A Letter to Water’s Edge Managing Organization, Aitken Spence.

UPDATED 17 JULY 2010: Aitken Spence PR has commented on this post informing that they no longer manage this property. I have communicated the update to my friend Ruwani via email.

Ima Hassen

This letter was written by a friend of mine, Ruwani Hettiarachchi. It outlines her experience with Waters’ Edge. For those who who aren’t familiar, check out http://www.watersedge.lk/

I am posting Ruwani’s letter here (it was originally posted on Facebook as a note) so that the broader Sri Lankan community across the web would see it and make note or action as appropriate. I have Ruwani’s permission to post this letter online and in fact would like as many to read and re-tweet where possible:

Dear Sir,

I have just been refused pro-rated membership at your Water’s Edge establishment, and Ms. Anusha Abeysinghe who handles Sales at that establishment has, with a very patronizing and condescending manner given me no clear reason why I can pro-rate a membership, which I held from last year.

I have been a long-standing patron of Water’s Edge, and I spend 6 months out of the year outside the island and I have valued the pro-rated membership I procured last year, having spent a lot of my time travelling in the first half of the year. Additionally I valued the proximity to my apartment in Rajagiriya. I was expecting to be eligible for pro-rated membership this year too. Both my partner (a new member) and I acquired membership forms and were turned away because I was a pro-rated member last year.

From a sales and incentive point of view, as well as from a point of view of developing and cultivating relationships this inflexible policy is extremely self-destructive. If you do not encourage renewal of membership then you should clearly state that you place no value on long term membership, and as such your policy is consistent – that you have no incentive for a member to renew at Water’s Edge.

Your policy has resulted in the following:

1. Neither I, nor my partner (a potential new member), will join Water’s Edge gym nor pool and neither will we patronize your restaurants or bars (I was at your Sunday brunch, where mine was one of three other lunching parties – one of whom was the band)

2. I will tell all my friends and colleagues, who are continuous patrons of your establishment about my experiences and publicize them as widely as I can.

3. I will encourage current members whom I know not to renew their membership with Water’s Edge e.g. my parents and their friends.

4. I will encourage that my firm no longer host events and training sessions at Water’s Edge.

I would very very strongly suggest the following:

1. When joining, membership is clearly defined and explained to a new member. All membership articulation agreements and policies in clear and plain language described to a new member, and copies given to them in order to avoid simple confusion, for example: What could constitute a nominee, or that pro-rated membership is one-time only.

2. That Ms Abeysinghe be given immediate and rigorous training in areas of sales and salesmanship. I highly recommend http://www.strategy.lk Mr Yasas Hewage and Lewie Diasz are excellent sales trainers in the areas of communication, customer complaints handling etc.., Ms. Abeysinghe was both patronizing and condescending and could provide no clear reason as to why a pro-rated member could not prolong their pro-rated membership into the second half of this year, and simply cited “company policy” and very very erroneously cited “societal reasons” (In salesmanship, don’t ever tell your customers that they are beneath you).

3. If you are concerned about the quality of your membership being jeopardized by pro-rating membership, then I suggest you have Ms. Abeysinghe thoroughly screen and validate new members to enable to her to continue her mission of socially engineering Water’s Edge into exclusivity. This policy has clearly been very unsuccessful as I can testify having been a member for over a decade at the Cinnamon Lakeside’s Power Drome which has a number of long-standing clients, none of whom steal locker keys or destroy locker rooms – something common at Water’s Edge.

I will be happy to discuss this in further detail and would like if you could get back to me at your earliest on the reason that you have this policy in place, one that makes sense, and that I can potentially understand from a sales perspective. Simply telling me it’s “company policy” is of no use to a long-standing client and only serves to frustrate them.

Yours faithfully,

Ruwani Hettiarachchi