I’m a Packer’s fan by marriage (18 yrs) , so when the Pack made it to the Super Bowl this year and it was to be held in Dallas, a mere three hour drive from our house in Austin, I knew it was only a matter of time and money before my husband exclaimed, “we’re going to the Super Bowl baby!”. And he did, and we did.
And it was ….a learning experience.
I grew up in Dallas and was a Cowboys fan by geography… and I went to the same chuch that Coach Landry went to so it was practically part of my religious upbringing. What’s that word? Indoctrination? I didn’t like it when Jerry Jones fired Landry (I think I was a sophmore at UT by then) And I wasn’t thrilled to learn that Jones had moved into the Dallas home that my aunt and uncle had built back in the day. But – none of that was on my mind as my husband and I packed up for our big adventure to the Super Bowl. Our team was in the game, we found tickets at face value (miracle!) and we had a babysitter for the kids. Life was good. Until we got to the stadium and this line was waiting for us.
This is the line we waited in for 3 hours. My husband took this pic by holding up his cell phone and the line looks the same all the way around us in every direction. We posted them on facebook and, one of his photos ended up in the Milwaukee paper a few days later. (Can you say Social Media? More on this later…)
In the first 2 1/2 hours, we moved from this spot to over by that grey box in the photo. No joke. It was a zen thing just to get thru it. Needless to say, we had some time to think. Here are TEN THINGS I LEARNED (or realized) IN LINE AT THE SUPER BOWL.
1. Park at the airport.
Brilliant. This was my husband’s idea and it so worked. He figured, it’s always easy to get transportation to and from an airport so we drove to DFW and parked in the short term parking lot. I ran inside for a quick bathroom break and found a great little souvenier stand with official Super Bowl stuff at red line prices – we grabbed a bunch of stuff for momentos and gifts and threw it in the back of the car. We didn’t have to pay full price and we didn’t have to lug any of it around the stadium. So great. We hopped in a cab and were dropped off a block away. Same going back — easy peezy lemon squeezy. We also took hilarious photos of ourselves having a two-person tailgate party at the airport. We are dorks, but happy.
2. Be nice to each other.
Seriously, when did it become okay to blow smoke in a stranger’s face or spill beer on them? Most of the people surrounding us in the line were very nice, very polite and genuinely seemed to be out for the greater good. But it only takes one or two people to turn otherwise happy, patient people into animals. On the bright side, we ended up standing next to the mother and father-in-law of the Packer’s Kicker (Crosby, #2). It was a brush with greatness for the day.
3. Come on, people, no cuts.
What is this, 7th grade lunch line? We are all in the same place trying to get into the same event. We all paid ridiculous money to do this together. And, der, we all see you cutting in line. We see you moving the barriers and jumping the walls and we get it, you need to get in there. You are tired of waiting. So are we. Karma is a bitch. I’m convinced you will meet her sooner than later.
4. I cannot stress the importance of good signage.
There were no signs telling you where to go at the big game. No signs said “You are in the right place” or “Go here to enter the stadium”. We researched online beforehand and knew what gate to report to, but it was suddenly closed (Secret Service were everywhere, hey Dubya) and so we went with everyone else to the next gate. Big mistake.
5. When you invite 100,000 people over, you might want to bring in some extra staff for that day.
In the three hours we stood in this one ten-foot space, we did not see a staff person, a security person or anyone official except for police officers brought in to watch the line cutters (no one showed up to help an elderly woman who fainted in the line, regular citizens helped her…which lead to several of us considering a fainting spell to jump in line but what was that about Karma?)
6. Pee before you leave the house.
Sorry to be crass. My mom will be mortified that I wrote the word “pee”. But this cannot be said enough. There were grown men walking in the mob with cups that had been full of beer, now full of… well, you get the picture. It was disgusting. I know they didn’t see it coming and all that, but really? You couldn’t pour that out in the grass somewhere? Not for nothin’, it would have helped to have port-a-potties NEAR the line…but that would mean they anticipated the line, and well… I think it’s clear that not much was anticipated about the line.
7. Maybe pack a lunch or at least a snack
Three hours in line when you have saved room for a stadium hot dog and a beer to kick off the festivities is a long, long wait. I usually have crackers or fruit chewies or at least gum because I’m a mom but I had cleaned out my purse. No snacks. Low blood sugar. I think I may change my name to Karma.
8. Thousands of unamused people forced to spend 3 hours together with no food or drink or facilities or communication from inside the event WILL chant your name with a healthy dose of negative feedback. There was a big jumbotron outside over our heads with a short loop of commercials for beer and Snickers bars and every once in a while an image of Jerry Jones would pop onto the screen provoking a unilateral cry of “Jerry Sucks!”. I’m guessing this is not what the man had planned for this day in his own history.
9.When your team wins the Super Bowl, it is difficult to have a bad time
Once you get in, even if you miss all of the pre-game activities (hello, Maroon 5, I missed you) and getting your photo with the Lombardi Trophy …oh yes, that was on the docket…and you put up with the drunk 40-something ex-cheerleader waving her “Terrible Towel” in your face and the running to your seat while Christina Aguilara flubbs the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner and you’re sure you just mis-heard her because you are loping up 14 flights of stairs to take your seat in time for kick-off, and you get there and the game is awesome and your team wins and your husband is as happy as he was when your kids were born (though he says it’s a close second, you know he’s lying to be nice) It is really, really hard to be irritated by the line and the mismanaged experience and expectations.
IT WAS AWESOME.
10. Apologizing does help.
I mentioned earlier that after that awesome day, my husband posted some photos of the line experience on facebook. One of them did end up appearing in the Milwaukee paper a couple days later. At 9:30pm the next night we got a call from an NFL Exec (will not tell you who) apologizing for the experience we had in line and also apologizing that they could not offer us tickets to the next game or money for our tickets because they were first focusing on the 400 PEOPLE WHO HAD TICKETS AND WERE TURNED AWAY. Oh yes, that wasn’t a rumor. It happened to people. Google it if you want details. My husband joked with the woman on the line and said thank you for calling and assured her that we didn’t need tickets or money (huh? wait… ) but that her call meant a lot and he really did appreciate her taking the time.
And we did appreciate it. That was amazing. How many people did they call? It was nightime, they called from their personal cell and gave us their personal number.
Was the experience perfect? No.
Was it worth it? Yes.
Did the phone call help? Oh yeah.
The bad news is that complaints have a tendency to go social (i.e. facebook, twitter, etc)
… the GOOD news is, complaints have a tendency to go social. That’s not a typo.
Social = your opportunity to turn it around.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If your customer experience stinks, your marketing is a waste of time. Well, unless you are the Super Bowl. There’s a lot of range there. For small business and nonprofits, it does absolutely matter. You rely on word of mouth and repeat business. It’s not likely I’ll go to the Super Bowl again, that’s not really a repeat purchase kind of thing. I’m not a celebrity or a Kardashian. heh. But it was totally 100% worth it.
Amen. And Thank you to the unnamed NFL exec for the call. So nice. 🙂