Writing a Fan a $439 Personal Check for a Bad Game - Priceless

To hear long time fan Tony Seminary tell the story, he was embarrassed by the Oregon Ducks performance when they lost to Boise State on the opening night of the 2009 college football season. Not only did they play a sloppy game, gaining only 152 total yards, making only 6 first downs, and committing 2 turnovers, but the whole nation got to see one of their star players punch out a Boise State player on the field after the game.

So what did Tony do? He wrote an email to new Ducks head coach Chip Kelly asking for him to reimburse him for the cost of his round trip from Portland to Boise.

So what did Chip Kelly do? He wrote an email back asking “what’s your address?” A few days later, Tony received a personal check from Chip Kelly for the $439 that Tony had requested.Chip Kelly Check

This happened a few weeks ago, but it just hit the news this week and has gone, dare I say the word, ‘viral’. Among the results of this are the following:

  • Customer Loyalty - Tony Seminary sent the check back and has been quoted as saying “I think of Coach Kelly as a totally different person now, I have a different bond with him now thanks to what happened. Let’s just say he lost every game as an Oregon coach. You would never hear me calling for his head. It just wouldn’t happen. The guy showed an incredible amount of class”.
  • Team Loyalty - Said Seminary, “I now know why his kids would run through a wall for that guy, because who does what he did, right? That is simply amazing.”
  • Personal Reputation - In blogs and articles all over, Chip Kelly is being hailed not only for doing what he did, but for doing it quietly without drawing attention. As one blog said “Chip Kelly, a man of his word.”
  • School Reputation - I don’t have any evidence of this as yet, it’s too early, but certainly some of this will rub off on the University of Oregon, in a good way.

The good news was that Oregon had put in charge a man with integrity and they gave him the freedom to respond as he saw fit. But how would most schools and companies have handled something like this? It would have probably gone something like this:

  1. Coach receives email and forwards it to the legal department.
  2. Lawyers craft a carefully worded response indicating that Oregon regrets the loss but it is not responsible for incidental damages according to the relevant terms and conditions on the ticket that Mr. Seminary tacitly agreed to and should have read.
  3. Mr. Seminary vows never to go to another Ducks football game again. He then goes online and tells hundreds of his friends who are Ducks fans the story.
  4. One of his friends writes a Oregon Ducks blog and posts the story and the text of the Oregon response email. ESPN picks it up and shows it on Sportscenter.
  5. Hundreds of Ducks fans come to the next game with signs saying something like “Win, or give me my money back”.
  6. Top recruit hears the story and decides that he’d rather not go to Oregon. Chooses USC instead.
  7. Athletic Director resigns.

No matter what business you are in, hire good people with good judgment and give them the freedom to make the customer happy. That kind of service is “priceless”.

harry the ASIC guy

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One Response to “Writing a Fan a $439 Personal Check for a Bad Game - Priceless”

  1. Steve Meier Says:

    This is a great story, sounds like the coach is almost as rare as Cal being ranked in the top 10! Brand and customer loyalty means everything in football, look at all the Raider and Lion’s fans sticking to it through thick and thin. I remember Intel’s Craig Barrett’s story on quality, in which he told of Delta airlines screwing him, and then he said he repeated the story to 20,000 people per year. I also heard a story from him during Pentium fdiv crisis in which he called his own hotline and pretended to be an irate customer. My story is about Alamo rental car and their hidden ’surprise’ extra day charge of $400 even though I returned the car within what I purchased as a 3 day rental. Contested that charge through Chase Visa only to be told that Visa would not accept for arbitration. So there I got to tell my story! Boycott Alamo car rental, avoid Chase bank, they are total scammers. Power to the consumer.

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