The Turfhead Mysteries, Part 1.1

Prologue

This next series of Turfgrass Zealot posts is going to be a challenge for me. As much as I really didn’t want to become a “blogger” in the first place, I REALLY don’t want to tackle a series. Especially this series. But I polled some people who I call friends and they put me up to saying I would do this. Of course, they are probably the same “friends” who would let me drink SeviMol, just to see me do “The Worm”. Yet, though, I still listen.

Turfheads are a magical breed. They don’t think like regular people and they really aren’t aliens. But there are things that they do, universally, that often just make no sense. Call it culture. Call it “The Biz”. Call it just being a monkey; it just plain happens. And it’s not just some regional thing where you can blame the air or the type of grass that gets grown or the existence of a particular Veruca Salt-like gadfly overseeding us all with their ideas on how to grow grass. In my travels, I have seen these things as universal misunderstood truths. Turfhead Mysteries.

I’m going to change a lot of names to protect the innocent and the morons here. I’m also going to give some examples to illustrate points. By no means does that mean I am targeting anyone. I can’t do this and water it down to the point that it has no teeth.

Part 1.1

In Which the Turfhead Complains Endlessly About A Bedfellow and Still Sleeps With Them Anyway.

In every geographical area I have ever visited, there is a regional company, distributor or even salesperson that everyone talks about as being the absolute worst at what they do. It’s not a now and again thing, it is a constant. I’ve seen it as a Super, as a Consultant, as an Advisor, as a Sales Rep and even as an expert witness. I’ve even seen it on vacation. Start a conversation about products and services with a Golf Course Superintendent about who they do business with and you will hear about the company that usually does everything right and the company that always does everything wrong.

The conversation about the company or rep or whomever always getting it right is usually brief and to the point. It’s their job. It’s what they are supposed to do. End of story.

The conversation about the distribution version of the Village Idiot is always the long one. It is a yarn spun of the stupid stuff said company or individual does. The story is often spiced with myriad examples of crossing the line of just plain stupidity. Bad service. Obscene prices. Wrong deliveries. General cluelessness. The stories are always flavored with the resulting hassles that occurred, the lost hours and the overall frustration of not getting what you want, when you want it and how you want it.

The story is often filled with all kinds of examples of crossing the line of just plain stupidity. Bad service. Obscene prices. Wrong deliveries. General cluelessness.

When I was growing grass, I thought often that is was just me: I must be too hard on them… I must have expectations that are just too grand, much like lots of my members… I need to chill. So before you go thinking that I don’t know what I’m talking about, let me express my guilt right here. Cuff me. I’m a Turfhead. I’ve bought from the idiots too, complained about them, fought with them and still thrown the bones.

I may not have the answer to this mystery. I have polled dozens of grass folk and the conversations were often startling, distilling down to things like: “I just feel sorry of the guy, he’s such an idiot and I figured that I’d help him out”, or “The club has always bought that product line, so I didn’t change”. Some of the distillations didn’t taste good at all, like  “I don’t know” or “At least I know what they are all about”. Mind boggling.

A lot of Turfheads were pretty honest about some of their thinking. Some were clear that they don’t care about the rep’s ineptitude or the company’s ability to mess up the billing, they just need the product. That’s fair. In a lot of places, it often seems like there is always a particular company with a particular exclusive and if you want that exclusive thing, you have to just grin and order.

Others were willing to overlook challenges with bad products, because some stone tablet of theirs had some kind of Agronomic Commandment that said, “Thou Shalt Not Change”…

Others were willing to overlook challenges with bad products, because some stone tablet of theirs had some kind of Agronomic Commandment that said, “Thou Shalt Not Change”. This is particularly true with consumables like topdressing sand. It doesn’t matter how bad the quality of the material gets, it’s got to be used. Crazy.

I may not have the answer to this mystery. There probably isn’t one, actually. But I wonder if maybe some people would be better off if they looked real hard at these choices and perhaps question themselves on what they are doing. And I always wonder if someone wouldn’t be doing Ol Yeller a favor and just pulling the trigger when a relationship can’t ever produce fruit.

One super told me about a rep who broke all the rules so many times that it just got into complete absurdity. He finally walked in on the rep as he was rummaging through the papers on his desk. Even the yelling match that ensued didn’t seem to make a difference. The Sales Monkey showed up again, without an appointment and walked right into an employee review session. That was, as they say, the last drop in the bucket. The super called the company HQ, cancelled the club’s account and made it perfectly clear that if said rep showed up anywhere on property he would be considered trespassing. Extreme? Maybe. Necessary? Probably. When it gets that bad, it’s time to do something. It’s time to just say “No”.

One of the most interesting Rain Day/Down Day/ “Safety Meeting” conversations for me is always to hear the follies of companies that just have to be “in the golf business” in some form or another, but don’t have a a clue how to sell, service, bill, deliver, produce product or even have a clue what really goes on at a golf facility behind the scenes. They don’t learn the lessons and embrace the culture. They don’t even try to understand how hard the job can be. And that’s a shame.

Yes, the stories are often funny, like the time a superintendent told me about the new local rep who stopped every week to pitch his pitch to the guys at the caddie shack because he “couldn’t find the maintenance shop”. But what wasn’t funny was the same super telling me that to get this guy to go away, he “threw him a bone”. Gee. Do you think he’ll remember where he got his last bone from? Interesting. You should have seen the look on his face when I swung at the high hanging curveball he threw me. “Did you let your favorite Caddie order?”, I said.

Even our own Randy Wilson laid out his stance on all of this in a comment on Turfhead Poll #2—Lunch. It’s just a part of our culture. A Mystery. A Turfhead Mystery.

R.W.: May 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Not so much what I ate for lunch, but where. Usually in my car, well away from the shop, one eye scanning for sales guys that wanted to catch me in my office.
Kept a radio with me so if I succumbed to naptime and missed the non-appt. sales guy’s approach, Buddy broke squelch twice, allowing me to flee into the forest.

There’s Randy Wilson’s humor and that’s a good thing, but I remember things not unlike that in design and disguise.

Turfhead Mystery 1.2 will deal with an interesting corollary to 1.1:

In Which The Turfhead Becomes Blinded By Beer and Chicken Wings.

One Response to “The Turfhead Mysteries, Part 1.1”

  • Susan:

    Love this blog. We are all guilty of this craziness. How did we get to this point of being so weak…..making excuses for people….not asking someone to follow through because we might hurt their feelings…doing what does not work over and over again? What happened to making “good business decisions”? I am going to rethink some of my “craziness”. Thanks!


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