Misery for hardy fans taken for a ride by corporate suppliers
Monday 04 October 2010
The shuttle to the East Ryder Cup car park may not have been the Clapham omnibus, but the man had an opinion. Tidily dressed (or at least as tidily dressed as anyone can be after having spent a day walking about a muddy swamp in the rain), well-spoken, middle-aged, middle-class, a not untypical golf fan in fact, he addressed his fellow passengers politely. "Does anyone mind," he said, "if I have a rant?"
No one did, of course, and there followed a measured litany, accompanied by growing murmurs of agreement, as from a Greek chorus. The gist was not a whinge about the weather, which is out of mortal hands, or even about the fact that he had barely seen a ball struck for his £100 entry fee. It was the fact that his disappointment over the way the day had panned out was not helped by a niggling feeling of being ill-served once his hard-earned had been extracted.
Overpriced food at the pit stops and neither bacon for the butties nor any Danishes left by mid-morning anyway. Loos that had failed well before close of play. Few places to huddle in the dry (it being hardly rocket science that it might just rain in South Wales in October); then the inadequacy of such shelter as there was thrown into sharp relief by a patronising instruction to those out on the course to stay there so as to relieve congestion in the tented village. It seemed to him that once the audience had been made captive it was then treated with contempt.
And having done two days' hard pounding out in the field with some chums from my local course, I can back up Our Man On The Llanwern Shuttle over all of the above. Golfers tend to be a hardy lot – we go out to play in conditions that would have Bear Grylls reaching for a full survival pack, after all – and are quite used to the game itself wreaking unfair vengeance. But having the piss taken so blatantly by cynical business greed rather grated.
To have to pay £15 for three muffins and three orange juices was bad enough. But worse was the attitude of one of the Ryder Cup concessionaries. And I can tell you, coffee rage is not a pretty sight.
Arriving on the course early on Thursday after a pre-dawn start, it did not seem an unreasonable desire to have a spot of brekkie on the hoof before heading to the 14th green. But it turned out that to acquire a cup of coffee and something to eat it was necessary to queue twice.
The reason was that as one company, the Swiss-based Nestlé Nespresso (let us name names), was, in corporate-speak, the Preferred Supplier of the event's Official Coffee, the brown beans juice was sold solely at its outlet. And at the Nespresso stands, the harassed baristas were having to use machines that produced coffee one agonisingly slow, small cup at a time. At £2.50 a throw.
As early as 8.30am on a practice day, the coffee queue was snaking increasingly restlessly 25 minutes long. The Danish pastries advertised as an accompaniment had long since gone, if they were ever there. Ditto lids to avoid inevitable spillage. The mobile kiosk was supplied by a firm whose staff, at the sharp end of the barracking, were as frustrated as the punters; they explained that had they been allowed to use their own machines they could have doled out the same coffee 12 at a time.
Unfortunately, most golf fans will not vote with their feet by staying away, even when being ruthlessly exploited. The Ryder Cup is just far too much fun; and the players, at least, know how to give good value.
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