I’m fairly certain there is nobody other than Fangraphs’ Dan Szymborski that is upset with how the Padres’ offseason has gone. The on the field product is the best we’ve seen, maybe ever. Unfortunately, it appears that the better the on-field product gets, the worse the customer experience will be. To go along with the recent customer unfriendly changes to the flexible ticket trading program, reports out of Fanfest are that the season ticket holder concession discount has been slashed unannounced, and to even get the reduced discount you have to pay in preloaded e-cash via the member card.
Last season, members were offered a 10% discount just for being members, and an additional 5% discount if you paid with the preloaded e-cash, for a total of 15% off. This amounted to roughly $1.50 off a beer, essentially rolling back the team’s unannounced and poorly implemented midseason beer price increase. Things, they are a changin’.
The member discount has been eliminated for 2015 by Padres management. In its place, the team is offering a 10% bonus on e-cash that’s loaded to the member card. For example, if you load $50 onto your card, you will have an additional $5 bonus placed on the card. So in the best case, members are seeing a 5% reduction in member concession discount. It should also be noted that if you don’t load the member card with e-cash, you get no discount at all.
After questioning Padres Chief Marketing Officer Wayne Partello, I was treated initially to a flippant response offering a non-answer. He refused to even publicly acknowledge the reduction in member discount. After some prodding, he did admit that the additional 5% discount in 2014 was meant as an “introductory” offer. He also stated that “several members” complained about the process to get the discount. Last season, if you weren’t paying with e-cash off the card, you had to let the cashier know you were a member so they could hit a member discount button on the point of sale device. Apparently this was a burden that justified slashing the discount.
It should be noted that not all POS devices had the button to process the discount. Offhand, I wasn’t able to get it in The Pier or the Omnj Club last season. The bonus on the e-cash load allows members to realize some “discount” on purchases at those locations. It should also be noted that the e-cash RFID member car payment was super eat to use and load, with a helpful auto reload function to make it easier for the Padres to get your money.
This change speaks to a larger issue when you consider the prior ticket trading devaluations I’ve reported on. The team has made it clear that as current demand for tickets increases as a result of higher expectations for the team, benefits for its most loyal customers, the season ticket holders, will continue to be reduced. In many cases, these devaluations are unannounced, not disclosed at time of renewal, and discovered after the fact at which point Padres management sheepishly hope nobody notices, which is not good or ethical business practice. Here’s a chart highlighting this new reality:
Assuming the team performs as we hope, I think it’s inevitable these benefits continue to be slashed as the Padres squeeze as much short term profit as they can out of the current surge in interest. It begs the question: are the Padres trying to foster long term fans out of the offseason surge in season ticket sales, or are they trying to maximize the 2015 income statement at the expense of long term customer retention?