Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Ticket Fiasco Continues

Update, 10:55 PM Monday: Barry Svrluga has a story up on WaPo about the ticket fiasco. There's nothing substantive in there other than the fact that Stan Kasten remains mum on the cause of the problem. The story is full of man-on-the street whining about the situation, kind of like the post you're reading now. If you read between the lines of Stan's non-comments he seems to be blaming FedEx for the delivery issues. That seems dubious to me. If FedEx can handle the annual Christmas bum rush, it can certainly handle a few thousand Nats season ticket deliveries.

Stan Kasten and the Nationals need to set things right by coming clean about the cause of the problem and what they intend to do to avoid it next year. Buying good PR can be expensive, but recovering from bad PR can be even more costly.

This story just won't die. Season ticket holders across the D.C. region are still struggling to get their tickets in time for next week's opener. Screech's Best Friend and I have been covering the Nats season ticket fiasco over the past week, and it was not until last night that I realized just what a clusterfark this whole thing has turned out to be.

I'd received my ticket tracking email last Friday and my tickets were due to be delivered via FedEx on Monday, March 26. I headed to work today confident that I'd arrive home to find my tickets waiting for me. My anticipation grew as a colleague received his 41-game plan at the office and I got an email from SBF indicating that he too had received his tickets. I got home around 6:45PM and looked through the mail...mortgage re-fi letter? Check. Credit card solicitation? Check. Nats tickets? Nope. Nothing. Bupkes. Goose eggs. Jack! Freakin! Squat! Not even a door tag from FedEx indicating a halfassed attempt to deliver the package to my Baja Arlington condominium.

What the frak?, I asked myself, and logged into the FedEx web tracker faster than a line drive hurling past a diving...

FedEx's web site indicated only that the driver had arbitrarily decided to make a "delivery exception" and reschedule the delivery for Friday, April 6. Ohhh no, I said. Oh no you di-int! I called FedEx and asked them to hold the package at the Alexandria sorting facility on Eisenhower Avenue. I snarbled down some leftover pizza and headed over there, figuring I'd have time to pick up my tickets and still hit the liquor store before it closed.

WRONG!!! I pulled up to the FedEx building around 8PM to find a packed parking lot. A man saw my '63 Senators cap and asked if I was headed to get tickets. I replied in the affirmative, and he chuckled, shaking his head and clutching a ticket package. "Good luck!," he said. I soon saw what he was talking about: a long line of would-be package recipients snaked out the door of the FedEx facility and out into the parking lot. Fat, middle aged men with Nats hats and jackets on shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot as they waited to enter the building. I couldn't believe it.

A Louis Voutton handbag-clutching woman behind me started yapping on a cell phone about how disgruntled she was. She'd been slighted by a FedEx agent on the phone, was mad as hell, wasn't going to take it anymore, and was going to tell everyone in earshot all about it. As we slowly filed inside the building more and more people kept joining the end of the line. Finally, at 8:30, the FedEx manager made everyone in line move inside the building and locked the doors. There was no turning back now; I was getting my tickets or I wasn't leaving at all. Several line-waiters took up strategic positions against counters or on windowsills and nodded off. Louis Voutton woman kept yapping loudly. The FedEx waiting room became her own personal phone booth, and we were all trapped with her.

A clever FedEx employee started taking delivery slips six at a time. He'd disappear into the back for 15 minutes or so and return with all the packages he'd rounded up. He'd then check IDs and gather a signature, and then have the package recipient come around the back of the counter to pick up tickets on their way out the back door. Departing package-getters wished the rest of us good luck on their way out. It was as if we were hostages on a bus and our captors were letting a few of us off at a time.

I got called in the third batch of six. There were still probably 30 people in line behind me by 9PM. Louis Voutton Cell Phone woman grew more nervous, yapped louder, and began to pace the center of the floor. At one end of her little circuit she'd keep tripping the automatic door: the only sounds were the beeping of the FedEx scanner, the yapping of the woman's voice, and the woosh-swoosh of the door. Another woman with an iPod got my silent respect for being the most brilliant person in the place.

Finally, around 9:15, the FedEx man called my name. "Kriner?" he said. "Yo," I replied, and happily bounded up to the counter to collect my tickets. As I headed behind the counter I received my ticket package while the crowd watched, as a matriculating college grad might receive his diploma. I thanked the FedEx man and beamed to the crowd. I fought back the urge to flash the Curly W hand sign. Cell Phone woman finally ended her call as I was walking out the door. A silent but palpable wave of relief filled the room.

I stepped into the cool night air and tore open the FedEx envelope- yes, they were there, in all their colorful, glossy printed glory. My 2007 Nationals season tickets were in my hands at last, all the way from Saskatoon. They were mine, and they were here. I headed toward the car with a smile and headed to buy beer...the liquor store could wait for another day.

As I got into my car I saw a pudgy, darkened figure outlined against the fluorescent glow of the FedEx building. The figure stepped into the orange sodium arc light and did a little fist pump. It was the guy who'd been in line behind me- he'd just gotten his tickets too. I returned the fist pump, hopped into the car and drove off into the night.

Feels like baseball season. At last.