And Still More on Customer Service

There was an article in the Chronicle this morning about how the new Levi's stadium in Santa Clara hasn't helped to reduce the bad element at 49ers games. The author suggests that high prices have lead to more secondary market buyers, due to the fact that season ticket holders can no longer afford a season's worth of tickets. Because it now costs an arm and a leg to attend a game, you have people who are frustrated and/or trying to get the most for their money (possibly pounding a case of beer in the parking lot before the game starts to cut down on costs).Ultimately, the case is made that the push for more moneyfrom ticket sales, merchandise, and alcohol consumptionhas lead to more problems with behavior. You can read the piece for yourself and see if you agree. There's a bit of classism at work, but there are some interesting points.

What I found more interesting were the points made by some of the commenters: namely, that the 49ers need to do more to screen out the troublemakers and prevent them from attending. Some even suggested that capitalistic desire may have ownership looking the other way; just taking the money and turning a blind eye to the hijinks that follow (if you haven't kept up with this story, a fan was recently paralyzed after being senselessly beaten by two thugs in the restroom). While trying to run a business and provide good customer service, the 49ers are stuck between two difficult choices: either screen your fans and decide who can and cannot enter your stadium, or risk irritating long-standing fans don't want to put up with the riff-raff.

I thought about this story a great deal today, as I received a few emails this week from readers who didn't think it was any of my business what K&L shoppers did with their bottles after purchasing them (this was in reaction to my piece about bottle flippers and us trying to prevent their prevail). As someone who publicly strives to provide good customer service, these folks felt the need to remind me that good service consists of making the sale, providing the product, and keeping my opinions to myself. Each reader definitely had credible points of view. Because who wants to be lectured by the people you're giving your money to, right? Just STFU and give me my Pappy, jerk.

However, while I am a huge 49ers fan (going to the Stick at least twice a year) and was initially excited about the new stadium in nearby Santa Clara, I don't plan on attending a game until this problem gets addressed. As someone running a business, I believe it is entirely your job to look out for your core customers and make sure that they're protected from outliers who could ultimately ruin their experience. In my case, that means making sure that bottle flippers and cherry pickers don't snag all the most desirable bottles before I can allocate them to my best K&L customers. It's absolutely my business who does and doesn't get a bottle of Pappy at K&Lliterally. If I don't make sure the right people get the right bottles, I'll lose the business of those who count on me to do so. In the end, I'm not willing to sacrifice my core constituency (or my core principles) for the prospect of a larger crowd.

I know a lot of 49ers fans who are only watching from home these days. They don't feel like dealing with the drama. I don't ever want our best K&L customers to feel like they can't count on us. Every day is gameday in the retail world.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll