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The wrong label

Could a name we use to label someone actually reveal our attitude toward them? I think it can. Could it send, unintended, a negative message? Probably.

Recently on a cruise I called ahead to a marina I wanted to visit to see if I could get a dock for the weekend. My call was met by a lady saying: “Oh, you’re a transient.” I instantly felt like responding back with something like “Yea, but I got shots for it!”  I didn’t, of course, but her words did hit me in a negative way and that got me thinking.

First, I don’t know whether or not the lady valued transients but I must say I didn’t exactly “feel the love!” Why was I labeled a transient anyway? Why does our industry call boaters who are visiting our marinas transients? Transients, after all, are defined as “fleeting” or “short-lived.” I don’t like to think of myself that way and I really hope others don’t either!  

Look, when strangers come into our town in a car or a plane we call them tourists. Better, yet, anyone who stops at Disney World or spends a night in any hotel will be called a guest.  In virtually all communities, no matter our mode of transportation, except in a boat of course, when we arrive we’ll be called a visitor. But, if by sea, we’re a transient!

These days, we spend a lot of time talking about improving our customer’s boating experience as an important consideration in growing boating again. Perhaps we need to take time to review with all the employees in our dealerships and marinas just how we intend to accomplish that. We might start by replacing old labels with more inviting ones. It’s true — what we first say to a customer has an effect, good or bad, but definitely an effect. Remember: “Loose lips sink ships” or “Words can change the course of history.” It’s a fact, words and labels have power. So, when I want to cruise into your marina (or visit your dealership,) you might call me something that makes me feel more welcome and important. Labels like transient doesn’t do it!

And that’s the way I see it, how about you?


5 comments on “The wrong label

  1. Grant W. Westerson

    Obviously we’ve always referred to visitors as transients as opposed to seasonal slip renters, but Norm makes a great arguement for changing our tone. We need to ensure that everyone is and feels welcomed at every turn. With all the financial and environmental obligations waterfront facilities are now under and are required to pass on to our customers, we need to make them feel more at home than ever before.

    Especially irritating is referring to Mr. Schultz as transient. He’s about as transient to the recreational marine industry as the American Crocodile. He has been with us, setting the pace, since the first dugout canoe was launched.

  2. Dennis Kirksey

    Norm, great blog, It kind of makes us wonder, why we do, what we do. We should think more before we speak, and then re-train ourselves how to speak positive.
    This should be an excellent forum for you, and I look forward to reading it. It’s been a long time since we have met, but you will remember me as the face for Buick in your Boat shows.
    Keep up the good work.

  3. Ken Stead

    While “double dip” has the right conatation in the ice cream business, I guess it doesn’t work when a marina rents a slip to a “SHORT TERM GUEST” for a slip vacated by an annual tenant.

  4. gary watson

    This winter while staying in Hawaii, it once again became crystal clear that in a state that is totaly surrounded by water that boaters are less than transients but more like floating trailer trash. The state of Hawaii hates boaters, as evidenced by thier total lack of care and maintenice to Ali Wai Marina. We should all go thier and see what happens when total neglect and indifference by our elected officals results in the shame of Ali Wai harbour, Lahaina Harbour.and any number of the other islands harbours. We would b e glad to just be transients, instead of boat people.

  5. John Wisse

    Norm —

    I too, am in total agreement with the point you make. I have always disliked the term “transient” when referencing boaters, docks and marinas. Perhaps some of the captains in the boating industry can follow your lead and look to adopting some more friendlier terms and yes, truly embrace our boating customers. Unfortunately, until the marine industry can rid itself of some negative elements, such as a marina operator on one of Ohio’s largest inland lakes who does not have a fulltime boat mechanic and has the highest marine fuel prices in the state at nearly $5 per gallon, boating cutomers will feel obliged to find something else to do outside of boating.

    John Wisse

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