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Redskins tackle FedEx Field customer service

The updated and refurbished display.

A few hours after the Redskins' first preseason game this summer, a longtime season-ticket holder named Joe Davis from Silver Spring sent me an e-mail.

"Wow," began his note. "That's really all I can say. Not so much from the football action, but from the experience. I've been to a lot of away games, and up until now FedEx has been the worst game day experience. But everything tonight was different."

Now, my first thought was the same as yours: the Redskins made this guy e-mail me! It's fraud! Claim denied.

And some of the things Davis cited - the big-screens, for example - have been repeatedly publicized throughout the offseason, so they weren't exactly breaking news. But Davis said other things had improved his night, like ushers who told him to have a good night and asked him to drive safely when he left the stadium.

I can't vouch for past seasons, but I went to the next home preseason game, and walked out of a couple different exits, and it was the same. I was bombarded with "thanks for coming, get home safe," and "good night sir, good night," and on and on. I walked past the guest services window and was offered a choice from a bowl of candy; "we've got a new group down here, and this is how we do," one of the staffers told me. I watched one usher insist on escorting an older woman down to her lower-level seats, calling her "m'am" the whole way.

And I talked with another usher who showed me the new staff guidebook that all employees are now required to carry. It has, among other things, an A-Z stadium guide, a pictorial guide to different credentials and tickets, a map of the FedEx Field grounds, a gallery of faces to be familiar with, and an amazing list of staff behavior guidelines, which include no chewing gum, no toothpicks, no hands in pockets, no leaning on railings, no watching the game, no use of personal cell phones, fingernails looking clean and presentable, no fingernails for male staffers extending more than 1/10 of an inch from the tip of the finger, no visible tattoos, no frosted tips, no excess hair gel or grease, no hair that interferes with vision, plus restrictions on the lengths of bangs and sideburns.

(Also, ushers are not permitted to talk to the media. But this was for a good cause.)

"They're trying to make this the best customer-service facility in the league," one usher told me. "And I agree with that."

This person was a longtime usher, which makes him something of an exception. Because here's something else that's new: most of the FedEx Field staffers. All of the 800 or so game-day staffers were required to reapply for their jobs, and were asked questions about the stadium and why they wanted to work there. About half did not reapply or were not re-hired, and many others switched positions.

"We wanted to shake things up, instead of just having back the same people who had been there," Dave Donovan, the team's COO, told me. "We tried to impress on everybody the need to be friendly and intelligent and knowledgeable and accurate and helpful."

There were other changes, according to the team. Every game-day department has bright new color-coded shirts and hats to distinguish them and help them stand out from fans. There are new companies handling parking and facility cleaning. The Hall of Fame store was remodeled. A giant wall decoration saluting the members of the team's Ring of Honor that had been obscured was updated and displayed by a bank of elevators. The press lounge was spiffed up with huge displays of Sports Illustrated covers and flat-screen TVs. The concourse floors were power-washed, and the team committed to repainting just about everything, including about 14 miles of railings and much of the inside bowl.

"We knew we had things to improve on, so we did it," Donovan said. "It's not acceptable for anybody to be unhappy with the experience they have at the stadium, and that goes from food to parking to everything else.

"We can't control the success on the field, all we can make sure is that people are treated well, that they not leave upset about traffic or parking or food or the cleanliness of the building or the number of commercials or the video board."

Now for the caveats. It's easier to make things work during a sparsely attended preseason game than during a packed regular-season opener. All the new employees could be severely tested by a night crowd for a Dallas game. The traffic at FedEx Field will never be great, no matter what you do. And the team was starting from a big game-day experience hole, with a long way to climb just to get to the NFL average.

Donovan also said that none of these changes were made in response to anything that happened last season, that all of these things were in discussion prior to the fan anger that cropped up last year. And during halftime of the Ravens game, I wandered around asking fans if they noticed any changes. Most said no. So maybe you will and maybe you won't see anything differently. And maybe this post makes me look like a total tool. Still, talking to the ushers made me feel that this wasn't just in Joe Davis's head.

"I can notice the changes - they just wanted improvement, real improvement," one second-year usher told me. "They're looking for bigger and better things."

"My goal," another told me," is to make sure every kid in my section has a good time."

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 7, 2010; 5:10 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Next: Jerry Jones "amazed" Dan Snyder hasn't won a Super Bowl


Well done then!

The ultimate improvement would be to remove Danny from the game day experience!

Posted by: Leeguru | September 7, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Well done then!

The ultimate improvement would be to remove Danny from the game day experience!

Posted by: Leeguru | September 7, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

"Hallucinogenic mushrooms have long been used as recreational drugs. But new research claims that not only do they appear to be safe, they may actually help late-stage cancer patients who have high anxiety levels. "

We knew these things were good for you long ago. Good to see the scientific/medical community finally catching up with us.|main|dl3|sec4_lnk1|168955

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | September 7, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Why, it's as if they've ripped a page from the Capitals! Staff running around fixin' 101 little things that'll improve the in-game experience. I guess that's just what Top-Performing teams do when they sell out all their games and have a waiting list for season tickets... oh, wait.

Also I just love Baghdad Bob Donovan:

"Donovan also said that none of these changes were made in response to anything that happened last season, that all of these things were in discussion prior to the fan anger that cropped up last year. "

Drink of the Kool-Aid, my man. Drink!

Posted by: capscapscaps2 | September 7, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, I have never had any problems with the ushers - ever. In my section they have always been very nice, say good-bye, etc. (and will take your picture and make sure you get a nice background in it if you so wish).

I'm interested in seeing the new TVs - THAT has been my biggest problem in the game day experience, so we'll see.

Posted by: suzannepdc | September 7, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Nice post Dan. At least now folks can't say you always look for the negative in the Skins.

I went to the Ravens game and did notice that they were nicer at the concessions and leaving the stadium. On Sunday I'll be paying even more attention.

Posted by: joeblazin | September 7, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I think painting the concourse will be very nice. It just had a gross feeling to it. Every little thing counts. We have too many fans that will complain about anything they don't like and will come up with some conspiracy or pessimistic rant about how we're the only NFL team that has these issues (I'm sure every other stadium is built around a highway system that allows for an immediate influx of 20,000 cars within a 30-minute period without any delay).

Hail to the Redskins!!

Posted by: Section104 | September 7, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I haven't attended a game at FedEx since 2004, but I think the complaints were more about belligerent, sometimes violent drunks, than the ushers. If they have more ushers or stadium security to "escort" folks like that out promptly, before they dump their beers or vomit (Philly fan style!) on the family in front of them, then I think a lot of fans would welcome that sort of improvement. Too bad there's no "fan handbook." :)

Posted by: blackjack65 | September 7, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

But please address what really made it the worst game day experience: the huge numbers of blindingly drunk twenty-somethings screaming a stream of obscenities every minute of the game and during timeouts. Outside of the box seats, there is little to enjoy about being at FedEx because of the fans more than anything. Gave up my season tix for that. And I'm sure enough no prude. These were the sort of problems that got the Redskins flagged on HBO's Inside Sports a few years back, and so far as I know little has been done to address it other than to have Diageo announce that people need to "drink responsibly."

Posted by: DCUnited2 | September 7, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

I do not know if this is still true, but, about 7 years ago I was at the stadium and my buddies and I decided to get a sandwich. We went in and spent a lot of money on those sandwiches. After we tipped the waitress (or tried to tip her, I dont remember if she was allowed to take it, bad memory on this point) I remarked you must make good money working here. She told me they were unpaid volunteers and she had to pay for parking and she was not allowed to watch the game. I was bewildered. Why would anyone do that?

Posted by: 1bmffwb | September 7, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Might want to keep in mind that the World Cup selection committee is visiting Fedex this week as the USA bids to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup (yes, Soccer). Might not mean so much to Skins fans but it would be a major coup economically for the DC area. I would imagine that their visit coincides directly with sprucing up FedEx Field...

Posted by: Samuraise | September 7, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

The big screens are great. The drunk fans are still bad but I noticed security has improved in the end zones. But the Gray area parking lot still stinks. They need to build a trail to the stadium so people don't have to walk completely around the lot. When it rains it's a sea of mud, plus it was never plowed during last years snowstorms!

Posted by: JDL12 | September 7, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Never been to FedEx. Never plan to go.

You know what a good game-day experience is to me? One where I do not have to consult my financial planner to find out if I can afford to go. One where I don't have to consider arming myself in anticipation of running into a drunken mob of hooligans. One where I am not constantly bombarded with idiots yelling into a loudspeaker telling me when I should be cheering. One where I can actually see the game without looking around a steel beam or into a telescope. One where I can buy good food at a reasonable (by sporting event standards) price. One where I don't have park on the other side of the beltway, while paying more than I do for a Nationals ticket for the privilege. One where I do not have to get up at dawn, so that I can beat the traffic, in order to be assured of arriving before the second quarter.

You know one of the things I care about not at all? Whether the usher calls me "sir".

Oh, and it would be nice if team charging the highest ticket prices in North American sports, for the worst game-day experience, would win every now and then too.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | September 7, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Hey Kev, your complaints would carry just a tiny bit more weight if you had actually been to a game at FedEx...

Posted by: CapsNut | September 7, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

I am always looking for any sign of improvement. Time will tell if this is a real improvement or just another Off-Season victory.

Funny it has taken this long to perform basic customer service.

Posted by: DCFanCouncil | September 7, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

I love all these little naive, crybabies sobbing about drunks at sporting events.

Must be a new thing. For sure people haven't been getting drunk and making fools out of themselves at sporting events for very thong. Definitely has to be a recent trend.

If anything, you all should complain about FedEx needing a "Family" section where no alcohol/cursing/etc is allowed.

That way you can watch the game away from all the "hooligan" drunks and shield your family away from the horrors of life.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | September 7, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

I love the new improvements they made to the stadium. As for drunks, etc., most of them are folks who live in VA. As for traffic issues, most of the folks who complain are from VA and do not know how to drive in and throughout DC. I lived in Woodbridge and went to lots of games and always got home from FedEx in 45min. Im a DC native and i wish the skins would move back to DC. I'd also like to see everyone stop complaining about traffic. If ya'll VA people stop drinking n driving there wouldn't be any traffic issues :) GP SKINS!!

Posted by: WHarris74 | September 8, 2010 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Firstly, CapsNut, tell me I'm wrong about any of those complaints.

Secondly, Poopy_McPoop (perfect name), I go to Caps and Nats games -- in multiple cities. I've never seen a drunk person - let alone whole sections of them. Are you really defending the actions of these low-lifes? Or the Redskins security that allows this stuff to happen?

Hey, whomever wants to go to Redskins games should do so. If none of the stuff I was talking about bothers you enough to stay home, and you are not bothered by the fact that, by going, you are supporting Dan Snyder's continued ownership of the team, then -- by all means -- go and have a great time.

If I have misrepresented the game-day experience at FedEx, I hope someone will write-in and tell me. But I've been reading for years about how bad it is, and I have talked to many folks who back-up what I have read. I'm not going to spend $400.00 to go, park, sit, eat, lose, and then try to get back home, just to prove to myself something that is so obviously not worth the time, effort, or expense.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | September 8, 2010 1:29 AM | Report abuse

Never seen a drunk person at Natinal and/or Caps games?


Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | September 8, 2010 1:36 AM | Report abuse

KFC stadium is a dump!! No'bama should call in an airstrike and gut the joint. take that crap hole, melon head doc walker, that buck toothed rodent sonny, and bull doze it. snyder ruined johnny rocket's, six flags, and that hell hole stadium can't be made better. he is a greedy little weasel who steals $6 for a cup of luke-warm water with cocoa powder in 20 degree weather. he should go to jail for larceny.

Posted by: doyouktt | September 8, 2010 5:53 AM | Report abuse

If you want a truly superior game day experience, stay home and watch the game on your 50" HD TV with digital video recorder and surround sound. You can pause the game to use the bathroom, get a COLD beer from your refrigerator or make a HOT cup of cocoa or make that batch of nachos the way YOU want. Plus, if there is some obnoxious drunk watching the game with you, YOU can throw him/her out. Plus-plus, you don't have to spend an entire day (or night) packing the car, tailgating with a bunch of drunken yahoos, fighting traffic hither and yon, and spending over $500 per weekend on tickets, parking, gas, and food.

Just a thought.

Go 'Skins.

Posted by: luv2bikva | September 8, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Kevin Olson's description of the Fedex field experience is spot on. I had club seats for ten years, and he described it perfectly. Amazingly he also captured my feelings -- and exactly why i gave up those seats --exactly. I cannot stand going to those games for all the reasons he describes.

Posted by: Haasenpfeffer | September 8, 2010 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Kevin, I have been to about 25 games, and every time i go i tell my self, "why do we continue to do this" its not worth it to go to the game, if the product on the field were better it would be different, but we are just being used and the organization is well aware of it.. Im with you all the way, I used to drink a ton at the games, and it still wasnt all that good of a time. the nonsense getting in and out is unbelievable. Spend the money you saved by not going and buy a huge flat screen 3d tv and enjoy at home with the family!

Posted by: jredden | September 8, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Now if they could just replace more of the jaded Skins fans with the college crowd that we saw Monday night for the VT-Boise State game.

At least from my perspective watching on TV, the place had a buzz to it that I haven't really seen from a crowd at a Skins game in a LONG time (and yes, I used to attend at least a couple games a year at FedEx but gave up after one lousy experience after another).

Posted by: chombie13 | September 8, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse


You must not originally be from Manassas. I've never known of someone born and raised there able to execute complete, concise sentences with proper structure. Anyway, half of the yahoos that make FedEx an uncomfortable place are the idiots from Manassas and Woodbridge that don't have a college team to root for; all their eggs are in the Redskins basket- well the Redskins and probably professional wrestling.

Posted by: GeorgeTowner2 | September 8, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

yes, mr olson you have misrepresented the game day experience at fed ex field. First of all, since your representation by your own admission is based solely on accounts from other people and not your own personal experience, you have no credibility. Secondly, to say that you've gone to nats and caps games in multiple cities and never seen a drunk person is a lie and an outrageous one at that. Supporting dan synder's ownership does bother me and i can't say that attending a redskins game is a better experience than attending a game at another venue in the DC area. It just bothers me that someone can actually think that a description based on hearsay and lies makes a compelling argument. Attending a redskins game might not always be a great experience, but it's much more enjoyable than what you describe.

Posted by: briffy | September 8, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and it would be nice if team charging the highest ticket prices in North American sports, for the worst game-day experience, would win every now and then too.

Cowgirls have the highest ticket prices by far followed by the Patriots.

Not only have you not been to a game, you also have not done your homework.

Posted by: drewkinnear | September 8, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

If the Redskins win, it is all good. If they suck, then you have to put up with the other teams fans rubbing your nose in it. My experiences with the ushers has always been very good. That is not the case with the Security at the gate who seem to get a tiny bonus if they find a candy bar. Getting into the parking lot is terrible. The walkers from the Metro cross where the cars are turning into the Green lot. Someone is going to get hurt there. I think the big difference between drunks at FedEx and elsewhere are the guys who party in the parking lot for hours before the game. You don't see that at Caps or Nats games.

Posted by: oconnra8 | September 8, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

". Might not mean so much to Skins fans but it would be a major coup economically for the DC area. I would imagine that their visit coincides directly with sprucing up FedEx Field..."


Posted by: MACCHAMPS04 | September 8, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

That's the point of this article. You WERE right. But this awful game-day experience that you're talking about may not be the case anymore.
The prices are still expensive, of course. Even by NFL standards. But they're not tops. Dallas charges more for drinks and food at their new stadium, for example. If it's just about money, though, you're right. it's MUCH more expensive than the Caps or the Nats. But you'll find that in any city with multiple pro teams -- football is always more expensive.
Also, as a lifelong fan, I support them whether they win or lose...I'm don't jump ship because they have some bad seasons. the history of this team is bigger than any one person -- including the owner. Give it a shot!

Posted by: joedavis7 | September 8, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

May I suggest the best game day improvement of all? How about, oh, I don't know, CUTTING THE PRICES?!

Of course, that's not remotely in the realm of possibility for Comrade Danny and his henchmen like Comrade Donovan (and why should it be if delusional morons who think the Redskins will win a Super Bowl every year whine and complain about the losing team and horrible game day experience yet put their money in Comrade Snyder's pocket year after year).

Posted by: playahatah | September 8, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Kev, whether or not you are correct is immaterial. The fact that you are NOT speaking from personal experience, and openly admit to it, destroys your credibility.

Posted by: CapsNut | September 8, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

@briffy says

" say that you've gone to nats and caps games in multiple cities and never seen a drunk person is a lie and an outrageous one at that..."

Let me repeat myself. I have been to Nats games in Philly, Atlanta, Viera, and Los Angeles. I have been to Caps games in Philly, New York, and Los Angeles. I have been to Wizards/Bullets games in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I have been to Redskins games in Los Angeles (Rams), and Phoenix.

I have never -- EVER -- seen a drunk person at a sporting event. Of course I've seen people who probably shouldn't drive home from the game. But I have never seen someone so out-of-control that they were disrupting the enjoyment of the game or causing a problem. EVER!

Maybe what is going on at FedEx is just the result of people thinking about how much they paid and what they are getting for their money. Or maybe it's not as bad as numerous articles and multiple witnesses have told me. As many of you have pointed-out, I haven't seen it for myself. It's just that neither the media nor my friends have any reason to lie. The Redskins do.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA (by way of Springfield, for the guy who asked)

Posted by: noslok | September 8, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Hi, my name is Kevin Olson of ManASSas, VA. I've never been to a Redskins game at Fed Ex Field but you're sure as heck right that I'm gonna bash the game day experience.

Oh, and in my entire life I've never ever seen a drunk person, whether it be at a bar, sporting event, or brewery tour.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | September 8, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

mr olson you can repeat yourself as much as you want. To say that you've attended sporting events in over 10 different cities and never -- EVER -- seen a drunk person is a lie. people don't need reason a lie, they'll lie because they can.

Posted by: briffy | September 8, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

May Be Mr. Kevin Olson (of Manassas but originally from Springfield) was too tipsy (with hallucinating mushrooms.. you know for all of its health benefits-generous courtesy of Mcpoop) to identify fellow hallucinators or drunks for that matter in 10 other cities! Just a thought.

Posted by: KarK | September 10, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

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