[Read in Star Wars-style scroll]
A long time ago, at an arena far, far away…
ATTACK OF THE WOO’S
There is unrest in the Galactic
Phan Group. Several thousand season
ticket holders have declared their
intention to leave the Arena.
This separatist movement,
under the leadership of the
mysterious Count Kram, has
made it difficult for the limited
number of Corban Knights to
maintain peace and order in
the seating areas.
Super Phan, the former
Sweaty T-Shirt Guy, is returning
to the Galactic Phan Group to vote
on the critical issue of creating
an OFFICIAL COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT
to assist the overwhelmed
security staff and ushers…
Jersey Auction Mania
I thought we had been over this before, but the recent kerfuffle over in the SpaceBook season ticket holder page suggests that….Well, I guess it suggests that I don’t have enough readers. No mind, jerseys are among my favorite things, so it doesn’t take much to get me going.
Authentic: If you’ve been around here at all, you know that when it comes to jerseys, I really prefer the real thing over the fake. And, replica by any other name is a fake. These days the “fan quality” jerseys–in any sport, really–are so poorly made as to make them uncomfortable and ill-fitting. Add in the lack of durability and the still-high relative pricing and I find them virtually worthless. The manufacturers know this and try to disguise the shoddy quality by using names like “Elite” and “Cool Base.” Thus and therefore, I prefer the authentic–even without numbers and/or name plates. They just feel better and look better. And, they hold up. There are ways to add your own numbers and name plates if you so desire.
Phan Shop: As most of us know, they do not carry the authentic jerseys in the team store. They’re not available online, either. It turns out, the only way to really get an “authentic” is…
Auctions: From time to time the Phantoms will auction off game-worn or game-issued authentic jerseys. These auctions have heretofore taken three different forms: The live auctions following games, the eBay auctions, and the silent auction table on the concourse at the games. The high demand for these items at auction has made some of the prices pretty darn high. And each has it’s own advantage:
Live Auction: The advantage, I guess, is that you’re only bidding against fans who are at the game no one else. The disadvantage is that in the live format the bidding can go on forever and the price continues to go up–especially as the juices get flowing competitively. It used to be that the player would bring the jersey out, pose for a picture, and sign it. That didn’t happen at the most recent auction and it’s not clear why. It was one of the cool things about the event and a little added value for the high-priced jerseys. I still feel bad about stepping on Jesper Pettersson’s foot.
eBay: At least with the online auctions, there’s a time deadline so the price will halt eventually. A disadvantage is that folks from outside the area and every other possible fan can be in on the bidding. You can end up getting sniped or paying way more than you thought depending on how you try to manipulate the online auction.
Auction Table: There have been reports of folks perhaps imbibing in excess during the game and getting a little carried away with the silent bidding. I haven’t heard any complaints of bid manipulation like we used to see over at the IronPigs in the early days, but I suppose that’s a possibility as well.
Bottom Line: The arrival of the Phantoms in the gear-starved Lehigh Valley (The IronPigs are perennially near the tops in all of Minor League Baseball in merchandise sales) has created a pent-up demand for the authentic jerseys which has not yet been satisfied. The demand has continued to out-pace the supply which has driven prices up pretty consistently. Eventually, the demand will decrease and you’ll see the prices become more reasonable. At that point, you might see them in the store and via raffle because….
It’s all for profit. I found out sometime in the first season. I had also been under the assumption that the auctions were to benefit Phantoms Charities–just as all the IronPigs jersey auctions are–but I was mistaken. It was never represented that it was for charity–it was all my assumption and you know what they say about people who assume…. Here’s the thing: There is a certain amount of cost that goes into producing those sweaters and having the appropriate numbers and name plates securely stitched in place. While the Flyers organization pays the players, it is the local team who pays for the uniform and if they can figure a way to recoup some of the cost then good for them. I have to say that there have been some really nice designs and if the auction money goes to help that continue, then I’m all for it. And, as I said above, you’ll see them change their tactics when the auctions start to dry up. While they’re making a few bucks now, in the future this might turn into a losing endeavor for them. And if they do decide to go the charity route, and folks can write off a portion of their purchase on their taxes, you’ll only see the prices increase. Just take a look at what happened at the Hershey Veteran’s Day auction–it was certainly a good cause and the prices made ours look tame by comparison. And we’re still talking about minor league hockey here.
But what’s a poor fan to do? All this auction craziness has certainly priced many a fan out of the market. It’s an expensive proposition, to be sure, the tickets and pre-game meals and drinks and the over-priced concessions–to say nothing of the $6 parking–it adds up. I’ve collected several jerseys over these first few years, but I have found a way to try to keep the cost-basis under control. Here are some ideas:
- Save OK, it seems a bit extraordinary for me to suggest saving up for something as frivolous as an authentic jersey. But, if you set aside some of that $3.50 water money every game and cut down on the Bell Hall and Chickie’s and $12 beers and whatnot, you might have enough socked away next time a jersey auction rolls around. If you really must have the authentic game-worn jersey of your one favorite player, you might have to save your pennies and bide your time. Hey, every time you sell your seats, put that money aside too. Think of it like a Christmas Club for your favorite jersey.
- eBay Sometimes these jerseys re-appear on eBay when fans grow tired of them or need to raise funds. Always the price is less. You can also substitute old Philadelphia or Adirondack versions–I’ve done that–if you don’t care who the player is or are willing to accept a blank. Keep checking back as things change on there all the time. I was able to get a blank Philadelphia Phantoms authentic for less than the junk they sell at the team store.
- NHL As many have pointed out, you can always get an NHL authentic either personalized or not, either worn or not, often at prices less than the Phantoms feeding frenzy. There’s always the Royals, as well.
- Table Minimum Twice I’ve won at the silent auction table because I put down a minimum bid and it somehow held up. No, neither were the “top prospect” type of players, but I did score an authentic with numbers and a name plate for less than it would have sold for at the team shop if they had them. Sometimes I think folks back out of those bids, too, and they’ll just call/text the next one on the list until someone shows up to pay. Even if you know you’ll get out-bid, throw one on there once in a while for a price you can afford and see what happens. Don’t be afraid to accept a player who is not your “favorite.”
Yes the prices have been high. If you say “too high” I cannot argue with you, but tell you there are other ways. If you will really only accept a very specific game-worn sweater, then you’ve effectively changed the supply/demand equation in a direction not in your favor. At that point, it’s really not worth worrying about.
Security: All Bags Left Behind
As the security staff continues to make changes in their operating procedures, it does give fans fits. This is particularly annoying to the two ends of the fan spectrum: The experienced arena goers who know what to expect are frustrated and dismayed when policies change with the wind and create perhaps unneeded inconvenience. At the other end, first-time arena-goers who aren’t familiar with the security in place can be shocked by the restrictions.
The arena has been reasonably good about sending out security emails and posting them on social media, but it’s not always clear what their intentions are. It’s also about how those rules are enforced, which has often been inconsistent (and worse; I’m trying to be diplomatic.)
I’ll also add that changing the security procedures from time to time is not a bad idea to adjust for problems and threats and to dissuade any would-be evil doers who might be planning to use a loop hole.
So what should they do? Here are some suggestions:
- Customer Service. They need to train these security folks not only in what they want done, and how to do it, but also in some customer service tips. The security person is the first representative of the arena–and the Phantoms team for that matter–that one encounters on game day. There’s no reason they can’t be courteous and accommodating within the framework of the rules. 99.99% of the people coming through–including the ones with the huge bags and pocket knives–do not have nefarious intentions. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have to comply with the rules, but it’s about how you enforce them.
- Quantity as well as Quality. There could be more lines. Yes, I know that means hiring more personnel but if they want to keep customers perhaps they should consider it. They could also consolidate some of the lesser-used entrances such as the one in the Miller Lite Loft and the one off the lobby of the hotel. Yes, it’s less convenient for those few people who use those access points, but it will make a bigger overall difference at the main entrances.
- Train them again, and re-think what they are actually doing. It comes down to consistency, and even if you wish to change the policies and procedures from time to time they need need need to make sure their staff is ready to enforce the rules accurately and consistently. And have they evaluated what they’re doing? 12×12 bags–is there a study that proves that’s the right size? What about the whole Chickie’s outside line thing? Anyone who has seen The Godfather knows what the problem is with that set-up. I’m not sure who’s in charge of security over there, but I’m not sure they’re very good. Perhaps it’s time for that to be re-evaluated. I imagine it’s the arena’s job, though, not the Phantoms.
Let Us In
The 5:30PM doors on Saturdays was a good idea. For whatever reason, the arena (probably not the Phantoms) did away with it. While it lasted, it decreased the crush at the security checks as well as the crush in Chickie’s–which is somehow still busy before games despite their shoddy food and service. Alas, it was probably about paying the security staff and the concessions staff for that extra half-hour.
Anyway, the solution here is easy: They haven’t been getting the puck down for a 7:05PM game until 7:17-7:30 most nights. My solution for you is to not be in a rush to get in; there’s plenty of time to get a beverage and get to your seat since they haven’t been starting on time!
Who’s In Charge Here, Anyway?
I’ve railed on the IronPigs for this for years. It is my strong feeling that season ticket holders–and especially FULL season ticket holders–be provided with a degree of “concierge service” from ticket reps. Seriously, we’re the best customers who spend the most money and pay the closest attention to what’s happening at the park/arena. There should be enough ticket reps to hold our hands if need be and keep us happy–within reason of course.
Certainly, it’s an entry-level position, though, right? Just like players are looking to move up, so are the team employees. The solution for the team is to quit trying to be super-lean on team staff and make sure you have enough reps so that when someone leaves there’s not a whole ton of fans without a contact person, and that those can be temporarily or permanently shifted to other reps until a replacement can be hired and trained. The staff turnover is not a problem, it’s expected. They should plan for it. It’s a sign that their employees are valued for their experience with a quality organization. Think of it that way and hire some additional staff.
Even with enough, good ticket reps in place, there can still be problems. In that case, it’s good to know who the chief of each department is should you need to contact the team about your particular issue. And it should go without saying that a nicely worded email or letter in writing, about your particular issue, addressed to the appropriate team personnel, along with your suggested remedy, will achieve better results compared with social media ranting (or silly blogging, for that matter.)
One more thing here: Mr. and Mr. Brooks have taken some heat lately about some of these issues. I have not had a ton of personal dealings with them, but second-hand, my impression is that many of the issues I’m writing about today are things they are not even aware of. And, many of the policies, prices, and procedures we complain about are not their direct choice–So many things are done by the arena management, the Comcast/Spectacor/Spectra/Ovations/Paciolan people. I’ve also heard second-hand that the Brooks Group is not terribly happy with the arena management. It is my assumption (yup, me again) that it is a necessary evil in order to tap into all the concert and event bookings which are controlled by the promoters and such, for which the arena management monopoly allows them better bargaining and access.
There are a lot of layers between me sitting in my seat complaining about some issue and the owners of the team. Work your way up the ladder, and you’ll find they do care what we think and want to get better. They just don’t always know.
“You people” should “just be thankful”
This is about the spot where any discussion about the problems of the day are met with the “you people” reply and we’re told to “just be thankful” for the opportunity to spend all our money at an arena build using a poorly written tax-scheme for the benefit of millionaire land investors and team owners.
But I digress. As I’ve said before, I sit around thinking about this stuff and then writing it down because I care about it. Anyone who joins an online group and “complains” is doing it because they care. If something really didn’t matter, they wouldn’t bother. And neither would I. It’s really not about the “complaining” it’s about trying to make it better. It’s also about how you go about it, I suppose.
At the end of the day, I want the arena and the Phantoms to be successful and make money so that they stay here. I want the experience to be the best that it can be so that I can tell hockey phans from Philadelphia or Wilkes Barre or Hershey or from parts beyond about what a great time it is here at the PPL Center.
And hey, we’re winning. After 7 long years as cellar-dwellers the Phantoms are league-relevant again and talented hockey players are fun to watch.
See you at the arena,
“Well, I’m a jet fuel genius – I can solve the world’s problems
Without even trying”
-Tommy Shaw / Styx