Very quickly, one of the strongest NFL position groups – New England Patriots’ tight end – is becoming a weakness. First, Rob Gronkowski had another surgery earlier this week, and now the fallout from Aaron Hernandez getting arrested and charged with homicide. Gronkowski will eventually suit back up for the team, but Hernandez was released and the team is moving on from him. The Patriots are offering fans the chance to exchange their Aaron Hernandez jersey for free:
The New England Patriots ProShop will offer a free jersey exchange of any #81 Hernandez jersey purchased at the Patriots ProShop or online at PatriotsProShop.com for a new Patriots jersey of comparable value. The free jersey exchange will be available exclusively at the Patriots ProShop the weekend of Saturday, July 6 and Sunday, July 7.
“We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore,” said New England Patriots spokesperson Stacey James. “We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents.”
I’m not going to discuss the merits of this move by the team to instill goodwill with their fanbase (I think it’s a good idea), but instead will look at it from a costs standpoint.
Just like I wrote about attendance and participation being an important trait of an employee (or player), so too does a team take a risk on players of questionable character when it comes to high-revenue merchandise sales. Every player has a level of marketability (obviously some have a lot more than others – see Peyton Manning) but they all also have levels of risk with that marketability in the event things turn sour or disgraceful (see Ryan Leaf).
The Patriots are now treating the Aaron Hernandez jersey like a defective product. The useful life of the jersey (more than just the materials themselves, but also what the jersey represents) expired far earlier than expected.
A defective product is one that does not suit the needs of the consumer. Defective products can be found both after delivery to the customer as well as in preparation for delivery to the customer (whether it’s in production or sitting in a warehouse or being delivered to a store, it is still a defective product). Unknowingly to the team, those jerseys became defective the moment the situation became a disgrace (whether Hernandez did it or not).
What does a defect cost? Time, people, and monetary resources are invested in the material purchases, shaping, designing, producing, packaging, storing, shipping, and delivering of a jersey…and if that jersey is defective, all of that investment is wasted. Not only that, now more resources must be invested in either reworking the defective product (changing the name/number on the defective jersey so it’s no longer defective) or scrapping and replacing the jersey all together.
In this case, the process of replacing the jersey is more than twice as costly than making it right the first time – essentially, two jerseys had to be produced, one that “became defective” and the replacement jersey, but the additional time in processing the old jersey and taking the time (and labor costs) of the employees and consumer to swap out the jersey adds up too.
Granted, it’s easier said than done to create defect-proof jerseys because player behavior (and potential for disgrace) is not 100% predictable, but teams will get better at it. Also, on the whole, the costs of replacing jerseys is insignificant relative to the goodwill losses the team might have suffered by not offering the replacement, but a waste is still a waste.