DC’s Maligned Metro Rail Service Is Under Fire for Opening Branded Merchandise Store
As a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, this nearly 39-year-old scribe, thanks to SEPTA, knows all about the frustration that relying on public transportation can foster. Courtesy of the entity’s Center City-based store, though, I often put aside my irritation and revel when my son finds a few branded toys, whose purchase serves as a mini way for us to grant the five-county service provider some sort of forgiveness. While many passengers have gone off the rails in railing against SEPTA, the 53-year-old transit operator has not received as much rebuke as Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail system, whose overseers announced yesterday that their ridership can now make trips to a pop-up merchandise site.
Owing to the flaws that the transit agency struggles to address, the Washington Post called on one of its writers to deliver a mostly dismissive evaluation of the brainchild, which opened today. Certainly sensitive to what commuters experience on daily basis when venturing anywhere via the provider’s fleet, the reflection notes “Imagine the joy when the District, Maryland and Virginia all agree to raise taxes of some sort for dedicated funding.” It also includes takes from “party poopers” who would rather have the Metro convey people to their destinations on time than see its owners authorize the sale of items such as subway maps, mugs, holiday ornaments, sterling silver cuff links, uniforms for children and a Silver Line train, with the piece saying the goodies can undergo customization based on the logos of riders’ favorite stations.
“This is a great opportunity for people to get something unique from Metro, whether you are a visitor looking for a souvenir or an everyday rider,” general manager Paul J. Wiedefeld offered in a statement, adding, “At the same time, M Shop represents another potential source of revenue to help support Metrorail and Metrobus operations.”
After today’s opening, the store will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, with the Washingtonian doing end-users a favor by ranking the top purchase to make at the Metro Center establishment. With respect to travelers’ less-than-stellar estimation of the Metro system, I completely understand, as SEPTA is no angel, especially when contracts near their conclusions, and I can definitely see why fare payers would balk at the timing of this store’s implementation, given that they feel let down so often. However, struggling businesses, corporations and organization do not for one minute think they should pack it in when it comes to marketing.
The sports world offers many fine examples of teams that persist in conceiving branding opportunities though they might rarely, if ever, find themselves in the hunt for crowns. (I must say it feels good that the next update to this list will not include the Philadelphia Eagles as a championship hopeful but rather as a titleholder.) In other words, no matter their lack of immediate clout, companies must continue to display pride in who they are. Through promotional products, they can do just that. And, with our nation’s capital never being short on chances for end-users to stimulate the economy, perhaps the M Shop will prove that even though the system that inspired it has its woes, the company is finding ways to show it is committed to enhancing riders’ excursions and reliance on its travel options.