Orioles FanFest 2010 was one of the best events I attended all of last year. In fact, I labeled it a “grand slam” in this blog right here, written shortly after I arrived home on a Saturday afternoon when I strolled around the Baltimore Convention Center with 10,000 other orange followers. I even remember thinking to myself as I saw gobs of people lined up for their first glimpse of Garrett Atkins — “These folks here are so awash with Orioles fever, I don’t think the team could screw THIS thing up.”
Well, I was wrong.
The Orioles, apparently, never heard of the theory “leave well enough alone”.
They’ve thrown a monkey wrench into FanFest 2011.
They’re charging adults for autographs. Actually, they’re charging anyone over the age of 14 for autographs. Yes, 15 year olds, 16 year olds, 17 year olds, 25 year olds, 35 year olds. They all pay for an autograph at FanFest.
You read it right.
The Orioles are so hell-bent on squeezing every available nickel out of your pocket on January 29th that they’ve now sunk to the lowest-of-lows…they’re making you hand over money in order to be graced with the scribbled signature of one of their stars.
Now let’s make sure we position this correctly from the Orioles side. They’re putting this policy in place – charging folks – because “it will shorten the lines” at autograph stations. The money being raised is “going to charity” through the club’s OriolesREACH program. Developing a more strategic method of autograph distribution will “avoid fan disappointment” (and those words “avoid fan disappointment” come right from their own press release).
You can go ahead and insert your “avoid fan disappointment” punch line here…now.
But let’s sift through all the goodwill and the efforts to expedite the efforts of adult autograph seekers and call the $15.00 charge for what it is.
It’s gouging the fans who attend – those who have already PAID entry to get in – and trying to pry even more money from a fan base that is on the “owed” side of this relationship, as the Orioles have been taking Baltimore’s money for over a decade now and have offered little overall value in return.
Interestingly enough, the Orioles web-site has plenty of information about FanFest. Go ahead and check it out right here.
The admission fee isn’t listed on the site. You’ll have to pay to get in, of course, but the team won’t list that price on the web-page. I *think* it’s $10.00 to get in, but I’m not really sure. Whatever the case, why isn’t the admission fee on the team’s official site? I don’t have that answer, but I’m sure you can consider the reasons.
Autograph seekers have become a national pest. Not quite to the level of the stink-bug craze in the Middle Atlantic, but close enough, I suppose, for teams like the Orioles to say this to themselves: ”If they’re going to stuff themselves into our event and clog up the lines and eat up the valuable time of our players, we’re going to have to make money off of them.”
That’s really the truth. Nothing more.
You know how I know that’s true?
Because the Orioles COULD have done this:
They could have made you (an adult) go to their web-site and pre-register for a spot in one of their autograph lines (which is what you have to do now, already). You could have then organized the “sessions” at FanFest and controlled the lines (continued) by handing out windows-of-time based on your web-site registration. In other words, you register and you get a return e-mail that says, “Turn this in at 12:45 pm and your “session” is 12:50-1:00 pm at the table with Nick Markakis, Chris Tillman, Matt Wieters and Jason Berken.” It’s all electronically controlled and easy to pull off with today’s software.
And then (and here’s the kicker), the Orioles could announce “and for every person who registers, we’ll donate $15.00 to OriolesREACH and distribute those monies to various local charities”.
Novel concept: If the Orioles are that concerned about shortening the lines, “avoiding fan disappointment” and contributing money to charity, they can still do that and NOT charge adults money for autographs. They could just donate the money themselves.
Here’s another novel idea: How about just doing a better job (continued)