Customer Loyalty

As John Oliver Pointed Out, the Yankees Could Use a Little Lesson in Humility -- and Customer Loyalty

  • ---Shares
Reader Resource

Get the working capital your business needs–learn more about Entrepreneur Lending, powered by CAN Capital »

Anyone who has had the privilege of staying in a luxury suite, flying business or first class or having VIP access to an event knows that these perks can be really nice. From the business side, providing these perks are a great way of showing your appreciation to your best customers and encouraging brand loyalty.

That is, until those perks start to alienate all of your other customers.

Related: Fancy Perks Won't Get You Top Talent

Case in point, this past week on Last Week Tonight, show host John Oliver ridiculed the New York Yankees professional baseball club for their Yankee’s Legends Club, an exclusive and private members-only club reserved for the wealthiest baseball fans with perks including seating in the first five rows, all-inclusive fine dining options, in-seat wait service (with cushioned suite seats), personal concierge service and private entrance -- just to name a few.

All of this sounds great, but it can also sound quite elitist. The problem arises when your staff, and in particular your leadership, cannot discern the difference between your customer base.

For example, in February, Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost appeared as a guest on a popular New York radio show in an attempt to discuss and quell fan outrage that resulted when the Yankees announced that tickets could no longer be printed at home. The move was originally meant to "further combat fraud and counterfeiting of tickets associated with print-at-home paper tickets," according to the Yankee’s website.

During his interview, however, Trost undiplomatically said what most people probably believed -- the Yankees do not want to bother wealth fans with regular fans.

"The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money," Trost said, "it's not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and (another) fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount."

And if that was unclear, Trost clarified by saying, "And quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base."

Related: Farewell Derek Jeter, a True Role Model and Leader

So, evidently the Yankees value the concerns of a small handful of wealthy Yankee fans ("existing fan base") over the tens of thousands of "non-wealthy" fans who would rather sit in hard, uncomfortable seats and feast on American hot dogs and overpriced beer.

On a side note, it was always my understanding that you had to be wealthy just to afford a regular ticket to Yankee Stadium.

In the end, the Yankees are a business, and good one at that, with one of the most recognizable and valuable brands on the planet. They have no shortage of money, evidenced by their $2.3 billion stadium and their talent payroll, one of the highest in baseball. And yet even with all of this money, it just turns out that they just are incapable of connecting with ordinary customers.

So, as the Yankees attempt to limit the ability of "riff raff" to mingle with Yankee elites, continuing to be, as Oliver puts it, the "biggest, elitist assholes in all of sports," it may just turn out that they have enough clout to weather the storm.

Related: 9 Sales Lessons For Entrepreneurs From a Baseball Pro

In an entertaining side note, Oliver and his producers purchased two Legends Club seats for three games at Yankee stadium, then held a contest on Twitter asking fans to tweet a photo of themselves in what they would wear if they sat in the premium seats. Oliver then chose the winners and sold them the tickets for 25 cents.

The results were classic.