What is the role of the customer?

Definition of customer:

customer [ˈkʌstəmə]

n

1. (Business / Commerce) a person who buys

2. Informal a person with whom one has dealings, a cool customer

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

Here is the Wikipedia definition of customer that I feel aptly describes those who go out to dance:

 A customer (also known as a client, buyer, or purchaser) is usually used to refer to a current or potential buyer or user of the products of an individual or organization, called the supplier, seller, or vendor. This is typically through purchasing or renting goods or services.

However, in certain contexts, the term customer also includes by extension any entity that uses or experiences the services of another. A customer may also be a viewer of the product or service that is being sold despite deciding not to buy them. The general distinction between a customer and a client is that a customer purchases products, whereas a client purchases services….

I don’t mind being called a customer or client.  Either is fine.  As a customer I have certain expectations.  When I purchase goods or a service, I expect to get what I pay for and to get my money’s worth.  I try to be an informed consumer.  For certain items, I will do a bit of research to get the best price and learn more about what I want to purchase.

Before I moved away from London, I researched what dance avenues were available to me in my new town.  I knew there wasn’t any Tango.  I was ok with that.  I tried the Salsa and Ceroc.  I didn’t dance much the first time I went.  In fact, I hardly danced at all because none of the men knew who I was. However, I still enjoyed myself at places that I had never been to before because I was made welcome by the hosts/organisers, and I had some lovely conversations with some nice women.

The first time I ever go to a venue, I make sure that whoever is there to take my money knows that this is my first time.  I usually get a very nice welcome because I smile, say ‘hello’, and tell them this is my first time here – simple as that.  I give the person information they didn’t have before.  The second thing I try to do is speak personally to the organiser and tell them the same thing.  I have always had a positive response to this.  Organisers are very happy to have new customers.  They are even happier when you come back.

As a social dancer I have certain expectations because I want to get my money’s worth.

  • I expect the music to be good for the style of dance I am doing.  I want salsa music if I am dancing to Salsa, Tango music for Tango and no rap or techno for Ceroc.  I do not expect to love every song that is played, but do expect to enjoy most of it.
  • Ventilation – there is nothing worse than inadequate ventilation.  Enough said.
  • Water, free, and plenty of it.  I do not drink bottled water if I can help it. Google and find out for yourself.
  • Good and safe dance floor to dance on
  • Clean toilets.
  • Safe environment.  I want to be able to feel I can put my bag somewhere without it getting stolen.
  • Friendly environment.  I expect the hosts/organisers to be welcoming and the other dancers to acknowledge each other as human beings.  I am usually the first to smile and say hello to people if I am new to a place.  It is difficult not to respond in kind.  Besides, that person I might speak to first could also be there for the first time.

If my most of my expectations are met, I will usually go back to the venue.  If not, then I will not feel that there has been a fair exchange of services for my money.  It is at this point that I have an opportunity to complain or offer constructive criticism.  After complaining, I would try and go back to see if things have been improved.  If a place is really bad on all counts, I will not go back and I will say why.  The organiser needs to know how they are doing, because if they really care they will try to change and improve things.  If I have had a great time and really like the place I will also say because people need to hear that too.

Here are some things I do not expect as a customer:

  • Food or snacks.  Although it is a nice thing to have, I don’t expect it, so people who offer it make it a bonus for me.
  • I do not expect to make friends.  That is another bonus that can happen over time if people click and have the time for it.
  • Dances.  I do not expect people to dance with me.  I would like it, but I don’t expect it.

 Because I do not expect to get dances or have people provide me with someone to dance with, I still tend to enjoy myself because I keep my expectations low in this area.

 I am responsible for my own dancing.  It is up to me to take lessons and to practice my dancing.  When dancing Salsa or Ceroc, there is the one dance rule and anyone can usually ask anyone for a dance and expect not to get refused.  I very rarely ask as I am very conscious of body language and I don’t want someone to feel obliged as it will usually show in their dance.  Taxi dancers are usually available for a short time, mainly for beginners, in Ceroc.

Tango is different.  It means different things to different people.  If you are going to spend about 12 minutes in the arms of another, you want it to be good.  People shouldn’t be offended if they aren’t being asked to dance.  Although it can sometimes be disheartening, we need to look at a bigger picture as there are many reasons why we may not get asked.  Even if it might be personal to one person, it might not be to others.  The only thing we can do is keep practicing and keep showing up and to put ourselves out there.

It is not the responsibility of the host/organiser to get us dances – or to even dance with us.  They provided us with the means to dance – the rest is down to us.  There are many types of venues.  Some are intimate and very friendly and some are large and a bit impersonal.  You take your chances wherever you go and sometimes you get lucky.

Going out dancing isn’t like going out to a restaurant for a meal or buying a new car or even paying for a package holiday.  You are not acquiring a product or even a service.  You pay your money to have access to a venue where you may have the possibility of a dance, not for actual services.  What you get out of your evening is really down to you.

To be a good customer in the area of social dancing, I feel that 1) you need to provide the organisers with some information about yourself and about how you feel about their venue and what they are offering and 2) keep your expectations low or non-existent with regard to whether you will be dancing or not.

It would also help if you paid to get in.  If you don’t pay, you really can’t complain.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chris, UK
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 14:26:19

    Excellent points, Arlene.

    “When dancing Salsa or Ceroc, there is the one dance rule and anyone can usually ask anyone for a dance and expect not to get refused. … Tango is different. … If you are going to spend about 12 minutes in the arms of another, you want it to be good. People shouldn’t be offended if they aren’t being asked to dance.”

    This is so important for newcomers to understand. I hear from so many discouraged because they come to a milonga handicapped by behaviours and expectations programmed by teachers e.g. in classes, instructing “rotate partners” to force partnering, and in post-class socials imposing a Say Yes policy to prevent anyone declining an invitation. From such perverted foundations, many newcomers find it hard to get back to the natural basis of social interaction that applies in dancing as much as anywhere. Bing mainly: When two people enjoy time spent close together, it’s because each is the choice of the other.

  2. Cat
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 16:55:37

    Arlene! You’ve captured the essence of social dancing perfectly. And the tips / advice are wonderful. Having read this post will now make all of my dancing experiences good ones – you can be sure of that. Now if I could only get back to dancing.

    Cat

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