SBD/May 9, 2013/Franchises

Double Switch: Nats Reverse Rainout Ticket Exchange Policy Following Fan Backlash

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Recent rainouts and high attendance numbers led to the Nats' change
After "overwhelming reaction on social media and their box office phones, the Nationals reversed the unpopular ticket policy they announced after Tuesday night’s rainout and now will allow fans to exchange unused tickets from Tuesday for any future ticket of equal or lesser value, subject to availability," according to Adam Kilgore of the WASHINGTON POST. Nationals COO Andrew Feffer said, "We heard our fans. I think it’s always important from a customer service standpoint to listen. We responded quickly and decisively. We said, if our fans want that option for a future game, if it’s that important to them, we certainly want to provide that." The Nationals in previous seasons had "always allowed fans to exchange tickets from postponed games." But with attendance this season up 30%, the Nationals "changed their policy." Feffer said, "Certainly our intention from the very beginning was to ensure our fans had the best seats and the seats that they had purchased. What we had found last year with a lot of our fans who were coming for future game exchanges, a lot of them were disappointed their same seats or same sections weren’t available as attendance had grown. It had always been our intention to make sure, as attendance grew this year, that that would be less of an issue." Kilgore notes the Nationals "chalked up the experience as a learning experience." Feffer: "From a brand perspective and customer service perspective, nothing is more important -- the fan experience is what defines the brand, the team. ... It’s a nice problem to have. We haven’t talked about what happens when you have high-capacity crowds every night at Nationals Park. That hasn’t been an issue up until last year" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/9). In DC, Mike Harris writes, "Good for the Nats for realizing their error and remembering that respect for the fans who fit Nationals games into their schedules should be their foremost priority." While team execs "do deserve applause for making the right call, the fact that anyone in the organization thought going away from the policy was a good idea does remain a little disturbing" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/9).

ROLLING BACK THE RED CARPET: In DC, Thomas Heath notes until the Nationals "started winning last year, the team’s Red Carpet Rewards program was one of the few bright spots for its season ticket holders." Those fans "earned thousands of points that could be redeemed for seats all around the ballpark, or even access to the Lexus President’s Club." But with "no preseason notice, the Nationals front office for the 2013 season significantly diluted the Red Carpet Rewards program, and the number of points needed to buy extra benefits increased dramatically." A game against the Phillies on May 25, for example, "costs 1,000 Red Carpet points for a field MVP or club seat, which is 10 times what it cost last year." The Nationals also "shortened the window in which tickets can be redeemed ahead of time to one month; last year points could be used to buy a ticket for any game in the season." Nationals fans are "crying foul." The program was "particularly loved by fans who would buy tickets for a full season and use points to buy extras for friends and family or better seats to watch some games up close." The outcry is "a problem that many teams in baseball would envy." Feffer said that the team has "expanded the options available to rewards members to include autographed merchandise, meeting players, viewing batting practice -- even throwing out the first pitch -- as a way to create value for season ticket holders." He added, "It’s not like we said, ‘Okay, you can’t buy President’s Club seats or Diamond Club seats or dugout box.' Those are still available. They just cost more points to get because there are fewer of them" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/9).
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