How Citi Field’s Acela Club turned around a potentially terrible customer experience

Friday afternoon was opening day at CitiField for my beloved New York Mets or as Steve Somers of WFAN coined it – the Wilponzi’s. Ouch. It was a cold and dreary day like many days in early April at baseball parks in the northern climes. My ticket partners and I made a reservation at the Acela Club where we’ve eaten a number of times since it opened with the new stadium in 2009.

Arriving intentionally a bit early at 2PM for our 2:15 PM reservation, we knew that there was a 3:45 PM reservation behind us so we would have to clear out by then – first pitch was scheduled for 4:10PM. The line outside the restaurant was surprisingly long. None of us could figure out why. This began an odyssey that defied explanation for much of the afternoon. It ended well but only due to a savvy restaurateur in Drew Nieporent of Myriad Restaurant Group (Tribeca Grill, Nobu, Corton among others if you don’t know), who in addition to being on the scene realized that things were not going smoothly at all.

At $ 48 prix fix a meal at the Acela Club is not cheap. But you do get a lot for the money mainly due to the impressive salad and sandwich bar that has more high quality food than you could eat even if you didn’t eat an entrée. (The truffle macaroni and cheese is addictive).

Once we were seated, the drinks we ordered took 20 minutes to arrive. And our server was nowhere in sight for those 20 minutes of waiting. One of our partners cryptically mentioned to another server that we actually were at the stadium to watch a ball game “today”. Our meals did not arrive until well after 3:15. A couple of times we were visited by a host who offered us a free drink (we declined) and apologies for the slow service which did show that the staff was aware that things were not going well.

Once the meals did arrive the food as always was good. However at that point there was sincere doubt that we might return again – first pitch was 10 minutes away and it was long past 3:45. We finished up our meals and one of the hosts came over and told us that they were sorry for the long wait and the restaurant was going to pick up our meals.

Wow. And who said there was no such thing as a free lunch? None of us expected that but we were extremely pleased with the result. And yes we will be going back to the Acela club again soon but we might not have had they not come in and made amends.

On the way out I passed Drew (whom I have met a couple of times but do not know well at all) who was both on the phone and surveying the proceedings. I mentioned to him that it was a tough day and he more than agreed saying they totally messed it up – surprising candor from one of New York’s premiere restaurateurs. But I also told him that in the end they got it right by doing the unexpected.

Everyone should think about doing the unexpected when you know your customer has a bad experience in order try to make it right. Anyone can have a bad day. It’s what you do to respond that sets your company apart.

Do you have any good stories on successful resolution to a potential bad customer experience?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
This entry was posted in Best business practices, Customer Experiences and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How Citi Field’s Acela Club turned around a potentially terrible customer experience

  1. Pete says:

    It seems to be a truism. If you have a relationship with a vendor and nothing ever happens, you think they are OK but rarely talk about them. If something bad happens, and they go to the extreme to do right by you, you never forget and tell everyone you know (or blog about it).

    I have known people who have created an \"issue\" just so they could fix it and get the good will. A cynical but effective tactic.


  2. Ronan says:

    Talk about bad customer service – You should have asked the Wilponzi’s to refund your tickets for the product they are putting out on the field these days! We need a bullpen.


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