Monday, November 1, 2010

WAKA Bans DPT Contributors; Shuns Freedom of Speech

Hello DPT readers, WAKA employees and random internet surfers.  As many of you know, there have been rumors about the World Adult Kickball Association removing some of us from the league.   Unfortunately, those rumors are true.  Here is the story:

There is a growing number of us in the Bayshore Division that feel the quality of league management has reached an all-time low.  When questioned about league changes, our representatives have either ignored us or lied to us.  We were told two seasons ago that the field-lights duration could not be altered, yet with one phone call to PAL we were able to keep the lights on later.  We were also told our season went from 10 games to 8 due to threat of lightning and "season fatigue."  We were then told WAKA worked out a deal to pay for parking, only to find out half our party budget was used for the expense.  The entire list of grievances is quite long, and will be officially documented on this blog.

While some of us complained about these issues with harsh words, many used satire to make our points.  There was never ANY response by our league representatives despite us being told they constantly monitored DPT.  Yet on September 1st of this year, our division rep (Jaime) informed me that MLoop wanted to ban Nate L. because of his comments on this blog.  Since she claimed to have "talked him out of it," I never reported the threat.

The day before the tournament (Oct. 22nd), I received a phone call giving me a heads up that a "list" had been compiled of people who would be banned after this season due to (you guessed it) comments about WAKA.  So I decided to talk to Jaime and Ty at the tournament.  Both of them admitted the rumor was true, and Ty even asked me not to tell anyone about our conversation.  My biggest concern was simple: how can the first message we ever get from a WAKA customer service rep (ie: MLoop) be one that says we're banned?  If they were so upset about our comments, why not talk to us in hopes of retaining loyal customers?  Ty agreed with me that there should be some communication between the disgruntled players and WAKA management, so last week I sent MLoop this email:
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Dear Michael,

    Last week I was informed of the "rumor" that certain players within the Bayshore Division will be asked to not return in 2011 due to comments made in our community forum (aka: "the blog").  There is no doubt in my mind about the validity of this rumor, so I wanted to reach out to you first in hopes of opening up some communication before you start swinging the Ban Hammer.

    Our division just finished up its 13th season, and many of us have been playing for more than ten of those.  Twice a year we fill 380+ roster spots in less than seven days.  Our returning player percentage is well over 75% each season despite our out-of-pocket costs rising almost 42% in two and a half years. Every year we raise thousands of dollars OUTSIDE of kickball by organizing our own charitable events, most of which is donated to PAL who owns our fields.  The Alcoballics were very well received in Las Vegas and won the Best Team Performance by a landslide.  We also sent two refs to the Founder's Cup this year, who were constantly told they were two of the best refs in attendance (both of whom are admins on "the blog").

    Our customer loyalty to WAKA is a double-edged sword for your organization.  You have a guaranteed sell-out each season... but many of us have been around long enough to see the degradation of quality from the league and its expanding overhead costs.  So far, we've only reacted by speaking our minds and venting in our own public forum (as protected by our First Amendment rights).

    Much like the early colonists, we feel we are being taxed without any representation.  Season fees continue to increase, the number of games continue to decrease, new rules are imposed and our traditional party budget was deceitfully slashed this year.  It has also been made quite clear that league policy and rule customization is prohibited, despite us having a set-up which does allow flexibility.

    While most of us choose to vent our frustrations with wit and satire, it is true that some comments are mean spirited (and not really constructive).  However, I assure you that all of them relate to an issue which has gone ignored by our league representatives.  WAKA has been almost completely silent about our complaints, and the few explanations we do get are easily debunked with one or two phone calls.

    Maybe we're going about everything the wrong way.  Maybe we should (as a division) draft up formal and cordial emails clearly listing our complaints, issues and accusations of hypocrisy.  But is that really our job as customers?  Is it insane to think the organization we each pay hundreds of dollars to every year could keep an accurate tab of our climate?  Protecting the quality of our kickball experience shouldn't be work for us.

    I guarantee you that all Bayshore veterans realize how "replaceable" we are to your organization.  The fact that no WAKA employee has ever reached out to us (despite behind-the-scenes threats of banishment) speaks volumes about our perceived value.  But one reason we are so replaceable is due to the hype we've already generated within our own community.  People don't join the Bayshore Division for the quality of kickball administration.  They join because they meet us in bars, hear about our trips, read our stories and want to be a part of our social club.  We are your greatest viral marketing tool in the Tampa Bay area.  But we have the right to express displeasure through any and all mediums, especially if we feel we're being deceived or treated unfairly. 

    So I'm not sure where this leaves us, but any communication is better than none.  I look forward to hearing from you.

-Chandler

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While we may still be at an impasse, at least I gave MLoop a great chance to address specific concerns.  Sadly, a bunch of us received the following email this morning:

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WAKA is aware of your dissatisfaction with the FL Bayshore division.  The  polices we have in place are there with strong reasons behind them.
We have decided it is in all of our best interests that we part ways at this point. Thus you will not be allowed to register or be spectator for any future WAKA divisions or events.
 
Michael........a.k.a. MLoop
Florida Regional Customer Service Manager
WAKA® Kickball
The World Adult Kickball Association®
--------------------------------------

As of now, the banned list includes: myself, Nate L., Kevin (aka: YellowBird), Jenn V., and Alison.

It's interesting to note that Alison has NEVER made a post on DPT, and the few comments she has made were not critical of WAKA.  She was basically banned for dating me.  I do not believe that MLoop would have knowledge of our relationship, so I can only conclude that Ty grouped us together and helped create the banned list.  Ty talked to Alison and myself for an hour at the tournament and informed me that he and MLoop speak regularly.  I'm willing to bet that during his talks with MLoop last week, Ty erroneously implied Alison had anything to do with my own views.

Anyway... I was extremely disappointed that after my carefully crafted email, MLoop sent a four sentence canned reply which contained horrible grammar.  Really, WAKA? This is who you hire as a customer service representative? Do you even screen these people with writing or personality tests?  I decided to send him a reply and copy Sarah Nelson (WAKA Marketing) and Sarah Park Manchester (WAKA Human Resources):
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Michael,

   While this doesn't come as a surprise, it is very disappointing you and your cohorts have decided not to tackle any of the issues presented. It is especially disappointing that I had to reach out to you in order to find out the status of my future eligibility. I do hope that in your response, the word "your" is intended as the "royal you," as these concerns are held by many within the Bayshore Division.  Basically, you're only shooting a messenger.

   I guess our last order of business is to find out if I'm the only martyr in this ordeal.  I've been tipped off that there is a list of ineligible players, and I'd really hate for those individuals to go through the process of writing you a thoughtful email only to get a curt response.  If you don't wish to funnel that information through me directly, hopefully someone within your organization has the sense to contact all other players in question.

   In any case, I look forward to funneling business in our area to a cheaper and locally run league.  Be sure to read all about it on Donkey Punch Toboggan.  :)

-Chandler

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Obviously I have not gotten a reply, although Sarah Nelson commented on a DPT post today (she had to have gotten the link from someone in WAKA).

So what now?
  • DPT is calling for a complete boycott of WAKA.  Any organization who ignores freedom of speech and bans long-time returning customers due to hurt feelings does not deserve our money.  If you would like to join this boycott, please comment with 1) your name 2) number of seasons played 3) any titles you've ever head within the division.
  • Join Kickball Society.  This is a Tampa owned and operated league, and costs about $20 less per season than WAKA.  We know the owners and in their brief existence they have already tweaked rules based on our suggestions.  Unlike WAKA, they desperately desire our business and will not ban anyone for speaking their mind in a public forum.  There are already plans to bring the league to South Tampa, and we will update you once that is finalized.
  • Tell everyone you know.  The Better Business Bureau is obsolete.  Instead, post this blog on FaceBook and refer your friends here.  As I tried to express to MLoop, WE are the best marketing strategy for a kickball league.  Have you ever seen television commercials or advertisements for WAKA?  No!  They rely on us to get drunk, have fun and bring friends into the league through word-of-mouth.
  • Continue to speak your mind.  The arrogance of WAKA can not be ignored.  Our complaints were 100% valid and we STILL have never gotten straight answers.  Even if you don't choose to boycott, demand better customer service.  When your pancakes at IHOP are undercooked, they don't ban you from their restaurant for complaining.
DPT's next order of business is to compile all of our ignored complaints from the previous two seasons.  We also have a TON of things in the works regarding today's banishment, but we've been advised not to talk about them at this time.  Stay tuned, and remember to comment if you wish to partake in the boycott.

Oh... and thanks to those who sent supportive emails and texts today.  You kids have some free beers coming your way!

-Chandler

29 comments:

Brooke said...

Has Silky been banned too?? :(

Bye.

Alison said...

True, I have never made a post...just comments here and there.

Chandler said...

Silky would have been banned if MLoop had any idea who he was. ;)

YellowBird said...

1. Yella, aka Kevin
2. 12 steadily regressing customer serviced seasons
3. 2-time Drunk Pic of the Week Winner, the inventor of Yellabucks, and widely considered one of the best lurking guys in the division.

BTW, if any WAKA reps read this -- I never received a team shirt this season and I'm about to run out of toilet paper. How about we take care of two birds with one shirt?

PS. You suck.

Geoff said...

Consider me signed!

• Geoff Leighly
• 10 seasons I think?
• My team (Alcoballics)has won the regular season, tournament, crystal pitcher, Vegas team performance

What annoys me is MLOOP's "The polices we have in place are there with strong reasons behind them."

Does he not get the fact that we've been inquiring what those "reasons" are for many seasons? I honestly don't think he has a clue. I'll be constructing a letter to WAKA myself. Do we have a list of Waka contacts somewhere?

Geoff said...

And I've held the title of all around GGTK.

bull said...

Bill "Bull" Douglas
10 seasons on the Ligers
Team Captain
Certified Tournament Ref

Make sure you use the "contact us" button on kickball.com to let WAKA know how MLoop treats us.

Finally, a direct quote from kickball.com "We are committed to providing players with the best possible service and experience – for every game, every event, every time."

Steph said...

My suggestion is find out MLoop's superiors & email them. Don't think any good will come of emailing him directly, since he clearly could care less and prob won't even read emails sent his way.

And maybe talk to the KS people about getting the PAL fields on Thursdays. Long shot, but would be hilar if we maintained our fields. Start the season a few weeks earlier than WAKA perhaps?!

April (tall) said...

This is Ridiculous. I'm out.
4 Seasons (3 Alcoballics, 1 Masturgators) - 2010 Founder's Cup Best Performance Winner.

Chandler said...

Due to holidays, playing at PAL on Thursdays won't happen for a little while. WAKA's next season starts Feb 10th. They also have the fields again in August 2011.

But we're working on making the transition to KBS as smooth as possible.

Erika said...

WAKA is a Service Provider and as such all of the organization’s representatives should stand by the promise to provide the best possible service. Ignoring our feedback as clients, failing to work with us on finding a solution and instead eliminating us as participants is unacceptable. This is a glaring example of our WAKA Representative failing to fulfill the WAKA described duties: “WAKA Customer Service Representatives are the "face" of their WAKA division and are primarily responsible to provide players with a great WAKA kickball experience.” I for one, have never seen the “face” of our division who did not spare 5 minutes to support the first team from our division to participate in the founder’s cup games in Vegas.

I hope that we find a method to communicate our disappointment in our representation to someone at WAKA who will at the very least listen as our representative clearly does not.

We have players that work in PR and Media. We see so many stories about WAKA in the news, surely we can find a way to get the word out to the public about the discrepancies and censorship in this league and offer an alternative to those looking for a league that is truly committed to service and charity. It would definitely make for an interesting and different way of presenting the same story about an organization that bills itself as “committed to providing players with the best possible service and experience” and at the same time banning clients in an effort to censor their views.

This division rep's lack of commitment to excellent service and failure to meet WAKA's obligation as a service provider is appalling. In light of this and solely due to dissatisfaction with my local WAKA representation, I decline to participate and give any more financial support to this organization. I will be communicating this same message loudly to everyone that I can reach.

I'm out: Erika Wachstein - 6 Seasons, Alcoballics, 2010 Founder's Cup Best Performance Winner

Nate Dawg said...

Dammit I wanted to retire on my own this season!

Rosey said...

Sign me up:

Alex "Rosey" Rosenberger
At least 8 seasons (The Regulators, Team Ramrod, Your Mom, Flonettes, I'd Kick That, Brown Chicken Brown Cow).

And I also agree that we should send some letters to some of the higher ups in the WAKA foodchain. Epic weaksauce fail!

Dee said...

Wow, this is crazy. Banned for expressing honest opinions.

Ernie said...

Ditto to what Erika said :-)

-Ernie

Ernie said...

Hess, work your magic and get this post ranked up in Google for the term "WAKA" :-)

Also, we should post something here:
http://www.complaintsboard.com

Their stuff gets indexed in Google nicely.

-Ernie

barflett said...

Well you have all our emails Chandler, but to show Solidarity to the rest of DPT, I'll repost. Hopefully i don't miss anyone.

Nate
Crystal
James
Paul
Todd
Brett
Lori
Grant
Jess
Dave
Ryan
Scuba
Sarah
Tara
Myself

I'm sure there will be others who just haven't gotten to responding yet.

Brent said...

So I have never played WAKA kickball due to the fact that Im up in Chicago and all of you are down there in Florida. But add me to the list! Damn the man! Save the empire!

Rollo said...

You can sign my brother up as well.

Gregg Rollo
1 season
Serving in Kuwait.

Rollo said...

Rollo
1. Too many seasons played
2. 2 time season champion
3. 2? 3? Time undefeated Liger Flip Cup Champion
4. X Nom King
5. Senior Instructor of the "Runt" aka the "Chunt".
6. Founder of Donkey Punch Toboggan
7. X Liger and PGB Co Captain

And I say Eff you Waka.

Maria said...

Maybe MLoop didn't like that you addresses him as Michael in the e-mails and not MLoop as he likes to go by?

Maria said...

And one more thing, just to make a point, I sent an e-mail to my team yesterday and I just wanted to share for your consideration....

I am not giving up on Kickball all together, I have had a great time in Waka but any company that bans my friends from their business is not a company that I care to continue to give my hard earned money to. Waka doesn't care about you and doesn't care about your opinion or right of free speech. If you went to a resturant that welcomed you with open arms but told you your friends are not allowed to dine there with you, would you really continue to go to that resturant knowning that you can't dine there with your friends?? I know I wouldn't, I would go elsewhere where my friends are welcome and the business appreciates me, obviously!!

Why wouldn't you give your money to a local business who appreciates you and your right to have fun and have a voice?? We are working on Kickball Society's owners to open a South Tampa branch and if we are successful and can get it set up by the time the next Waka season starts I hope you will all join us over there!

Alison said...

I would like to express my personal gratitude to all of those who have shown their support publically and privately. It is quite touching. Thank you to everyone. :)

Ryan said...

A few things-

Double Barrel Kickball League was just a little before its time.

The Hitler video might not of been the best medium.

Team Fab are the real winners in all of this. They'll probably walk away with the title next season.

Geoff said...

Let's all go take over a softball league or something... DPT bowling will be starting up soon!

Brent said...

Oh forgot to follow the rules:
1. Brent Todd - aka Ernie's friend from college
2. 0 seasons played but I was there in spirit
3. No official titles yet

Side note - looking into playing in Chicago but won't now

Andrew said...

This is ridiculous, how can you ban good people for expressing their thoughts or concerns regarding a league that they pay to be involved with...

Chuckers said...

I support you guys with this boycott and will be joing kickball society next season.
1) chuckers aka charles gumucio
2) 9 seasons with the Toejammers
1 season with THEE Beer Nuts

3) 7 time "drunk pic of the week" winner.
Probably the loudest mother f'er in the league!

Weeener said...

Julie W - Superbad - 8 seasons
Matt P - Suerbad - 3 seasons