Is This a “Teachable Moment” Chicago Cubs?


My wife grew up in a northern suburb of Chicago.  I guess since she came from the north side, she was obligated to be a Chicago Cubs fan.  Regardless of what she was obligated to do, over the years she became a huge fan and has told me many stories about going to Wrigley Field with her grandfather as a young girl and then later with friends from Northwestern University, stealing those hazy summer afternoons to go sip a beer and enjoy a hotdog under a glorious Chicago sun.

For the thirteen years we’ve been married, the experience of an afternoon game at Wrigley Field has only been in my imagination, as we never got a chance to go see a Cubs game until this last May.  Needing to travel to Chicago to attend the memorial service for her Father, my wife decided it was finally time for me to go to a game and it would be a nice break from the emotions of the visit.  In preparation, she went to the Cubs website, purchased very expensive box seats, and surprised me with the news one evening over dinner.

Having arrived in Chicago from Kansas City, we did a few errands and then jumped on the “EL” to head for Wrigleyville.  To our dismay, a light rain was falling but we were well prepared having brought the proper rain gear to stay nice and dry.  As we entered the ballpark, we stopped at the first available stand for the requisite ice cold beer and hotdog and then headed up the ramp to our box seats.  My first glimpse of Wrigley Field was held for at least three minutes, taking in the ivy on the outfield wall, the bleachers on all of the buildings across the street, the steel beams that meant some poor souls had marginal site lines and then to the large green scoreboard where we saw, “Today’s game has been postponed and will be played at a later date.”

After recovering from the huge disappointment and cursing our luck, we went to the customer services window to see what our options were.   We were told by a Cubs employee that they had no information now, but that we were to go to the website and see when the game would be scheduled.  We explained that we were only in Chicago for the weekend and weren’t sure when we would be returning and if we could refund our tickets.  With the emotionless face of a person required to answer the same question over and over, we were told that nothing could be done that day.

You’re probably wondering, “Where is this story going David?”  This is where we get into the marginal-at-best customer service experience we have had since that day in Chicago, with the hope that, aha, this is the opportunity to learn what not to do to a loyal fan (a.k.a. customer).

We spent the next four weeks monitoring the Chicago Cubs website, to see what process we needed to undertake to get a refund on our rather expensive tickets.   We then called the customer number provided with the tickets.  Since it had been over four weeks since the original date of the game, our bright customer service representative told us that the date by which a refund could be secured was that very day and since “the procedure” was that our request needed to be in the Cub’s office, there was nothing they could do.  Finding no help there, we called our credit card company to refuse the charges, which was overruled when the Cubs denied the request.

Now, my wife is not someone that takes kindly to this sort of treatment, even if she often wears her Cubs hat watching the games on WGN and drinking her beer with a Cubs koozie.   This was a matter of what was right and wrong.  As her mother had taught her, when you are not satisfied with the outcome of a situation, then write a letter, and that she did!

In her letter she made an impassioned plea for consideration of the circumstances, that we didn’t live in Chicago, and that she was a lifetime fan.  In this whole situation, the one right thing that the Cub’s organization did was to call us soon after they had received the letter.  But that was about all they did right.

The kind young man informed us that since the rescheduled game had just been played, there was nothing that could be done.  “You mean we could have gotten a refund when we called earlier but were told it was past the deadline?!?”  Why yes, they had extended the date of requests (unknown to us) however now, the policy was that nothing could be done.

You’re probably asking yourself, okay, here is a loyal customer, who has received incorrect information.  Good customer service says you do something about it, like maybe tickets to a future game.  That was not to be the case and in fact we raised that possibility only to be told that it was against some MLB/players’ union rules to give tickets away.  This I know to be false as I have received just that kind of offer from my hometown Royals team.  Policy prevails and we are without a reasonable solution.

The Cubs have a brand, which is a promise to their fans, that since they can’t seem to win a pennant, they will at least treat their fans better than anywhere else.  As business owners, we all strive for the kind of customer loyalty that is evident in my wife.  Quoting policy is not the way to reward that loyalty.

In conclusion, we have asked that this matter be escalated but as of the writing of this post, it is still unresolved.  I’m not sure my wife will ever make the effort to purchase tickets again, so I am left with only the imagination of going to a Cubs game.  I wonder, is this a “teachable moment?”  Let’s have a beer and talk about it.



14 thoughts on “Is This a “Teachable Moment” Chicago Cubs?”

  1. I just wanted to thank you very much for this indepth article. I have already bookmarked your site, when I have more free time I am going to have to do some further research. Well back to my dreaming of Panama or back to the books – I wonder which one is going to win out. 🙂

  2. Thanks for your great comment. There are lots of conversations taking place about customer service and the right ways to treat customers.

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