Friday, September 28, 2007

You Guys Buying or Selling?

As I sleep with my Postseason tickets firmly under my pillow every night, it seems that something is afoot with the sale/re-sale of Playoff tickets and (surprise, surprise) it looks like MLB has found another way to squeeze money out of its fans.

Serial commenter (and expatriate Clevelander living in Chicago) Cy Slapnicka takes over to share what he’s found out and what he finds disturbing about this latest trend in ticketing:

Like many of you, I entered the post-season ticket lottery as soon as I heard about it. I entered my wife, parents, in-laws, and any other people that I thought might take me to a game if they won. For purposes of setting a timeframe, this was at the end of August.

Late last week on September 19th, I received a message telling me I did not win the ALDS lottery and was on my own for tickets. No big deal, as it’d be hard to make the trip in from Chicago during the week for a game. I’d rather save my vacation time and money for potential ALCS or World Series games if I’m going to make it a weekday trip.

Then on September 25th, I received an e-mail from the Indians with a password to purchase ALDS tickets, as it seems that the lottery winners did not buy them all up. I was able to get some tickets for Game 2; however, these tickets still were not made available to the general public, only to those on the e-mail distribution list.

The ALCS ticket lottery took place yesterday, September 28th, and winners will presumably be notified about how to get tickets, as the presale begins today, Saturday the 29th, according to TicketMaster. After that, World Series tickets will become available (if necessary) at a future date.

To my knowledge, exactly zero Indians tickets have gone on sale to the general public unless they are season ticket holders, lottery winners, or on the e-mail distribution list from the Indians. Some teams have put their tickets on sale to the general public – for instance the Cubs sold out their NLDS tickets in 30 minutes (though only putting 15,000 up for sale). However, again to my knowledge, nobody has made any ALCS or World Series tickets available to the public, except to their season ticket holders.

The explanation varies by club – according to the Cubs, MLB is in charge of ticketing to all post-season events; according to the Indians, MLB gets a chunk of tickets to all post-season games.

You’re probably asking yourself, “What is the point of all this?”
Well, this past Wednesday (September 26th), I received an email from MLB directing me to StubHub to purchase playoff tickets for games…all the way through the World Series!

I’m not sure if anyone else received this or even paid it much attention, but it seems that there are many tickets available on StubHub for broker prices from the ALDS or NLDS through the World Series. Additionally, some Tribe Postseason tickets are available through the Tribe Ticket Marketplace (run by TicketMaster), where fans go to sell their tickets at higher prices.

But back to the StubHub development, as it seems that agreed to a deal with StubHub that allows them to be the official reselling marketplace for MLB tickets in 2008 (I’m not sure how the relationship works for the 2007 post-season, but it is obvious one exists) in lieu of places like the Tribe Ticket Marketplace. Starting in 2008 the teams have the option of using StubHub for their resale of tickets online. If they opt not to use StubHub, they are not permitted to be involved in the resale of tickets online.

In this case, it appears the Indians have set up their own deal with TicketMaster for 2007; however, one must assume they will move to StubHub next year. The deal with StubHub charges 25% of the ticket value in additional “fees”, which will be shared between StubHub and MLB teams share ownership of, thus they are pocketing a percentage of these fees and have collectively agreed to this.

The problem I have with this agreement is not necessarily that MLB teams decided to take a cut of the secondary market and “legitimize” it (I don’t see how online scalping is any more or less “legitimate” than the guy standing in front of Panini’s), it is their product and they can do with it what they want. Although I do find it ridiculous that MLB teams are, in effect, double-dipping on the tickets (as is TicketMaster currently with the Tribe Ticket Marketplace) without any media scorn.

Another problem is with the fact that before teams even release tickets to the general public, they are pushing scalped tickets to us at inflated prices which they get a cut of. Right now you can buy tickets to any post-season series at roughly double their face value. Yet the majority of fans (at least in the case of the Indians as Cubs NLDS tickets were available to anyone) cannot buy any tickets for the actual ticket prices.

For instance, say you buy a pair of StubHub (or the Tribe Ticket Marketplace, although I am admittedly not sure of their terms) tickets for $300. Let’s assume MLB already has sold that pair of tickets for $150 and made their money and TicketMaster got their cut through fees. Well now, the StubHub/MLB partnership makes another $75 on top of the ticket price! And this doesn’t even include the outrageous shipping charges and “handling fees”!

The reason this makes me furious is that they’ve limited the number of tickets available in some markets and prior to making the tickets available to me, you, and guy down the street, is pushing the StubHub tickets while the Indians pushed the Tribe Ticket Marketplace tickets…and Game 2 just sold out on Friday morning!

Finally, one thing that really makes me concerned about this is that MLB gets a chunk of tickets from each team for each playoff game.
What exactly happens to those tickets?
Why wouldn’t MLB take part of their ticket allotment and resell them via StubHub to inflate their revenues?
And why would a team care, as they are selling out their games and getting sharing the revenues from the StubHub deal?

One can only assume that when MLB looked into the Cubs selling advanced tickets to a broker across the street from Wrigley that the Cubs owned, they didn’t say “How could you stoop so low”, they said “I cannot believe we didn’t think of this sooner!!!” and jumped on board with another way to maximize their money.

The sad part to all of this obvious greed and backhandedness is – I still can’t quit the Indians.

Thanks Cy, and we’ll see you when you make the trip back to the true North Coast for Game 2 of the ALDS, those controversial little tickets in hand.
By the way, here is the projected post-season game schedule.


rick@waitingfornextyear said...

You forgot the non-money reason this is a crock- by offering all these tickets via second market sellers, we are guaranteed to have a crapload of Red Sox or Yankee fans AT JACOBS FIELD! No way that happens if 15,000 tickets are available only at the Jake ticket window!

davemanddd said...

mlb and the indians double-dipping on ticket revenues??? oh the hypocrisy!!! hee-hee!!! no but seriously though, do you think maybe this may have been part of the attendance problem, or lack thereof, at jacobs field this year??? i think people are tired of paying inflated ticket prices just for the ballgames themselves, but then to add all these fees on top of them to pay these legalized scalpers is just too much. i had the pleasure of going to 6 games this season and never once did i have to pay any sort of premium for my tickets. i always got them at face value, but it troubles me to think that somebody who sat beside me may have paid more for his ticket for basically the same seat. why??? it's not like this is the airline industry with all the different middlemen who exist in that corrupt industry. by the same token, it also bothered me to see so many empty seats around me too and so i just can't help but wonder why the indians wouldn't want to have those seats filled, even if it meant lowering the ticket prices for those seats. at least that way it wouldn't be an empty seat. i would think that a filled seat, albeit at a lower ticket price, is still better from a revenue-generating standpoint than what an empty seat would produce, which is zero. if you ask me, if a team and/or the media wants to b!tch and complain about empty seats at games that they should instead consider actually lowering ticket prices or even giving most if not all of those empty seat tickets away so they could at least get the concession revenues from whoever might get those lower-cost or free tickets. after all, i would think that an empty seat wouldn't generate any revenue whatsoever whereas even a free ticket given to someone would generate some form of revenue from concessions. call me crazy, but even a low percentage of something is better than 100% of nothing.

Rockdawg said...

Cy, nice investigative journalism...I do get a discount, but I'm not sure how to make that work at a Galaxy in Chicago if I'm not there. Maybe we can make a trip together if we're both in town for the World Series. My clubs got lifted as well, that is the main reason I am working there.

I have been saying it all season, and I'm not changing my mind now....Borowski shouldn't even dress in the postseason. If we are playing in NY, I want him in Houston. His debacles against the Yankees were painful enough in regular season games...Imagine if he pulls that crap in game 5. Maybe someine knows where to find this next question out for me..Has there EVER been a pitcher with 40 plus saves and an ERA over 5.00?

I have made up my mind on Underwood. He doen't just sound bad because he announces in the same town with the greatest of all time (Hamilton), he's just bad. Period.

Cy Slapnicka said...

I don't buy that ticket prices are too high. There are plenty of cheaper seats open and you can always sneak closer. I do think that teams have not figured out how to effectively price and sell their tickets in markets where demand does not exeed supply. That blows my mind, b/c they are just leaving money on the table. In no other business would they let mechandise sit on the shelves and expire.

That being said, my problem is with dipping into the secondary market but limiting supply to the fans. Someone has to sell scalped tickets, there is no way around it. I don't care if its some dude yelling at my on E9th or a website. Although I completely disagree with them making it seem like those guys are not doing legitimate business, when the teams are doing the EXACT same thing.

We all appreciate the secondary ticket market when we need tix to a sold out game and are willing to pay a premium. However when games are in high demand and they do not release the entire supply and then point us to the secondary market, which teams are getting a cut of....I have a HUGE problem with that. And I don't understand why the media doesn't care.

And regarding someone sitting next to you paying a higher price, they made that decision. I have no problem with that. As if the tickets were available to the general public, anyone could buy them for face value.

And teams in smaller markets that do not sell out all their games could learn something from the airline industry and how they price their goods. Think about how long it took them to realize they could price different opponents and days of the week differently. Obviously what the Indians are doing does not work effectively.

Rock, that might work. Although I've replaced most of my gear now through ebay. Got some outstanding deals.

Ron Vallo said...

The media doesn't do anything about it because they get in for free, get a free pre-game meal, free eats during the game and snacks and booze in the press room after.

The squeezing of money from every rock continues unabated. It's why I stopped going to 10 or 12 games a year like I used to.

This year at Yankee Stadium they had a promotion with Fuji film, where on nights that weeren't likely to be attractive (a Tuesday night against Tampa Bay during the school year for instance) you could buy fair tickets for $5. You could buy two or fouor to any of seven of the 15 or so games that were available. I paid $70 to take myself and my daughter to 7 games. (My daughter's the Yankee fan and a dad will do anything for his daughter,especially if she's the "baby" of the family).

Those games were just as full 50,000 as all the other more popular nights. The Yankees didn't make the usual $45 on the seats, but they made something, and the seats were filled and I had to park my car and buy at least a bottle of water (for $5), so they did OK and I did OK too.

As far as selling playoff tickets to professional scalpers before the regular public gets a shot (unless they put up for a season package for next year first), I hope the teams who do this find themselves scratching their heads nextg May wondering why no one's coming out in the middle of the week to watch their first-place team.

You reap what you sew.