Ping Finds Itself in Hot Water over Military Rebates
In late September, Karsten Manufacturing, maker of Ping golf clubs, has gotten itself into some hot water by forbidding retailers from offering a discount to active-duty and reserve members of the military.
The controversy exploded when Ping terminated its relationship with Bonaventure Discount Golf and Gordon Lakes Golf Course, both located in the Atlanta area, for selling Ping clubs at a 10% discount to military personnel.
Ping, well known for protecting the retail price of their premium golf products, had cut off these two golf retailers as well as another 60-plus military golf courses, for selling at a discount. Based on Ping’s actions, their pricing policy is sacred and a retailer that violates this policy, can, and often is, barred from selling Ping products.
Well, it appears that Ping had a mea culpa. On October 3rd, they relented and offered up their own, albeit lame, discount to military personnel. Ping would offer a mail-in rebate of $80 on a set of irons (retail price $749-1099) to these customers. Instead of getting the discount in-store, the military personnel customer will have to mail it in and wait 3-6 weeks for a check.
In a partial defense, according to Ping Chairman & CEO John Solheim, “For the last year, we’ve been looking for additional ways to support the troops,” Mr. Solheim said in a prepared statement. “On three occasions we’ve sent hundreds of free clubs for the troops to enjoy during their limited leisure time, but we wanted to provide them additional benefits.”
My take is that Ping got caught in a brewing PR fiasco that had to be quieted as soon as possible. Ping has had little interest in reducing their lofty pricing, but felt it was better to appease the media jackals than tell their retailers that they were wrong.
However, those retailers and military golf course pro shops that offered an unauthorized discount and had their accounts closed will not have them re-opened at this time according to a Ping spokesperson.
Wouldn’t it have been better for Ping just to say “We apologize and are sorry?”
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If they refuse to support and give our troops a break, then they definitely do not deserve to be supported by the golfing community and Industry...
I don't know the two retailers, nor do I know anyone who works at Ping, so I have no inside knowledge about which version is true. I do however, know that Ping has a decades-long history of generous contributions of equipment and money to educational institutions, the LPGA, the Solheim Cup, and the military. I also know that the two retailers, by their own admission, can't seem to abide by their own agreements.
You are clearly entitled to your own opinion, but given Ping's 40 year history of philantrophy, I consider the second version - the one you neglect to mention - to be the one that more closely resembles the truth.
As a military veteran, I support Ping's actions in shutting down the retailers and its response to the smear campaign that ensued. As a future Ping customer, I appreciate Ping's pricing policies and the vigorous action it takes to support those policies. I know that when I purchase a Ping product, I won't find that same product in the bargain basement 6 months later marked off 50% and that the product I purchase will retain some of its value a couple of years down the road.
Very valid argument if the retailers in question were not checking to see if those customers that they gave the discount were actually in the military. Yet, I was basing my post on a weekly e-mail I received from Golfweek.com that references the original article that appeared in the Augusta Chronicle (behind a password access) and does not clarify that point. Please send me a link to the blog postings you mentioned.
Ping has been a leader in branded golf equipment and I'm a big fan of their dot fitting system. They were one of the first to acknowledge and use as a marketing differentiator the fact that 80% of the clubs that you pull off the rack are not properly fitted for the average golfer.
Saying that, I've never been a fan of their premium pricing because I feel that they are way overpriced in comparison to other options that are out there. I tend to think like the Cheap Bastard when it comes to buying golf clubs. Ultimately, if Ping can get $800, $900 or $1000 for a set of irons, I say more power to them. This is capitalism after all.
I still think that this PR maelstom that Ping ran into was partial a result of the retailers' frustration with Ping's pricing policy and partly a case of retailers coming up with a discount idea that Ping, in hindsight, should of thought of sooner.
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