By Alan Resnick
Remember back in the good old days, say 2017, when you could get an actual ticket to a baseball game if you went to the box office or ordered online? And, if you were so well off as to afford partial or full season tickets, they’d arrive in a large envelope in your mailbox in early March. The tickets typically had beautiful pictures of the players on the current year’s roster and came in perforated sheets. You would take your time lovingly separating each ticket and organizing them by month and day. The ticket stubs made great souvenirs, particularly if you attended a World Series or All-Star game, or happened to be so lucky as to be present for a no-hitter or a triple play.
I went to a major league baseball game recently for the first time in almost two years. But after all the difficulty I had getting through the gate, I won’t be going to another one any time soon unless someone else gets the tickets.
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago when I came across a post from my brother-in-law Marvin. He wasn’t able to use his pair of Detroit Tigers tickets for an upcoming three-game series against the Minnesota Twins, and was offering the seats to whomever was interested. The tickets for Monday’s game had already been claimed, but Tuesday and Wednesday were still available, and the weather for both days was supposed to be in the low 70s, a real treat for so early in April.
I called my buddy David and asked if he was interested in going to a game. He said Tuesday worked best for him, so I texted Marvin and asked if the seats had been taken. He said they were mine, and added that he would send me an email with the ticket information. I called David back, told him we were good to go, and he said he would pick me up at noon.
I opened an email from Tigers.com stating that Marvin had been forwarded two tickets to me. To access them, however, it would be necessary to open the MLB (Major League Baseball) Ballpark App, log into my account, and the tickets would automatically appear under the “Wallet” tab.
I estimated that this would be a ten-minute task at most. My computer and technology skills fall somewhere between Luddite and help desk specialist; I can upload, download, zip, unzip, Zoom, and stream. And I pride myself on being able to read and follow instructions. So this sounded simple and straightforward.
And so the ordeal began. I downloaded the app, identified myself as a new user, and was asked to enter my email address and select a password. I did as requested, and received an error message stating that my email address was already in use. How could that be? I had just downloaded the app. I closed the app, re-opened it, and got the same error message. I reset my password, and entered my email address and new password. This got me a new error message indicating that my email address was not found in the system. GRRRR.
I monkeyed around with it some more. No tickets. I closed the app, reopened it, entered my email and password, got to my account, and opened my wallet again. Still empty. My frustration and impatience began to build. Should I contact the box office as the app indicated? The game was less than a day away, and I was not at all confident that I’d get a response by game time.
I found an 800 number for customer support. I poured a cup of coffee, sat down at my desk, and dialed. I got a recorded message indicating that all support staff were helping other callers and that my call would be answered in the order in which it had been received. I put my phone down, activated the speaker function, and started to clean out my email inbox as some canned music played in an apparent attempt to entertain me while on hold.
Every few minutes the music would stop and my hopes would soar. But the pause was merely to repeat the recorded message. After 18 minutes of holding, my call was answered by Norma, a customer support specialist.
Norma asked for my first and last name, and after I responded asked: “Can I call you Mr. Alan?” I paused and considered her request, as it seemed a little peculiar. But then I envisioned myself as a fashion designer walking down the runway flanked by two hot supermodels after a boffo showing of my latest fall collection, and responded: “Absolutely.”
Norma asked me to describe the problem I was having, and I read her the email that I had received. Norma then said: “So, you are having trouble buying tickets?” I calmly restated that tickets for a game had been forwarded to my account, not purchased, and were not appearing in my wallet as they should.
Norma told me to open the app, so I did on my phone. But this resulted in the call being disconnected. No worries, though, as Norma had asked me to provide a call-back number in case of this possibility. I poured another cup of coffee, sat back down, and began to drum my fingers as I awaited Norma’s call.
Numbness was creeping into my fingers after 20 minutes of drumming, and I finally admitted to myself that Norma was not going to call back. I would have just tossed in the towel and given up if I were going to the game by myself, but I did not want admit ineptitude or defeat to David. So I redialed the 800 number and got back in the queue. This time the wait was 24 minutes, and I occupied myself by writing a scathing letter of complaint to customer support and penning a negative review of MLB Ballpark on the Apple App Store website (my nom de plume is Stubby Baguettes in case you want to read it).
This time I spoke with a customer support person by the name of Jean. Once again, I was asked to provide my name and call back information. Jean asked if she could call me Alan. I had grown quite comfortable with Mr. Alan, but thought it a bit pretentious to request this new appellation.
Jean understood the problem I was having, and indicated that she was going to try a few different things to get the tickets to appear in my wallet. After 35 minutes of Jean walking me through various ideas and jumping between my phone, tablet and laptop, presto! The two tickets appeared in my wallet. I thanked Jean, hung up, and calculated the time it took between opening the email with the download instructions and actually getting the tickets to appear in my wallet: an aggravating two hours and twenty seven minutes.
As David and I walked from a parking lot toward the stadium, I shared this tale of woe with him. And I said that I was curious as to how the ticket scalpers who stand outside of the ballpark and ask passersby: “Who needs two?” fare in this e-ticket world. They used to have actual tickets in their hand that people could examine and purchase. Perhaps they now compete with one another on the basis of phone size: “Don’t bother with that guy’s puny iPhone 7 screen. Come check out the seats on my Samsung Galaxy S21 that runs on 5G.”
Because David had a scheduling conflict, we left the game at 3:20 p.m., two hours and ten minutes after the start time. In other words, it took me seventeen minutes longer to download the tickets than to attend the game. Even worse, only five innings had been completed when we left.
Forget about saving ticket stubs. Now all you get is a damn bar code. Not much of a keepsake in my book.
Alan Resnick is an industrial psychologist with over 40 years of professional experience. He and his wife are sheltering at home in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is passing the time by cooking, exercising, catching up on friends’ recommendations of must-see TV and writing.