Last Thursday, June 18th – First day of the US Open in Bethpage, Long Island and barely half of the players ever even teed off due to rain. But 50,000 fans certainly got teed off. What did the USGA initially tell ticketholders who ponied up over $100 per ticket, took the day off from work and slogged through the rain? Too bad, no refunds, nothing!
The New York Yankees happened to have a game at the same time, same day, but they chose a different tact: To all who paid for a ticket for the day game against the Washington Nationals – even if they didn’t bother braving the weather to come to The Bronx – use your ticket (or stub) and you’re welcome to come back for another game this season or next. And, if you did come to the stadium and you’re sitting in the bleachers – come on down and sit in the good seats. Why not?
Why not indeed.
It seems unfathomable that any organization would not make some effort – any effort- to provide some kind of consideration for customers (fans) when forces beyond their control ruin the experience. From a communicator’s perspective, this should be rule #1 in protecting reputations: give the customer something! Many will claim that this is an unfair comparison. The New York Yankees is a wealthy corporation with 80+ home games to spread out those 50,000 free tickets, while the USGA is a not-for-profit, mostly volunteer-based organization that only holds a dozen or so events each year.
We’re not suggesting that the USGA should have matched what the Yankees have done. But, do something! Offer a discount to the next PGA event. Send them a souvenir. Grant them a year’s free membership. The USGA has a good reputation, but in this one instance, they should actually have taken a page from the Yankee PR playbook!
Eventually, the USGA offered 50% refunds or the opportunity to attend the Monday final round to those stranded first-round ticketholders…
But the questions for communicators remain:
- Did the initial reaction by the USGA damage to its reputation?
- Did the USGA act too slowly?
- Would you have advised differently?
- What other recent examples have you witnessed or read about lately?