Volume 1, Issue 19
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
One of the biggest controversies to come to the bowling world through the Internet is online pro shops. 'Net shops work on volume and advertise balls, bags, etc., at cheaper prices than conventional shops charge. But there's a big difference in how the two operate. The online shops are mostly go-it-alone when it comes to ball selection. Through the years, the common practice in standard shops has been to charge for the ball including drilling with enough profit to cover the overhead. When someone comes in with a 'Net ball or a pro-am ball, the pro shop charges a separate drilling fee. With newer exotic drillings, a shop might charge $40 for drilling a blank ball.
Local pro shop operators have been on the defensive since ball prices started to go up with the proliferation of the "super balls" of the last few years. These new balls require seminars just to keep up, each ball is a new frontier. I consider my pro shop a source of information, an ally in my game. Some 'Net shop that is merely slapping address labels on balls won't know if Ball A is the same as what I already own, and quite frankly, they don't care.
One thing I'm an expert on is being cheap, and I like saving money. But when it comes to something I value, I expect to pay a premium for service. Actually, if my pro shop saves me money by getting me into the right ball the first time, I've saved money already. Better yet, if he watches me bowl and tells me what I'm doing wrong, he's saved me from buying a new ball.
After seeing what the 'Net guys charge for a blank ball, people have gotten the idea that the local pro shops are gouging customers. If the educated consumer buys off the 'Net the correct ball for the intended purpose and has the ball drilled, this transaction might work for both parties. The customer saves a few dollars, and the pro shop doesn't have to stock the inventory. But more than likely, the following scenario occurs:
Joe Bargain Bowler goes into the pro shop, and looks at equipment. He asks about several different balls, and the operator spends copious amounts of time explaining the difference between the balls, and helps Joe choose a ball that is right for his game. Joe goes home and fires up his browser, and sees he can save so much money with a 'Net pro shop, and he hits the clearance deals page. He finds a totally different ball on close out.
He goes back to the reputable dealer with the ball under his arm and asks the pro shop operator to drill it up. Despite the protests that this ball is not going to be able to do any of the things that Joe asked it to do, Joe tells the pro shop guy to drill it up anyway, because it was such a good deal.
The pro shop guy reluctantly drills the ball up, and now Joe goes down to bowl with the ball. Joe is back not 15 minutes later, wanting the ball "tweaked" because it hooks too much (or too little) or hits like a wet noodle. After much "free" tweaking, Joe is still not happy. After a few weeks of throwing the ball, now the bridge is starting to crack. Joe wants the pro shop to return it, and get him a new one (As bad as this is, it's not as weak as patrons trying on shoes at the regular shop, then ordering over the 'Net).
This is a composite of many of the horror stories I've heard over the last few years. But after floating it by several pro shop professionals, they all said they deal with Joe every day. So now let's review: Is $40 a fair price when we're talking 30-45 minutes with the bowler in the first place. Figure 20 minutes for the drilling. The tweaking takes time, say 10 minutes each time, and while the pro shop guy is doing the tweaking, several other customers either had to wait, or maybe changed their minds and left.
So $40 for 1 to 1 1/2 hours' time. Maybe that sounds like a LOT of money, seriously, that's not gouging. It's better than reasonable, I'd almost argue it's a bargain. I want my pro shop to be there for me, so I'm going to be loyal. Because a cheap ball isn't going to do me much good if no local shops survive to layout and punch holes in it.