I hope horse racing executives have been paying attention to what's transpired with the Maker's Mark bourbon company this past week. It could be a lesson for them. It should be a lesson for all of us when we make mistakes or decisions that turn out to be wrong.
Maker's Mark said it was going to decrease the alcohol content of its bourbon because of a shortage of supplies used to produce the popular brand of whiskey.
The pushback from consumers was immediate, loud and clear.
So was the reversal of the decision by Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels and his father, the company's chairman emeritus, Bill Samuels.
The company posted a profuse apology, signed by father and son, on its website and Facebook page that was picked up worldwide. It read, in part:
“Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker's Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We're humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker's Mark. While we thought we were doing what's right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.
“You spoke. We listened. And we're sincerely sorry we let you down. …”
Imagine, for a minute, if the New York Racing Association had acted with the sincerity of Maker's Mark when it announced in December 2011 that it had been overcharging on some exotic bets by 1% for more than a year. Instead of rationalizing about the “complexity of the takeout provisions in the Racing Law” and saying the overcharge was an “unintentional oversight,” since-fired NYRA CEO Charles Hayward could have said simply, “We screwed up. We're sorry, and we are going to try and make it up to you.” He might even be CEO today if he'd handled things differently when the takeout mistake was discovered.
Similarly, when California officials backed a takeout hike on exotic bets that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, many fans revolted with a wagering boycott. Those who pushed the takeout increase through could have said: “You spoke. We listened…” and then reverted to the old takeout.
I was among those who supported the takeout increase in California. I can see now that it was a bad idea, no matter how desperately owners felt the need to inject more revenue from pari-mutuel handle into purses. It was a terrible time to increase prices on consumers.
I was wrong then, and I'm sorry now. Sincerely.
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