Put up or pay up
My new favorite college football team is Stanford, all of 4-8 last year and 2-2 this season. Surprised? So am I, but there's a good reason. Stanford understands that, in these difficult times, I have a limited budget for sports purchases, unless the government plans to bail me out too.
That's why the school's new Gridiron Guarantee is appealing. Here's how it works: If you feel you haven't received your "entertainment value" from your season ticket (average price: $130), Stanford will refund your money. The only caveat: You must do it before Nov. 15, which happens to be when USC comes to town.
Still, that gives buyers 2 1/2 months to "return" Cardinal football. I've bought household appliances with more restrictive warranties. Sure, Stanford struggles to fill its new 50,000-seat stadium and the deal smacks of desperation, but so what? "We're saying, Hey we've got a great product -- come out and sample it," says
Now that's something you don't hear often in sports. Can you imagine L.A. centerfielder
Why stop there? Coors Light promises "the coldest-tasting beer," but that puppy was lukewarm when I bought it in the bleachers last week. What does "coldest-tasting" even mean, anyway -- is there a "loudest-smelling" cheese? I want my money, and my sobriety, back. And while we're at it, I'd like my brain cells back from ESPN after enduring
Sure, this all sounds fanciful, but why should it? The magic of sports may be in their unpredictability, but when it costs half a grand to take a family of four to an NBA game, isn't some "entertainment value" expected? (Hey, it's not unheard of; in 2002 the Atlanta Hawks guaranteed season-ticket holders a playoff appearance, which is sort of like
Why not demand some accountability? So I called the Oakland A's.
Next I tried the San Francisco 49ers. Would you ever give a ticket buyer his money back? "I'm going to have to say no," said
Maybe I needed to ask not as a journalist but as a customer. So I phoned the Washington Nationals' ticket sales department about a refund for that 4-0 loss to the Phillies I attended this month, when the home lineup looked like nine guys the Nats found down at the bus depot. No dice, said the rep, adding, "That would never go over in any pro sport." (Whoops, tell that not just to the Hawks but also to the Charlotte Bobcats, who offered a money-back guarantee for five games in 2005.)
Discouraged, I finally called Coors. I told the customer relations representative, Stephane, about that ballpark beer and how, despite the promises, it was not particularly "cold-tasting." He took my complaints seriously. Where was the beer purchased? Was it a bottle? And what was that "taste" question again? Finally, he broke the news: "The best I can do is send you a six-pack as a goodwill gesture." Then he took down my address.
And with that, my faith was partially restored. There are people who do stand by their product. So if you head to a Stanford game this fall, look for me. I'll be the guy stretched across four seats, assessing the value of my entertainment experience and drinking the freest-tasting beer in the land.