(Photo Credit: Silvercliff.com)
Hello, Mr Dugan? This is Rodney Bliss with Crazy Man Ranch. I was just calling to follow up on the outstanding balance we have listed for you.
You’re new there aren’t you?
Yeah. Just this summer.
That bill is a result of . . .
From behind me
Rodney, put him on hold.
. . .you guys refusing to refund a trip after telling me it was refundable. I tried talking to. . .
Rodney! Put him him on hold
. . .the girl you had there working before, but they said that she didn’t work there. . .
RODNEY!! PUT HIM ON HOLD. RIGHT NOW!!
Sorry, Mr Dugan. Can you hold on just a second?
To say that my start at Crazy Man Whitewater Rafting Ranch was sort of rocky, does a disservice to rocks. In hindsight it was my own fault. I assumed that everything my partner Will had told me was true. In fact very little of it was. He wasn’t ever even really my partner.
Things started off okay. He decided to have me work in the reservation office to start. Our role was to book reservations for cabins, rafting trips and, as in the case of Mr Dugan, track down outstanding payments.
The problem. . .no problems. . .were that no one knew I was supposed to be a partner, especially Will’s wife, Sarah. Sarah was running the reservation office. I wasn’t her partner. I wasn’t anything more than one more employee.
We also had a guide named Matt who would routinely announce that certain scheduled trips were full. This wasn’t Matt’s job. Matt’s job was to guide the raft down the river. He quickly discovered that dumping your guests into the river and then heroically rescuing them earned him much higher tips than keeping them all in the boat. I was seriously worried that he was going to drown one of them. The Menominee River had a short run, but often ran at Class IV level.
Rapids are graded on a six point scale. Think of it this way: Class I is your bathtub. Class II is minor ripples. Class III is 2 to 3 foot crests. Most commercial rafting is Class II and III. Class IV is pretty much continuous whitewater and 4 to 5 foot swells. Class V is mostly for seasoned kayakers. And Class VI is theoretically impassible.
Part of the reason Will hired me. . .I mean took me on as a partner, was my customer skills and business skills. I didn’t really get a chance to use either one. But I tried. For example, as one group came off the river, the dad approached me.
This trip has been terrible!
What’s been the problem?
Your prices are totally out of whack for rafting.
Have you done much rafting?
Well. . .we went rafting with Echo Canyon on the Arkansas river in Colorado last summer.
Yeah, Andy Neinas, the owner is a friend of mine. Echo Canyon is a great outfit, and I know Andy really takes great care of his guests. I’ll let him know when I see him that you guys remembered Echo Canyon a year later. How have we failed to live up to your expectations?
Well, the food for one thing. We had hotdogs for dinner. I hardly call that gourmet cuisine like your website said.
I’ll make a note of that. We try to serve a variety. Tonight we’re serving a homemade chili. It’s one of our signature dishes. I think you’ll like it better than the hot dogs. Please let me know. And as you find other things you’d like to see us improve on, don’t hesitate to let me know. I’d love to have the reputation that Echo Canyon has. So, your perspective would be really helpful.
He wasn’t thrilled when we finished talking, but he was certainly happier, and he wasn’t going to ask for his money back. And I really did want to know what he thought. I was working hard to learn the business. I might have saved my efforts.
Sarah didn’t bother to apologize for yelling.
Rodney, Dugan bought a non refundable package. He chose to pay the full amount rather than just a deposit. It was his choice. I want you to get back on the phone and tell him that. I’ve already told him, but maybe hearing it again will finally convince him! Do it. Now!
Mr. Dugan, I’m sorry. The package you bought was non refundable. we’re going to have to ask you pay the entire $800.
I’ll see you guys in court.
I’m really sorry you feel that way, but I certainly understand.
A salary of $36,000 a year was not enough for this abuse. In fact, $36,000 was enough, period. I’d been promised $50,000, and that was not really enough to pay the bills without lots of prayer and rice and beans.
I decided that I needed to talk to my “partner.” I sent an email so I could properly lay out my concerns. I needed the salary we’d agreed on. I needed people to understand that I was a partner and had his backing. I needed to figure out my relationship with Sarah. The response was short and direct.
Sure, let's meet. Tomorrow at 2:00pm between the first and second trips.
So, why did I have this sinking feeling?
This is the second in a five part series on an experience I had trying to run a rafting company in Wisconsin. Yesterday I explored why sometimes “Following your Bliss” isn’t exactly the best choice. Tomorrow I’ll explain why Paul was at our meeting and what that sinking feeling was all about.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, blogger and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.