Wednesday, February 8, 2023

A Day in the Life of a Bowling Store

When I looked at the plastic ball placed in front of me, opening the holes and rounding the edges seemed reasonable. Bowlers come into the bowling shop with small requests, such as discomfort with sharp edges or tightness of the holes. New balls drilled for new bowlers occasionally need slight adjustments, as House balls typically fit loose. How you handle these kinds of visitors sets the stage, for where they may take their business for decades.

If you drilled the ball, open and/or adjust those holes, no charge. Facilitating your customer’s success with their new ball reinforces their trust in you and in their choice to have equipment done in your store. But your service after the sale shows your commitment to their ongoing improvement and satisfaction. Customer loyalty follows.

But, if you did not drill the ball, should you charge? While your first thought might be “they did not choose me when shopping for this ball, I should punish them (charge) for not choosing me, or get what I can now.” Instead, look at this as a possibility of turning this individual into your customer in the future.

If the ball is from another shop, you have a minute or two to do some market research. Make an adjustment, but examine the fit and layout. Is your competitor likely to drill long or short? Or in a more advanced ball, is one layout typical of the balls you see from your competitor? Do they load up their customers with grips, and a slug or interchangable thumb(s)? Is the driller evaluating and customizing each ball for each customer?

Being critical of a competitor often comes off as petty, never criticize, evaluate. Ask how the ball is working? Gage satisfaction. You might learn what layout or surface adjustments work well at another center. Valuable input if you have customers that bowl there.

Those who bowl at your competitor’s home center often determine their choice of bowling shop vendor based on convenience. If you are helpful, you may win their appreciation and future consideration. If you treat them as a valuable potential customer, they may choose to give you a try next time.

When you help people coming into your store, you may find bowlers bring in balls purchased elsewhere. Maybe you might discover a serious problem. The potential blem product (half a pound heavier or lighter than they thought), lack of balancing before drilling, possibly even illegal, or a ball drilling employee (who might have started this morning) that is inadequately trained in charge of drilling bowling balls.

The new bowler standing across from you may not realize the HUGE difference between a professionally fit and drilled ball and the house ball like fit of a mass merchant’s ball or a garage drilling hobbist.

The new bowler will potentially want to upgrade or need further adjustment to a fit that needs too much grip pressure. Hopefully, before a bad fit and sore hand turns them off to the sport completely. You can begin to sew the seeds of success with an adjustment.

Identify if they are a NEW bowler with a first time ball. Compliment them on investing in the sport. Unfortunately, a new bowler’s only experience is with balls that do not fit. A new bowler with their first ball was clueless and throwing a houseball, if the fit is similar in a drilled or pre-drilled ball from a store other than a pro shop or a “personally” drilled ball from someone other than pro shop; you need to educate them to the possibilities of a better fitting ball.

Point out that when they upgrade (you are implanting the seed of future success) you can show them why a first quality ball from your store when balanced with a professional fit, and drilling, costs more because it is so much better. A better fitting ball is typically heavier than the house ball they used. A better swing and minimum grip pressure are crucial to a more consistent, effective release. Their next ball can be better balanced and custom drilled only for them. Quality products and quality service with a true desire to see bowlers improve, will position you and your store as a place fostering improvement, success and satisfaction. 

Along with the quality products we sell and our emphasis on skilled, professional service, we want potential customers to know we have a sincere desire to help them improve at the sport.

In some cases the future might be right away. For example, since it should cost more to plug, balance and re-drill a ball than simply balance and drill, suggest to those with a hardly-used, badly-fitted bowling ball purchased from a mass retailer to take it back. If the store won’t provide a refund, have them ask for a blank ball as a replacement. It’s better to have the big box store reminded of how badly they do bowling balls than to have the ball abandoned in a closet at home.

As pro shop operators, we are justifiably dismayed when people come in with terribly fitted and otherwise inappropriate bowling balls sold to them by big box retailers. But keep in mind these people decided to invest in bowling. Even though their first choice for equipment might not have been the best choice, we want them to understand we provide far better value so they’ll know where to shop for bowling products in the future.

In the process, we’ve saved these converted customers money. From there we can work with them to provide the best possible outcome and the opportunity to improve. Sometimes it starts by simply fulfilling what some might call a nuisance request to change the size of a hole from someone who bought the ball elsewhere.

Warren Friedl is the retired owner of Revolutions-Mokena, Revolutions-Tinley Park and Revolutions-Wheaton, suburban Chicago bowling stores. He was an International Bowling Pro Shop and Instructors Association (IBPSIA) Charter Member and IBPSIA certified. He can be reached at or

Specail thanks to Lyle Zikes for his help. 

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