Every spring, I eagerly await the arrival of my Washington Nationals Season Ticket package. What is the box going to look like? What will be in the box? What will the tickets look like? What will the special Opening Day ticket be? Which ones are for my games? I revel in carefully separating and pairing the tickets for the partners I share them with.
This year a gleaming red, yet slimmer box showed up, and alas, it did not include any tickets, unless you count the "commemorative" Opening Day ticket encased in Lucite. It also did not include any coupons for discounts at the Team Store, or for Special Events, or Promotional Items, or Stars & Stripes Club access.
What it did enclose was cards representing my seats, with my name, account number, and seat number, along with a "Natitude" lanyard. There was also a note explaining that these cards were now my tickets, and that I needed to set up my Nationals Ultimate Ballpark Access account, and invite my partners to set up their accounts so that they could have their own cards.
I followed the instructions, and relatively easily completed the process for my account, then had Partner Invitations emails sent to the seven others with whom I share the tickets. That's when the real fun began.
I was unprepared for the quick, and sometimes vitriolic questions and responses I received from my partners. Why do I need an MLB.com account? What's my Nationals Ticket#?
What's my Nationals Account #? When will my cards be mailed to me? What if they don't come in time for my first game? Why is this so hard?
Only one of the seven was able to set their account up so I could see them as a Partner in my master account. I decided to try and figure this out for myself so I invited myself (via a different email address) to join as a partner. I was blown away at how cumbersome the process was.
The invitation email was simple enough, it contained two partner codes with a link to start the process. First, I was asked to enter my MLB.com username and password. If I didn't have one, I was invited to create one. Simple enough right? But I hadn't really created a full MLB.com account, so as I continued with the process, I had to enter in all my information, including address. Then, with this done, I had to then enter my Nationals Account #, and if I didn't have one, I was able to create one. I had to link this to my MLB.com account I created, and then enter all the same information again I had just entered for the MLB.com account to create the Nationals account. Then I had to figure out my Nationals Account #, which appeared in brackets next to my name on my new account page (nothing tells you that this is what you need to do). Once I entered that Nationals Account number, I then had to re-enter all of my address information a THIRD time, because apparently this process spans three separate systems that do not talk to each other (MLB.com, Nationals.com, and the Ultimate Ballpark Access system). And I was there as a new partner.
I consider myself tech-savvy and an early adopter, and I considered this a huge hurdle to this system. I could only imagine the other difficulties other Season Ticket holders were experiencing. I relayed my feedback to my ticket rep as well as the Nationals, commenting: "With the exhibition game 2 weeks away and Opening Day just 3 days after that, the last thing you need is for your most loyal customers to be experiencing doubts and frustration about getting into the game, instead of excitement and anticipation for seeing the team."
It took another week of emails, calls, and even a WebEx with my partners to get them all signed up, so I could distribute their games to their accounts.
But the fun didn't end there. Partners asked me what if they wanted to swap games with each other. I checked with my ticket rep, and it turns out that once tickets are distributed to cards, that's it. They cannot reallocate them to other partners' cards, and neither can I. The only option is to email the tickets to someone to be printed out as PDFs. One of my partners tried to do this for a game in the Opening Series with Miami that they can no longer attend, and were unable to do so. After a frustrating call with the Nationals support center, they were told that this functionality is supposed to be turned on by the end of this week, and that the delays were due to communications issues with the company doing the programming which is overseas.
In the end, once these initial kinks are worked out and everyone is signed up, I am sure this system will work just fine (except for those who like to collect and keep their stubs). But at a time when everyone should be excited about the Nationals returning to the field in DC and the 2013 "World Series or Bust" season in front of us, it is looking like there will be plenty of concern and headaches among the Season Ticket holders trying to get into the first few games.
I welcome everyone to share their insights and experiences.