It Didn’t Have to be This Confusing

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There is a very powerful phrase in the English language that negates an entire paragraph (or more), in just three words. You can got through a long diatribe of praising someone for several sentences. But when you follow that praise up with the phrase “…having said that”, it negates all of the wonderful things you just said about someone. Instead, it paves the way for you to rip into them. Unfortunately, that’s what I am about to do here.

I have a ton of respect for what Doug Boles and the ticket staff do at IMS. I’ve dealt with the staff on a few occasions and they go above and beyond what is necessary to help or at least to get an answer for you. For the past year, they have had an unbelievable task thrown at them – trying to figure out a way that is fair to most everyone that wants to attend the Indianapolis 500.

After the race was postponed last year from its traditional May slot to a highly irregular August date, Speedway officials worked very hard to figure out who wanted to go and who didn’t, as they tried to reach their targeted percentage that would be allowed for the Aug 23 race. They went through a painstaking process of communicating with fans, deciding who couldn’t or wouldn’t go. They also asked fans if they might give up some in their party. I have four tickets each year, so we scaled down to three.

They even went to the trouble (and expense) of printing out new tickets with the new date and a different picture of Simon Pagenaud celebrating in 2019, along with new seating assignments that applied in some cases to achieve social distancing. We were given our regular seats.

These folks worked around the clock to pull it off, and they got the new tickets out to everyone in time for the race. But just as we received our new tickets in the mail, the plug was pulled on the fans. Ultimately, no one was allowed to attend the race and two sets of tickets went unused for 2020. From everything I’ve read and heard, Roger Penske and Doug Boles were ready to proceed, but Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett stepped in and did what many big-city mayors have done – he used his power to shut the fans out, creating hardship and heartache for fans and businesses alike.

But the job that Doug Boles and the ticket office did last summer should not be overlooked. They did a masterful job, even though it was all for naught. But their Herculean efforts should still be recognized.

Having said that…(uh-oh, here it comes)…someone really dropped the ball last week. For at least a week, ticket-holders had been getting e-mails from the Speedway and signed by Doug Boles, trying to get a headcount on who might pass up the Indianapolis 500 for 2021. They were generously offering the same deal as last year – to carry your funds over as a credit for the 2022 race. Whenever we got those e-mails; it was clearly stressed that if you want to go to this year’s 500, you didn’t need to do a thing. If you wanted to opt out, you were instructed on what to do. That was easy enough.

When the e-mail went out this past Wednesday, announcing that this year’s 500 attendance would be about 40% of capacity – that’s when things got confusing.

One e-mail went out last Wednesday explaining that 135,000 fans would be allowed to attend this year’s race, which is about 40% of capacity. I had always felt that 50% would be the minimum number allowed, but when you see that figure of 135,000 and you read that there will be no General Admission or any fans allowed in the infield – that means there will really be about 60% capacity on-hand; because there are approximately 225,000 permanent and reserved seats in the facility. I have heard that they usually have about another 100,000 or more in the infield on Race Day. I am sorry for those that usually come and watch from the infield each year, but 60% of grandstand capacity is a figure inline with what I was expecting (which was around 65%).

But as clear as the previous week’s e-mails were in stating if you wanted to come, no further action would be needed; last week’s e-mails did not have the same clarity. In fact, they were downright confusing – especially the second one entitled Updated Policy Announcements – Month of May Protocols.

I will admit that I scanned it when I first saw it. I was under the impression that it was saying again that if you are keeping your order the same, there is no further action. It was not until I was on Facebook Wednesday night, that I saw someone say that even if you weren’t changing anything – you still had to “claim your tickets” by 8:00 pm Friday night. At first I thought “Well that’s wrong”, but when I read the comments, I realized I needed to go back a read the e-mail again.

That’s when I realized how confusing things were. Maybe I’m getting fuzzy-headed in my old age, but this paragraph and the following instructions seemed very confusing:

“As a current ticketholder, IMS expects to be able to accommodate the majority of your original ticket quantity in, or near, your current seating location for either of next month’s races, the GMR Grand Prix or the Indianapolis 500. Please log in to your IMS account by 8 p.m. (ET) on Friday, April 23 to make your request for these tickets. Those who wish to opt out will receive an IMS account credit for future IMS events.”

“Please log in to your account at IMS.com no later than 8 p.m. (ET) on Friday, April 23 to let us know if you would like to change your original order.”

“Step-by-step instructions:

Go to IMS.com and select SIGN IN at top right corner of pageLog in to your account

Under ‘Orders’ – select ‘Make 2021 Account Credit Requests’

Select your product preferences

According to our records, your IMS.com login information is as follows:

Customer ID number: 123456

Username: OILPRESSURE

Temporary password (first-time logins only):

Direct URL to make ticket request: https://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/account/”

So, if I’m planning on leaving my order the same, what exactly am I to do? I know if I am opting out or changing my order that I need to log in, but what if I want to keep my original order?

As it turns out, even if you were wanting to keep everything the same – you still had to log in and confirm your order. But even after I logged in, it was confusing. There were no places to confirm my existing order. I finally had to be told on Facebook to go to the area labeled 2021 Order Credit (paraphrasing), indicating that’s where you go to opt out and get a credit. I didn’t want a credit, I wanted to go to the race.

Even though it made no sense, I clicked on that link. That took me to a page that had terms like Original Quantity and Offered Quantity at the bottom of the page. Just above that, were the following instructions:

If you want your original ticket quantity, YOU MUST TAKE ACTION and select the additional quantity desired above the OFFERED QUANTITY.

If you plan to use the OFFERED QUANTITY, YOU MUST CLICK THE SUBMIT CHOICE(S) BUTTON.

This was the first place that clearly said that you must take action, even if you want your original order.

This was way more complicated than it needed to be. I’m not sure who came up with the wording in the e-mails or the website. Something tells me it was not Doug Boles, because he always seems to be fairly plain-spoken. This read like a government document, or like it was designed by committee. Like a tax form, if you checked the wrong box, the results could be disastrous.

Was this a product of the new Penske regime, using software brought over from one of their businesses? I don’t know the answer, but they made things way too cumbersome.

I’m wondering how many people missed the 8:00 pm Friday deadline, thinking they had to take no action. I imagine it was a lot. Maybe not. Maybe I’m the only one who was a moron and wasn’t able to figure it out; but I doubt it.

I did check back Friday night, about an hour before the deadline, and I noticed that they had changed the labeling of the links. What had been labeled with something about getting a 2021 Credit, had been re-labeled 2021 Month of May Requests. That was a lot clearer. I guess they got enough complaints about how confusing things were. That tells me I wasn’t the only buffoon that got confused.

So now that I’ve navigated the confusing e-mails and websites, I feel like we are finally set…for now. However, I don’t put it past Mayor Hogsett to jump in suddenly and move the goalposts if there is a single uptick in numbers in mid-May. If IMS is suddenly put in a position to host the Indianapolis 500 without fans for two years in a row that would be disastrous – for not only IMS and the fans, but also for Indianapolis-area businesses. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

And for the future, IMS needs to go back to simpler forms on their ticket website. This didn’t need to be this confusing.

George Phillips

9 Responses to “It Didn’t Have to be This Confusing”

  1. Brandon Wright Says:

    Odd. When I logged in it took me immediately to the request page and I just had to click “accept offer” (we got 4 of our 6 tix which happens to be all we need this year). The whole process took me about 60 seconds. Also, I believe it was IU Health who axed fans last year as they refused to provide medical support if fans were allowed. Things are decent here right now and I’m not expecting any changes to the plans for the Month of May.

  2. James T Suel Says:

    You nailed it George! Its been a mess

  3. I ended up calling them and then when I went in my account yesterday it said my grand prix tickets were cancelled. After a panicked phone call to ims they told me I was good, they were just reassigning seats. Too much confusion. You are right though, they do a good job with customer service.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    While I agree that these things could and should be simpler, I don’t envy the folks who have to constantly move to accommodate ever-changing or uncertain restrictions. Texas Motor Speedway’s process for redeeming credit for tickets purchased last year was also not terribly intuitive and required a phone call to get squared away for this weekend’s races.

    I am grateful for the folks who work in the ticket offices who pick up the phone, though, because they guy at TMS got my credit applied to new tickets quickly and clearly and then clearly explained the process of selecting seats online that came afterward. Good work, sir!

  5. Davis Brewer Says:

    What happen to the survey ?

    • About a year ago, the host of this site (WordPress) changed poll vendors. Back in February, the new vendor notified me that I had exceeded my limit of free polls. In order to continue the polls, I would have to start paying $15 a month. Being as cheap as I am, I declined. I’ve tried to find outside sources I could embed into the site, but nothing worked. – GP

  6. SkipinSC Says:

    Likely the form was created by a bunch of lawyers. I read through the email and then called the IMS ticket office. They were very helpful (after waiting on hold for half an hour), but I only wanted to verify how long my credit from last year’s unused tickets was valid, admittedly a simple question.

    Having heard stories from others and now your narrative, I’m glad I wasn’t trying to get tickets for this year, but with a stripped down Carb Day, no Legends Day, and a good deal of uncertainty about Fast Friday and Time Trials, we opted to roll our credit over to a time when my new bride can have the FULL May experience.

  7. Agree with all you say. I won’t feel secure until the blue envelope arrives.

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