IronPigs: Fresh Out of Barrelheads in 2022

IronPigs and Coca Cola Park to remain cashless in 2022.

 

Fans pack the lawn at Coca Cola Park in 2018. Photo: Kram

You won’t find many barrelheads for your cash at the IronPigs again this season. After avoiding cash transactions in 2021–nominally due to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19–the team announced this week that the cashless environment will persist for 2022 (and perhaps beyond). Let’s take a look at why “cashless” is an advantage for the IronPigs–as well as other stadiums who have taken up this policy.  And, what’s in it for us, as fans?

The Spin

In the official press release this week the IronPigs cited three main reasons why they decided to continue the cashless policy.

Guest Safety: It’s true, cash money is dirty. If you’ve ever swabbed a dollar bill and grown out the bacteria you’ll know what I mean. However, cash has not been identified as a dangerous vector for the current coronavirus transmission. In fact, paper is one of the safest surfaces for this virus that is mainly transmitted via air and respiratory. Last season, I overheard fans behind me exclaim, “Is this for our safety, or their convenience?!?” This was in response to taxes. We’ll touch on that below.

Faster Transactions: Also, mostly true. Once fans got into the swing, tap-and-go credit cards and e-pay apps like Google-pay and Apple-pay made checking out super quick. Less time to check out (no one fumbling with change, etc.) means less time in line and less close contact with others. Plus, who wants to stand in line anyway, when there’s baseball to watch? Digital transactions are quicker than ever, and that’s a good thing.

“Touchless”  OK, I’m not sure how different this is from the “safety” claim above, but I suppose it’s an advantage. However, if you have to punch in a pin or touch the screen that every other person touched, to leave a tip or advance the transaction, that’s not exactly touchless, is it?

Follow the money

What’s the advantage for the IronPigs on the business side? If this system was costing them big bucks, you can bet cash would be back at the first opportunity. While other teams and stadiums are doing the cashless environment as well, some others such as the R-Phils are not. So let’s follow the money:

First, credit card transactions cost a business money. Processing fees and “discount” as it’s called, can really add up. However, depending on your processor, there can be deals to be made depending on the number of transactions, the average bill, or the gross amount of processing. I imagine the IronPigs have done well here, minimizing the fees they have to pay and getting the proper equipment on site for the least amount of expense. Sometimes those two things are connected.

The cost of cash: Perhaps you’ve never seen them, because by design they remain somewhat invisible. But, security personnel with backpacks and earpieces roam the stadium during the game collecting the cash from the registers and returning it to a “count room.” This secure room must always be staffed with at least two people to count and log the cash from each register. Then the cash needs to be picked up by an armored vehicle or some other secure way transported to the bank. All this costs money –to pay the different employees and to make sure everything is accounted for and secure. No cash means no need to hire as much security or to pay people to staff the “count room.” It means no other cash-handling expenses.

No Pilfering: All the parking cash and register cash can be a tempting opportunity for a game-day employee to line their pockets a bit. I’ve never heard anything about it actually happening at the IronPigs, but it’s a fact of life in business. A colleague of mine once said, “If your staff isn’t stealing from you, it just means you haven’t caught them yet.”

Sales Tax: It used to be, if you purchased a $2.50 hot dog, the sales tax was preemptively figured in, so that you’d only have to pay the $2.50 and never juggle anything other than bills and quarters. But now, the hot dog is $2.50, but the sales tax is added afterwards–and your credit card is charged $2.65. On “dollar dog night” my hot dogs cost $1.06. This is the topic the folks behind me were complaining about last season. Even though the IronPigs bragged about not raising prices during the pandemic, in effect, everything was 6% more expensive last season at Coca Cola Park.

Business Taxes:  I admit I don’t know all the details here, but I’ve been told that businesses who take in a large amount of cash are taxed differently via withholding or other assumptions based on an assumed amount of cash to tax.  If this is true, then the IronPigs can avoid such a system by no longer dealing with large amounts of cash.  

What’s in it for us?

Is there any advantage, then, for the fan? For those of us who attend regularly as well as those more casual fans?

Well, the money is dirty indeed. Not having to touch it is an advantage in general.

Faster transactions are an advantage, as we touched on above. For those who are prepared with a phone app or a tap-and-go card, it can be really advantageous. I was worried about the parking, because folks who don’t attend regularly might not be prepared to pay by credit or other digital means, but I never really saw that it took that much more time than fumbling with cash and change.

No credit card stigma. My kids pay for stuff via Apple Pay or debit card all the time. Those of us who are older might bristle at paying for a $1 hot dog with a credit card–wait for the receipt to print, wait for the transaction to process, sign the receipt–due to our past experiences. Folks behind me sighing loudly because I don’t have enough cash to pay for a dollar dog. It’s much quicker now, huh?

Online ordering: For any of the concessions that are available to pre-order online for delivery or pickup in the stadium, the cashless environment makes it extra easy. The gift card workaround maybe not as much here specifically, but still if I have to put my food order on a card anyway, may as well pre-order.

A workaround. They seemed somewhat reticent to promote it last season, but it appears this season they’ll be more open with the workaround: Take your cash to the Majestic Clubhouse Store, and you can purchase a gift card. Use that card for all of your stadium transactions. I did this a bunch last season and it worked out great. It’s better to buy the card on a non-game day, but I think you can do it on a game day if necessary. Some folks just don’t have that many credit cards or smart phone apps or any of the like. Plus, the gift cards now make even better gifts if you know someone who goes to games!

One last note here:  Stands that are not team-owned (ie gyros, nuts) were still taking cash last season.  This is good, in general, but also more difficult with the gift card because that’s for team-owned concessions.  I don’t have a strong feeling, just something to be aware of. 

What could be better?

Paper waste. Some of these POS (Point of Sale) spots will spit out CVS-length receipts from time to time. I’ve seen full bags of nothing but paper receipts. This isn’t environmentally friendly or in any way efficient. I’m not sure it’s more touchless or faster, either. The solution is to get these registers programmed more efficiently.

Tips. I imagine the ‘Pigs are going to be struggling to find game-day staff this season, as many businesses are. Remember to tip your servers where it’s appropriate–club level bar, biergarten bar, trough bar, tiki bar and elsewhere. Tips can be done via that POS screen in most places, or by dropping some cash in the bucket. Gotta keep the servers employed or we won’t have servers and that will mean longer lines–anyway, if you feel it, don’t let the new cashless stadium environment cost employees money.

These things go down. I was on vacation, so I wasn’t there the night the whole thing crashed and everyone ended up in line for the ATM because they were all-of-a-sudden more than happy to take cash. I imagine there are things to be done on the tech side to prevent such, and even if it was at a higher vendor-level, they need to make sure that never happens again.  When they’re that quick to take cash again, you know it’s about more than just “safety of our fans.”

So, I’ll still have a couple bucks in my pocket in 2022 so that I’m prepared for tech problems and I can leave cash tips and buy gyros (they take cards too, but I prefer cash when I can.)

See you at the park,

@Kram207

 

What’s next?

Well, hockey season is ongoing, despite the dearth of games over the past two months due to scheduling and COVID protocols. But things are about to get very busy and hopefully I’ll be back in the swing of things to keep you up to date on the Phantoms.

The baseball lockout continues, and my boycott of MLB gear purchases is about all I can muster. The MLB then profiting from their now-owned MiLB holdings makes me a bit ill. But the minor league season will start on time, so we’ll charge ahead. Look for a Phillies prospect post and an IronPigs roster post on the nearby horizon.

 



Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs

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