Phillies' Lunch Program Goes Digital

Forgoing cash, employees use ID cards to purchase food and beverage at ballpark

  • by Linda Deckard
  • Published: February 28, 2018

Debbi Blackburn, Givex VP of business development, and her coworker J.C. Hoopes display the miniature Nike shoebox gift card holder, at their booth at Pacnet 2018. (VN Photo)

The Philadelphia Phillies are about to kick off a new program that allows employees to use their ID card to purchase lunch at Citizens Bank Ballpark, Philadelphia.

Christopher Pohl, director of ticket technology and development for the Major League Baseball team, said the new program was in response to the number of “kids” among the Phillies staff who do not want to carry cash. That fits well with Pohl’s belief that mobile is the future for all transactions, but “we’re not there yet.”

“We’ve always had one of the best $5 lunches in the world here at the Phillies,” Pohl said. “It benefits the Phillies because employees stay here instead of having to go miles down the road to grab a sandwich, which they still have the option to do.”

But why would they when the Phillies organization turns its press club into a daily lunchroom at the ballpark for employees and guests, offering hot and cold deli plates at a great value.

Pohl worked with gift card supplier Givex to move away from cash and offer employees the option to load money on their security cards instead. “Everyone gets a Prox (Proximity Security) card to come into our building that unlocks the doors. I knew what I could do with a bar code. Why couldn’t I buy some card numbers from Debbi (Blackburn, Givex)?”

When they came up with the new Prox card for employees, they assigned a number on the back of each card via QR codes purchased from Givex. Employees will also have the option of seeing their gift card number as a QR code on their mobile device, along with a real-time card balance, in addition to being able to reload their cards right from their mobile device or through the Phillies portal.

Blackburn, who is Uptix VP of business development for Givex, explained that “we can put that 21-digit number on anything. It’s like a Visa card, where the first six numbers are a Visa number, in the middle is a certificate number, then there are stray digits on the end, so you cannot duplicate it, but it’s an endless number.”

She was most impressed when the Phillies built a site for employees so they could put money on their gift cards.

Givex had been doing gift cards for Marriott, Wendy’s and Nike, among others, and started in the sports and entertainment space to expand eight years ago. Pohl has been on board with the program for five years, when the Phillies switched to, and has expanded it each year.

PhilliesGiftCard300.pngHe particularly appreciates that the Phillies have control of the money, they are the fulfillment house, and the cost is mostly just buying the numbers. There are no percentages to pay. Added to that is the wealth of data available through this automated system, which has taken over many roles administered manually in the past.

The gift card numbers are also being used for employees and guests at spring training at Spectrum Field, Clearwater, Fla.

Spring training kicked off this week. Per tradition, the Phillies take high rollers and sponsors to Clearwater over two weekends early in spring training as a perk. This year, the Phillies are giving them each a gift card for food and beverage and another for merchandise. “We’re giving it away, so we like to have some rules around it, and there are some tax issues down there,” Pohl said of the two separate cards.

At Citizens Bank Park, the gift cards, which the customer purchases, are good for the trifecta – tickets, food and beverage or merchandise.

“Every year we’ve enhanced the way we do things. Now we’re doing some pretty cool things within the Givex functionality,” Pohl said.

For instance, they realized they really don’t need that hard plastic, even though there is a market around holidays in particular. So they came up with creative packages, including opening day, when a two-ticket package includes a $25 gift card or four tickets with a $50 gift card. They know those buyers will be using that money at the park on opening day.

Last year with Major League Baseball Advanced Media worked with the Phillies to reward season ticketholders who took their tickets digitally with a $25 gift card, which was a QR code on the digital ticket. “When they log on to the Ballpark App, they see their tickets displayed and see a digital MVP card, a Givex gift card, which they can take to any concession stand or retail, and use that value as they see fit,” Pohl said.

They also use the gift card concept in conjunction with Aramark, the concessionaire at Citizens Bank Ballpark, for Aramark’s employee meal program during games. Those gift card numbers are tied to the employee number Aramark assigns. “They give me their employee numbers, and when employees check in for the game they have a Givex gift card number assigned to that employee number.” It replaces the old voucher system and gives employers and employees more control and freedom.

“Every year, it’s better and better, kind of what we do here at the Phillies,” Pohl said. On his wish list – mobile gift card numbers. Pohl is an admirer of Dunkin’ Donuts app, which allows reward points digitally for frequent and types of purchases. You can order from your smartphone in the parking lot and go in to pick up your order and get extra points for that behavior, for instance. “They have engaged me,” Pohl said. That’s what he wants – engaged Phillies fans.

Givex first engaged sports and entertainment through stored value on tickets via Uptix, a division of Givex. Matching employee numbers to gift card numbers is among the newest iterations of the gift card program, the core business of Givex.

Currently it is all barcodes or mag stripes, but it could also be RFID or chips, Blackburn noted.

Another iteration that has not yet impacted sports and entertainment is packaging, Blackburn noted. Nike, for instance, has Givex produce a miniature shoebox to hold its gift cards, complete with monetary value on the side where shoe size would traditionally be.

While it’s usually a sleeve, presentation is important if the gift card is bought online and shipped, a subtlety that retail has embraced.

  • by Linda Deckard
  • Published: February 28, 2018