The Soapbox Archives:
There's currently a dispute going on between a dance customer and a dance organizer.
The dance customer sends out an email/newsletter where he talks about upcoming venues and bands. He recently expressed his opinion about a particular band, that the band was too loud and not responsive to customer complaints, and he did this before band played their gig.
The dance organizer was upset because he felt the comments discouraged others from going to that venue that night. He felt that the customer should have just kept his comments to himself (I saw the email).
For the dance customer
I have/did to ask this person what his motivation was for sending out his newsletter. Was it to:
One comment I got from this dance customer was that people voluntarily asked to be on the mailing. And that they had a choice of getting taken off the mailing list if they didn't want to hear his opinion. That's not completely true. They have at least a third option: they could say what they thought of his opinions (and of him). And that doesn't change the resulting emotional impact on anyone reading those opinions.
When you're expressing your opinion (in public), you're inviting people to tell you you're an idiot. And you're giving them an opportunity to laugh at you. And most of the time they will. In the early days of this Soapbox, I was less thoughtful about the things I wrote here and a lot of people got offended and wrote in to let me know. That made me question my motivations and got me to change my writing style in order to express my thoughts. It also made me think harder about my writing and forced me to come up with my counter arguments to pre-empt whatever comments people had about my opinions. To be honest, I really don't want to look stupid in my writing so I'll spend *a lot* of time rewriting my editorials to make sure it says what I really want to say. And I'll always ask myself *why* I'm writing my Soapbox (sometimes I will delete my editorial and leave it blank).
I think this dance customer, deep in his heart, wants to make the dance scene better and encourage more people to go dancing where he goes. I just think his approach needed some work (See what I did? I originally wrote here that he was "wrong"). I strongly suggest that he go to the dance organizer to express his opinion and say why he feels that way. This would demonstrate moral courage because he's taking a chance that the organizer will tell the customer that he's wrong (and prove it, too).
He felt, in this situation, that the band was too loud. He should tell that to the organizer and he should also tell the band. If the organizer doesn't do anything about it, the dance customer should ask his friends to do the same thing. The organizer can afford to ignore one complainer; however, if a lot of paying customers tell him the same thing and he doesn't do anything, then he has no excuse to complain if people choose not to go to that venue. Yes, it's a lot of extra effort but it's the right thing to do. Giving a band a bad review before they play at an event is not fair because they might play differently this time; wait until after they play before expressing an opinion.
As for the band in question, they're a "bar" band. They only know how to play music one way: "Loud". They play for people who drink alcohol and consider "wiggling" their butts on the dance floor to be dancing. They need to be educated that swing dancers are different. The dance customer also has another option; he can also use ear plugs. Other people might not have an issue with the volume of the music. Several of my friends always wear ear plugs when they go dancing; they want to protect their hearing but don't want to force their choice on other people.
When you have an opinion, you're demonstrating that you're "intelligent". However, opinions are like a**holes: everyone has one. Now, knowing when to keep that opinion to yourself, that's "wisdom". I think that the biggest problem here was that the opinion was too negative; it did not help improve the situation and just upset some people (or give them something to laugh at). People will naturally get defensive if you express negative opinions about something they care about. What did I say the other night?
"You can tell someone to go to hell and have them look forward to the trip".By modifying the message, the listener might be more receptive to your comments and perhaps do something positive about them (and make you look smart).
For the Organizer
That's the problem with running a public event. People will have opinions about your venue and they're going to want to share their opinions with everyone they know. At least this customer put it in writing so the organizer found out about it and had a chance to say something about it.
However, the organizer shouldn't have told the customer to keep his opinion to himself. The customer did a favor for him: he made it known that there was a good reason for him to stay home. The dance organizer has several options:
If a paying customer has issues with your venue, you have to listen to them. That's your job. You don't have to act on them, but you do have to listen. Once the customer decides to stop going to your venue, you won't be able to get them back. Every customer matters! Fix the problem (and it could be just their attitude) before they walk away permanently. At least try. It's better to invite negative opinions before it goes anywhere else. You just can't tell them shut up.
There are other people out there who aren't quite as honorable: they tell people not to attend certain events but they don't tell the dance organizer about it. The dance organizer therefore doesn't know what people don't like about their venue and don't get a chance to make things better. The complainer is only interested in destroying any dance venues they don't attend; they definitely don't care if other people like those venues because the universe obviously revolves around themselves.
In this particular situation, the dance customer's motivations were correct; his delivery was wrong. Education (and a polite discussion) will fix this.
Bottom line: I'm so glad I'm not in the dance business. I listen to people's opinions but I'm free to ignore them. I do invite people to write in with their opinions. If they don't like something I say or do here, I can't fix it unless I hear about it. And give me a chance to change their minds. The fact that I can reach thousands of people with my editorials makes some people take extra time to express their opinions to me. Be nice to me and I'll return the favor.
I had to go over to Target to pick up something. I drove into the parking lot and saw a parking spot reasonably close to the front door so I drove over and went past the slot so I could back into the slot (some of us do know how to use the rear-view mirrors and have no problems backing up. :-P ). Some young lady drove past me from the opposite direction and drove around me and stole the spot.
I thought, I'm not going to let it pass..not this time.
I got out of the car and stood beside the other car. After a while, the driver noticed and opened the window. I said, in a sarcastic tone, "Thanks a lot". She asked "What?" I said, "You stole my spot". She said, "...but you drove past the spot!" to which I said, "Yeah, because I was trying to back up into the space.". It wasn't worth the effort to get her to give up the space so I turned to get back into my car to find another spot.
Now, this idiot didn't want to look bad and tried to get in the last word. "Well, you didn't have to be so rude about it!"
Huh? I didn't raise my voice; I didn't swear at her; I didn't run through the list of names that was scrolling through my head; I even let her keep the parking spot she stole. And she called *me* rude. All of a sudden she was the victim and I was the bad guy. It kind of reminds me of the time I was asleep in my bed and somehow it was my fault that someone ran into my parked car, but I digress... I have a hard time understanding how people can be so self-centered that they're always the victim and that they can't admit they did something wrong.
Now, I told you that tale of woe to set you up for this story.
After posting last week's Soapbox, I realized there was something else that I wanted to talk about and it dealt with the relationship between a dance organizer and a dance customer.
Many years ago, a certain dance customer (a different one from last week's story) encountered a long and slow line into an event run by some people I knew. This person paid his way for his date and himself and then proceeded to tell the person at the door what they were doing wrong. The actual organizers were (really) busy running around managing the event and trying not to have a nervous breakdown at the same time. They were exasperated to have to interrupt their activities in order to deal with someone harassing the person collecting the money at the door.
I asked the person coming into the event why he/she was bothering the people at the door. This person felt that by paying their admission fee they were entitled to voice their displeasure at the people covering the door.
Sometimes it helps to remember that some people's sole purpose in the world is to be a bad example and to make everyone else look good.
I've run a dance event before and the thing I remember most about it is the fact that I never got to dance that night (it was a New Year's Eve party). I was so busy running around taking care of things and making sure that everyone was having a good time that I never got to eat any of the cheesecakes I bought for the event nor did I even get to dance. I empathize with anyone who runs a dance event. I really feel for them when they're trying to hold things together and are forced to *also* deal with difficult people who feel entitled to be treated like the princesses they are.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that's wrong. This kind of person is not the center of the universe. Paying an admission fee to a dance just gives one the right to be there and to enjoy the music and perhaps even dance. It does not entitle anyone to treat the staff like dirt.
In many cases, the people managing the door are volunteers who just get free admission into the dance. They're not paid so they're definitely not compensated for having to deal with people yelling at them. Any issues that come up should be taken to the people running the dance. And many times, it's not urgent enough to bother them right at that moment. If at all possible, talk to the dance organizer after the event is over or even send email. There will be plenty of time to resolve the issues before it's time to attend the next event.
Issues with the music should be brought to the attention of the dance organizer. That includes any complaints about live music. Leave the band alone! The dance organizer is the one who has to pay the band so he's going to be the one with the most influence with the band. The songs are too fast? Too slow? Too long? Too loud? Tell the organizer. Maybe it's just you. The band, in most cases, will want to get hired back in the future so they're going to listen to the promoter closely. Any dance customer should not approach the band unless they're going up to buy a CD from the band. Again, paying your admission price is not a license to tell the band what to do. Harassing the band will probably ruin their mood so it could affect them and the other dancers for the rest of the night. That'd be pure selfishness on the part of the complainer so leave the band alone. Likewise with the rest of the "hired" help.
Those who went to Beantown Camp were blessed with two nights of dancing to the music of Jonathan Stout and his Campus 5 featuring Hilary Alexander. The core group that travels for gigs includes only 4 members and they had 3 local musicians playing (including Boston's own Shawn Hershey on trumpet and Mike Valdez on piano).
Before I went up to Beantown, I was talking to some local bandleader who wondered why the event didn't hire local musicians. (Boston Swing Express, including Miike Debari and Toni Lynn Washington would be playing on Wednesday.) That made me realize that some (read "many") bands don't have any idea what it takes to get hired for a "swing" dance. It helps if some band members were swing dancers (Campus 5 has at least 3 dancers). I think that bands that want to play for swing dances need to show up at local dances such as the monthly Boston Swing Dance Network or Uptown Swing dances and to listen to the bands and watch people dance to their music.
Note that singer Hilary Alexander is a dancer; as a matter of fact, she runs the annual Camp Hollywood.