Unsolicited, several GMs shared their experiences from carrying out a new part of their job: chasing down deadbeat
In the course of my visits to private club properties this year, a new topic came up, more than once, during my discussions with club GMs. Unsolicited, several GMs shared their experiences from carrying out a new part of their job description that had grown out of steering their clubs through the recession: chasing down deadbeat members.
Understandably, these club managers didn’t want this part of our conversation to go on the record, at least on an attributed basis. But it was almost as if they were glad to finally have a sympathetic ear to unload on about the lengths they had been going to, and the crime novel-like measures some had been taking, to try to collect at least part of what some members had stiffed their clubs for after running out on obligations for dues, charges and initiation-fee payments that in many cases amounted to eye-opening figures.
“This wasn’t anything that hospitality management school prepared me for; it went way beyond what they teach you about ‘posting’ delinquent members’ names,” one GM said, after telling fascinating tales of attending bankruptcy hearings as the only way to make contact with some of his targets, and engaging in “I’m going to write down a number” negotiating sessions after catching up with others.
Most of the GMs who told me of these situations said they rarely got much direction or support for their efforts from their Boards. In most cases, they just took it upon themselves to put in what amounted to considerable chunks of their own time to become one-person collection agencies. In part they did so out of a feeling of obligation to other club members and their staffs—and because every found dollar had become precious and vital to their club’s survival.
In part they also did so because they were, quite frankly, hacked off at people who they knew had the money, but had clearly decided the club was the first and easiest place, after times got tough, to leave holding the bag—and, in those members’ opinion, the least likely to try to run them down.
“These were the same people who I’d gone out of my way for countless times to make sure they and their families got all kinds of special service,” said another GM who made little attempt to hold back his contempt in describing one situation.
Some of their collection efforts did prove at least partially successful, the GMs reported, and when that was the case, they usually didn’t get much more than tepid “oh, goods” from their Boards after pointing out the recovered revenue.
More often, however, they said it has proved to be a difficult and thankless task—which is why I got the sense they wanted to tell me about it, just so someone might express appreciation for how they had been trying to fight the good fight.
For what it’s worth, consider that done.