San Diego, CA

Petco Park Had a System Outage This Weekend and Had to Feed Thousands of People

Michael Beausoleil

Anyone who has ever gone to an MLB game knows it’s a fun and exciting environment. There’s no better way to watch a baseball game, but be prepared to spend some money. Everything is more expensive inside park gates, but the experience never feels complete without a hot dog or a drink.

On Saturday, August 21st, I went to go see the Padres play against the Phillies at Petco Park. The game started off slow, but the drama was unfolding off the field. The park’s payment system went down and customers couldn’t purchase food or drinks. To make matters worse, the park is cashless, and there was no ability to accept payment.

To state the obvious, this is a huge financial problem. The markups on concessions mean the park will make a lot of money. People wait in line to get snacks, and the food is as American as baseball itself. We sing about eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks, so there’s a lot to lose when the customer experience is severely compromised.

How This Happened

When I arrived at Petco Park, the experience was like any other day. I walked in, and my partner bought drinks. We both paid, so there were no signs of an issue. Then we took our seats. A few minutes later the game started. We did notice many open seats around us, but this didn’t seem too abnormal. People often arrive at baseball games after the first couple of innings, so I didn’t think much of it.

We decided we’d wait until after the second inning to get food. The wait was only about 20 minutes. Anyone who watched Saturday’s Padres game knows the game was off to a slow start. The Phillies earned a run at the very beginning of the first inning. After that, the scoreboard would not change for a while.

So we went to get food, and the lines were really long. We took our drinks with us because we didn’t want to leave them unattended, and multiple people were asking us “where’d you get those?!”

I had no idea what they meant. Every stand was selling drinks… or so I thought.

We eventually found out that no one was able to buy food or drinks as a result of an outage with the payment processing system. Many people had been waiting in line, and they were irritated to have to wait longer. Some lines disbanded while other people decided to keep waiting. Once I figured out the news I chose to sit back down. I wasn’t going to stand in line as I waited for a system to start functioning again.

How Petco Park Handled the System Outage

In the middle of the fourth inning, we got some new neighbors in the stands. These people came with food in hand, so I assumed the system was working again. I asked the girl to my left, and she told me that they were given free food. She also said an employee cut off the line and anyone who had been waiting was given their food for free.

Apparently, she had been in line since the start of the game. Considering the price of the ticket, she invested a lot of time in line just to get a hot dog and a beer. Fortunately, the game had not been too eventful, but watching a slow game is infinitely better than waiting in a stagnant line.

Toward the end of the fifth inning, I got up to see if the system was working again. It was still down, but I could wait in line. All the food was free; I just had to wait and get it. So I got in line, it moved at a decent pace, and I eventually got to the front. I could get one food item and one drink. I opted for peanuts and a Pacifico, which would have cost $21 normally. My partner got nachos and a beer, a similarly priced combo. Between the two of us, Petco Park could have made nearly $45. They got nothing, and there were thousands of other people waiting to get their freebies.

I have to admit that I’m shocked that the park never started accepting cash. Any payment would have been better than handing out food, but it seems Petco Park is really committed to going cashless. By the seventh inning, word had gotten out. People were getting free food, and we continued to watch a series of innings where neither teams got runs.

The Aftermath

The neighbor to my left decided to leave after the seventh inning stretch. She probably had the worst baseball experience of her life. Half the time was spent in line; the other half was spent watching uneventful baseball. During the top of the seventh inning, the Padres tied the score. Then the Phillies scored two more runs. The Padres tied the score again at the top of the ninth inning with two outs. Then, they won in extra innings.

Eventually, the game was exciting. The mundane beginning allowed for a satisfying come-from-behind victory. While the system outage was frustrating, I didn’t feel like my experience was bad. The time spent in line was during the slow portion of the game.

On the other hand, people had experiences similar to my neighbor on the left. She bought a ticket just to spend more time in line than in her seat. This type of thing should have been prevented, but it was pretty clear the Petco Park staff had not experienced a service outage like this before.

On Monday, August 23rd, I received an e-mail from Petco Park acknowledging the outage.

Due to this outage, I am receiving a $15 credit for future concessions. Unfortunately, this expires September 26, and I have no plans to go to a Padres game by this date. Still, I’m not upset. My experience was not significantly hindered. Not everyone can say the same, however.

To be completely honest, I find Petco Park’s response quite interesting. There is no right or wrong way to handle an unplanned outage like this, and I never thought I’d be able to get free concessions at an MLB game. This certainly did not sour my opinion of the Padres or Petco Park. I understand this was not expected, and they would not give out free food unless it was deemed absolutely necessary. Any future credits from this event are bonuses, but I’m not the person who needs an apology. The ones who should receive some type of compensation are the ones who stood in line while park staff determined their course of action. In the future, I anticipate they will have a better plan prepared. This past weekend I witnessed their response without a backup plan. Could it have been better? Of course. Was it the worst response? Not at all.

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Writer, educator, and a few other things.

San Diego, CA
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