The first lesson we are taught in the business world is that the customer is always right. Personally, you don’t need agree with every word a specific customer whines, but we are taught to respect the consumer’s opinion. We’ve all been pushed to the brink by a a customer. We’ve all been bent. But we don’t ever break. Instead, we take the professional high road and acknowledge the complaints and do our best to help. That’s how business is done.
Billionaire owner of the New York Knicks, James Dolan, doesn’t know how to do business – odd as that is to say.
It’s hard to tell, sometimes, if James Dolan’s Knicks tenure has played out at Madison Square Garden or a few blocks uptown on a Broadway stage – the owner an almost outrageous caricature of a villain you’d find in some new age musical. That, though, may be an unfair comparison for Broadway, because at least you get your money’s worth seeing a show. Since Dolan took control of the franchise in 1999, the Knicks have won only one playoff series, and currently, his team sits at the bottom of the NBA with a 10-42 record.
And this week, things got worse – because James Dolan doesn’t think the customer is always right.
The Knicks owner received an email, over the weekend, criticizing him for his role in the franchise’s recent ugly run. And while he has to have read his fair share of “hate mail” from the New York faithful, something about this particular correspondence, sent by Irving Bierman, moved him to do what no one would tell him to do – fire back.
Subject: I have been a knicks fan since 1952
At one stage I thought that you did a wonderful thing when you acquired EVERYTHING from your dad. However, since then it has been ALL DOWN HILL. Your working with Isaiah Thomas & everything else regarding the Knicks. Bringing on Phil Jackson was a positive beginning, but lowballing Steve Kerr was a DISGRACE to the knicks. The bottom line is that you merely continued to interfere with the franchise.
As a knicks fan for in excess of 60 years, I am utterly embarrassed by your dealings with the Knicks. Sell them so their fans can at least look forward to growing them in a positive direction Obviously, money IS NOT THE ONLY THING. You have done a lot of utterly STUPID business things with the franchise. Please NO MORE.
[Aaron Bierman’s dad]
You are a sad person. Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am.just guessing but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while start rooting.for the Nets because the Knicks dont want you.
Irving Bierman, author of the email and father of filmmaker Aarron Bierman, likely didn’t need much help rallying Knicks fans to his cause, but if he did, James Dolan just did it for him. The owner’s response proves every single point correct. The email that Bierman sent wasn’t taking unwarranted, personal shots at Dolan. Instead, it was filled with pure desperation, a desire for Dolan to sell the Knicks – the same feeling held by the entire fan base.
It’s hard to know why the billionaire would bother responding. Perhaps he had read hundreds of similar emails before and just lost it on Bierman. But, either way, sending any response at all proved to the entire NBA community that he lacks the maturity to simply ignore an email. Players in any sport, owners, or any businessmen for that matter, receive hundreds of hate filled emails each month – it’s part of the job description. And responding the way he did, proved something worse. Without knowing a thing about the guy on the other end of the Internet connection, Dolan assumes he is an alcoholic – as though he just wanted to find a way to tell the world that he’s been sober for 21 years now – and that he is, essentially, the worst person on the face of earth.
And that the Knicks as an organization, not just Dolan as a person, doesn’t want him.
“Start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks dont want you,” he wrote – in classic James Dolan fashion, and committing an ultimate corporate sin – which brings us back to our customer service lessons. Every customer is important, and you never give away money to your competitors – which an NBA owner should understand. But James Dolan doesn’t. Because James Dolan doesn’t understand what’s going on in his own house – which is the real worrisome portion of this story.
The Knicks are in trouble, and you can’t just go countless years with the mindset of, “We’re the Knicks, fans will always show up for games.” That may be true now, but, eventually, people will demand a winner – particularly in New York. Ask yourself, have you ever heard the New York Yankees front office, who receives more criticism than any front office in professional sports, telling their fans to back off and go cheer for the Mets? No. Because they value their fan base, and instead of replying to emails, they go out and make moves in the offseason to improve their organization and please their fans. That’s the mark of a mature, stable, and fan-loving organization that James Dolan has failed to provide Knicks fans with since 1999 – because James Dolan is anything but mature, stable, and fan-loving.
And anything but a grammar expert, too.
During the lesson in customer service, someone should mention to the owner that you can’t just go around calling a guy an alcoholic and telling him that he makes his family miserable, and sign the letter with “respectfully.” It just doesn’t work like that. But, really, the focus should just be on keeping Dolan from responding to any emails at all, because it’s not like Bierman is alone. In fact, if wanting to send James Dolan hate mail makes you an alcoholic, New York City bar profits must be at an all-time high.
Author: Dave Russell
Dave Russell is a New York Yankees, Knicks, and Rangers fan who hopes to witness his beloved Philadelphia Eagles win a Super Bowl. You can follow him on Twitter @DRuss_7.