I thought for a few days about whether to blog this or handle it over email and I feel the Baltimore Orioles basically earned this being posted publicly for the way they handled the situation when I tried to speak with them about it in person. If seeing this online makes them (or other brands) look more closely at how they treat their customers, it will have been worth it.
I don’t expect the world when I buy a standing room only (SRO) ticket to an event. I don’t expect anywhere near the best view in the house. I might have to settle for an uncomfortable time in order to take in the event as I strain to see or I might have others standing right up against me. But I at least expect to see some of the event I paid money to get into.
This was not the case with Orioles Opening Day this past Monday and I wasn’t real thrilled with the way the team handled it when I brought this to their attention after a couple innings of a not-so-great Opening Day experience (it’s hard to have a not-so-great Opening Day by the way…I love Opening Day!)
I’d guess that I’ve been to 50 to 75 games at Camden Yards since it opened in 1992, but I’d never had SRO tickets before. I was familiar with the fact that there are two spots to watch from with SRO tickets at Camden Yards: one over the right field wall and one in center field near the bullpens. On Opening Day, both were too packed to see anything.
After failing to find a good spot to take in the game, I stopped into the Fan Assistance Center in the warehouse at Camden Yards. I wanted to see if there was anyplace else I could watch from that I didn’t know about and to see if there was anything they could do. All I got was a “sorry” and some shrugged shoulders out of the Oriole employee behind the desk there. I suggested they put up some TVs in the SRO areas for big games in the future and I asked if there was anyone else at all I could talk to because I was to a point where I was just going to leave and go watch the game in a nearby bar. I was offered the option of filling out a form with my suggestion or emailing it.
“That’s it?” I thought. I’m standing right here, in-person, in a place called the “Fan Assistance Center” and all I get is “a form” or “an email.” Yup, that was it.
I explained that I didn’t feel like this was a great impression for them to make on a fan, especially during the first home game of the season. I suggested that they not only look at their SRO planning but at their approach to providing guest solutions as well. What good is an in-person Fan Assistance Center exactly if a form or an email are the suggestions an unhappy guest receives?
I’d bought a ticket, taken half the day off work, riden a Metro for almost an hour from Rockville to Union Station and a train for almost another hour from there to Baltimore. I was investing time and money in the Orioles product and I was given a shrugged shoulders “sorry” and the option of filling out a form or an email. Do you guys want me back, Orioles? I’m kind of hearing, “Go away” when you give me those options.
If you’re going to sell SRO tickets, then make sure you have enough room for those fans to see the game. If you are expecting a big crowd for a game, then maybe add some TVs to help those fans see more of the game. And if you protect the seats of the fans who pay for them by checking people’s tickets there, then why not check the tickets of those in the SRO areas and make sure people aren’t standing in a spot that could be occupied by a SRO ticket holder? Either you over-sold the SRO tickets for Opening Day or you had non-SRO ticket holders taking up some of that hard-to-get space. And there were a good number of people like me that had little to no view of the game as a result.
More than anything else, if I come to you an unhappy fan after I’ve made a choice to invest my time and money with you, do a little more to show me you care. Put me in front of someone who will fully listen to me and who might be able to do something for me as your customer. Think hard about another place to put me and others who can’t fit in SRO, maybe give out a voucher to use for another game, tell me you will send someone out to investigate, offer to have a customer service rep walk out there with me to survey the situation, or just simply find a way make me feel like you care that I want to watch your game but can’t, even though I gave you my money. Something.
I would also suggest that the team put someone on monitoring social media for people tweeting things like the term “#Orioles” during games. You might have seen me sending tweets like these: “If the O’s are going to sell this many standing room only tickets, they should add some TVs to the main SRO areas. #Orioles #MLB” -or- “In-person Fan Assistance center that offers filling out form or sending email as solution isn’t really “assisting.” Looking at you, #Orioles.”
Or you could have simply rescued me as a guest when I walked through those doors labeled Fan Assistance Center. But you let me walk right out of them more pissed off than when I walked in—I wasn’t even really feeling pissed off when I went in there, just a little disappointed and looking for a solution.
I watched the rest of the game from a bar a couple blocks away and I’m not exactly itching to spend any money to get back into Camden Yards anytime soon. Empty seats at all the games since Opening Day tell me you should come up with better ways to assist your fans, O’s. Start by planning better. And when you haven’t planned well enough…care! So many customer service issues can often be made better if you simply do that to start.
If you’re an Orioles employee reading this and wishing this conversation had stayed offline, imagine me just shrugging and saying “sorry.” But before you do that, take half the day off work, put on a hat with my name on it that you spent money on, travel an hour and half to two hours to get to me, and then fork over some money for a ticket. That’s what I did Monday because I love your brand. And I got “a form” or “send an email” in return when I asked someone in your “Fan Assistance Center” if there was anything you could do to make my experience better. Fans care. Show them you care back, Orioles.