25 May 2016

Of all teams, the Marlins would sue ticket holders

Maybe you would presume that a team that has struggled greatly for years to draw fans to their home games, a team that feigned financial hardship in order to scam their county's residents out of billions of dollars and a team that has not reached the postseason since winning the 2003 World Series as well as one that has not been above .500 since 2009 would try to do everything possible to ingratiate itself with its current clientele.

But then again, this is the Miami Marlins we are talking about and this story in the Miami New Times about the team suing both ticketholders as well as vendors really just says it all.
"In fact, the Marlins have sued at least nine season ticketholders and luxury suite owners since 2013. That virtually never happens in sports, experts say. Two stadium vendors are also locked in court battles with the team, both alleging the Marlins promised robust crowds and then didn't deliver."
I mean, suing ticketholders in it of itself seems like an automatic loss in the realm of public relations but especially for a team that has done a pretty great job already of alienating the local populace by doing the things I listed above. It's not unprecedented for teams to sue fans as Washington's football team famously threatened to do so several years back but it is one thing to sue fans for failing to pay for tickets, it's another thing altogether to sue fans when you have failed to meet promised obligations.

The Miami New Times introduces us to a veterinarian named Mickey Axelband, a season ticket holder since the franchise began play back in 1993. So when the team was poised to open the much-anticipated Little Havana ballpark, he was promised such things such as access to a private lounge with buffets before and after games, premium parking spots in the stadium garage as well as a private entrance. this led Axelband to pay nearly double what he had been paying for seats at Dolphin Stadium.

So what do you think happened next?
But Marlins Park wasn't the success the team had hoped for. By midseason, crowds had dwindled to near Dolphin Stadium levels, and the team began slashing expenses. Those nearby parking spaces? Gone. The private entrance? Closed to save money on the extra usher manning the door. The buffet was stocked with the same bland panini for every game. Soon the team shut it down in the sixth inning.
These all might seem like small details, but "that's exactly what we paid all the extra money for," he says. Worst of all, Axelband says when he wrote the team to complain, the Fish weren't sympathetic. "I didn't want my money back or anything, but I said, 'Please give me back the stuff you promised.' The answer I got back was basically, 'Yeah, we know we took it all away, but tough shit.' " 
Axelband decided to walk away. He knew he'd signed a two-year agreement, but the way he saw it, the team had failed to live up to its end. A month before the next season, he called and wrote the team a letter canceling his package. The Marlins could simply resell those 2012 season tickets, he figured, and life would go on.
Life wouldn't get on because the Marlins, despite clearly and blatantly reneging on promises made to a loyal season ticket holder, sued Axelband last year for, in their eyes, illegally backing out of the deal. Axelband says he's prepared to fight back and he's requested the team's financial records in order to prove that the team cut corners regarding these promises. And above all, he still tries to go to as many games as he can.

But he's not alone. The piece brings us the case of a sports agent and Sir Pizza franchisee named Rene Prats who saw Marlins Park as an opportunity to grow his business and thus signed on as the team's official pizza sponsor at a fee of $2 million. He had previously operated Papa John's franchises successfully with the franchise at Dolphin Stadium. Naturally, this happened:
But the deal quickly tanked — and Prats says Marlins executives fed him false expectations. "They made promises to me that never happened, such as 30,000 fans a game and $2 million in pizza sales a year," Prats claims. "We never did more than $1.1 million in pizza sales, which was the first year, and then averaged $600,000 per year the next two years." 
Prats' chain crumbled, he says. By last September, all but one of his restaurants had closed, and Prats had filed for federal bankruptcy protection; Sir Pizza was gone from Marlins Park. "I just took my lumps, put my tail between my legs and walked away," Prats says. "It didn't work out and it cost me a lot of money." 
For what it's worth, the Sir Pizza's lawyer blames Prats in part for the failings, saying that the company ended their franchisee agreement for a variety of reasons including mismanaged financials which Prats denied.

In the end after reading stories such as this, why would anybody want to do business with the Marlins at all, whether it be by buying tickets and opening up concessions. After all, we all know that owner Jeffrey Loria is a scumbag and a joke of an owner while his cronies get eliminated in the first night of Survivor. Now we can only wonder what this franchise has up its sleeves next.

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