Yesterday, I finally heard the first inklings of Sixer fan discontent hit the airwaves of local sports radio. It was surprising it took so long. One thing that has become clear since the Hinkie era began and the Adam Aron era faded - is that communications at all levels is a weakness of the current management team.
Don't get me wrong. I could care less whether the GM makes himself available to the local media 4 or 5 times a week so they can create issues or second guess moves or non-moves. Anyone who says the local media is the voice of the fans and ignoring them is 'unfair to the fans' isn't talking about me. I'm fine with all that. [It wouldn't hurt to hire a media relations coordinator and actually have them release some sort of relevant content now and then to spice up the sports pages.] At the end of the day, if this front office keeps making the kind of moves it's been making with players and coaches I'm 100% on board.
However, as a season ticket holder, I'm about as unhappy about this front office and their communications approach as one could be. Their high handed, borderline dishonest approach to this season is tempting me to abandon my ticket holder status altogether.
My story goes back to when Doug Collins was first hired. Convinced that might mark a turning point for the franchise, my desire to get in on the ground floor of a Sixers rebound really motivated me. Initially, I bought the Big Game Plan - concerned that if there was ever a game I couldn't attend personally because I travel a lot for work, at least I'd be able to get rid of the tickets if necessary. I convinced 7 different buddies to join me to see games that first year as I evangelized for the resurgent team. In Iguodala's swan song season, I became hooked on the in-game experience, buying a second 10 game plan and attending a total of 30 home games in person. Last year, I renewed both plans and by now knew the ins and outs [literally - how to get into the game and out of the game onto I-95 in about 6 minutes or less]. The experience was a blast, even though the team had an uneven season and Bynum never made an appearance.
This summer, however, has been a frustration. Before the schedule was even out, I began getting calls from my 'personal Sixers representative' soliciting that I lock in my tickets with a deposit on this year's tickets. I advised that of my two plans, I loved the seats I had for the Big Game Plan and wanted to get the tickets for my second plan in the same section if possible. [I'm 6'4" and the legroom in sec 123 runs rings around the cramped experience in sec 122]. After about 15 minutes of discussion, it became clear that they couldn't guarantee seats in any section at that point ... nor did they know what plans were available yet. [Understandable, the schedule had not yet been announced.] I told them to call me back once they could actually tell me what options were available.
Once the schedule was released, I got a call soliciting me to lock in my Big Game Plan for this year. Once again, very sketchy on the details though - not assuring me of which seats I'd get and making no mention of price [in fairness, in didn't occur to me to ask about price]. The prior year I simply renewed the seats I had the year before. Now it was clear that nothing was guaranteed other than their willingness to get me to commit to a deposit. In addition, none of the other plans was yet available, so I couldn't tell what I'd be able to do in terms of my other ticket plan. [This is important because inevitably there is overlap among these plans and I wanted to minimize the overlap - it's hard enough to get one person to accompany me to watch a game these days.] Once again, I declined to make a decision until I had all the information.
Two weeks later, I got a call soliciting my interest in a Weekend Game package. As fortune would have it, I hate weekend games as my wife and daughter usually have plans for me on the weekends. I continued to hold out for the detail of what plans would be available overall. The next day, I received a renewal invoice in the mail for my Big Game Plan. [Finally, some real information] I was shocked and unhappy. The ticket prices were roughly two thirds higher than last year - I was so stunned I had to go back and double check last years invoice. Worse yet, they had moved my seats - so my 'renewal' wasn't even for the seats I loved from the year before.
As a repeat customer, I found it dishonest to have pressured me for months to make a buying commitment without disclosing the details of a price increase so big.
My problem is not with the prices on the Big Game Plan being increased. Those tickets were clearly underpriced previously - selling for 4 times face value on Stubhub in many cases. My problem is with the lack of communication and respect for a multi-year partial season ticket holder. My assumption is that knowing that attendance will be down, the front office wants to at least make some money on the games that will sell because non-fans want to watch the Lakers, Knicks or Clippers - I get it. However, lay out all the plans so real fans can make informed decisions about alternatives. Explaining what you were doing and why would be nice. Attempting to trick someone into a renewal so that they then get stuck paying two thirds more to watch a worse product on the floor is unethical.
I don't mind seeing my team play games against bad teams [they may actually be competitive] ... but treat me like a valued customer and be straightforward. Then when I hear nonsense on sport radio about how the owners want attendance to go down so they can move the team ... and 'buying Sixers tickets is putting money in the pockets of the Devils' won't resonate even a little bit.
With the right approach, I would have definitely signed up for two plans again this year in the section that I liked - perhaps for games that were a little lower in price because they were tougher to sell. Now? I'll bide my time until December or January when you start packaging together special deals on 3 game plans just to get some fannies in the stands ... or buy tix on Stubhub or eBay for the embarassing prices we kept reading about in the paper last year. I am a fan of the Sixers new basketball operations. I'm no longer a fan of the way the Sixers do business.