Thursday, September 30, 2010

My gameday experience at FedEx Field

After going to FedEx Field to watch the Redskins 2 Sundays ago, I have to say I don't know what all the fuss is about with the gameday experience at FedEx Field. Every year, Sports Illustrated ranks FedEx Field amongst the bottom in terms of gameday experience. And anecdotal evidence, from radio talk shows, seems to suggest that going to watch a game at FedEx Field is akin to sadomasochism. And even I have wondered about the sanity of the 90,000 fans that pack the stadium every Sunday. So this Sunday, I decided to try it for myself. See how bad it is. Worst case scenario, I'll have 1 more reason to hate Dan Snyder.

So first things first, knowing that I hate traffic, we decided to take the Metro. I figured that'll be better than paying $30-40 to park and sitting in traffic after the game. Unfortunately, even though the stadium is only 12 miles away from my house, it takes 1 hour by Metro on a Sunday afternoon. Can't really blame that on Snyder but will it kill Metro to run more trains on game days?

After getting to the destination metro, there was a dedicated walkway right into the stadium, with police directing traffic and guiding pedestrians. I wondered who pay for the cops' overtime. Redskins? County? Whatever, give FedEx Field an A in terms of getting to the stadium by Metro. I did notice that there were a lot of stadium employees directing parking lot traffic once we got closer to the stadium. And with kickoff 2 hours away, there was surprising not much traffic. So far, not so bad. Oh I also noticed lots of portable toilets even before getting into the parking lots (where people were tailgating). Again, I wondered who pays for those toilets.

Upon getting to the stadium proper, getting in was a breeze. A quick pat down and an electronic scan of our tickets and we were in the belly of the beast. We walked around for a bit, took pictures with Captain Morgan, saw the Redskins Cheerleaders performing on a stage. Finally, we decided to go find our seats. We were allowed to get really really close to the field to take pictures (and we took full advantage of it).

Now onto the food. Well they were seriously overpriced. Chicken tenders and fries: $10. Cup of soda: $5. But what else do you expect at a stadium. So still not too bad. Lines at the restroom? Before the game, none. At halftime, never seen such long lines for men's urinals. But again, I think that's par for the course.

Now for the negatives:
  • Sure the giant HD scoreboards are great but will it kill Snyder to replace all the smaller TVs with HD TVs? I mean come on!
  • Can you please refill the paper towels in the restrooms or install air dryers? In fact, all public restrooms should just do away with paper towels and go to air dryers. 
  • Why can't the PA guy inform us of injured players? I swear, there was no announcement of injured players throughout the game.
  • In fact, would it have killed the PA guy to "announce" the game? Instead of just announcing all the product placements. If I had to hear that $1000 is donated for every touchdown by the Redskins... 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The curious case of the $40 charge from Enterprise

Occasionally when we have to travel to NJ, we rent a car from Enterprise. Their closest location is within walking distance of our house and their rates are so cheap even having to keep the car for a couple extra days (since they do not open on Sundays) doesn't make it as expensive as renting from Avis (which tries harder by opening on Sundays and costing almost twice as much).

Anyway, Lara rented a car from them in March. Put the EZ Pass on the dash and drove the car to and from NJ. Fast forward almost a month later, I get a letter from Enterprise. The gist of it was "Hello, the car you rented 4 weeks ago got a citation from NJ transit for $30 for running a toll. We have done you the favor of paying the citation for you and have billed you an additional $10 for that pleasure. Please visit our fancy schmancy website to automatically pay with your credit card. Or we will bill it to the credit card you paid with."

That's $10 for a $30 "charge" (I'll get to why charge is in quote shortly). That alone is so ridiculous I almost laughed. Why would I want you to pay a citation on my behalf for a 30% charge.

Now to make matters worse, they (Enterprise) provided no proof that they did receive a citation from NJ Transit. So I called NJ Transit and they said "Ask Enterprise to send you the citation, then call us to discuss why your ez pass transponder didn't work". So I called Enterprise and the customer service rep said "we don't keep records of the citations we receive. We just get them electronically, pay them and charge you $10 for the courtesy. I can waive the $10 charge".

Now most people would have taken this as a victory and gladly paid the $30. But I said "hell no!" You want to bill me for a phantom citation, you have to provide proof of it. Not my problem you receive them electronically. She wouldn't budge so I said "whatever, charge it to my Amex. I'll dispute it and you can deal with the might of Amex".

I watched my Amex and sure enough the charge came through a few days later. I immediately disputed it and asked for "proof of the citation". Today, after some push back on my part, Amex filed in my favor.

Lessons:

  • Always pay with a credit card
  • When a company pays a citation and then bills you, don't be afraid to ask for proof
  • If a company fails to see reason, use the might of your credit card company to your advantage
Oh btw, since then I have rented from Enterprise and I'll rent from them in the future. And if they bill me again for spurious charges, I'll sic Amex on them :)