I had the pleasure of taking my afternoon off yesterday, and when I asked my daughter what she wanted to do after her nap, she told me.
“Me want to go to Mets game!”
Since the weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and it isn’t exactly a sacrifice to follow my daughter’s wishes when they take us to a ballpark, I was happy to assent.
We had a wonderful time. I’ve mentioned this before; Citi Field itself is a glorious place to watch a baseball game. And the game itself, naturally only added to our fun. Lucas Duda appears to be her favorite. I won’t argue with a two-year-old; she has plenty of appreciation for David Wright as well.
But I did read this story, about a man who took a stand when Mets ushers tried to remove him from a different seat than the one he paid for, and it reinforced for me how ridiculous it is that employees of the Mets find a way to negatively affect the baseball experience at Citi Field.
Short version: the guy was in the wrong seat, alone in an empty section of a mostly empty ballpark. The Mets ushers asked him to move. He didn’t. They called the police and had him arrested for trespassing.
Were the Mets within their rights? Sure. I have the right to be mean to my wife, too. But neither move is especially productive, and in fact, quite the opposite.
I’ve been going to Mets games for a long, long time. And I’ve dealt with many employees at Citi Field who are polite. And I’ve dealt with many more who are not only rude, but seem to look for conflict, like an umpire who makes a bad call and then approaches an upset player.
Yesterday was no different. At the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, the security officer decided to rummage extensively through the diaper bag I’d packed for my daughter-a likely story, right?-and tried to confiscate her peanut butter, for reasons that were never made clear. I know all bags are searched, but there’s the cursory look it usually gets, and then the “take everything out, even though it takes forever to pack it, and then put things back so nothing fit” model of search.
It took talking to a supervisor to establish that no, the two-year-old and her peanut butter were not a security threat. Feeling like he still needed to escalate the situation, he then forced my daughter to go through a full patdown. Rudeness ruled the experience- the first encounter with a Citi Field employee, mind you. Not a single “Sorry for the inconvenience” or “Enjoy the game.” I didn’t let it ruin my day; but it took a second to take a deep breath, remember I was at a beautiful baseball game with my daughter, and put the encounter in the rearview mirror.
This is how the Mets are treating their customers on first contact. It’s an odd business model. So is evicting people from seats late in games, or sending the police after them. And I have talked to so many people who have comparable experiences. Apparently, even in 2012, this is still going on, which is insane. I mean, did you see the actual crowd at that Cincinnati game Wednesday night? What possible upside was there to move anyone?
Now I don’t have the slightest doubt that this isn’t how the New York Mets intend their policies to be carried out. They need paying customers. And there’s been, again anecdotally, a strong push toward employing friendlier staff relative to Shea Stadium, whereas I’d be hard-pressed to remember any friendly greeting for me at any point, and more than a few angry evictions from otherwise empty sections. Some deviation from politeness is inevitable, right?
I can’t help but compare it to when I go to games at Citizens Bank Park.
Again, this is just one person’s experience. But the Phillies have figured out a way to have every single employee treat its customers with respect. Every one. I have been to a lot of games at Citizens Bank Park. And I’ve had so many encounters with employees there, all smiling, asking if they can be of any help. It is grating to be a Mets fan, and get treated better in the home park of a rival.
I also remember sitting in great seats between home and first one rainy evening shortly after the park opened, and seeing four kids sneak down late in the game to sit just a few rows from the field. I saw the usher spot them and make a beeline for the kids. I’d been to Shea Stadium enough to know how this ended, right?
Wrong. The usher came over to wipe the seats, and left the kids alone.
Guess who’s coming back to spend more money on tickets and concessions: the four kids who got to see MLB action up close? Or the man who got arrested?
The Mets are really fortunate to have Leigh Castergine in charge of ticket sales. She is making it easier and more worthwhile by the day to buy tickets from the New York Mets. They need to find out how the Phillies get their employees to treat customers, however, and implement that policy. Otherwise, a lot of the good work Leigh is doing will just fall by the wayside.