$1.00 Season Passes at Squaw Valley, USA

Andy Hays | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Screw. Up.

If you screw up royally and no one notices, did you really screw up…?  Well of course you did, but not nearly as badly as you could have.

Kind of like the time that we were horsing around my friend’s basement after school and knocked his dad’s bear skull off the bar and it smashed into several pieces.  As if it was out of some cheesy episode of the Brady Bunch or something we carefully put it back together with Elmer’s glue.  To my knowledge he never found out, and in the end it makes a terrific story so I guess it worked out for the better, but it doesn’t erase the fact that we should have been more careful in the first place.  By the way, there is absolutely no way that I’m talking about your bear skull Mr. Carpenter, and we certainly never would have been so careless as to smash it and had it in fact happened we most certainly would have admitted it to you right away… Ok, so moving on…

Squaw's $1.00 season pass glitch.
Squaw’s $1.00 season pass glitch on October 1st, 2014.

If you screw up royally and no one notices, you still screw up, but if you screw up royally and people do notice, you could have a problem on your hands.  

This is the age we live in today as social media allows word to travel instantaneously and at all hours.  If you screw up and one person knows about it, suddenly everyone can know about it.  This is where Squaw Valley found itself last week as a glitch on its website allowed season passes to be sold for $1.  Responding to an article in the Tahoe Tribune, Squaw reported that it occurred between midnight and 9am on October 1st.  The question would become, how many people are really buying their pass in the middle of the night?  Without the social media effect one would expect that it would be a relative few.

Squaw Valley, USA.
Squaw Valley, USA.

The transportive power of the internet often treading a fine line between public service and invasion of privacy has become particularly adept at bringing individuals and organizations mistakes and transgressions to the judgment of public opinion.  

This has served public interest to varying success:

– Video of Ray Rice employing a devastating left hook on his wife in a Las Vegas hotel released by TMZ.  – Overall Good

Michael Phelps.
Michael Phelps.

– Photographs of Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps taking bong rips at a frat party on Instagram.  -Slightly More Questionable, Sure he’s a role model but no one should really be judged by what they do drunkenly at a frat party.

– Nude photographs of celebrities hacked off the “cloud.”  – Invasion of Privacy, but come on, you’re going to tell me you don’t want to see Jennifer Lawrence naked, and isn’t it kind of naive to seriously believe that something stored in a place called a “cloud” is really all that secure.

Eduardo Snow-dizzle.
Eduardo Snow-dizzle.

– Edward Snowden leaking classified documents through wikileaks   – More than we can get into right now.

One USA dollar
One USA dollar

Squaw made a mistake and it didn’t take long for people to notice.  Squaw Valley has declined to disclose how many passes were obtained at the $1 price, but completely unreliable sources within the Squaw Rumor Mill, suggest the number could be as high as 500.  Let’s for the fairness of argument assume that the actual number is lower than that.  Say 300, at $810 for a Gold Pass that would amount to a potential loss of $243,000.  Now of course it doesn’t actually cost Squaw anything to allow these people to ski for $1, and it must be assumed that some of these people might not have bought passes had they not been obtained for such an extreme discount, but in the end Squaw dropped the ball and there was someone there to scoop it up right away.

Now more than anything they are faced with a dilemma, should they honor the passes sold at that price or to instead offer a discount but nothing further, which is to this point, the stance the company has taken.  

Sometimes, shock and awe is the best treatment for computer glitches.
Sometimes, shock and awe is the best treatment for computer glitches.

They have already admitted that it was an error on their part, which I believe was premature.  If I was in their position I would have at least raised the possibility of North Korean hackers being involved to gain public sympathy.

Should Squaw honor the passes at the $1 rate despite that while they don’t actually cost anything it can’t be ignored that it’s a pretty big hit to take.  Doesn’t exactly convey the image of a tight ship over there.

Does Squaw stand firm?  No reasonable person should expect a pass to really be $1 should they?  If you looked at a $800 television at the store and the price tag read $1 do you really expect to get it out the door at that price?  That said, these people didn’t just see the price tag, they bought it outright, receipt in hand.  Now remains the question of getting it out the door.  If Squaw Valley chooses not to honor the $1 passes it stands to reason that they run the risk of looking like they are ducking the responsibilities of their mistakes.

A Shady Vegas hotel.
A Shady Vegas hotel.

When you wake up in some kind of back alley Vegas motel with nothing but hazy recollections and an astronomical credit card bill you don’t get to void the charges because you don’t really remember them.  No, you just spend every day for the next three weeks waiting anxiously at the door for the mail to come so you can get the statement before your wife does.  Shouldn’t Squaw in a sense do the same?

Despite the fact that the internet makes me an expert I’m not sure which is the right move for them.  I’m afraid they’ve put themselves in a position in which there is no true right move to be had.  One thing is for certain, that Squaw Valley just wishes no one had noticed.

Related Articles

4 thoughts on “$1.00 Season Passes at Squaw Valley, USA

  1. Greed: intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. Seems to me that these people who want a free pass are acting like the same corporation whom they try to call out for the same behavior. Not one person who bought a pass for $1 thought it was intentionally sold at that price. Every one of them knew it had to be some sort of glitch or mistake which they then tried to take advantage of. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

  2. I bought (and was refunded for) one of these passes. My conspiracy theory is that this was an intentional marketing ploy under the old adage “any publicity is good publicity.”

  3. Just because they are a huge company people think they should get something for free off an employee/computer programing mistake. Would you also demand a small mom and pop ski resort give away 1/2 million of free product if they made the same mistake.

  4. Fortunately, there is already a 100% analogous precedent to guide Squaw. Airlines regularly have glitches in the dynamic pricing kernels of their websites and offer otherwise expensive airline tickets for a pittance. And… they honor them.

Got an opinion? Let us know...