Arizona Cardinals fans Ronald and Kim Groszkiewicz were looking forward to cheering the team in person after the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled those plans last year.
One of the few things the Chandler couple splurges on are season tickets, according to their son-in-law, Shawn Roland. They’ve held their seats for about a decade.
But a change to ticket policies, and a lack of alternatives offered by the team sales office, made the couple think they would no longer be able to attend games.
Roland called the sales office, figuring there must be a miscommunication. His in-laws are older and might have misheard, he thought.
«I was trying to give them (the Cardinals) the benefit of the doubt,» he said.
He emailed the team, explaining the situation and seeking a solution.
But when Roland got the same answer from the NFL franchise, he turned to The Arizona Republic’s Call For Action team for help.
Within 24 hours, the Groszkiewiczes were relieved of worry.
It all started when Ronald, 71, and Kim, 66, didn’t receive the ticket package that used to come in the mail each year, Roland said.
They called the sales office to inquire.
An account representative explained that Cardinals tickets are no longer printed on paper. They are exclusively digital, meaning they must be shown at the door using a smartphone or other mobile device.
Roland’s in-laws rely on their landline at home to call people and don’t own smartphones, he said. Technology can be daunting for them.
«They have flip phones they carry around in case of emergency,» he said. «That generation are the type of people that have chosen not to have a lot of digital devices because it just overwhelms them and they get frustrated and stressed out and they can live without it.»
The Groszkiewiczes told Roland that when they asked the team office for a ticket alternative, the Cardinals employee said there were no other options and they would have to give up their season tickets if they couldn’t access a smartphone.
«Alarm bells went off right away,» Roland said. «It didn’t seem like a very cool thing to be doing.»
He sprang into action, emailing the Cardinals to seek clarification.
«My mother- and father-in-law can hardly figure out a flip cell phone that is 15 years old, let alone a smart phone,» he wrote. «I’m hoping they simply misunderstood what a representative shared and that there are other options for those in our communities and families that don’t have the accessibility to use smart phone devices to manage their entrance into Cardinals games.»
«If the only alternative option is to give up their season tickets, that would be truly troubling,» Roland added.
A Cardinals account executive replied.
«Outside of a smartphone, the only other option is by using a tablet,» the employee wrote, linking to tablets available from Walmart that ranged from $59 to $159. «For fans seeking an alternative to smart phones to access their tickets and parking, tablets are an inexpensive option.»
«Thank you for your continued support,» the team staffer added.
Roland was shocked.
«It feels like a pretty exclusionary policy,» he told The Republic.
Fans who are older, disabled or don’t have access to smartphones may be disadvantaged by the policy, he said.
«I can certainly understand from a business standpoint wanting people to use digital devices and encouraging people to use digital devices. I would much rather use a digital device myself,» Roland said. «But there are certain cases where people can’t use, or can’t confidently use, certain technology.»
«That there’s no alternative is what surprises me,» he said.
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Other sports teams and entertainment venues in Arizona provide nondigital options or ask patrons to see the guest services desk for assistance, according to their websites.
The Phoenix Suns tell fans that if their phone breaks, dies or is lost or stolen before they arrive, the team will print tickets at the box office upon checking an ID.
The Arizona Coyotes instruct fans on their website to go to the box office with proof that they own the tickets and staffers will print copies.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, which implemented mobile-only tickets this season, tell fans on their website: «If you do not own a smartphone, please contact your D-backs Season Ticket Experience representative.»
The Phoenix Mercury direct fans to go to the «Guest Relations desk» for digital-ticket issues.
ASU Gammage, which instituted mobile passes last year, promised in an announcement that if using a phone isn’t an option for someone, «we will absolutely work with them and figure out the best solution.”
The Arizona Cardinals have no instructions for digital-ticket alternatives on their website.
The Cardinals moved to a mobile ticket policy in 2019 to improve convenience and security, team spokesperson Mark Dalton said.
Fans can sell and share tickets with others easily, without having to meet in person, he said. It reduces fraud from lost, stolen or counterfeit tickets. And it allows the team to immediately communicate updates on traffic, gate information, roof status and other details to fans through their phones.
It’s rare for someone to struggle with the process, given how many people nowadays use digital boarding passes, concert and movie tickets and restaurant menus, Dalton said.
If someone does not have a smartphone, Cardinals staff are supposed to walk through other options, Dalton said.
Can someone else attending the game with the fan store the tickets on their phone? Can the fan use a tablet?
But if a smartphone isn’t an option, a Cardinals ticket holder can present their ID at the stadium box office for help, Dalton said.
A Cardinals employee typically will load the digital tickets onto their own device and escort the fans through the gate, he said.
But Dalton warned the team cannot help many fans at the box office.
«While we can accommodate on a very limited basis, it would be a challenge operationally to do with a greater frequency,» he said.
The Groszkiewiczes were relieved to learn from The Republic that they don’t have to go out and purchase smartphones to watch a Cardinals game, Roland said.
They also worried about their digital parking passes.
Dalton directed the couple to talk to their account representative to «come up with a work-around solution.»
Roland wishes the team had been more clear about options from the beginning. He hopes others aren’t confused in the same way.
«I always start thinking about how much broader the situation is,» Roland said.
Have you been ripped off? Do you have a complaint against a business, health care company or government agency? If you live in Arizona, Call For Action volunteers and Arizona Republic reporters may be able to investigate. We’re #HeretoHelpAZ.
Fill out a form at http://heretohelpaz.azcentral.com.
Consumer reporter Rebekah L. Sanders investigates issues of fraud and abuse involving businesses, health care and government agencies. Contact her at rsanders@azcentral.com or follow her on Twitter at @RebekahLSanders.
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