Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I am sure that it was an otherwise smart business person who first declared, “The customer is always right.” The fact of the matter is that customers around here are right only about 20 percent of the time. I base this on simple observation, and generously round upwards.
As always I am prepared to provide you with evidence. So as not to unduly incriminate anyone, I will change a few of the details in the following recent local occurrences to prove my point. First, let yourself imagine two middle-aged men swilling microbrews in a local apres ski bar, slouched in their chairs, legs splayed wide, and talking confidently about football against other self-incriminating evidence that they might be effeminately weird. The evidences in question are the fur coats slung over the backs of their chairs.
Now suppose that a lowly entertainer in the bar starts in on a popularly requested number she wrote about portly, gray-haired men who sport big look-at-me jewelry, drive little-pee-pee Hummers, and wear elegant fur coats. Assume further that the aforementioned bar patrons aren’t completely comfortable in their choices for winter clothing and had hoped only to be mistaken for Greg Allman in 1978, but instead feel singled out by the piano woman for ridicule. What if these fur-clad males complain?
Should the manager tell the singer to desist from her merry song? Should this siren of satire be fired for pointing out the obvious? If you adhere to the principle of the customer always being right the answer is “yes.” If, on the other hand, you posses a modicum of confidence in your own standards of common sense, the answer is unequivocally “no.” It doesn’t matter what side of the animal debate you are on (anti- or pro-), fur coats look stupid on men (no offense to Grizzly Adams or Russians).
In another instance, a visitor to a local watering hole orders up a double loud-mouth soup. After a few minutes the concoction delivers its punch and she begins to tell bawdy jokes with remarkable high-altitude lung capacity, laughing hysterically at her own delivery. The woman is so obnoxious that the imminently patient owner of the bar comes over to ask her to settle down lest she chases everyone else out of the joint.
The problem is, after investing $12 in her martini, she thinks she owns the place. She tells the former proprietor that he had better back off or she will alter the plans to have her daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner at this establishment next summer. And, AND, she has the mind to write a letter to the editor in order to ruin this business once and for all … and you had better believe she could do it with all the people she knows in town. You know, they’ve had a place here since 2002!
Is this veiny-cheeked, tarnished trophy wife right? Say it ain’t so, Joe, but I know that there are those amongst us who think that the best solution to dealing with this situation would be to comp the belching bitty her drink, escort her party to the private dining room, and serve her the meal of a lifetime in order to make sure her stay in Aspen was the most pleasant possible. I say, “Throw her out on her keester!”
But, that’s just me. I’m old school. I’m so out of touch that I remember when Aspen was a place for free-thinkers and rebels. In those days, we didn’t give two craps for what anyone else in the world thought about us. Life was good, and we had what we wanted.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We weren’t mean or anything about it. We just walked with a little swagger back then and weren’t afraid to say what was on our mind. It wasn’t that we were closed to new ideas, either. Far from it, we were pretty open-minded up here in the mountains. If we disagreed, though, we sure as heck weren’t afraid to tell you so. And we did … a lot!
The funny thing is that Aspen was at its peak of popularity then (unless measured solely by dollar volume of real estate sales). As far as mountain resorts go, we had no peer. We had the James Dean smirk looking at a world full of Mickey Rooney bowties. Was it arrogant of us to think that way? Yep. Did it make people want to come and spend money? Are you kidding me! We were “it,” baby!
I don’t know why that’s a surprise. Does anybody really like to hang out with people who constantly tell them they are beautiful and brilliant, laugh at every joke, and agree with all opinions? Hell no! People like this are irritating; why would we want to be a town like this? Well, OK, there are some people that do like this sort of treatment. But, that gets to my point: They are not the people we want hanging out with us. They ruin our reputation.
It’s all the worse if we act (it is an act, after all) all obsequious for money. There is an ugly name for people who willingly subjugate their core beliefs and values for a buck, and it is “wuss” (pronounced: reel’_tor). If we choose to be wusses, we will be wusses. The barriers to entry are low.
If you kiss a lot of butt, you are going to attract a lot of … well, you already know what you attract. Pretty soon it’s bend over backward or bend over forward, so what’s the difference? The ironic thing is that once you stoop to sell your soul, you have nothing else to market.
So, when we talk about the loss of “community” around here maybe we can expand the discussion to include not only the loss of people who used to live here but also the loss of values they held. You can’t bring that back by building more employee housing.
Rather, it takes standing up to the visitor with the wallet wide open demanding to have his way with us in return. When that person insists that they are always right, tell them to go straight to Vail! Then, maybe someday this will be “the place” again.
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Aspen City Hall reporter Carolyn Sackariason reflects on the same old story, different year, different decade.