NY Yankees Do Fans A 'Favor' By Preventing Them From Printing Their Tickets At Home
from the evil-empire dept
As an avid sports fan, and more specifically an avid baseball fan, I can still remember the advent of home-printed tickets. My reaction was perhaps more elation than what was warranted, but having spent years going up to the Wrigley Field box office with my father and later my friends, the idea of being able to purchase tickets online and then print them at home in order to bypass the lines and go directly to the gate was exactly the kind of technological progress that, albeit small, meant something to me.
And now I’m apparently the right age to be witness to this very practice being rolled back in favor of mobile device tickets. Except, as we review exactly what the New York Yankees are doing in no longer allowing the use of print-at-home tickets, it seems clear that the team is doing this as a hamfisted attempt at controlling the secondary ticket market.
The team’s pitch to its fans via its updated ticket policy tries to position this move as one to combat fraud, of course.
As the Yankees are continuously striving to implement technological advances to provide our fans with a ticketing experience that is unparalleled, convenient, safe and secure, the Yankees are excited to announce, as a complement to traditional hard stock paper tickets, the availability of mobile ticketing for the 2016 baseball season. Print-at-home paper tickets (PDFs) are being discontinued so as to further combat fraud and counterfeiting of tickets associated with print-at-home paper tickets (PDFs). In addition to traditional hard stock paper tickets, the Yankees will be offering the opportunity for fans to receive mobile tickets on a fan’s Smartphone.
This certainly sounds good as a pitch, and there is little doubt that huxters selling fake printed tickets outside of the ballpark is indeed a pain in the ass. But just how big of a problem is it? The Yankees certainly aren’t saying, likely because that pitch isn’t really what this is all about. Via the analysis at Deadspin:
The Yankees would have you believe that eliminating print-at-home tickets is entirely motivated by a desire to prevent fraud, but the reality is that it has everything to do with the team’s partnership with Ticketmaster and ongoing war against StubHub. When ticket resellers use StubHub, they can sell the ticket for as little as they’d like, but Ticketmaster sets artificial price floors that prevent sellers from listing tickets below face value. This practice has recently been called out by the New York Attorney General, as it deprives fans the opportunity to buy tickets on a fair market.
The Yankees’ wish to avoid the realities of supply and demand is the reason the team touts Ticketmaster as its official resale partner, and this new anti-PDF policy is a blatant attempt at further undercutting StubHub. The Yankees can’t force anyone to use Ticketmaster instead of StubHub, but it can make using the latter a much bigger pain in the ass by eliminating printable tickets.
And so what was a pitch to combat fraud to benefit the customer devolves instead into the strong-arming of the customer to eliminate secondary market pricing. This sort of anti-competitive practice is an interesting move for an organization in a marketplace that relies heavily on having butts-in-seats in order to sell all kinds of other merchandise: team apparel, food, drink, mementos, etc. What the secondary market does for teams is, when the team is performing poorly or when ticket prices are out of line with demand, still allow those seats to be filled by fans buying at a lower price. Fans who still spend more money at the games than an empty seat would. The risk for the Yankees in this move isn’t only alienating and pissing off its fans, there is a true monetary risk as well if games end up with empty seats that would otherwise have been filled.
How much risk is this for a team like the Yankees that is so bursting with popularity? Probably not high, but it isn’t nil either. Meanwhile, the only benefit in the move for the team is building on the relationship with Ticketmaster by making the partner happy. I’m struggling to understand the calculus the team did, though, in concluding that the benefit in this instance was worth the risk.