In our last blog we covered some preventative methods for keeping the peace as it pertains to your venue and your guests. I mentioned that it is best to be thorough in communicating your rules beforehand so that you can avoid dealing with actual violations. I also mentioned that it is always best to deal with obvious problems before they enter your gates! But what if you’ve done your best with communicating those rules and someone still decides that it is their job to break them? Let’s look at some guidelines for dealing with rules violations.
Perhaps the thought of enforcing rules stresses you out! And maybe your personality or even your size makes it even more intimidating. I will have to admit that my size does tend to help when it comes to confronting a problem, but your approach is a bigger part of the equation. Here are some things to consider when you must do the uncomfortable:
Your tone of voice is key to finding success with every disciplinary measure. No need to escalate right off the bat. Being firm does not equal being loud. For instance, it is better to say, “Sir for your safety, please do not cross over that rope.” rather than “Get over here! You’re not allowed over there!” Granted, they may or may not know they have violated a rule. But even if you’re sure they knew what they were doing, pretend like they were clueless! Remember some people think the rules are for other people. After all, “they grew up on a farm” and “they know their way around animals”. You will find that the parents can sometimes be the biggest violators. Younger people tend to fall in line, but adults can sometimes push the limits. This is especially true when they are dealing with a young staff. They will sometimes feel free to try to push the limits when they sense your staff is intimidated to speak up. So that leads to point number 2.
Make sure you or someone in authority is available to deal with a disciplinary situation if it does arise. If your staff knows that they have back up in a tense situation, it will put them at ease. It needs to be part of your staff training to instruct your staff to follow certain steps when it comes to unruly guests, and this can be one of your steps. Calling for back up should never be the first step, but it can be one that is implemented once they have tried everything else. It is important that your staff is equipped to deal with a variety of situations. It can be an important part of their growth and development to learn how to be a part of the success of the business. Keep in mind that their development benefits you as you will have quality staff for years to come.
In most situations it will only take a warning to solve the issue. It can become a little tricky here because the violation may require an instant removal rather than issuing a warning. For instance, if someone is caught picking or throwing your corn, you can let them know that they will be asked to leave if they do it again. If someone injures another guest after being malicious, it may require immediate removal. The age of the person who violates the rule may also come into play. An older teen or adult who obviously knows better may not warrant a warning. (Keep in mind that circumstances will vary and will determine your course of action.) Age, severity of violation, and past offenses will all determine a course of action. Just make sure you and your team have worked through your course of action in advance. We have had situations where we chose to remove people from our venue immediately. One instance involved alcohol and using our corn maze as a restroom. We have had other instances where we have issued a strong warning. For instance, one weekend I caught some kids driving a staff golf cart around one of our parking lots. I had to pretend like they were clueless and warned them strongly that that wasn’t their property and they were not allowed on any equipment! The disappointing part was that my firm warning was as much for the parents who stood there and watched them do it! After that we removed keys from carts even when we only left them for a few minutes!
Remember that if the situation escalates to the point that the person becomes hostile or dangerous it is best to remove yourself and contact the local law enforcement. It is a good idea to meet your local police and find out who is typically on duty when you would most likely have an incident. (For most venues this is weekend nights.) This communication is helpful for both sides if the need ever does arise. Hopefully you will never need to use your local police, but it is important to know when it is time to make that call.
These are some of the challenges everyone will face in an agritourism business. Don’t forget that your goal is to provide a top-notch experience for your guests. The guests who share your interests are far more than those who don’t. And the ones who do, will appreciate that you are willing to protect their investment in your business. Have a great week!