Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You're being watched

They could be following you to the grand stand. They might skulk out of a dark corner by the pari-mutuel windows. They may well be watching your every move as you navigate the droves of tourists at the Saratoga Race Course this season, just waiting for that one moment when you fumble for a local map while looking unwittingly lost.

That’s when they’ll move in for the kill.

No, they’re not members of the Spa City’s nefarious underworld, waiting to prey on the flock of unsuspecting tourists. They’re just the most recent ploy by the business community to draw more track attendees to Saratoga’s shops and restaurants downtown.

These mobile “hospitality teams” will don festive red vests and straw hats, then fan out among the track’s entrance points to cheerily greet the ebb and flow of fans as the percolate through the venue. This mostly local squad of a dozen information specialists will also brandish brochures directing people on how to have a “SPActacular day” while visiting the city.

That’s not a misspelling either.

Previously, these folks sat stationary at kiosk spread throughout the track; that simply wasn’t clear enough for first-timers to hunt down, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Joe Dalton told The Saratogian. So, taking page from customer service manuals of retail giants like Wal-mart and Target, leaders from the New York Racing Association, the Chamber and the Downtown Business Association decided the teams would be instrumental in helping people find downtown.

What these groups didn’t take into consideration is the direct correlation between having trouble finding downtown after a day at the races and that person’s blood alcohol content. For most sober people, however, the path to downtown is fairly, if not blisteringly clear: follow the long strip of multi-million dollar mansions and the omnipresent smell of money; if you’ve reach the Northway, you’re either drunk, have no common sense or a combination of both.

It’s not to say that everything is easy to find in Saratoga –actually everything is fairly easy to find –but that it is effort that could be easily spent doing more beneficial things for a community, which already caters enough to the ravenous tourists.

Granted, summer visitors are this lavish city’s bread and butter. There comes a point when these gimmicks become overkill, especially for a city populous that’s still reeling from the summer of staring at the heinous plastic horses along Broadway. And when a person has missed hitting a $10,000 trifecta in a race determined by a photo finish, any advances by the cheery smiles from the Walmart-esque hospitality team could easily be met with open if not outward hostility.

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