Review: Lucky Strike Lanes

image A few friends and I had been anxiously awaiting the grand opening of the Lucky Strike Lanes in Bellevue since it was first reported in the Downtown Bellevue blog.   As the signs started to emerge, we told ourselves that we’d go check it out when it first opened.

And then, the perfect storm.  (yes, I know I’m violating the list of overused words and phrases for 2007)  It turns out that Lucky Strike would finally open on December 30, 2007, and my birthday was just around the corner.  After much back and forth on the phone, Diann finally got ahold of someone at Lucky Strike.

Unfortunately, they wouldn’t do advance lane reservations, but they would be happy to sell us one of their party packages.  Unfortunately, the party packages cost about $60 per person for two hours of bowling, a few alcoholic drinks, and a few appetizers.  No thanks.  We decided to try our luck just showing up on Thursday night and getting a lane.

Fate would intervene: on Monday, we got a call that they were re-closing because of "training issues", and wouldn’t be opening until Sunday, January 6.  They knew we were coming there for an informal birthday party, so they asked if there was anything they could do to have us reschedule.  We asked again about a lane reservation.  No joy.

After these first two strikes (get it?), we gave them a shot anyway.  We showed up late afternoon on the 6th with 6 friends to go bowling.

What did we think?  An overwhelming "meh".

"Swankiness"
Lucky Strike is clearly marketed as a "hip" bowling alley.  Yeah, I know that seems like an anomaly.  Lucky Strike does a decent job here, but we all hated the layout.  There are three primary rooms: the bowling lanes, the pool hall, and the bar.  The bowling lanes reminded us all of our college student center bowling alleys.  This was telling, especially considering out of the 6 of us there we had 5 different colleges from around the country represented.  Apparently there’s nothing really swanky about the bowling area, but I did like the couches they had along the back wall. 

We didn’t venture into the pool hall or the bar, but the bar looked impressive from a distance.

imageCost
On the whole, yowza it’s expensive.  The only reasonable time to go bowling here is during the weekdays in the middle of the day.  The screenshot on the right is from their website – sadly, it’s all Flash, and I can’t give you a direct link to the pricing.  Yes, we reluctantly paid $35/hour for a single bowling lane, in addition to $4.50/person for shoe rentals.  Luckily, the party was at 3:00pm, and we left at 5:00pm.  Otherwise, we’d be shouldering $65/hour for a lane.  We didn’t order food, so I don’t know how the food pricing was.  Booze pricing was reasonable, but as one of our friends said, "considering they’re raping you everywhere else…".

Staff / Training
I mentioned earlier that they had to close for a few days after their initial opening to re-train their staff.  I’d recommend they re-close again. 

The gentleman checking us into the bowling alley punched Diann & my names into the scoring system, and then couldn’t figure out how to explain to us how to add additional bowlers to the screen as our friends would arrive.  He just asked me to come find him, and he’d get someone to help me with that when the time came.  It doesn’t take a lot to figure out how to operate the scoring system in a bowling alley, and I was able to add our own friends.

The problems didn’t end there: Diann & I asked our waitress what beers they had on-hand.  She spent a few minutes trying to pull those memories from somewhere in the depths of her brain, and we finally asked for a pitcher of Mac & Jacks, a fantastic local microbrew.  She came back to let us know they don’t serve Mac & Jacks, so we asked for Alaskan Amber instead.  She said she’d have to see ID for everyone in our group before serving us a pitcher, and since Diann & I were the only ones there, we couldn’t get one.  I asked if we could get  pitcher and just two glasses, and she was ok with that.  She came back to let us know they don’t serve pitchers.  She finally brought us two glasses of beer.  Every time a new person arrived in our group, she had a heck of a time reciting what beers they had on hand.

Look, if you’re a waitress, and you work in a bowling alley: you should know what beer you have available.

Overall
Like I said above, an overwhelming "meh".  I might come off as sounding a bit harsh, but, let’s be honest, when you’re paying this much for bowling, it should be a fanstastic experience.  I had high hopes for Lucky Strike, as the nightlife in Bellevue isn’t that great and I was hoping that they could kick it up a notch.  Between the Parlor upstairs in Lincoln Square and Lucky Strike downstairs, it should have been a great combo.

Honestly, at the price point they’re at, I don’t expect to see how they can hold out.  I’d rather go bowling at Tech City Bowl in Kirkland.  Tech City is definitely not swank, but it’s cheaper bowling and well-priced drinks.  Lucky Strike has none of that in its favor.

In my book, unfortunately, Lucky Strike is a strike-out, and I don’t mean that in the bowling sense.

Birthday Greetings – How things have changed

Like most people, I’m used to the annual barrage of birthday cards, phone calls, e-mails, instant messages, etc. on my birthday.  It’s remarkable how times have changed in just the last few years.

In years past, we’d all get cards in the mail and phone calls.  This year, I got just one card in the mail, a few calls on the phone, a few text messages, a few instant messages, a few emails, and nearly a dozen Facebook wall posts. 

My favorite greeting of the year was from my grandparents in Norway, but not for reasons you’d expect.  They called me on my cell phone while I was in a meeting at work, and the caller ID didn’t show up (which is odd, because it usually does).  Since I had an "Unknown" call and I was in a meeting, I sent it to my voicemail.

When I got out of my meeting, I listed to my voicemail.  My grandparents don’t speak english, and were apparently a bit unsure of what to do with the english voicemail system.  They didn’t realize they were leaving a message, and all I heard was them debating on whether they needed to push any touch-tone buttons on the phone or whether they should just hang up and try again later.  The message definitely gave me a laugh and put a smile on my face!

Technical aside:

I wasn’t on Facebook last year, and it’s amazing how quickly that becomes the primary place for everyone to send their annual greetings.  The amount of ways that people can communicate now is approaching an overwhelming state.

There’s been a ton of talk the past few weeks in the blogging community about social graphs and aggregation of social network (I think Dare Obasanjo has great commentary about that here), but I’d love an aggregator of incoming messages from these sites that’s better than e-mail. I don’t know what that solution looks like, and that’s why I’m not a product planner! 

(Interesting: two more wall posts on Facebook arrived in the time it took me to write this blog post)