As One Hall Closes…A Coach Door Opens!

When another bingo club closes in the country (which seems to be on a weekly basis at the moment) you not only lose out on your bingo playing fun; you also lose out on a valuable resource for the community. I’m not talking to the young players who visit the club once or twice a month who will simply drive to the nearest rival club…I am talking about the O.A.P’s and others who visit the the club 3 or more times a week to meet up with friend’s, have a win; and most importantly get themselves out of the house. Without this outlet, these people have no choice but to stay in and watch the telly…..not a happy life to have in your twilight years.

So it is pleasing to know that when a club in Pitsea closed it’s doors last weekend another club in nearby Canvey stepped in to offer the community a way to keep there bingo spirits up. They are offering a bus which transports the Pitsea bingo players from the site of the old club to the Canvey club for just £1 each way. Of course this is not just a friendly gesture, but a way of maybe getting some more admissions through the Canvey club’s door; but the sentiment remains and it is a great move from the club and the manager. This now offers the players of Pitsea the chance to still get some bingo and more importantly to get out and about.

My one concern though is with the Pitsea players themselves. This whole story of a club putting on a coach to offer customers the chance to play some games reminds me of my old place back in Bognor Regis (Before they knocked it down to build a hotel: the scummers!!!)

When we first opened we were pitted against the only other club in town which had been established for over 20 years. We were not only situated on the outskirts of town, but players also had to go through security gates to enter the holiday camp that we were part of so we were finding it very hard to ‘poach’ players. Speaking to the customers that were choosing the central club over ours the general consensus was that because we were too far away from the station/bus stop it was easier to go to the rival club. After we did a questionnaire and a survey we decided to provide a free minibus to ferry the players from Bognor Station and the surrounding villages. We advertised it well and received positive feedback from the customers when we said what we were doing.

However when the bus service started the uptake was practically non-existent. Every session the bus would be off on its regular 15 minute journey around the whole of Bognor town and beyond and we would be lucky if we had 1 or 2 people waiting to be picked up. Most of the time the coach would return empty. It was disappointing because we really felt that the customers would give us a try. Every day it would cost us £200 to run this free service; £200 that was being offset on other things, namely other promotions and the prize board. After two weeks we cancelled the service…..we just could not afford to pay someone to drive around Bognor for no reason every day!!

This happened to us for lot’s of reasons, the main one being that at the end of the day the other club was so established and was in the most central part of town where players could dash out and do there shopping in between games that we could never truly compete no matter what we did. So we decided to concentrate on the ‘die hard’ players that we had and the visitors who had never played bingo before. The money saved on the coach idea instead went on to loyalty schemes and the prize board to keep our regulars assured that they were are primary priority.

Now the situation in Pitsea is very different; mainly the players have no club to go to now in town!!!! Hopefully the offer of the bus will be taken up by a large majority of the players. But it is interesting to read in the article that they are running the twice weekly service for a trial period of 4 weeks to start off with, just in case they come into the same problems that we had. I just hope that this kind gesture by a neighbouring town is taken up and becomes more established. Maybe if that works you might see other bingo operators doing the same thing and helping other bingo players who have seen there beloved halls shut in recent times to still get there bingo buzz!!!!

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