Between The Lines

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What made the Dew Tour incredibly popular last week was the accessibility of the star athletes and their apparent excitement to be in Ocean City.

That’s a lasting memory for me and a major difference between professional athletes in other sports. Throughout the weekend, these athletes, particularly Maryland native Bucky Lasek and well-known two-sport star Shaun White, were spotted around the area, signing autographs and posing for pictures. This was not just at Dew Tour organized events. Lasek stopped by K-Coast Surf Shop last week for an autograph session and at one point during a rain delay jumped behind the counter at Fisher’s Popcorn for some fun. He also was as gracious as they come when strangers approached him at various times throughout the event including during random strolls on the Boardwalk.

White, for his part, was also a familiar face around town. At one point, while driving in Ocean City, a group of fans apparently made traveling a little difficult for White and his entourage. Consequently, rather than pitch a fit, White jumped out of the vehicle and signed some autographs and had some pictures taken. Later in West Ocean City, numerous people commented how friendly he was at Sunset Grille where he ate twice during the weekend.

The athletes’ willingness and perceived desire and enthusiasm to greet fans and event attendees is what I will remember about this year’s Dew Tour because it was surprising, and it’s something worthy of emulation from other professionals if you ask me.

I see the current business of a thank you campaign in Ocean City the same way as the free gas promotion that grabbed headlines earlier this summer. It’s simply better left to the private sector.

Although there are others displaying similar messages, the Francis Scott Key Motel flashed a simply “thank you” message on its digital sign this week along Route 50. These sorts of outward displays are received well and go a long way in demonstrating a grateful attitude among those in the service industry. Little messages like that from the private sector can make a difference.

Along those lines, truly the best way to show appreciation to our visitors is to treat them with respect and provide quality service to them while they are here. In one way or another, all of us are in the service industry around these parts. All businesses benefit when visitors have nice experiences and leave pleased.

Sure, there may be some interest in giving them a keepsake as a token of appreciation, whether it’s a wristband, bracelet, a coupon for a return visitor or some free gas, but it’s the daily interactions that involve no money or clever pitches that make the most difference. As one hotelier put it, it’s the “eyes and teeth” that show the true gratitude. Open displays of appreciation need to take place constantly and not just when admirable campaigns like the one currently being weighed are brought to the forefront.

Unfortunately, here at the paper, we get weekly emails and letters complaining about a certain experience at this restaurant or that hotel. One received this week involved a man being told by a restaurant manager, “if you don’t like it, there’s the door.” The manager apparently lost his cool when he objected to the tone the man took with him when he complained about his white wine being served warm.

Rather than print these sorts of complaint letters, we encourage the letter writers to deal directly with the business owner or management. That’s the only true way to get something changed, not penning a letter detailing a horrific experience to a newspaper.

The point here is true appreciation takes place on the forefront of the service industry, and treating customers well and with respect will always be the best way to say thank you. That’s true gratitude.

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