While hosting tiny crowds in a tax-financed new stadium with a team that now features no notable superstars, the Miami Marlins have found a new way to ruffle the feathers of their few remaining fans.
That’s how Jan and Bill Leon are feeling, at least. The couple has paid tens of thousands for front-row season tickets since 1998. But last year, after the team installed an obtrusive billboard that blocks their view and dangerously obscures ground balls, the Leons asked to move into a different section. Their reward? A lawsuit threat.
So when the Marlins moved to their new home in Little Havana last year, the Leons — who own a real estate company — made what they thought was a verbal agreement with a sales rep: They’d buy a two-season package (for $25,000 a year) with the option of changing seats after the first year if they didn’t like them.
This CBSSports.com article shows the photos from the couple’s seats before the billboard was installed and after.
I won’t get into too much of the they-said-they-said, but it sounds like the Leons wanted to change seats for 2013 and the Marlins refused (which the Marlins are claiming they offered the Leons the chance to move). The Leons, based on the sales rep’s agreement, feel the Marlins are in breach of contract so they refuse to pay and the Marlins are suing for breach of contract as well. The Miami New Times article also links to a copy of the letter the team sent to the Leons regarding their threat of lawsuit.
As a team that already has a dwindling season ticket sales base, it’s appalling that the team would resort to such nastiness and would take such a demeaning PR hit by letting this hit the public. Yes, the Leons and the Marlins had an agreement but with the way the Marlins have treated the public that helps fund their stadium it’s shocking that this behavior of disrespecting the very people that make their livelihood possible continues to evolve in the Marlins organization.
It is critical to treat your customers as partners – after all, they’re the ones that help pay the bills. While Toyota Way Principle #11 says you should challenge your customers and suppliers to be better, the Marlins are a great demonstration on how not to do that. The Leons have a problem with the Marlins and the Marlins have not properly addressed the root cause.
I agree with what Craig Calcaterra says about the Marlins:
The Marlins at this point have, what, a few hundred season ticket holders? And how many with the tenure of the Leons? Tell me: does anyone in the Marlins place NOT try to accommodate these people? Does anyone in their right mind threaten them with a lawsuit? Even if the Leons are blowing smoke and this is really some ploy to get out from under their season ticket agreement, is this the best way to handle it? Or does one in the Marlins’ place instead call their bluff, see if they’re still unwilling to pay and then proceed to collection via less obnoxious means?
What in the hell is wrong with that team?
Great moments in customer service, indeed.