Not Connecting: Miami Marlins Organization Threatens Season Ticket Holders With Lawsuit Because They Want To Change Seats

from the yes,-seriously dept

Way back in ancient 2009, Mike wrote a piece highlighting one spectacularly awful example of a business going out of their way to alienate their fans. We talk a great deal about connecting with customers here, but when we saw the Washington Redskins suing season ticket holders, who weren’t able to keep to their contract terms after the economic downturn, we had to point it out. In that case, the actual contract language was on the Redskins’ side, although in similar cases, sports franchises rarely go after their customers in that manner. Instead, typically the team and customers work out an amicable deal to resell the tickets or provide for some kind of payment plan. In other words: suing your fans is a crappy way to do business.

But what if I told you that there’s a worse example of a professional sports franchise threatening to sue their own fans? What if I told you that the customers they were threatening were perfectly happy to continue paying for their seats, despite the team doing everything in their power to alienate the fans, but the customers just wanted to sit in different seats, which they say the contract allows for? And what if I told you that all of this hate and bile comes from the team with the most obnoxiously festive stadium in pro sports?

Marlins Park, Miami
Little known fact: the entire stadium is made out of tropical flavor skittles
Image source: CC BY 2.0

Don’t believe that all of the above could be true? Let me introduce you to the Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball.

The flea-market ownership of the Miami Marlins have let down their fans too many times to count through the years, whether it’s running one of their traditional fire sales — see: November’s $160 million salary dump — or pocketing revenue-sharing money intended for players. Or, lest we forget, getting South Florida taxpayers to plunk down 80 percent of the cost for a new $634 million baseball park. But this might take the cake even for them.

The team has threatened to sue Bill and Jan Leon, season ticket holders since 1998, for having the gall to ask for a different seat location — as they say the ticket agreement permits — and refusing to pay when the team failed to comply. The New Miami Times reports the Leons signed a two-year agreement for their tickets (at $25,000 per year) with the option of changing their seats if they were unhappy with their location after the first season. Which they were, thanks to a sign that obstructed their view.

Yes, you read that right. After bilking taxpayers out of a huge chunk of money to build their stadium, the team is suing two season ticket holders for asking to switch seats. Now, I know what you’re thinking: surely this must have happened because the team couldn’t accommodate their request to move their seats. You’re thinking that all the rest of the seats in the stadium must have been gobbled up by Floridians. Well, if you are, you’re wrong. The Marlins drew enough attendance last year, the first year of their new stadium (generally considered to provide a bump in attendance), to not quite fill 75% of the seats. In other words, if the team had wanted to be amicable, they had over a quarter of their skittle stadium to choose from to reseat the Leons. Instead they’re suing, because evil doesn’t do logic.

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Companies: miami marlins

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Comments on “Not Connecting: Miami Marlins Organization Threatens Season Ticket Holders With Lawsuit Because They Want To Change Seats”

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out_of_the_blue says:

And? ... AND? -- Why should the reader worry?

Connect THAT up, Timmy. You just left us hanging with some generic ill-will. So, GRRR! BOO! HISS! Those RATS!

In absence of your guiding: the direction I’d have taken it is to rail at the taxpayer money that goes to the benefit of millionaires. It’s whatcha call PURE capitalism: direct transfer at gov’t gunpoint from poor to the already Rich.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And? ... AND? -- Why should the reader worry?

One of the business model edicts promoted here is Connect with Fans. Obviously, the Marlins are not doing this, but instead are alienating and abusing them. Well, let’s just say they’re being dicks to those who give them money for a product. A very expensive product. This is not how you treat your customers if you want to keep them and their money flowing towards you.

C’mon blue. You know the ‘Connect with Fans’ gospel that’s preached here. If not, you’re blinded my your own rage and contempt, so much to the point where you miss the obvious arguments.

Maybe you should relax a bit. Take a break from the site for a bit. You are clearly becoming irrationally obsessive with trying to take down this site. Calm down, stake a step back and don’t let it get to you so much. Let the anger go. Your health will approve, both mentally and physically.

Just sayin’.

Reality Check (profile) says:

Re: And? ... AND? -- Why should the reader worry?

You are a sad little creature.

pure capitalism doesn’t have gov’t involvement. You are thinking of crony capitalism. Which is what we have in the US. And you are a staunch supporter of it with your copyright fanaticism. Copyright being the ultimate expression of gov’t supplied monopolies.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: And? ... AND? -- Why should the reader worry?

Maybe I’m just a jaundiced Euro-‘socialist’, but my experience of capitalism leads me to actually agree with OotB on this one – the purest form of capitalism does seem to lead to oligarchs and government circle-jerks, whilst screwing everyone else and the world about them.

Certainly, this is as ‘pure’ a form of capitalism as the ‘pure’ communism/socialism the US right-wingers accuse everyone left of Rush Limbaugh/Pryan Fischer of espousing…

Anonymous Coward says:

“In absence of your guiding: the direction I’d have taken it is to rail at the taxpayer money that goes to the benefit of millionaires. It’s whatcha call PURE capitalism: direct transfer at gov’t gunpoint from poor to the already Rich.”
You’re stretching. The easy line to draw, which sports fans already knew, is that Jeffrey Loria is pretty much a dirtbag. Not your standard “the owner of my sports team is an awful evil person akin to Mr. Burns.” No, he’s actually an awful person.

Divide by Zero (profile) says:

What a pack of arseholes. We pay $600 for two season tickets and always have the option to change seats at the end of the season. Granted, totally different comp in a totally different country(nrl, booyeah), but there’d be mass mutiny by the fans in general and season ticket holders in particular if the club tried that.

Anyone who is willing to shell out $25,000 to watch people hit a ball with a stick should be treated like royalty, not sued.

anonymouse says:


When you have enough monry to alienate your fans that is the time you need to be very careful as one story like this could eventually cause hundreds of fans to decide it was not worth the money to possibly have a seat where you could not see the action, i hope that if this gets to court the Judge not only decided the marlins are to not receive a penny, but that they have to refund the couple their last years subscription in full plus compensation for giving them seats they could not obviously use. I for one hope that is the case, but knowing the judges in these cases they probably have a hand in the pie and get some good kickbacks from the lawyers involved in high profile cases like this.

MrHyde says:

Something is missing

This article looks incomplete to me. I had a read of the linked PDF and it talks about $25000 for the second year not being paid and being 5 months overdue. No where does it mention the spat over the seat location. The only place that is mentioned is that article that contained the pdf and that also almost as a throwaway line.

Something seems amiss and I feel that not the whole story is being revealed here. Some letters from the couple asking for a different seat or some email responses saying that they won’t get different seats would add a lot to this story. Without that, this just looks like a beat up.

Anonymous Coward says:

I dont quite understand this one...

It seems to me that the actual legal threat in the letter is concerning a $25K unpaid balance. Was the person trying to change to a lower priced seat, and then required to pay for their original seats too? Or did they attempt to change seats and then have the club try to get them on an unpaid balance just because they didn’t like it. In either event its dick move to sue someone over it. On the other hand, you have to be pretty crazy to spend that much money on a baseball game.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This line of questioning always intrigues me, and usually crops up on articles that are cut and dried. That is, where there’s no way to attack Mike or the writer of the article, it seems to be questioned why the article is written instead. Almost as if something questioning the site just has to be posted even if nothing wrong is being said.

Anyway, in case you’re not a troll and are asking an honest question – despite the name of the site, not every article has to be directly tech related. There’s a lot of articles about law, law enforcement, contracts, copyrights, trademarks, freedom of speech, etc. While these are usually brought up where there’s a direct tech angle, there’s non-tech stories that are relevant to common themes. With this article, I’d say it’s relevant if only to show that it’s not just the **AAs of this world who are happy to attack paying customers because they’re not doing things in the way they’d prefer.

Lotus Geek says:

Not all sports owners are dirtbags....

I happen to be a season ticket holder (since 1989) of the Atlanta Falcons. I’ve been a season ticket holder with a country-bumpkin owner who didn’t have a clue what he was doing (Rankin Smith and family). I’ve also been a season ticket holder with a business savvy owner who knows how to cater to fans and get his pound of flesh, but the season ticket holders hang around because they do feel they’re getting something for that pound. As long as that balance is met, they will stay.

I will say one caveat, however: the true test of the Blank ownership of the Atlanta Falcons will be when it comes time to sell seats for the new stadium. Are they going to go the rape-the-ticket-holder strategy of PSLs? PSLs will most definitely price the common ticket holder out of the market (including me, a holder for around a quarter century). It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Back to the Marlins…
The trick – and it is applicable throughout life – is to “pick your battles”. The Marlins team ownership should honestly ask itself- is this battle is worth it? How hard would it be to just allow the ticket holders to move their seats? Is whatever effort that would take on the team’s part worth the bad publicity and overall ill will created from this bone-headed move? I don’t even think this qualifies as a Pyrrhic Victory for the ownership – it’s an all-out losing situation.

It always blows my mind when I see organizations act with less common sense than is displayed by my teenage sons.


timmaguire42 (profile) says:

Not all seats are created equal. Even a half full stadium may not have had any $25,000 seats available. But great scott! A $25,000 seat with an obstructed view?!?

Here’s the word that needs to be tossed about more in asshole owner sports stories: monopoly. Owners get away with treating fans like dirt because they have a monopoly on their product in their region.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ms. Leon reportedly said she wanted different seats because the new advertising billboards obstructed her view. I’ll let people take a look at some before & after shots and decide for themselves (the standing crew are not present during games). Basically it’s about 4 inches of green padding…–mlb.html

The Miami New Times article also said the team provided her multiple opportunities to change seats, but they refused to move. So somebody is lying here.

Matt says:

the facts

1) Miami give them 3 different options for seats. The Leon’s said “No.” They wanted seats “1 & 2” Seats 1 & 2 were already sold to loyal Marlins fans, so that was not an option for them. They signed the contract which they are 5 plus months delinquent on for those seats and now they have to pay. They don’t want to fork over the money then they shouldn’t have signed the contract. The Marlins are in the full right to be either repaid or to sell the seats and give the Leon’s what they deserve. A back hand to the face for being whiny bitches.

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