Does your PoS have a UM?
How does your customer database get to the cloud? It flies Allegiant Airlines
The world today is full of acronyms for all sorts of reasons. Our industry has plenty – PGA, USGA, NGCOA, GCSAA, NGF, and more. Some acronyms become brands, like IBM. Some are just abbreviations for commonly used words or phrases, like ISP (Internet Service Provider). For purposes of this article we’ve created a new one: UM, or Ulterior Motive, and we’ll explain how a golf point-of-sale provider had a UM in plain sight that no one saw.
Teesnap jolted the industry just a few years ago with a cloud and iOS-based system and mobile capabilities. It offered reduced rates on credit card processing; a system promised to be updated every 45 days, and better customer data-gathering capabilities. It sought to charge courses by the number of rounds played and refused to offer API connections to third parties.
On Dec. 13, 2018, Teesnap jolted its clients with an email sent by its parent, Allegiant Airlines, that revealed that Teesnap had shared the customer data from its golf course clients with its parent. This ignited a firestorm on the NGCOA Accelerate message board far surpassing comments for the more mundane “rental pull carts” or “no show policy.”
NGCOA members were irate, with comments such as, “I am furious! People are unsubscribing to email, calling to complain, emailing. This is a deal breaker as far as I am concerned." Also, "We were affected by the email as well with angry customers who thought we sold and profited from our email list.”
What caused this outrage? Check out the email below, but please don’t jump to any conclusions before reading the rest of this article:
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2018, 2:40 PM
To: (redacted for privacy)
Subject: An update from Cypress Creek Golf Club (redacted for privacy)
Allegiant offers nonstop deals on nonstop flights.
With data theft and sharing being hot enough issues to commence congressional hearings and public grilling of tech execs like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Sundar Pichai (Google); and the whole Russia thing with Cambridge Analytica and their Internet Research Agency, not to mention most of our personal emails being stolen, sold, or compromised in some way (Viagra, anyone?), it’s easy to see how Allegiant’s effort to acquire new customers drew the ire of Teesnap’s golf course clients.
However, there are more layers to this story than a Pro V1x. And those angry course operators are partly to blame.
Pellucid’s crack fact-finding research team acquired a recent Teesnap client contract, v3.7, executed in March 2018. Two sections state, verbatim, the following:
3.5 License to Your Content. You hereby grant Teesnap a non-exclusive, worldwide, transferable, irrevocable (during the term of this Agreement) and sublicensable license to use, copy, distribute, display and perform any of your content concerning your Golf Course Offerings (including any trademarks trade names, logos or copyrighted material of yours to be included in any advertising for your Golf Course Offerings) in any and all media or formats in connection with Teesnap’s fulfillment of its rights and obligations under this Agreement, including the promotion of your Golf Course Offerings.
3.8 Customer Data. You acknowledge that you will own all data collected by, or on behalf of, Teesnap pursuant to this Agreement, including all information and data of individuals who may or do purchase your Golf Course Offerings (“Customer Data”); provided, however, that Teesnap and its Affiliates shall have the right to use any such data collected by it for marketing or other purposes. Teesnap shall take commercially reasonable efforts to protect the security of Customer data and comply with all laws relating to the processing of any Customer Data. If you become aware of or suspect, any unauthorized access to or use of Customer Data by Teesnap, you shall immediately notify Teesnap and shall cooperate with Teesnap in the investigation of such a breach and the mitigation of damages.
To put it bluntly, owner/operators who signed this contract or other versions with the same or similar language either did not read it in its entirety; or if they did, did not understand the terms. Or, didn’t care. To us, the language in 3.8 makes clear that Teesnap and its affiliates (Allegiant Airlines et al.) gained the right to harvest and market to their course clients’ customers.
We reviewed the customer data security language in the contracts of three of Teesnap’s competitors – Club Prophet, EZLinks, and Chronogolf. We did not find similar language to Teesnap’s. That’s not to say that an attorney can’t tear these clauses apart in a hundred different ways. Ours is a common sense, layman’s review of the language.
Allegiant and its affiliates reportedly sent three emails including the one shown earlier in this article. Curiously, this writer did not receive any despite being in the customer database of at least one Teesnap client (who is in the process of switching to another company). Moreover, not all Teesnap clients were affected. It appears there was some geo-coding of email addresses segmented by proximity to airports served by Allegiant. There are ways to do this even if a full postal address is not part of the customer contact file.
Our first impression was that the displayed email violated CAN-SPAM regulations. We shared it with an email marketing expert from a leading data marketing firm along with the contract language. While she’s not allowed to offer a legal opinion on the contract language, she did confirm that based on it and the format of the email, this did not violate CAN-SPAM.
Allegiant used the course name based on the language in section 3.5, and its email displays a clear path to unsubscribe. Whether the course customers are confused about whom they might unsubscribe from (the course? Allegiant?) is not a CAN-SPAM issue. It assumes they’ll figure it out.
So that leaves us with Teesnap/Allegiant’s UM – why did they do this? We sent several emails and placed calls to Teesnap CEO Bryan Lord and two of his associates and at deadline, have not received a response. However, some insight is gleaned from this article in Yahoo Finance from late 2018: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/budget-airline-diversifying-just-losing-165000398.html. In it are three key points:
- Allegiant believes that its large existing customer base and distribution capabilities will enable it to create a more profitable hotel model by not relying on third-party distributors like online travel agencies.
- Yet its smaller initiatives like Teesnap and G4CE aren't likely to move the needle, while the Sunseeker Resorts project is a big gamble.
- But the company also hopes to collect customers’ email addresses to enable direct marketing of Allegiant flights and vacation packages later on.
Oh, boy. Let’s all add 2+2.
Lord did write an apology letter to Teesnap clients – we have it. We’re not inclined to publish it – it’s a personal letter from Lord to his clients. He apologizes for the communication that went out to patrons of the golf courses “soliciting them to opt-in/opt-out of future emails campaigns.” He adds that Teesnap/Allegiant “fell short on the execution of this outreach…that created an unintended issue in the form of an intrusive email for you and your customers.” He goes on to extoll the virtues of what Teesnap does and will do in the future for golf course clients. However, nowhere does he say that Allegiant and affiliates will never use the course customer databases again. The tone of the letter is more “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than beg for permission.”
The questions we sent Lord and received no response include:
- Why would you include clauses like 3.5 and 3.8 (from the v3.7 contract) when no one else in the industry had ever done this?
- Were you directed by Allegiant to include clauses like this when you came to them with your idea to create Teesnap? Alternatively, was this your idea to help get Allegiant's backing?
- What happens to the data if a current client opts out of your contract and changes systems? Do you maintain the right to continue marketing to their database?
- Will new versions of your contract include the two clauses in question?
Wherefore art thou, USA Tee Time Coalition?
First, full disclosure. This writer supports the mission of the USATTC and briefed its director Jared Williams in the beginning on “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of the tee time business.
The Teesnap incident is a sparkling example of why the USATTC exists. Nearly a month later (as of this writing) it's been silent. Insiders indicate its response has bounced around between the USATTC board of directors, the NGCOA board and leadership, and PGA leadership and legal counsel. In their slight defense, the holiday season interrupted business, and the parties to the response wanted full legal review and assurance. Given the eruption of anger seen on Accelerate and the seriousness of course operators’ concern, even just a “we’re working on this” message might have been a good idea.
Williams has responded via email on several occasions to our requests for comment. While providing nothing on the record, we guess that USATTC will issue an advisory to course owner/operators regarding data protection and privacy policies and take a more active role reviewing each vendor's privacy policies and affiliate agreements. USATTC will assume the responsibility to help educate and inform golf course operators of the clauses and contract language to which they should pay particular attention and ask specific questions.
That’s a bit like barring the barn door after the horses have escaped, but if pursued aggressively and published across multiple golf industry channels, it will give operators shopping for a new PoS system something else to consider. That’s especially timely as show season begins.
In the end, much of the onus lay in the laps of those who signed the contracts. Stuart Lindsay sums it up best with an image:
And, beware the UM.
Have you joined the Golf Alternative Revenue Movement?
Golf Datatech reported a measly .6% increase in rounds played in 2016. I write that with some sigh of relief - at least it wasn't a decrease. And some in the golf industry see this statistically flat report to be our new normal. Maybe. We don’t know the industry revenue numbers because of the unfortunate demise of PGA Performance Trak. We do know, however, that some course operators are finding alternative means to produce more and new revenue.
Golf facilities are installing golf simulators; upgrading their F&B and banquet capabilities to attract weddings, meetings, and events; building golf academies and upgrading their practice facilities, and installing things like FootGolf, or other machinations that sling or fling with the hopes of producing some bling. All of these have one thing in common – none of them puts people on the golf course swinging and hitting a golf ball.
We at Quick.golf are taking a self-appointed leadership position in the Golf Alternative Revenue Movement (GARM). Our goal is to help courses generate incremental revenue from golfers playing golf on the golf course. We recognize these two indisputable facts: Golf courses have capacity that goes unsold, almost daily; and, golfers don’t have time to play as much as they’d like. Write those in permanent ink.
The Quick.golf app enables golf course operators to easily offer golf in a pay-by-hole alternative format, on days and at times best suited to their operations. Golfers can choose to play as many holes as their time allows and only pay for what they play. Quick.golf won’t be measured in rounds by Golf Datatech, but it will be measured in dollars in the cash drawer.
Quick.golf is real golf, on real golf courses, played by real golfers paying real money. Who wants to join us in the Golf Alternative Revenue Movement? Go to www.quick.golf/joinus.
Quick.golf - A New Way to Play
Wait, you haven't heard about Quick.golf? You mean you missed the articles published here, here, here, and here? Really, you must catch up on your industry news, don't you think? And while you are at it, check out www.quick.golf/joinus. It tells you what every public golf course needs to know about this web app service.
Similarly, Quick.golf is lucky to have been recognized by some perceptive media and golf consultants as a very smart idea. People like John Strege of Golf Digest, Jim Dunlap of the Pellucid Perspective, and Jim Keegan of JJ Keegan+. We thank them, and know there will be more.
There is no denying that golf courses have capacity they do not fill and generally, cannot sell for other than ridiculously discounted rates (hellooo, GolfNow). And, there is also no denying that golfers do not have as much time to play as they'd like. The answer, the solution, is to think outside the box, outside the limited thinking that golf in 18-hole, or 9-hole increments is the only way to sell golf and make money. Quick.golf is here to provide an alternative for a business plan written decades ago. Quick.golf is here to shake the trees of tine-constrained golfers, and rattle the brains of golf course operators to find the progressive ones who live in the present and can see the future, rather than succumb to the tortuous thinking that is killing golf courses around the country.
Quick.golf does not offer full salvation from what ails golf courses. But it is a start - and a relatively risk-free one at that. The upfront cost is just $299, plus 30 minutes of set-up time and some simple staff training. Market it to your customers, and see who falls out of the trees. There are millions of golfers who will tell you right now - they would play more often if they had the time.
With Quick.golf available at their favorite course, they can play as time allows, and only pay for what they consume. We're helping to rebuild the golf business, a few holes at a time. We invite you to join us.
By the way, here is the icon you'll see when you bookmark our web app to your mobile device. It is the gateway for golfers to play the game a new way, one that opens the way to playing more golf.
A Boatload of Angst
Even the best companies find ways to make themselves look foolish. It's often times inadvertent, but usually reveals something the world does not know, or confirms long-held suspicions.
Such is the case with GolfNow, the company golf course owners and operators love to hate. First revealed by Jim Keegan here, a video surfaced of GolfNow revelling in the joys of selling trade times and making millions, many millions, of dollars. Further sleuthing by other concerned golf industry citizens unearthed the original rap video that GolfNow parodied, found here. It's about the love of cocaine, and projects a disturbing image of the GolfNow workplace culture.
It did not take long for the full video, of which the rap parody is at the end, to reach the light of day. Here it is on a private Vimeo channel (not mine), and the password is "golf." It is the full, 75-minute presentation of GolfNow's six-month business update.THIS JUST IN, 5:00pm Wednesday, July 13: The full length video has been taken down by Vimeo. Sorry if you missed it. However, the short rap parody video can still be viewed on Jim Keegan's site, linked above. To some extent, the cat is out of the hat, the horse is out of the barn, and certainly the (Trade) boat has left the dock. Notwithstanding, below are some key highlights.
At about the 8-minute mark, Will McIntosh shows the current numbers and talks about how May and June have been disappointing.
Next is Jeff Foster discussing client participation numbers.
14:30 – An update on their G1 system and Billy Casper Golf, currently an EZLinks client.
16:00 – Why their "Worry free" is good for golf courses, even if they don't know it.
17:45 – A focus on selling trade times. Foster: The golf courses may not like the hot deals, but “we’ve earned them.” They endeavor to defend what they’ve earned. In fact, they have a team that works to ward of golf course complaints and defend how they sell the trade times. I think this indicates an unwillingness to work with most golf courses on floor prices. Trade round sales are up 9%, but from the previous segment, overall rounds are down. That’s very troubling for any course to reconcile. Their “keep it simple” mantra in no way reflects the desire to generate more rounds and revenue for courses, just more trade and trade sales for GolfNow.
32:30 – Ski Now. Look out, ski industry!
38:00 - GolfNow Rewards. More competition for golf course clients.
45:50 – Notice the "Clap" sign on the left. Classic.
1:06:30 – EZLinks mention – Foster “does not see them as a threat at all.” In my mind, any executive who does not recognize a competitor in its space should be fired.
1:08:45 – I’m trying to figure out what this question means. But, the comments by McIntosh are important to listen to.
1:11 – GolfNow and the private club market - their new target. That's right, Hot Deals on memberships.
1:12:30 – How are they so successful selling trade? Foster doesn't answer directly, but leads the audience to the audacious and obnoxious rap parody video. So, there is your answer.
Another commentary is that of NGCOA CEO Jay Karen, found here. Jay is rather new to this controversy, but has his experience rooted in the hospitality industry and witnessed the abuse by third party marketers heaped upon that industry, particularly hotels. As with Jim Keegan's post, this is worth the read as well. We need more bright minds illuminating these issues.
There are a couple of things most disturbing to me. The bottom line to the GolfNow presentation is that not once, not at all, did they speak of the health of golf course owners and operators. There is no discussion about the health of their clients. Their reps repeatedly use the most overused pitch in golf, "We'll help you drive rounds and revenue" but that is not present in their BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). That GolfNow BHAG is to be "part of every round, everywhere." One can easily "read between the lines" of the parody video and surmise the corporate attitude to be, "We got ours, too bad for the rest of you." Jay Karen refers to this as a parasitic relationship completely void of symbiosis, and I heartily agree.
Second, and not quite as disturbing unless I am a NBC/Universal executive, is Jeff Foster's total dismissal of EZLinks/TeeOff as a competitor. It's been a while since I went to business school, but I vividly recall the admonition to budding business executives to know and track your competitors. Maybe Foster needs to study what happened to Ford, GM, and Chrysler in the '70s when they chose to ignore Honda, Datsun (Nissan), and Toyota. Or how brick and mortar retailers were late to the party and gave up their businesses to Amazon. Every round booked through TeeOff, Golf18 Network, or any other third party is a round that GolfNow is NOT a part of. Let's add to Foster's woes by pointing out that the original, full length video was loaded onto a public Vimeo channel - no secure login required. It makes me wonder how secure their course client data is.
Last is a concern. McIntosh states early on that the early season opening in the northern climes was good for GolfNow's business, but May was below May 2015, and June was not looking so hot either. Golf Datatech called May's rounds at "down 2.2%." Does McIntosh's report portend a similar fate for June rounds? We'll know in a couple of weeks, but if it follows this pattern, we're all in trouble.
This, plus the obnoxious GolfNow presentation, leaves us who care and work hard to help golf courses succeed with a boatload of angst.
Shazaam! The taqueria has better customer service than the golf course
How does my local taqueria outshine golf courses?
Better. Customer. Service.
Better. Customer. Service.
And how does this happen? An owner's commitment to customer service, and point-of-sale technology that makes it easy to fulfill that commitment.
That's right. The little taqueria - it maybe has 20 seats but also has the best quesadillas in town - did something no golf course I frequent has ever done. It recognized me and anticipated what I like!
I frequent a little taqueria a few blocks away because they have killer quesadillas. I always order extra sour cream and quacamole, and a bag of their outstanding homemade chips. Most importantly, the owner recognizes and greets me when I walk in the door.
Last night got a bit late for preparing our own dinner, and we had to watch the Golden State Warriors cap their incredible season with their 73rd win. Go Dubs! So I called the taqueria to place an order. As usual, they asked for my phone number and gave me 15 minutes for a pick up time.
In the car I realized I had not ordered the extra sour cream, quacamole, and chips. And, it was not the owner behind the counter when I arrived - it was someone new. No worries - he knew who I was! And when I started to explain I had not ordered everything I wanted - shazaam! Everything I always order was already in the bag. Their new point-of-sale system had my "likes" in the system and what I wanted was anticipated and filled.
As I drove home, I started to cry. This is exactly what golf courses should be doing! I've never - NEVER - been recognized at a course I've played before. I started fantasizing about walking into a golf shop, being greeted by name, and asked, "Mr. Silverman, the last time you played you bought a sleeve of Pro V1s - we have a special this week - would you like another?" Or, "Mr. Silverman, we have a special today on the club sandwich you ordered last time you were here."
How does this happen at a taqueria and not a golf course? The taqueria owner has made a commitment to customer service - both in how he trains his employees, and in choosing a retail PoS system that enables him to fulfill his customer service goals. And there's the catch - the golf PoS systems, by and large, do not make easy this simple customer service desire, so even if the course owner/operator chooses to be just as good as the local taqueria, he can't given the crippling inadequacies of his PoS.
And so, I cried.