Commercial: Club sinister
More signs that the recession is by no means over. London’s clubland, one of the boom sectors of the past few years, appears to have realised that memberships are one of the first things to get trimmed in a downturn. Which means in turn hanging on to those members that make them money... and letting go the ones that don’t, however pretty an adornment they might be.
So then we can’t be too surprised that this is the approach that One Alfred Place is taking. What we can be surprised about, however, is the manner in which they’re doing so.
Apparently the club is concerned to stop it being used as a serviced office. Of course, the fact that the management’s other business is mainly concerned with running serviced offices is of passing consideration.
Fair enough. However, would you even imply that fact in communications to those members you’d like to give the chop too? Apparently so. Below an email to a member about to be shoved outside the golden rope:
I am contacting you alongside other members who have shown a rather high frequency of club visits during their time with us.
One Alfred Place is a business 'club' but we feel that some members are treating it more like a serviced office and unfortunately our business model simply cannot support this level of usage.
It is with regret that we are unable to renew your membership at this time but as the renewal date is so close, we are more than happy to offer a further fortnight in order to allow you time to find somewhere more suitable for your needs.
Except that, this particular member had already decided not to renew anyway:
I had already discussed with [name], that I will not be renewing my membership on the 20th of February for a variety of reasons. I had expressed a wish to put my membership renewal 'on hold' and possibly renew in a few months when my needs become more defined. [name] readily agreed to this.
In that respect your email was completely unnecessary given that I had already chosen not to renew.
I have barely been in the club since the start of the year, so I'm not sure that you have your usage statistics up to date.
I am already a member of a more suitable club.
Oh well. Still, you’d expect the new management to be emollient about this, and maybe wishing to downplay the glee with which they’re axing members. Wouldn't you?
The Independent last Sunday reported otherwise:
She's [Sharon Brittan] wasting no time in making changes to the business, including axing club members she doesn't rate. "I think the club is a fantastic concept but the delivery needed some amendments," explains the bouncy Brittan when I call. "But you've got to be brave and bold, luv. And you've got to make sure that if they are not the right people then they aren't there."
Quite. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll mention in causal conversation with a national newspaper journalist that your time is up. From today’s Independent:
You'll recall that chief executive Rob Shreeve has been moved upstairs by investors, and his replacement, Sharon Brittan, is axing club members whom she suspects are using the club as a serviced office.
So, might the eviction list include my old friend and OAP member Steve Tappin, the headhunter-turned-executive-coach that Boots boss Andy Hornby is considering hiring?
"Absolutely," confirms Brittan. "He's on the list." Ta-ta to Tappin, then.
If anyone else can name a business that has such a cavalier disregard for its (one assumes, still-) paying customers’ privacy, I’d love to hear about it.
And perhaps we’d all better remember Groucho’s dictum.