Thursday, February 11, 2010

Taking the Cubs Ticket Pre-sale at Face Value

Whatever laws exist to curb scalping, they don't apply to the Cubs. photo via gothamist.com

The Cubs have announced a plan to give fans who want to purchase single-game tickets in advance of next Friday's full-scale sale event at a 20% markup. Of course, they'll offer a 5% discount and a contrived Cubs.com shopping e-coupon to customers who use their MasterCard to buy tickets. So is this a rip-off? Are Cub fans the victims of corporate greed?

In a word: yeah. But in another word: no.

Single-game tickets generally go to three groups of people: 1) people with ticket budgets below the season-ticket level; 2) people on the season-ticket waiting list who want to buy as many tickets as they can; 3) scalpers who want more tickets to sell than just their season ticket packages.

For the people who can't afford or aren't willing to spend more than a fixed amount on Cubs tickets, this promotion is bad news. They (we) have to choose between buying advance tickets at a higher price and perhaps getting a better selection but fewer games or waiting to buy the normal price tickets and getting a poorer selection of (and quite possibly fewer) tickets and games.

The third group, the scalpers, usually buy single-game tickets by employing teams of wristbanded grunts to hang out at Wrigley and buy as many tickets as they can, bypassing the usual surcharges, taxes, and inconvenience fees. All it costs the scalper/ticket broker is a slim $50 or so per grunt while loading up on hundreds or even thousands of tickets. But at a 20% markup with the additional per-ticket and per-order fees piled on? Not gonna happen. Their profit margin vanishes.

The scalpers probably get hurt by this the most, because their biggest profits come from the best tickets, which they'll still have in spades via season tickets, but their single-game ticket supply will take a major hit. That frees up a fair amount of tickets to . . . the people in group #2 who would have wound up buying tickets from the scalpers anyway.

That's right, the big winners in this pre-sale are the people whose ticket buying is limited only by the fixed supply of tickets, not by their desire or ability to purchase tickets. Okay, maybe that doesn't sound like the traditional definition of "big winner" to you, but at least these people can move to the front of the line to buy the tickets they were always going to buy in the first place.

So people with less desire for tickets or less disposable income with which to buy them will get lousier tickets to less interesting games. The Cubs will recover a lot of the money scalpers would have collected. The absolute ticket fiends and college students with brand new credit cards and no sense of financial restraint will be closer to the field.

Did Cubs fans get the shaft? Some of them. But this is hardly a heartless move by the Cubs. It's just a manipulation of capitalism that creates more PTWBRITT (Profits That Will Be Reinvested In The Team). And if that happens, we all win, right?

7 comments:

  1. Is good to see the scalpers being the group primarily hurt by this. It is a disappointment for single-game purchasers, but perhaps it will leave them with a wider selection of games/seats by which to purchase tickets. It's a better alternative to raising ticket prices across the board.

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  2. It's a pretty creative way of getting more money out of the people willing to pay more money without risking an actual price hike. It's hard to predict how it will work, but my guess is that I'll still wind up with the same number of mediocre tickets to relatively unpopular games. :)

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  3. I didn't make my round on the blogs today to find out everyone was talking about the same thing I posted about...lol.

    Good take on the story.

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  4. Wow, interesting perspective. I'm surprised #Cubs aren't playing up this angle more.

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  5. I think if this money is reinvested in the team then it's fine. Clearly people want tickets bad enough that they will pay extra to get them first, the owners know that and are taking advantage of it. The price increase that bothers me is the "amusement tax" being moved separate from the ticket price. That is the "shady" (if you want to call it that) part to me.

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  6. Thanks. I think they're instead taking the "let's not overpublicize this thing" approach. Most (maybe all) of what I've heard is from consumers and media. I never got an email from the Cubs, and I haven't heard anything through any official Cubs communication efforts.

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  7. Yeah, wpbc did a great job pointing out that little wrinkle. Although, from the sound of it, the ticket markup the Ricketts (or Rickettses or Rickettsai) forecast was accurate, although the numbers you see first when buying your tickets take the edge off. Unfortunately, the "investing in the team" is almost a no-brainer, because I'm guessing that includes paying off the debt from the sale of the team, which they'll probably be doing for the next decade or so.

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Spill it.