at the start hits the # 6 horse almost causing the horse to go down. Mary Homeister manages to stay in the saddle and finish 4th. Up goes the inquiry sign. The result stands.
On Jan 18th in the 1st race #10 Indian Opal a horse that in 5 races had only beaten 1 horse while being beaten an average of 43.6 lengths broke from the outside and cleared the field and got to the rail. The # 3 horse is behind him and looks like he wants to squeeze up the rail but I don't think the room is there. The jockey checks the # 3. Indian Opal had a ML of 20-1, probably should have been 50-1 but went off at 11-1. Somebody knew something. Indian Opal is DQ'D. Sometimes I have the feeling that a lot of fouls are settled with consideration to the people involved or how much is wagered on the horse. The more money returned to the majority creates more churn. These races along with the inquiry reruns can be seen at tampabaydowns.com. I would be curious to others opinions,
RG

Pull the Pocket said...

Did not see them, but yikes, another overhaul is the system of judging. Kaplan mentioned that on his back page at Trot a month or two ago.

Allan said...

For ages, I have been complaining about the recall rule in the states. I have no problem they don't have a recall for breaking horses, but there is nothing more infuriating when a horse breaks stride before the old recall poll and stays off stride when the field gets sent off and you don't get a refund. This is nothing more than a money grab. I have no problem with loosing your money when a horse goes of stride, but they should at least start the race.

My wish is this happens in the Hambo on national TV and everyone sees how the racetracks give the bettors the shaft.

Pull the Pocket said...

Allan,

They changed the fair start pole up here and it was long overdue. I am of the opinion that if a horse is offstride he should be refunded as well even if he hits the pole.

Allan said...

While I hate having a breaking horse, as long as he has a fair start, I have no problem with loosing my money; after all it is part of racing. My problem is when the race is over for you before the horse reach the starting pole; that is what is unfair.