Letter #21

Happy Monday everyone,

In this week’s letter I’m going to ask for a little help from all of you as members. I find myself in the uncomfortable position of not knowing exactly how to navigate through an existing problem at our Club. It’s the Club’s Achilles heel of sorts and on some evenings is the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone chooses to ignore. We cannot afford to ignore it any longer. The issue is member behavior; specifically, member children behavior. I expect most of you will immediately say – yeah, good luck with that one – I know, I’ve been saying that to myself all weekend.

The issue is poignantly laid out in a letter from a member:

I’ve become acutely aware of some of the behavior at the club that is troubling me, particularly when we are talking about spending multiple $100s of thousands of dollars updating the Bar and Grill. Here are two recent examples. Two weeks ago on Friday night I stopped two teenage girls who were sitting outside dipping French fries into ketchup and then slinging them at the garbage can, trying to make it into the opening. Needless to say, there was ketchup and fries strewn across the patio. I stopped them but they gave me this incredulous look like who am I to be telling them what to do. In hindsight I should have grabbed a rag and told the two of them to get on their hands and knees and clean up the mess. The second incident occurred this past Friday. I was walking to the playground and found a child about 7-8 years old not only standing on the ping pong table but jumping up and down on it. I told him to get down immediately and his mom was standing there. She looked shocked and then said thank you to me for asking her son to get down. But it clearly wasn’t her first thought. Mark Kohtz tells me kids are hiding food and ketchup in the couch. My wife recently saw a child drop his milk shake on the floor and just walk away. The club looked like a tornado hit it on Friday night as people were leaving. It goes on and on. Unless we start taking better care of the club, it does not make sense to upgrade the place. While I want to believe that it’s just a few bad apples, all it takes is a few people to ruin it for everyone. We need to implement rules that curb this behavior – empower our employees to take a stand, institute fines, make pleas to the membership in mailers, etc. The place is going to get messy but I’m just amazed how many people fail to throw away their trash or bring their plates and cups back up to the bar or the area next to the bar where dirty dishes are stacked. If your children spill food all over the ground, at least try to pick some of it up so we don’t all have to walk through it after you leave. Just some common courtesy and decency is needed. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

The question before you then is how we stop the destructive behavior in a few of our members and perhaps less few of our member’s children. I am truly open to suggestions. My instinctive reaction is to solve this with a hammer but I suspect that’s the wrong tool. It’s also very difficult and a little unfair to lay the policing responsibilities on top of our staff as attractive as that is to me for convenience and ease. I’m just guessing now but I think the best solution is to have the membership come together and self-police in some fashion. What do you think? Please give us your thoughts at the end of this letter.

On a different note, there are no Committee meetings scheduled for this week. The next Committee meeting is the Board of Governors meeting next Monday, May 20 at 6:30 PM. I know you’ve all gotten the message already but it’s still worth repeating; as a member, you are invited and welcomed to attend any Committee meetings at your Club.

That’s all for now, I hope you have a great week.

All the best,
Mike

Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Obviously this is a sore subject for many members. I agree with those who say they avoid the cafe because of the kids’ craziness and noise. In the last two weeks, two different people told me that the new cafe food was good, but they won’t be back because of little kids running around and noisy chaos. That’s a sad outcome and unfairly sets Mark up for failure.
    Good luck!

  2. David Cohen says:

    This seems pretty simple. Children who do not follow the rules should be warned once, then suspended from the club. When that happens, behavior will improve. The Yale Club in New York used to post in the lobby the names of members who were behind in their dues. That seems a little harsh, but if you posted the names of suspended children, that would likely get their parents’ attention. I am the father of five children, and if any sees one of my children doing something stupid, please notify me.

  3. Terry Graham says:

    Children’s bad behavior is not a problem that is unique to TPC. Many clubs face similar problems and have had some success by establishing rules and enforcing them with penalties for parents as well as their children. My mother always said “the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Rude parents raise rude children. Here’s my suggestions:

    1. Review the “behavior” rules that were crafted a few years ago and revise as necessary. Perhaps add “no running in the clubhouse” if it is not already there. (We had to specifically state that rule at my yacht club.)
    2. Send the revised rules to every member of TPC, including senior members, so no one feels singled out.
    3. Present a copy of these rules to every new or prospective member.
    4. Empower the staff to deal with inappropriate behavior on the spot (i.e., clean up the mess, stop running or leave the club house, etc.) The staff need to be backed up by senior management if there is a complaint.
    5. Have an enforcement system with increasing penalties, akin to soccer. If you or your child end up with a “red card”, perhaps your family is excluded from all club activities for a period of time.
    6. Lead by example. Clean up your own trash, including water cups on the tennis court.
    7. I appreciate the reluctance to chastise someone else’s kids. Perhaps there could be a designated staff person to whom we could immediately report the bad behavior.

    Thanks for all you do.

  4. Curt Setzer says:

    To be honest, we do not come to the cafe that frequently because our kids are very young and therefore we have not witnessed the type of Friday Night/Weekend behavior mentioned. We also do not use the locker rooms – but may in the future. However, I am concerned because we hope to use the club more in coming years. I agree with the comments that bad behavior should have consequences. I think the three strikes policy is more than reasonable – two warnings then suspension of privileges. Heck, give the kids yellow cards the first two times, followed by a red card. The warnings should be tracked per family – not just per child – and the suspension of privileges should apply to the entire family not just the offending child. This will put the onus of supervision on parents and siblings and not solely on the staff. I think most people will pay attention as we have all paid too much to join, not to mention monthly dues, to have our access suspended.

  5. Mike,

    Keep up the good work on communicating with all. My pet peeve is the wet towels left around the men’s locker room. I wonder what people’s homes look like! The staff does a reasonable job picking up the towels, but we should not have to rely on them. Need a reminder sign and members to politely remind offenders to pick up their towels.

    • Annelies Atchley says:

      I have been a teacher here for 45 years and a club member for almost that long. I started the summer classes years ago and we had Wednesday night family picnics. The children never behave that badly as I see them do now.
      Almost every morning but specially after the weekend, I clean up food left by the hot tub, ketchup on the wall, paper cups, plates that should be brought back to the cafe. It is degrading to the staff. I feel very sad that children are not taught better manners. It is very important to teach children manners, for their future.

  6. This should be treated like a private club and children need to learn how to act and behave in a private club. Parents should be fined, kids should be suspended from club for a period of time on a 3 time your out rule (1 warning, 2 warning, 3 your out) and this should apply to adults as well.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have children who I am sure misbehave sometimes, but I would WELCOME more rules, a culture of respect, and even some ‘play-guards’ helping out. Nothing wrong with asking kids to use some manners.

  8. Jill Barnett says:

    Will this problem ever end at the TPC?

    Not too long ago, when I was on the Board, several Board members and I developed a Grievance Committee to deal with the bad behavior problems of the members and their children. We developed policies and procedures. During my term we addressed a couple of behavior problems that occurred and the policy seemed to work. My suggestion is that you dust off the document that took time and effort to craft, revise if necessary, and implement it.

    By the way, I just returned from Japan. Too bad these TPC members and their children in question don’t emulate the wonderful Japanese culture that my husband and I experienced. In this country, they don’t even have trash cans!! The culture is to keep your trash with you until there is an appropriate place to dispose of it. Something is wrong with the culture at the TPC and unless members and staff stop their laissez faire attitude, it will just continue.

    Good luck, Jill

  9. Ellen Parsons says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for daring to raise this controversial–often emotionally fraught–topic. I, too, have been concerned and bothered by the behavior (described above) for many months now. Just last week, I finally approached a swim coach to talk about creative ways to teach our Club’s girls to respect property and Club members–starting with the girls locker room: kids have been knocking out ceiling tiles, hanging from and busting locker doors, pulling down shower curtains, leaving empty showers running, pulling out soap dispensers, and chipping newly painted walls. In all likelihood, the offenders represent a minority, but our tolerating poor behavior adversely affects the experience of the Club’s majority. So, what to do? In my experience, kids (and adults) rise to meet what is expected of them–as long as the expectations are fair, clear, consistent, and enforced by ALL. Teaching our kids how to behave is not just the staff’s job. It takes a community. That means all TPC stakeholders–every adult member, each kid member, every Camper, and all staff–would not only know, but also feel empowered to uphold a Club code of conduct and behavior. As a large organization with a dynamic membership, we owe it to ourselves to develop and maintain some kind of Club Code. This is what highly effective organizations (corps, Boards, non-profits, schools, clubs) do. When implemented judiciously, Codes of Conduct become integral parts of organizations’ cultures; they establish standards, promote common goals, and foster respect and goodwill. We are a smart and motivated membership. I sincerely believe that a sub-committee or task force could combine Best Practices with member feedback (including kids) to establish expectations that the entire TPC community would embrace. I think we owe it to ourselves. At the very least, we owe it to our kids.

  10. mona ogden says:

    I am very glad to see this matter addressed; thanks again, Mike, for taking on the the tough stuff. I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed incredibly bad behavior/attitudes/language, etc. from many of our “kids.” Our café staff has for years endured appallingly bad treatment from a number of young members. The sight of the very rude and entitled being served by some very patient ‘unentitled’ workers is not pretty – particularly when they are close in age. Unfortunately, and as noted by others, I think much of this comes down to basic parenting (or lack thereof) and we simply have to recognize that we have a number of members who do not think and live the way many of us would like. That is life. The staff. however, should not have to tolerate this type of thing and should be backed up 100% by management when mistreated or aware of inappropriate behavior. I’d be willing to guess that they know well the worst offenders and I would encourage that those names be reported on a regular basis with a follow up communication to parents following each incident. 3 strikes (or whatever) and you are not welcome in the café. Other than that I don’t think we have any choice here or anywhere else we venture to in public but to speak up and attempt to communicate directly with those around us who are out of line. As for physical damage to property, I absolutely think that the parents of any child responsible for deliberate behavior in that area should be held financially responsible.

  11. Pat Ascher says:

    Hi Mike,
    First of all, thank you for venturing into this mine field!!!
    Today I noticed that the pillows by the fireplace in the dining room looked as though someone ate on them. If we are going to replace them, one would hope that something could be done about the standards maintained in that room.
    I think it is up to all of us to be the adults who say,”enough,” and to stop the destruction when we see it. There is nothing funny about a child dancing on the ping pong table and food fights are not a test of athletic prowess!!!

    I think that a letter needs to go out to members asking for better behavior from children and citing some incidents of destruction which will no longer be tolerated. A teenager who engages in destructive behavior should come before the Board and answer for his/her actions.

    Pat Ascher

  12. My wife Judy and I commented repeatedly in March and April of 2007 about how the promises made to older members in order to induce their support for the substantial upgrades undertaken ten years ago had been cast aside as soon as the expenditures had been made and the proponents of “do as you like if your a kid” took control. Judy and I were once young and had young children who were TPC members. Now we have two soon to be three grandchildren who we hope to have as our frequent guests at the Club. We are not anti-child, but we are often appalled by the lack of manners and common courtesy exhibited by some of our young members. My congratualtions to you Mike for tackling a tough issue that needs attention.

  13. Stephanie says:

    I applaud you for taking on this issue. I would welcome a clear set of rules for adults and kids. I agree with the above member’s comment about consequences and warnings for children and would welcome a club where the staff is empowered to do this. It can be anonymous if needed. I think some parents would be shocked if they did know how their kids behaved at times. Who knows I might be one of those parents, but I would want to know and be able to constructively work with my kids to be respectful and conscientious.

    What is the rule around who buses the table? I am more than happy to clear my plates and expect my children to do the same, but it seems that at times there is someone that does this.

  14. We never go to the club on Fridays anymore. It’s just bedlam. I personally do NOT think that the staff should be disciplinarians. Parents need to raise courteous and polite children, not savages who run wild just because it’s not their home they are destroying. Ridiculous. I have 6 grandchildren, and when I am with them I PAY ATTENTION to them at the TPC. That is the key for parents; sorry to bring it up, but parents must mind their children – and if their children run wild, they should not bring them until a contract is made so that the kids know what is expected of them.
    This is a serious problem, and I am glad you are addressing it, Mike. Bravo!

  15. The description posted is on point, especially as it relates to behavior with food. I would really like to support the new restaurant effort more, but I find it difficult to enjoy a meal when the environment is so often chaotic and uncivilized.

    It seems to me that an approach to consider would be to restrict the areas where food can be consumed – e.g. a cordoned-off area in the restaurant/bar and on the adjacent patio outside – with these areas then being served and bussed by staff. If you’re not seated and eating in the designated area, then you shouldn’t be there. When you’re done eating, then go off and enjoy other activities away from where people are eating.

    Of course, special event exceptions could be made – e.g. BBQ on the pool deck – but some bussing of tables would be helpful in these circumstances.

    However, to the extent that we wish to persist with (1) the ability to consume food virtually anywhere on the premises and (2) having a restaurant area that is fully open to all sorts of flows (e.g. games of tag), then it’s bound to feel like a noisy, chaotic picnic. In my experience with picnics, there’s always a mess – and it’s usually cleared up by a minority of the participants. Even fewer feel this social responsibility when there is a sense that they’re in a form restaurant. The hybrid confuses things…

    On the topic of general kid behavior, I would suggest considering something parallel to the lifeguards. They are expected and understood to have total command of safety / behavior in the pool area – and very few question that. At busy times, there should be someone of similar standing on the lawn / patio area and on the basketball court. It would work best if staffed by young adults of similar stature to the lifeguards.

  16. Nancy Shapiro says:

    HI Mike, regarding rules, kids, parents and destructive behavior. My feeling is; 99% of the time, parents model behavior and attitude for their kids. I’m fairly certain that many members (especially new, with young children) feel they have “paid their dues” which includes maintenance and clean-up at the club. They pay, so therefore someone else has to clean up after them. In addition, based on the current culture of the club – allowing kids to run wild, without parent supervision – any new member coming in sees this and thinks – what the hell – I guess it’s ok. When the club and cafe get busy and parents start drinking (paying less attention), more kids and less attention feed the frenzy of going off the rails. I completely understand parents using the club to let their kids run around and blow off excess energy – rather than doing it at home. I would also venture a guess that if many of these parents belonged to clubs when they were kids, there was no way in hell they got away with or were allowed to do what the kids do at TPC. I also doubt there are many other clubs around Marin that allow this type of behavior.

    Since I’m guessing you agree with all of most of what I just yammered on about, I’ll stop. My suggestion is; the board needs to edit/modify/make rules about both parental and offspring conduct – and then enforce the rules. Yes, this does put some of the burden on the staff, but I think enforcement can come from members too (tricky yes – doable yes, if done appropriately similar to the person who sent the letter about the child on the ping pong table). If the club does decide to make rules and have the staff politely enforce said rules, club management needs to back-up the staff. In addition, Jerry needs to get out there and enforce the rules, not just the staff at the front desk or in the cafe. I would also add that if a child intentionally damages something at the club, parents should reimburse the club for damages, cleaning, etc.

    I would love to go eat/drink at the cafe some weekend nights, but I don’t because I don’t enjoy other people’s kids (or my own) wreaking havoc while I’m wanting to sit and relax. It often gets so loud, it’s hard to hear the person sitting next to you. I venture to guess the cafe loses out on a decent amount of business because of “kids gone wild”. I’m sorry, but the cafe environment reminds me of Chucky Cheese many nights and weekends.

    Not sure this would work or how to do it – but TPC could also offer free dessert to kids who want to help clean up on weekends/evenings. At least it would give them something productive to do and make them more aware of the mess.

    In closing, please, please put some reasonable rules in place. Send the new rules out in bills, by email and have them posted – and let the members know the rules will be enforced immediately. Summer is coming and there will be more kids than ever running around the TPC. I would be great to curtail at least some of the behaviors before summer is in full swing.

    On another note, I’ve noticed non members using the club during/after their kids participate in swimming or tennis. For example, someone I know, who is not a member, uses the gym, cafe, etc. while his son is playing in “tennis match play”. I haven’t said anything to him, but I’m wondering how he manages to “sneak by” so often. I saw him yesterday (Sunday) and I asked at the front desk if he had signed in as a guest. Answer was no. I also regularly see a number of boys, who are not members, using the basketball court. It’s great the boys are out playing basketball, but there is a huge group on a regular basis and it’s a bit overwhelming – especially if there are younger member kids who would like to play. I don’t want to be a rat about this, but just thought you’d want to know.

    Cheers!
    Nancy

  17. we are older and don't come that much but we were there for the Super Bowl- the parents are just as ill mannered and rude as there kids- whatever happened to respect for older people- this isn't a club where people maintain any level of decent behavior fo says:

    We are older and do not attend functions that much any longer-Super Bowl Sunday was a nightmare- The parents are just as rude and ill mannered as there kids. Whatever happened to common respect? They stake out the tables and will not share and the kids are loud and out of control-totally unsupervised. My husband and our family were looking forward to attending that day since the kids had grownup using the TPC. I seem to remember my husband signing up and paying for the event like everyone else. In fact, I said that to this woman who would not let us sit down and eat. Finally, friends of my husband asked us to join them in a separate room. Do you really think I will knowingly attend another function at the TPC after that experience?
    I wish you good luck and thank you for addressing a very nasty situation.

  18. christina Perozzi says:

    If you break it, you replace it! I have never seen so many misbehaved children in my life-or should I say parents. It takes both. The members need to be fined for either the cost of the cleaning or to replace what ever was ruined. Employees need to be backed by management too. When they see something that has been wrecked. Have them take a picture of the kids and the mess or broken items. We all have cell phones, lets use them!

  19. heather says:

    I’d just like to say that you are one heck of a president. Thank you for taking on all the issues — the complicated and uncomfortable right along with the easy and fun stuff — with intelligence and humor and directness. You are my current hero. Thank you for always striving to make our club even better than currently is and for making it interesting to read all about it as it happens.

    With gratitude,
    Heather L.

  20. Elizabeth Danel says:

    Bad behavior is a topic that was frequently discussed in the swim team committee meetings. We felt that it was the staff’s responsibility to enforce rules. Members told us that when they tried to talk to kids in the locker rooms and around the pool about bad behavior, the kids ignored them and gave them a “mind your own business” look and parents actually told them off (ie literally yelled at them to mind their own business). Generally, the parents of the kids with the bad behavior, also have bad manners. I would not be comfortable reprimanding kids in front of their parents for fear of getting yelled at. The swim team committee felt that the parents should be encouraged to report the behavior to the staff, ie lifeguards, who need to be instructed in how to talk to the kids about their behavior. We also felt certain that there has to be a 1st offense warning, 2nd offense consequence, 3rd offence ban from TPC policy, or something along these lines.

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