Barack Obama, meet Rusty Gregory.
On the same day computers across America froze because of the deadline to sign up for the federal Affordable Care Act, computers at Mammoth Mountain froze during a surprise cash/credit giveaway to MVP Passholders.
“Despite our upgrades to the system, traffic to the website completely overloaded our increased capacity,” said Joani Lynch, the ski area’s communications director.
“By 8:30 a.m. we had a 10-fold increase over our largest web traffic in history.”
Ski Area insiders manning the switchboards were quickly overwhelmed with people complaining about the website.
By mid-afternoon Monday, things had stabilized, Lynch said.
“By midday Monday, technical issues were resolved, bandwidth increased, and guests were able to complete their transactions.
“The response to the offer and the demand for MVP 2014/15 has been incredible. We surpassed our one-day sales record and the sales pace continues to be strong.”
It seemed as if it were the only thing people were talking about.
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting in Bridgeport, Supervisor Byng Hunt took some time out of his regular report to tell the rest of the board,
“It felt like I was signing up for Obamacare—a terrible experience.”
It took just 30 minutes for the key executives at Mammoth Mountain to realize that their Incredibly Great Idea—either a $200 or $100 voucher for passholders to use at any MMSA property next season—was going horribly wrong.
“I think the company dealt with it extremely well,” said Greg Dallas the Chief Operating Officer, who with Vice-President Erik Forsell and CEO Gregory designed the promotion.
“Our passholders were upset in the morning, but by the afternoon I think almost everybody was ecstatic about it.
“As you know, these things happen.”
That was essentially the same message Obama himself was giving, 3,000 miles away, in the White House Rose Garden, after the health care computers got back up and running.
In Mammoth, the sequence of events began at 8 a.m., Lynch said.
“Coming off three less-than-average snow years, we recognized Mammoth needed an aggressive pass product going into winter 2014/15.
“Besides holding to last year’s price, we offered a limited number of $200 and $100 resort credits as incentive for early purchase and to overcome potential mass attrition in the program.
“Passes went on sale Monday, March 31, to renewing MVP Passholders.
“Within minutes, despite our upgrades to the system, traffic to the website completely overloaded our increased capacity.
“Our IT team immediately went to work expanding bandwidth and fixing problems. Due to the website issues, our call center became overloaded, despite 40 agents on the phones.
“To help manage the backlog, we opened the front lines (ticket counters) to handle transactions.
“Additionally, we swiftly decided to alleviate some of the rush by assuring our valued guests that the number of available resort credits would be substantially increased from our original plan.”
On Tuesday, April 1, a White House spokesman said the President had, in fact, called Gregory to offer sympathy with the Ski Area’s plight, but was unable to reach him because the MMSA switchboard still was overloaded.