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Delayed Delivery of Some Season Tickets Frustrates Nationals Fans

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 3, 2005; Page A13

A delay in mailing out Washington Nationals season tickets has left some baseball fans complaining about poor customer service.

Team officials said the situation stems, in part, from an unusual offseason: The Nationals' move from Montreal to Washington wasn't finalized until the end of December, which gave the team a late start on season ticket sales, said David Cope, vice president for sales and marketing.

Cope said the team then waited to send its order to its Canadian ticket printer, Mercury Graphics of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, because it wanted to maximize the number of buyers who would get special season tickets. Printed on heavy stock paper, the special tickets are adorned with a color team logo and a dramatic image of the U.S. Capitol.

That decision pushed back the timetable for mailing tickets. As of Friday, 13 days before the April 14 home opener, more than 90 percent of the season tickets had been shipped, Cope said.

"This is probably a week to 10 days later than our perfect-world plans," he said.

Some Nationals fans said the delay has caused headaches.

Alison Russell, a business manager from the District, said she had been told to expect her tickets by the end of March -- just in time for her to receive them before leaving on a three-week overseas trip. They didn't arrive. On Monday, she said, she called the Nationals to inquire about the tickets and wound up waiting on the phone for an hour and a half.

"It was silent for 45 minutes, and it rang for 45 minutes or so," she said. "Nobody ever did pick up."

Similar complaints have popped up on Internet bulletin boards, where messages from frustrated fans are sprinkled among joyous ones from people whose ticket packages -- including a home-plate-shaped box and commemorative pin -- had arrived.

Jim South, a consultant from Arlington, said he had been told to expect his tickets about March 19. With that date in mind, South said, he sold about 20 of his tickets on eBay, the Internet auction site, and set up a meeting this weekend for friends to divide the rest of the season seats.

Now, South is wondering how he will get the tickets to friends who live in Charlottesville and Richmond, and he's trying to placate his angry eBay buyers. "All these folks are champing at the bit, saying, 'I think you're ripping me off,' " he said.

Cope said season ticket holders who have paid in full, including paying for parking passes, should receive their packages by Tuesday. If not, he said, they can check their account at www.nationals.com or call the ticket office at 202-675-NATS.

"Are we absolutely swamped? Yeah," Cope said. "That comes with the territory."

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