Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Nightmare at AMS

*Author's Warning* This is going to be more than the basics, so fasten your seat belts and brew a cup of coffee. . . it's gonna be a loooonnnngggg ride! (In a nutshell, I spent $100 for a useless piece of pretty paper.)

I know that it has been a month since the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motorspeedway, but, that means there's been more than enough time to rectify my dis-satisfaction.

My story is this; On March 7th, I got into my 16 year old Toyota Camry up here in New Galilee, PA to begin my 13 hour, (one way,) drive to Atlanta, GA. Well, after hitting downtown, date-night Atlanta traffic on my way to my friends' home to spend the night, I finally get to her house after about 14 hours. After a time of socializing and dinner, I went to bed relatively early so that I could get up in plenty of time to get ready and go to my first NASCAR event at AMS on the 8th.

I set the alarm on my cell phone for 8 am, wanting to leave by 9, which would allow me to get to AMS by 10 - 10:30. (For those of you who don't remember, that was the date daylight savings time began, so we lost an hour.) Anyway, I was getting ready, when I happened to notice my wristwatch said that it was an hour later than it was suppose to be. I check the alarm clock, and it said the same. So, I do my flight of the bumble-bee to try and get ready as quickly as possible so I won't lose any more time. Finally, I'm out the door and on the road by 10:45. I get to AMS around 12:30 because of traffic.

I find a parking space and get to gate 5 to ask for directions to will call. The guard on duty tells me "It's all the way around at gate 15. If you get on one of those Nationwide courtesy shuttles, it'll take you right there." This was around 12:45 - 12:50. So, I made my first mistake and get on to the slow-moving tractor.

I finally get to will call around 12:55. I tell the lady at the window my name and it takes her 5 minutes to find my tickets because I bought them through TicketMaster. Then, she tells me that I should have picked up my tickets at a retailer because AMS wasn't a retailer. Then she says that she was able to pull them because they do business with TicketMaster. (Do they know that it says right on TicketMaster's website when you make a purchase that you have an option of picking up your tickets at the venue?) Then she asks me what else I had, and I told her that I purchased a Sunday-only pit-pass. So, she pulls one and fills it out. I ask her where the entryway was, and she tells me to go right up to the gate and make a right to find the signs for the pit-entrance.

I walk up to the gate when the guard in front is announcing that "No Elliott tickets can enter here. Please go to gate 1 or 3 if you have an Elliott ticket." Well, I had an Elliott ticket. Even though I had a pit-pass that said right on it I could use it up to 1/2 hour before the race, they STILL refused me entry. So, I rush over to the next gate(1). They refuse me entry there. I finally get in through gate 2 and ask the first usher I meet how to use my pit-pass. She didn't know. So, I walk over to an (apparent) usher with a radio and ask him. He tells me to go back over to gate 15 to use it. I tell him I already tried and they refused me entry because I had an Elliott ticket. So then, he tells me that I need to go back outside at the other end of the bleachers and go in through the car entrance. He did make sure to remind me that I needed to have my ticket scanned when I exited so that I could re-enter.

I finally make it to the pit-entrance (after getting lost in the infield for a few minutes,) at 1:15 and the guard there refuses me entry. So, I point out to him that it says right on the pass that I had the right to use it up to 30 minutes before the race. He says that they can't kick out the pass-holders until 30 minutes before the race, but they cut off access to the area before that, and I "just missed it."

When I tried to get information from the guard on how I could get the situation rectified, I was told to wait until Monday and call the office. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the number on my receipt or the pit-pass or my confirmation e-mail so I couldn't call until Wednesday. When I called, I was told that as far as AMS was concerned, the matter was closed because they, "generally don't issue refunds after the day of the race."

So, if it weren't for the race part, my whole trip would have been a total bust.

Now, in keeping with the purpose of this Blog, I'm not going to just leave this issue as an open rant. I am going to offer suggestions on how AMS, (and any other track for that matter) can avoid this situation in the future.

First of all, you have to gear your facility toward the long-distance, one-time-only traveler. Everything about it MUST be oriented to the out-of-towners. This can be accomplished by having standing maps available near the gates and the shuttle stops that highlight important information. (Such as the location of will call.)

Next, there must be easily identifiable customer service representatives available and visible. Out of towners will get into trouble if they can't get clarification on any question. A customer service person is a logical go-to position for your guests.

Your fans are your GUESTS!! They should be treated in a manner that encourages them to come back. Conflicting information does not do that. Make sure every single member of your staff is on the same page as every other member. (This means, don't print one thing on your passes, tell your ticket sellers something different then have your security enforce a third rule.)

It might also prove beneficial to give the ticket sellers the authority to override a purchase when it is most probable that the purchase will be unused. Using my experience as an example, if the seller had refused to issue me the pit-pass on the grounds that I wouldn't be able to make it in time, I would not have been nearly so upset. This would also have allowed AMS to monitor the fact that I didn't use the pass, and therefore issue me a refund for the unused pass.

If a mistake is made, own up and do your best to make it right. This can be in the form of refunds, replacements or simple apologies.

In my case, there would be 2 options that I can see that would make my situation right; first would be for AMS to offer me comp-tickets, then bring me down at their own expense, put me up in a local hotel/motel and provide me with a means of travel while I'm there for the next Sprint cup race. (Of course, that is if I would be able to actually accumulate enough vacation time from work in order to go.) Or, the most equitable, in my opinion, would be to just give me a refund for the pit-pass I didn't get to use.

Well, that is what has been making me most upset this past month. But, I am certain there are others out there who have worse experiences. What is your nightmare story and how was it rectified, if it was? How can the problem be avoided in the future?

I would like to know,


Anonymous said...

So- it's AMS's fault that you didn't set your clocks correctly? Even without the time change I wouldv'e been leaving a great deal earlier than you had planned.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, you act as if you are the only person who has ever had a bad experience anywhere. Your first bad move was picking Atlanta for your first race. You should have waited until April and come to Talladega. Better racing, atmosphere, and parking/traffic. I agree with anonymous 8:25 about the time change. While travelling to Atlanta for this race, I not only lost the time change hour, but lost an additional one due to travelling from central to eastern time zone. But, I was up early enough to get myself to the track in plenty of time. I had a great experience at AMS because I was prepared, and I will definetly return to AMS in the future.

Michael Huff said...

I have to agree Anonymous, maybe your day should have started a little earlier. Why should AMS be responsible for your tardiness.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that the day didn't turn out the best for you! Hopefully your next race day will be different.
Hey, at least Kurt Busch won the race : )

Anonymous said...

Well that didn't sound like very good southern hospitality at all! I am embarrassed for my home track Tracy. I hope AMS makes it right. They should give you a free pit pass at an SMS track.