Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I have friends in New York.

It's not entirely their fault. 

They live there because they feel it's the center of the universe and rarely do they appreciate how poor New York restaurants truly are.

I love them all the same. 

Mostly because all of them are entirely objective about the New York Knicks.

This is a team that is to basketball what the stoat is to stand-up comedy.

It garlands the NBA like false eyelashes garland a thoroughbred horse.

It is to New York what the belch is to a sermonizing priest.

Year after year, the Knicks manage to be an abject object of derision.

Now given that the Knicks inhabit New York, you might expect fans wouldn't be routinely happy.

Even when I lived in Manhattan between 2005 and 2007, I used to go to the Garden to see the other team.

Fans heckle. They deride. They complain. Why, they do this in places like Philadelphia even when their teams are doing well.

So if you're the owner of the franchise, you surely expect it and know how to take it.

You surely realize they might have a point when, year after year, your team doesn't make the playoffs.

Enter, then, Saturday when the Knicks lost at home to the Sacramento Kings.

As owner James Dolan left the arena, a fan leaned over and suggested, New York-politely, that he should sell the team.

I'm guessing this was a dedicated fan. Only dedicated fans would bother to shout at the owner. 

Dolan, sadly, didn't try to reason with the fan. Or even ignore him.

Instead, oh, watch the video.

As far as I can tell, the fan didn't curse.

Sadly, Dolan called him "rude."

The fan replied: "That's your opinion."

"No, it's not an opinion," insisted Dolan, professorially, ignoring the essential truth that calling someone rude is, indeed, an opinion.

He added: "You know what, enjoy watching them on TV."

And there you had a deep lesson in how (not) to treat a disgruntled customer. 

Companies have different ways of dealing with complaints. We're talking here, though, of a team that has reached the playoffs three times in the last 15 years.

The Knicks' record is currently 13-53.

The team has traded away its best player, Kristaps Porzingis, yet is still somehow linked with superstars such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

There are ways of dealing with dissatisfied customers and there other ways of doing it.

Banning them is, of course, an option. Police and security apparently talked to the fan and he was escorted out.

It's unclear whether he's been banned, though the Knicks issued this statement:

Our policy is and will continue to be that if you are disrespectful to anyone in our venues, we will ask you not to return.

I pause for all readers to consider the meaning of disrespectful in New York, with special reference to sports.

I pause also to consider that suggesting Dolan sell the team might qualify as sound strategic advice, the sort for which consultants are extremely well paid.

Still, let's try and transpose this encounter to other businesses.

If airlines banned every customer who complained, they wouldn't have many customers.

If hotels banned every customer who wrote an ugly TripAdvisor review, they'd all have been bought by Marriott. And then everyone really would be complaining.

Dolan could have -- even politely -- told the fan he's working every day to try and make things better. He could have said he understands the fan's frustration.

He could have entirely ignored the fan.

But to come over all big and powerful made him look a touch small and sad. 

In New York, some fans go to games specifically to complain. It makes them feel better.

Let New Yorkers be New Yorkers. Bring them some of that desperately craved success.

Oh, I suppose you could always sell the team.

I only mention this because I'm a Golden State Warriors fan and, for many years, we had a terrible team and a much-derided owner called Chris Cohan.

He eventually sold the team to Joe Lacob and his partner Peter Guber. They've delivered three NBA championships. Perhaps one more will appear this year.

You know what happened the first time Lacob was introduced to the fans? They booed. Mightily.

It's called leadership. It's called customer service. 

Or don't the Knicks believe in that?

Published on: Mar 10, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.