Update: My email made it all the way to the CFO of International Speedway Corporation, parent of the Talladega track. It came back down with instructions to “handle this, now”, so a VP from the ticket office at Talladega contacted me with profuse apologies. He also let me know that mine was not the only problem in that suite yesterday, so they definitely have a personnel problem.
He complimented me on a well written letter and told me that I had their attention when I admitted to losing my temper and using language I probably shouldn’t have. That’s what made it stand out. He said that calling the law was unwarranted, and that it should have been handled much differently (well, yeah).
I also told him that I omitted from my letter that the rep in the suite denied asking me to move when confronted by the sheriffs when he had done so and there were witnesses to that fact. I sense that Mr. Lyons is a crispy critter.
He said they’re now looking at assigned seating in the suites. I told him we wouldn’t be coming back until that happened and we could be assured we wouldn’t be relegated to sitting at the bar for $1200 worth of tickets. He gave me his name and number and told me to call him for the Spring race to see what was happening if we changed our minds.
I think the only way I can adequately describe this experience is to copy and paste the email I sent to Talladega Speedway, my ticket rep there, and International Speedway Corporation this morning after the race yesterday.
While the racing at Talladega yesterday was the excellent package I’ve come to expect, the suite experience, sadly, was not.
My husband and I have had tickets to your suites for several years now and have been well pleased until yesterday. We were in Suite 7.
Important to this story is the fact that, when we arrived each time at the suite for previous races, a program was at the seat we chose.
We arrived about 10 and found two seats together on the first row of the suite. We settled in, chatted with people around us, and generally enjoyed the experience, even though the breakfast foods had been taken up earlier than advertised in the brochure we had received in the mail. No worries – lunch would soon follow. We looked through the programs that had been left for us at the seats we had chosen.
About 12:30, your employee, Gregory Lyons II, who was “in charge” of the suite, came to inform us we were sitting in someone’s place.
When we got to the seats, there was nothing but a program and a small American flag; there was nothing to us to indicate that someone had “claimed” those places.
Mr. Lyons informed us that we’d have to sit at the bar and we needed to move. He was surprised when I reacted in anger after we had been sitting in those seats for 2 1/2 hours at that point.
I asked to speak to someone in charge at Talladega. Mr. Lyons informed me that he was in charge. I asked to speak to his boss as I got up to move. My husband remained in place.
Mr. Lyons asked me to step outside because I was too loud. I do admit I raise my voice when agitated, which I was in this situation. I used the word “bulls_t” at one point, which I regret.
Waiting for me outside were two sheriff’s deputies and one female security personnel, because I was an “unruly fan”. Excuse me, I had just been asked to leave seats that I believed were rightfully mine!!!
Another Talladega rep appeared. Mr. Lyons then informed me that the seats at the bar are considered seats in the suite and I could watch the action on the track on on the screen. I told him that if I wanted to watch the TV I could do so on the comfort of my sofa in Atlanta.
More Talladega reps were consulted via radio. The two men who claimed our seats were brought outside. They said they had been there earlier and Mr. Lyons had handed them a program when they came in, and they left it on the table then went for on-track activities. Note that when we entered the suite, Mr. Lyons did not offer us a program. He did so much later in the 2 1/2 hours we were seated in those seats when he encountered me after I had passed him after I used the restroom – at which point I told him I had one (because I did – the one that had been left for me at the seat!)
I informed the Talladega reps that I either wanted my seats or a refund – immediately. More consultation ensued. I overheard Mr. Lyons telling them it was his first time running the suite and he had told everyone the procedures on Saturday… evidently not realizing there could be a completely different crowd on Sunday.
The resolution was that because the men who claimed to have had our seats left, they forfeited their claim to the seats, and we were allowed to go back and sit there. This resolution was arrived at by supervisors communicating over the radio – Mr. Lyons was in no way involved. The supervisors stated that if you leave your seats, your seats are then available for anyone to sit in. After finding this out, we were afraid to leave our seats during the race for fear anyone could come and claim them while we were gone.
Why are we unlikely to renew??
1. At no point were we ever told that seats at the bar were “equivalent” seats in the suite. They most certainly are not. We purchase suite tickets for Sunday only; we give away the tickets for the other days, so in essence we’re paying $1200 for one day of racing. I didn’t appreciate being told that I could sit at the bar and watch a screen for $1200.
2. I realize the seats are “first come, first served”, but based on this experience, evidently anyone can claim they had a seat and ask you to be removed. I find this completely unacceptable.
3. Your employee, Mr. Lyons, was grossly incompetent and allowed a situation to escalate quickly. He should have checked with his management on how to handle it and he should have known the protocol before the situation got out of hand. If he believed those seats were occupied he had 2 1/2 hours to tell us. And a 5’2″, sober woman is not a “threat” worthy of two sheriffs deputies.
4. I don’t know if Mr. Lyons took it upon himself to change the protocol of placing programs at the seats or if Talladega management did it, but it was a poor move for those of us who were repeat customers. And I’ve been coming to the races for years, and frankly, I don’t see a lot of familiar faces in those suites, so I question the number of repeat customers in them.
5. The food was not the quality we’ve come to expect, and it certainly didn’t match the elevated description in the flyer we received with our tickets.
6. Traffic leaving the track this time was more of a nightmare than usual. The track does such an excellent job of getting people in, yet when it’s time to leave, it’s every man for himself. It took us an hour and a half just to get off the property. This makes us extremely unlikely to return, period.
I hope you will take this story and these point as suggestions on how you can improve the fan experience. Until yesterday, we had been extremely pleased with the product at Talladega. It’s amazing how one day, and one person, can destroy all of that.
An extremely disappointed fan,