Friday, December 11, 2009

(19) Comments

The New York Mets Respond To My Letter

Dan Twohig, Mets Police Detective

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Last week I sent a letter to Fred Wilpon explaining why I was not going to renew my ticket plan in 2010. I also copied several members of Mets management and a few members of the media. (You can read my letter here).

On Wednesday afternoon I received a call from Craig Marino, the Mets Vice President of Guest Experience. Craig was calling to respond to my letter, and immediately offered to go over it point by point.

Point 1 - Ticket price decreases. In my letter I asked if the Mets had announced that ticket prices would be cut an average of 20%, how come my invoice only showed a 5.6% decrease? Kids, always double check your facts. The Mets actually announced an average decrease of 10%, with some ticket prices being cut as much as 20%.

OK, so even if I was slightly off, how come my plan only saw a 5.6% decrease? According to Craig, when the Mets looked at the ticket price structure, they evaluated which seats/prices were more out of line with the market and discounted those tickets at a greater rate. The Promenade Level pricing was determined to be right about where it should be for the market, and so received a lower discount than say Field Level which were decreased at a greater percent.

OK, you know that makes sound, logical, business sense. I can't really argue on that point as far as it goes.

One thing Craig did say, which I laughed at, was his claim that the Promenade was "sold out for most games," which was a factor in why the Promenade received the lowest decrease in ticket pricing. I told him that technically he may have been right if they were looking only at ticket sales. However, I asked him if he saw all those empty seats, especially during the week. He agreed that there were a lot of no-shows during the 2nd half of the season, but attributed that to the quality of the team and nothing else.

Point 2 - Bulk discounts. Why don't the Mets offer a discount to plan and package holders? Craig's response here I just did not agree with. He said that if the Mets were to offer bulk discounts for plan holders than it would be the equivalent of raising ticket prices for individual purchasers. I tried to point out that if a plan holder doesn't go to every game (as I bring up in Point 3) than that essentially raises their cost on a per game basis. To reward loyalty to those purchasing plans Craig said the Mets are looking into other ways, such as behind the scene tours to full-season ticket holders.

My feeling here is that the Mets are very scared of bad publicity against "the little guy." Offering a discount for bulk purchase should be considered rewarding loyalty. I think the logic that this is somehow screwing over the little guy is flawed.

Point 3 - Sunday PLUS. Why have non-Sunday games in a Sunday package? Why change what worked at Shea? There were several points around the topic of the naming and make-up of the various plans.

First, the naming of the plans. Craig admitted that last season they essentially screwed-up, which is why this year they added the PLUS to the name of each plan. The adding of PLUS was an attempt by the Mets to clarify that the plans included more than just Saturday or Sunday games.

So why not just have only Sunday games in a Sunday plan? It worked at Old Shea, why not do it here? Craig bluntly told me they were "trying to sell every seat for every game." He tried to point out that there was now extra value in these packages - the Old Shea packages were only 13 games versus 15 now. I reminded him that those 13 games had no PLUS games - a Sunday package was a Sunday package. When I tried to point out that very few people probably actually used those "PLUS" games and I would love to see an analysis of their ticket usage data - which they do have thanks to bar-code scanning - Craig claimed there would be no real way to analyze ticket usage since they really couldn't account for pass-along or giveaways. I pointed out to all the empty seats during the week - the incidence of pass-alongs could not be that significant.

Bottom line is there is no indication that this will change anytime soon.

Point 4 - StubHub. So what's to stop me from buying my tickets on StubHub? Craig admitted he had no answer for this. He said it's an issue that all teams are dealing with and there wasn't anything they could really do about it. He continued that the Mets felt last year was an aberration - mostly because of the team's performance - and they did not expect this coming season to have anywhere near the same secondary market.

I think he is right but for different reasons. There won't be as many plan holders dumping their tickets in 2010 because there won't be as many plans sold.

Point 5 - Obstructed views. This was a huge point of contention where Craig and I went back and forth. I pointed out to Craig that Dave Howard had angered a lot of Mets fans when he said that there were no obstructed view seats, only some sight line issues. I asked Craig if he knew whether Dave had sat in any of these Promenade seats, such as Section 527 Row 2.

Craig stated "Dave has sat in just about every seat in the ballpark."

What? Then how can he say there are no obstructed seats? Craig started to say that their view of an obstruction was a column - pretty much the company line. We then discussed what a sight line issue was - where you can't see LF from upper LF seats for example. Personally, I can understand sight line issues - every stadium has them (Old Shea's were pretty bad at times). What we are talking about were not sight lines but blocked views of the infield.

I won't go into everything about our discussion on this point, but some things were brought up:
- According to Craig, the strict "code requirements throughout the ballpark" forced them to put in all the plexiglass and banisters
- The team is now "well aware of the sight line issues"
- Short of "blowing up the upper level" there really isn't anything that can be done about some of the problems

I pointed out to Craig that there was a huge communications gap between the team and the fans in this area. I suggested that they stop using the term "sight line issue" because it was angering a lot of fans who knew what that term really meant. If they don't want to call these seats obstructed views, then come up with another term, such as limited view seating. Finally, I suggested that they discount those tickets by say 10-20%.

Point 6 - Mets history. This is a sore point for me and many other Mets fans - the apparent lack of Mets-ness at New Shea.

According to Craig this is a sore point for the Mets too - the perception that Mets management does not care about the history. He stated that he "gets very frustrated at the conclusions that people jump to" and "takes great exception at people who say they don't care about the team."

On Fred Wilpon being more of a Dodger fan than a Mets fan, he said it is "a real misnomer - not factual at all." Everyone in the front office is a Mets fan and supports this team first and foremost.

Discussing the lack of Mets related items at New Shea when it opened, Craig told me that getting the Jackie Robinson Rotunda ready for Day 1 was their top priority as this was to be the primary point of entry into the ballpark (70% of those attending games entered in that way). They were still working on it up to Opening Day. According to Craig, there were numerous plans in place to add and enhance the ballpark with Mets items and history, but they were all "Day 2 projects." The problem was that once the season got underway things kept getting pushed back.

Craig went on to claim that a good portion of the recent changes and announcements were all either discussed or planned well before the ballpark opened. If that was the case I pointed out, why didn't they make mention of these things before now? It makes them look like they are being reactive rather than proactive. Craig agreed with me that the Mets had dropped the ball on this and they probably should have made these things known much sooner.

We talked briefly about the Jackie Robinson Rotunda as well - about honoring a player who never even played for the Mets. Why, I asked him, have they not honored a Mets player yet? Where is Seaver's statue for example? Here Craig would not state anything definitely, but did say that they would be honoring Seaver in a great way and that he suspected I would be pleased by it. Hmmmm.

Lastly, we discussed the overall general gap between fans and the Mets front office. There is a feeling of mistrust among many fans - not so much because of the product on the field, but in how they communicate to the fans on things like seating, ticket prices, etc. I pointed out that many other teams make a conscious effort to work with fans, and that ownership has a much more public role. I gave as an example Angels owner Arte Moreno who I have met at Spring Training games. He is frequently sitting down and talking with fans.

Craig agreed that they are very aware of this perception and had started to try and make some efforts to improve things. He mentioned this past September when front office personnel were strolling around the ballpark during games, talking to people. I responded that it's all well and good, but it has to be more, and done not just when the team is doing bad and they aren't drawing. The Mets need to be proactive with their fans.

Craig and I spoke for an hour and though we disagreed on some things, the conversation was extremely cordial. When he said he was a Mets fan I believed him. I give him and the Mets a lot of credit - I did not include my phone number in my letter. Sure, all they had to do was pull up my account information to get it, but it's a step they didn't necessarily have to take.

I would like to thank Craig for taking the time and making the effort. I did tell him that I would be posting about our conversation and he was ok with that.

Will I renew my plans? No, I'm still not going to - the economics of it just do not make sense. Were all my concerns addressed? Not really, but at least I saw a willingness to open a dialogue with this fan - and that is a start.


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19 Responses to "The New York Mets Respond To My Letter"
Michael said :
December 11, 2009 at 9:14 AM
Funny, I had nearly an identical conversation with Kirk King, the Sr. Ticketing Manager for the Mets after I wrote Wilpon a letter detailing why I would not be renewing my ticket plan. He offered nearly the same explanations. His attempt to appease me was to suggest I purchase a 40 game package instead of a 15 game package. I nearly fell off my chair. The reason that the front office seems disconnected from the fan base is easy... THEY ARE. I am sure they are all very nice people, but they treat the situation like detached analysts instead of passionate fans. In good times, this is an acceptable strategy. However, in bad times (such as our cross town rival winning the WS against our divisional rival), this approach is infuriating. So, like you, I am not renewing. I'll pay for the actual games that I want to attend and fore go seeing the Pirates on a Tuesday evening. It's high time that we fans also start making our purchasing decisions after a cost-benefit analysis. This season, sorry Mets, I'll spend my hard-earned dollars elsewhere.
Brian Erni said :
December 11, 2009 at 11:18 AM
Had a similar conversation with the Mets regarding uniforms. Their Senior VP of Marketing contacted me and talked to me for 20 minutes about the team's on-field aesthetic after I sent an email complaining about black being included in the team's "throwback" uniforms. I also, at the time, expressed my concerns with the ticket plans (I have been a Sunday plan owner since '05) and said I would not be renewing because of that lack of incentive to do so (no playoff rights, no pre-buy for Opening Day or Yankees games, no seating offered lower than the Left Field Landing, no price break for bulk and the addition of the "Plus" games). Great to see the team reaching out to fans. I hope they act on the feedback they're getting.
Ceetar said :
December 11, 2009 at 11:19 AM
Personally, I disagree with the sightlines thing. I was happy with every seat I sat in, and I made a point to wander all over. I'd avoid the LF landing, and the promenade corners where it goes from IF to OF, but I was happy everywhere.

Some of the things, like the PLUS packages, are just the nature of trying to sell out every game. Yeah, they don't really care if those promenade seats are sat in. They sold them. They field a good team and people will use the tickets and buy food. I agree that none of the packages are overly attractive, I'd rather buy individually, because usually you'll miss at least one game and that one game ticket price is usually enough to scalp a ticket to a Yankee game that you get included in a package.

A lot of the communication issues are just..well..not needed. They'd be nice, but in NY with the demand for tickets (which is still there. They sign anybody real this season and don't get injured and the park will be mostly full every game. especially once summer rolls around) but they don't need to explain everything. Does Burger king explain why they change a menu item? Does the MTA make explanations about which ad campaigns they run or which entrances they want to keep open 24/7? More was probably needed. There was a flood of new information and many fans got confused and discouraged, not feeling in familiar surroundings. An overall discount would be nice. even if it's only 1% on total prices or something.

I agree about the proposed changes. I was there for the Red Sox exhibitions and the rotunda wasn't done. They rushed to get the place ready before fully decorating it. Even the plazas outside weren't done until late summer. I'm sure they always had thoughts about "Let's do this, and let's do that." I'm not even sure they had things 100% planned to announce them earlier than they did then. probably just in the idea phases that got delayed.
Seth said :
December 11, 2009 at 11:22 AM
I have often felt the Mets were disconnected from their fans. I am always jealous that my friends in other cities have better opportunities to be personally invested in the team than I do. For example, Orioles Fan Fest Day. What I hope is now that Shea is gone, this will be come more evident. What I mean by that is, in large city like NY ... you didn't really have to try to get people in the stands. Shea was affordable. Citi is not affordable. And when you cut off the people who care the most, which are the ones who are hurt the most by the prices, then you are in for trouble.
December 11, 2009 at 11:24 AM
Great post. I too am not renewing. I'd rather spend my money on Yankee tickets.....did I really just say that!
Steve said :
December 11, 2009 at 11:40 AM
You, my friend, are a whiny little bitch.
BPALM said :
December 11, 2009 at 11:42 AM
Just a note on the stub hub/no discount or incentive of buying bulk plans. Part of the problem is the team doesn't want these plans being bought up by brokers who will sell them off. If a discount is offered or a pre-sale for big games (yankee series, opening day etc.) is included it allows the brokers to make more money on the tickets and makes it harder for the average fan to get to a game. I like the idea of including tours of the stadium, maybe exclusive ticket holder only fan fests, and access to workouts.

Another idea for the season holder is allowing access to certain parts of the stadium with a special pass. Currently I know you can't get into the Acela Club or any of the good restaurants unless you have a certain level ticket. My idea would be giving each plan holder a pass for each seat they have bought and that gives them access to these restaurants and clubs.
waxman said :
December 11, 2009 at 11:54 AM
I too will not be renewing my 15-game ticket plan. A point that you overlooked Dan, is that not only are the seats overpriced and obstructed in some cases, but also that first time ticket plan buyers and individual game ticket buyers, were seemingly given given preference over renewing ticket plan customers. I can't show any real evidence, but it is much in line with the fact that the Mets "want to sell every ticket for every game," as Craig Marino stated. As I see it, the Mets figure that they have effectively "secured" most potential-renewing customers and would rather lure in new ticket plan buyers with the better seats--in the same vein that a cocaine dealer aims to get you hooked. That's right, I just likened the Mets to drug dealers.

The Mets might deny this through and through, but it sure seemed like they were reserving the better seats. How was it that only seats in fair territory in the left field Promenade were available when renewing customers have the first crack at them? And believe me, I renewed during a period that only returning customers could buy tickets.

Don't even get me started on not discounting ticket plans. This is the real deal breaker for me. I don't mind getting weekday games that I have little interest in if the prices are discounted. But going to a game because you don't want to let tickets that you can't even give away go to waste makes the Mets games a chore. Obviously, this is all exacerbated by a team that lost 90 games.

As far as Mets history in the ballpark, my biggest complaint is that they need to wear the Pinstripe uniforms with blue caps as their primary home uniform. I don't mind seeing the snow-whites or blacks on the weekend or during the occasional day game, but that is the biggest lack of respect for the Mets history in my opinion. After all, what defines the team more than on the field performance and appearance? The statues, logos, etc. will all come, however, I fear the pinstripes will fade away. While on the subject of uniforms, I'd also like to see the road jerseys accompanied by the blue hats from time to time. Oh, and get rid of the orange pin on the top of the blue hats.

Just writing this makes me fume. I think I just need to write my own letter to the Wilpons. I can guarantee mine will not be nearly as cordial as yours was Dan.

Bottom line is I'd rather buy a few good tickets, if I buy any, than have 15 crappy tickets, and that's crappy in every possible applicable aspect.

-Lifetime, Die-Hard Mets Fan
Steve said :
December 11, 2009 at 12:01 PM
You people need to get over yourselves.
Jim said :
December 11, 2009 at 12:45 PM
Great job at getting a response, but it sounds like most of it was corporate-speak...."That is a problem, we are aware of it"

And props to you for standing your ground and not renewing. Wellington Mara said it best, "Empty seats speak volumes"

Someday, the Mets will learn.
Peter Dragon said :
December 11, 2009 at 12:50 PM
I didn't renew my Sunday Package for the first time since 1994 and I had a number of the same issues. I was not happy with the "Plus" games, as well as not even having all of the Sunday games, I was not happy that package tickets for my section (515) were only available for the last few rows; the 13 rows in front of us were all available via individual ticket purchases, sometimes even the day of the game.

The final straw for me was the change in rain out policy- in the past it was never a problem to get a refund- this year they pushed getting tickets for another game- even to the point that I don't think refund was an option.
G-MONEY said :
December 11, 2009 at 12:53 PM
Waxman is right on the Money!! The Hardcore, dedicated fans are exactly the ones the Mets are screwing over, taking our loyalty for granted.
I too am a long time Sunday plan holder, since the 90's, and I have also sent a letter resigning my account.
I was phoned by someone in the customer service department who tried to sell me on a 40 game package and told me the LF Landing (glorified bleachers) was the "best" he could do with the Sunday Plus package.
If they are reaching out to so many of us, I suspect the full season renewals are hurting. I expect they will reduce ticket prices further and offer access to other sections in the 15 game plans.
If the goal is to sell out every game I suspect selling out 0 games is not an option for them.
kjs said :
December 11, 2009 at 1:16 PM
Essential post. Makes me feel left out---no one from the Mets called me to allow me to speak my piece. Perhaps over the years, my various complaints to David Newman---so heated he gave me his personal phone number to avoid either the Mets FO or MLB from reading my e-mails about everything from racism during Merengue Nights to a big FU they gave to cigarette smokers in 2008 when they announced Shea had a no-smoking policy AFTER they sold everyone tickets.
I have to conclude the Mets are insane. Or sociopaths. No one can sell a seat in Section 504, row 1, seat 1, and claim it's unobstructed.
Ceetar, you're a nice, helpful guy, but I have no idea why you're an apologist for this stadium nor feel compassion for the thousands of fans who are paying Cadillac prices to watch a game through metal and stained plexiglass or miss a play in the corners or see only seven players on the field.

I OPENLY CHALLENGE DAVE HOWARD TO SIT THROUGH A GAME WITH ME IN AN OBSTRUCTED-VIEW SEAT. IT WILL BE MY TREAT, DAVE. I INVITE SOMEONE FROM "METS POLICE" TO VIDEOTAPE THE AFFAIR AND POST IT. IF HOWARD CLAIMS THE SEATS ARE UNOBSTRUCTED, WE MAY HAVE 2010'S BEST REALITY SITCOM IN THE CAN.

As for the Mets, I guess the two plans I bought, the Opening Day ripoff pack I bought, and a few sundry seats I bought are worth crap to them. So be it. There are other teams, other sports...
Edmund said :
December 11, 2009 at 6:01 PM
I don;t give them credit for addressing you directly. They are desperate to sell ticket plans after the mess that was 2009. They w on;t have people buying tix just to see the building, and many fans have no confidence in the team on the field. As far as no obstructed views....here is a video from my seats at the Red Sox exhibition game last year.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPB1EMo-2WY
HarborPointe said :
December 12, 2009 at 1:03 AM
We understand your concerns, and while we're not going to do squat to address them, we hope you'll at least appreciate our telling you so personally.
Joe said :
December 12, 2009 at 3:55 PM
How come nobody has brought up the fact that the Mets have gotten rid of the option to buy playoff tickets if you are a plan holder? That was the biggest issue for me. There is zero incentive for being a plan holder. Tickets to random games I don't want, Tickets in the back rows of the section. Now no playoff option. Sorry it is completely illogical to renew my plan.
Bobby said :
December 13, 2009 at 6:43 PM
I too will not be renewing my SUNDAY plan after twenty-four years. They should blow up the Promenade because just about anywhere I sat my view was either blocked by a partition or I couldn't see a significant part of the field. I was never a fan of Shea Stadium, it was old, sterile, and in need of repairs every season. I always enjoyed watching a game there even during the tough times. However, after a half dozen games or so, I realized that I was not enjoying a game mainly because of the view, or lack of it. I have a nice TV and now prefer to watch the games in front of it. When I want to go to a game, I will look for a good deal on Stub Hub and pay less than the ticket price. Anyway, this year I would rather see Wally manage the Brooklyn Cyclones at fan friendly Keystone Park for about ten bucks - and you bet I'll have a good view!
68CamaroRS said :
December 14, 2009 at 9:55 PM
An open letter to Fred and Jeff Wilpon:

Dear Fred and Jeff,

I wanted to write a note to thank you for all you have done for my family the past year. I am sure you dont realize it, but you have helped me save alot of money.
Through your systematic destruction of the Mets you have taken my love of the team and turned it in into apathy. In the 1980s, I used to attend 30 to 40 games a year. I would drive from Bayonne and take the bus and train for two hours each way before I had a car. You see, my love of the Mets was such that I didnt mind seeing Roy Staiger or Leo Foster or Ron Hodges or Greg Harris. I would pay to watch those guys because they actually put forth their best effort, they were nice to fans and they made me feel good win or lose because they were "my mets". During those times, I would spend a good chunk of my income (which was significantly less dollarwise than I make today) on going to see your games, eating at Shea and buying every Mets souvenier I could find. Thats what a fanatic (aka fan) does you see.
The mets of the late 70s and 80s actually seemed to car about the fans, their teammates and their gameplay.

Contrast this with the Mets of the last few years. Most of the players are aloof towards the fans, cashing their big paycheck, they could give a hoot about us. They dont make me want to root for them, they just tick me off. As a fan, you dont get that feeling that they are giving their best effort. You feel like the players are going through the motions to collect their paychecks. In some case, like Jose Reyes, you question their desire to even play the game. I rarely see the players sign autographs or interact with fans. If they do, they act like they are doing you a huge favor when in fact the fans paying $150 to $200 PER SEAT for these games are what pays the salaries. Its the fans doing the players a favor, but I digress.

Watching the 2009 versin of the Mets and even the efforts of the 2007 and 2008 season make me really realize that I have been wasting time and money on a team that does not really care. If your players and ownership does not REALLY care, why should I?

The real danger for the Mets is not that fans will hate the team, that rarely happens. What will kill your franchise is APATHY. You are there with me and wont be seeing any more of my hard earned dollars. I am sure there are many others like me. Oh sure, there will always be some lemmings who will buy your line of bull that you are doing the best you can, will cut ticket prices yadda yadda yadda. Eventually though, the fans all see through the smoke and mirrors routine. If you dont think so, just take a look at the Knicks and how they have destroyed their fanbase. Better yet look at the foolish mismanagement the Nets have put forth with their ill feted plan to move to Brooklyn. They have totally alienated their fan base. Their seats behind the basket have gone from $101 two yeasr ago to $25 apiece and no one goes anyway. You get the point though, you guys are on the same track.

I hope you enjoy your new ballpark. You can look forward to having most of it to yourself as fans like myself stop showing up. I do appreciate it though and I thank you. The money I have saved this year and for the future will allow me to stretch my paycheck alot farther. So thanks again and good luck when you finally do have to sell the team. The only sad part is when you do, most fans wont care.

Take care,

Stan
December 19, 2009 at 12:49 AM
Freddie? JEFFY?

As one who travels a couple of times a year to Fenway Park to Red Sox Games, I can say that Ownership there knows well that they must invest to keep their Fans interest or there wouldn't be any more sellouts of games.

Take Post 2006-Two Excellent Relievers, Oliver & Bradford, were NOT re-signed. Rather, cheaper and less-qualified people were signed & one starter, who was NOT ready at all, was rushed into production. Tony Bernazard, that a--h-le, had the ear of that Dork, JEFFY, who fans at both Shea Stadium & Citi Field, refer to as both a "Moron & a Retard."

Jeffy just despised Willie Randolph, so he plotted his demise, by not allowing Minaya to do his job, properly. Explain Scott Schowenweiss, an unready Mike Pelfrey & Joe Smith, unless all that money was being invested with "Bernie The Sure Thing."

That '07 "Collapse" was actually a Year Long Thing, as the 'pen was deliberately depleted to get even with someone over a contract extension, as well as rushing someone into the Big Club, who was NOT ready, as was Pelfrey's case, as he didn't win his 1st Game until September, '07, with no intention of ownership investing in the team.

Mets Fans in droves, drove M.Donald Grant & His Ownership cabal out of town. Time to drive Freddie, JEFFY and Company out of town, as well.

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