The Orioles are a hot ticket in town right now. It's not surprising to me, given their fantastic 2012 season. But apparently it is a surprise to the Orioles themselves, who at this moment appear ill equipped to handle the increase in demand.
Back in September when it became likely that the Orioles would make the playoffs, we began seeing commercials for 2013 season tickets. Put down a deposit and you'll have the chance to buy playoff tickets before the general public! It was a great marketing idea, and it worked.
In December, I put a $500 non-refundable deposit on a 13-game season ticket plan for 2013. The playoffs were over, of course, but I saw the value in buying the tickets in bulk and was promised the opportunity to buy Opening Day tickets ahead of non-season ticket holders.
I received an automated email in reply to my deposit saying that someone from the Orioles would be in touch with me personally within two business days. That seemed super fast to me, and when I didn't hear from them for a week I sent an email inquiring. Just before the end of the year I got an email from my account representative, telling me that they received my request and would be back in touch in January to pick my seats and finalize everything.
So I waited and I waited. I heard of some people getting calls and I knew that season ticket holders who weren't new for 2013 had sent in their money. Finally, on January 19th, season ticket plans went on sale ONLINE. Anyone who wanted them and who hadn't sent in a deposit could just go onto orioles.com and order themselves a season ticket plan. I couldn't, though, because the Orioles had been holding my $500 hostage.
That wouldn't do at all. So instead of waiting patiently for a phone call from my ticket rep, I emailed him yesterday. To his credit, he was very prompt in getting in touch with me and very helpful and friendly when we talked. I do not blame him or any of the ticket reps in the least for the cluster this has turned into.
I mentioned to him that I didn't see the value in putting down a deposit when I still didn't have my tickets AFTER the plans went on sale online. He assured me that by putting down a deposit I had access to better sections and seats than people could get online. He helped me choose section 338, row 2, for my ticket plan, and said, "You won't get those good seats on the internet". Then, just as I was about to hang up (I was literally about to rest it in the cradle), I heard him say, "Hey, Stacey!" and brought the phone back to my ear. "Do you want to buy tickets to Opening Day?" Of course I do! So he tells me that I can call the Orioles main ticket number the next day (being today) at 10 a.m. to get them.
After I hung up the phone, I went to Orioles.com and tried to make a selection to buy tickets online. I put in the same price level that my purchased tickets were under, and hit submit. The seats that came back? Section 334, row 2. So much for my deposit ensuring I got better seats.
So at this point in the story, my deposit has been proven completely useless. I'm assuming this happened because the Orioles had such a bump in season ticket sales that they couldn't get to everyone in time. In fact, my season ticket rep told me that I was #388 on his list of 500 new account holders that he needed to call and set up tickets for. I don't know how many ticket reps they have, but if they were each being saddled with 500 extra accounts, that's ridiculous. The Orioles needed to hire more people, even if only temporarily while the accounts were being set up.
Actually, scratch useless. My deposit had become detrimental. I ONLY found out about the Opening Day tickets because I contacted my rep after being told to wait for him to contact me. If I hadn't called, I would be clueless. In fact, my fellow writer who goes by the screen name punkrawka is facing just that right now. He put down a deposit, never got called, and now cannot call in to buy Opening Day tickets. If he had gone online on Saturday to buy tickets, he would have gotten the email about the time and date to buy tickets. But with a deposit down, his hands are tied.
That brings us to today, and at 10 a.m. I called the main number and got a busy signal. I wasn't surprised, but I was a little confused as to why I couldn't just buy tickets online. Last year during the playoffs, season ticket holders were given a code and a time and date that they could buy tickets online. It worked out wonderfully. It seemed that forcing everyone to rely on calling one number would end badly.
From 10 a.m. until 1:55 p.m. I called that number and got a busy signal. Sometimes I got an "all circuits are busy" message. Sometimes it rang, then gave me a busy signal, just to be a jerk. I didn't call nonstop for that nearly four-hour period, but there were times within it that I did for five or ten minute stretches. I got more and more annoyed. I do have a job, after all, as I would assume most people who can afford season tickets do. Especially because I KNOW there is a better solution! Just let me buy them online! The number of people who could be serviced online has got to be exponentially greater than those being helped by a live person on the telephone.
Finally, at 1:55, I heard the sweet sound of Fred Manfra's voice, welcoming me to the Orioles ticket hotline. "Hot damn, I'm in!" I thought. Then Fred told me that all operators were busy and I needed to wait on the line. Elevator music was piped through until 2:04 when a representative picked up. I was on the phone with him for maybe two minutes, and purchased my four Opening Day tickets.
So, is all well that ends well? I don't know. And don't forget punkrawka and everyone else who hasn't gotten a call from the rep yet. I just lucked into it knowing about the OD ticket sale thanks to my impatience. All certainly hasn't ended well for them.
I can only hope that the Orioles will do right to every person who put down a deposit but who was not contacted about tickets before the Opening Day sale. It won't make the way they operated right in the first place, but it'll go a long way to fix things if they save enough OD tickets for each of those people who didn't even have the option to buy tickets for OD, one of the main perks given in ads for season ticket packages.
I understand this is new territory for the Orioles, but they are a business, and they need to adapt. They need to hire the appropriate amount of people to deal with the new crowds and they need to make use of current technology to make this kind of thing much easier in the future.