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September 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 35, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Thumbs Down: Dive Ops Demanding a Profit on Every Dive

from the September, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

You’d never expect to fly to Aspen, only to be told to come back tomorrow because the chairlifts weren’t operating or because there weren’t enough customers. Or be told the same thing at a golf course or a movie theatre. Nope, no savvy business operator believes he must cover his costs every day and if the next day doesn’t look good, just close down - - even if if he has pre-paying customers.

Not so in diving. Not enough divers today? “I don’t care if you’ve spent the last 24 hours flying in from Jersey, the boat ain’t going anywhere. Take a hike instead.” So, this month our Thumbs Down award is for all those operations who kiss off the traveling diver, as Kohala Divers on the Big Island did in May.

Michael Drumstas (South Grafton, MA), who had dived with them before and had a great time, writes: “I emailed the shop and made reservations for a Monday and Wednesday for my wife and me. Owner Rebekah Kauffman said that she penciled us in, we should give a call at our convenience to secure the reservation, and there was a 24- hour cancellation policy. So I assumed those two days were assured when I called. We dove on Monday, and had 50-minute limitations on our dives. Then on Tuesday at 2 p.m., I received a call from Rebekah that our Wednesday dives were probably not going to happen as we were the only divers, but if we wanted to ‘secure” that dive, we could pay for a third spot! Nowhere or at anytime was there a mention of a threediver minimum for the boat to go out. It turned out we were the only divers scheduled on the other days we were interested in diving. I called to voice my displeasure about having secured dive days cancelled without even a 24-hour notice, and that we would not risk this happening to our other dive days. Rebekah called me within minutes and was adamant about the boat not being able to go out with just two divers without the third spot being paid for. All the while she kept asking, ‘Are we all right with you?’ In the end, we did not go out with Kohala on Wednesday, and we spent our other six dive days with Mauna Lani Divers.”

We called Kaufman to get Kohala’s side of the story, and here’s her reply. “Every dive operation I know has a minimum required to make a trip, and most of our guests think three as a minimum is very reasonable to cover our hardworking crew and boat costs. When we are in the slow seasons, we do our best to accommodate divers but if for some reason we don’t have the required minimum, we call scheduled divers early in the day and give them other options. One option is buying the third space (they are certainly not pressured to do this), but many divers have been ecstatic to get a private dive boat at their disposal for such a low cost.”

In our book, a 2 p.m. call the day before is too late to assume you’ll have divers happy to pay for a ghost diver in order to go out. Most divers on vacation would be out enjoying the day and probably get back at dinnertime. Koala Divers could also reduce the disappointment factor by mentioning a three-diver minimum on its Web site. We checked the site in mid-July and nowhere was a diver minimum listed, although the 24-hour cancellation policy for guests to honor was mentioned twice. Apparently, that policy does not apply to the staff. So, my fellow divers, be aware if you reserve a space and only get “penciled in.” Looks like that really means “we’ll erase your name if we can’t make a profit that day.” Kohala may have saved a day’s worth of gas, but when they sent these pre-paid return guests packing, they lost 12 more paid slots down the road - - and that’s just this year.

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