The Nationals and Tigers play at 4:05 p.m. Thursday. The game isn't on any schedule card, magnet, poster or whatever you may have handy. That's because it is a makeup game, a lost off day for players on both teams after Tuesday's originally scheduled game was rained out.
If you had plans to go to that game and can't make the mulligan, let's hope you have some good salad dressing to pour on that lettuce you spent on tickets. Because you're going to eat it. The Nats have changed their policy to basically say unless your tickets are part of a season-ticket plan, you use them or you lose them.
It's a move that pretty much violates every fundamental of Customer Service 101. Take care of those who pay for your services. And for the Nats, those are the people who buy their tickets. Season ticket holders deserve some extra perks, sure. Rewards points, first choice on playoff tickets and all that? No problem. That doesn't mean those who don't have plans deserve to be treated unfairly.
Like many teams, the Nats used to have a fan-friendly, flexible policy. You could exchange the tickets for any future home game depending upon availability. Any reasonable fan would accept that. You might not get the same seats, you might not get the same level. You might not even get the game you want. But you could work to find something that fits your schedule.
Now? Nope. Can't make it on a Thursday afternoon after planning to go on a Tuesday night? Tough. You want French or creamy ranch with that?
Attempts to reach the Nationals about this subject Wednesday received no response. A team spokesman did say Tuesday, "Due to higher demand and less capacity, we've had to modify our ticket policy."
That response begs a question that, for now, will go unasked: Why?
Let's use a hypothetical ticket holder. We'll call him Joe. Odds are, Joe works for a living, has a family and has other obligations for his time. Joe cleared his schedule and planned to take his wife and two kids Tuesday. His kids were excited. They'd never seen Bryce Harper play live. His oldest son has become a huge Jordan Zimmermann fan. It was going to be a big night for Joe's family.
Except it rained. Then Joe found out he couldn't make the makeup game. Maybe Joe doesn't have as cool and flexible a boss as, say, those who work at Washington Times Sports. Or maybe Joe's his own boss and had an appointment he couldn't cancel. Even if he could get out of work, what about his wife, what about his kids?
Why on earth can't Joe look at the Nats' remaining home schedule and pick a game that works for his schedule and his family's schedule? He'd need to find a couple, though, because Joe is reasonable and understands certain games might not have availability.
Higher demand? Yes, the Nats are averaging more than 30,000 thus far this season. That also means they're averaging about 10,000 empty seats per game. Odds are pretty good four seats are available somewhere for Joe and his family. At the time of the postponement, the Nats had 65 home games remaining. How many of those are already sold out? Likely none.
If I'm Joe and I'm told nope, Thursday or see ya, I say see ya. Taking a family of four to a game isn't cheap when you factor in tickets, parking, a bit of food and maybe a Harper and Zimmermann T-shirt for the kids. If you're going to take Joe's money and ultimately give him nothing in return, Joe is a fool if he ever gives you any more money.
And Joe is no fool.
Real Nats fans are upset, too, if responses on the Nationals' Facebook page are any indication. It makes for some interesting reading.
The Nats are good now, still one of the best teams in baseball despite their indifferent start to the season. Fans are indeed coming out of the woodwork. That doesn't mean they should get too big for their breeches and start snubbing their noses at those fans. That's exactly what they're doing here.
I can speak from experience that the Nats, at least when they weren't any good, used to be great with tickets. In another life, I had a partial season-ticket plan for three seasons. All the games in the plan weren't convenient, especially when you factor in a drive to and from Richmond. No problem. We could exchange games we couldn't make for those we could, depending on availability. Not all of our choices were available, so we sometimes had to find other games or accept seats in a lower price range. All that is fair and reasonable.
Telling us this night or nothing? Not fair and extremely unreasonable.
The Nats have made a lot of good choices over the years. They've gone from miserable to respectable to quite good on the field. Nationals Park remains a good place to watch a game.
But this is one choice the Nats need to rethink. No matter how good you get or popular you become, being fair to your fans has to remain a priority.
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