After overwhelming reaction on social media and their box office phones, the Nationals reversed the unpopular ticket policy they announced after Tuesday night’s rainout and now will allow fans to exchange unused tickets from Tuesday for any future ticket of equal or lesser value, subject to availability.
“We heard our fans,” Nationals COO Andrew Feffer said. “I think it’s always important from a customer service standpoint to listen. We responded quickly and decisively. We said, if our fans want that option for a future game, if it’s that important to them, we certainly want to provide that.”
Tuesday night’s rainout will be made Thursday at 4:05 p.m., and tickets from Tuesday night will, of course, be honored then as well.
The Nationals in previous seasons had always allowed fans to exchange tickets from postponed games. With attendance this season having grown 30 percent from 2012, though, the Nationals changed their policy. They had heard from upset fans last year who had tried to exchange tickets, but could not sit in the same seat or section. Feffer said the originally announced policy was meant to alleviate that concern.
“Certainly our intention from the very beginning was to ensure our fans had the best seats and the seats that they had purchased,” Feffer said. “What we had found last year with a lot of our fans who were coming for future game exchanges, a lot of them were disappointed their same seats or same sections weren’t available as attendance had grown. It had always been our intention to make sure, as attendance grew this year, that that would be less of an issue.”
Over the next 24 hours or so, the Nationals learned they had inadvertently created a more irksome issue. Fans complained about the difficulty of rescheduling for a game that would be played in the late afternoon on a weekday. ESPN’s Buster Olney called the policy “a disservice.” The New York Post called for Commissioner Bud Selig to become involved.
Early Wednesday, the Nationals released a statement reversing the policy and included an apology to fans. The Nationals chalked up the experience as a learning experience for a franchise still not a decade old, handling prosperity for the first time.
“Nothing from a brand perspective and customer service perspective, nothing is more important – the fan experience is what defines the brand, the team,” Feffer said. “We’re a young team in Washington. We’re kind of growing up together, learning to do this.
“It’s a nice problem to have. We haven’t talked about what happens when you have high-capacity crowds every night at Nationals Park. That hasn’t been an issue up until last year. And so those are part of things we learn together and address. How do we best provide that value to our fans and our customers?”
Feffer cautioned fans to understand attending a game other than Thursday’s makeup with a ticket to Tuesday may face greater difficulty than in the past. The Nationals, averaging 31,813 so far, have drawn more fans than any other season through this point in the year. Unlike past years, “subject to availability” is a relevant clause.
“Hey, attendance at Nationals Park is at record highs,” Feffer said. “We’re up 30 percent. Just recognize that if you come and don’t plan ahead of time, it very well could be you could show up on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday and the game could be sold out. Or you might not even be able to get in the same section. That’s an important part to point out.”