Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hogs Haven's Ken Meringolo Personally Challenging Redskins' Story on Suing of Ticket Holders

Sounds like bait and switch to me

One side effect of Dan Snyder sending out Redskins chief operating officer and general counsel David Donovan as proxy attack dog on all manner of explosive issues, such as the all new ban on signs and required team review of ticket holder clothing choices is that other, older stories get a rekindling in the news cycle. In this case we get to talk about the whole team suing the ticket holders story from early September.

Matt Terl at the ORB (Official Redskins Blog) has a lengthy transcription of a portion of David's interview with the Washington Post's Mike Wise from Tuesday (link here, search page for Donovan) and in it Ken spotted something that caught his eye, a reiteration that the WaPo was intentionally misleading about who is getting sued, that it was a handful of premium club seat holders that were defaulting, not regular general admission ticket holders because why would the team team sue those ticket holders if there is some apocryphal 160 thousand person waiting list for those tickets.

By contrast there is no waiting list for club seats, there never has been, if you have seven grand to fork over annually you can have club seats now.

And that is where Ken Meringolo comes in.

He tells the story of being persuaded as a young man with disposable income to sign a long term contract for club seats, Ken is not specific about the original term, with the promise that after two years he will be able to move down to general admission seats and a smaller bill for tickets. When the end of the second year came around he called up the ticket office and the same guy that sold him the club seats and promised the downgrade, through very likely not in writing, that guy told him there was no way he was going to be able to move gim into general admission because he was in a contract and as such he was going to have to keep paying for his club seats.

When he said he was in financial distress and that kind of money was not in his budget they offered a quote payment plan unquote at an inflated interest rate and when Ken balked at that they went straight to the threat of legal action.

The context of all this is not just the story, but rather the feeling Ken got all through this experience that he was in the grip of a business practice, to bait and switch eager fans or wait listers into club seats with the vague and uncodified promise of relief in the future, a future which never comes because they get you in a contract and never have enough club season ticket holders and too many wait listers for general admission to have motivation to downgrade the ticket holder.

So what COO Donovan is saying may be the letter of the truth, that the team only sued a handful of premium seat holders in default and not general ticket holders in the presence of such a huge waiting list, but it is not the spirit of the truth if regular fans and general ticket wait listers are lured into club seats with vague promises that are never honored and the team turns into an angry creditor.

Check down through the comments on that Hogs Haven post, there at least two other accounts of similar treatment. Once again with this team it would appear we are at the uncomfortable point of deciding if as an organization they are lying, or simply incompetent.

Ken spoke with COO Donovan directly, the team really has him out there on point taking on every situation directly, which is a bold PR move that most often backfires if the whole let me explain and you will understand strategy reveals bad stuff or simply confirms the problems that were reported in the first place.

So far we have the guy calling the Washington Post yellow journalism and telling a story about the context of legal action against fans that immediately had those with personal experience coming out in contradiction.

Charlie Brown and Lucy from here.