The Yankees Could Sell The ‘Ticket Exchange’ A Bit Better

Andrew Burton

Manager's Note: Good stuff from Kurt. Front-paged. -Andrew

Listening to Yankees execs Hal Steinbrenner and Lonn Trost explain the team’s opt out of StubHub to go with their own Ticketmaster-supported resale system, I expect they don’t want fans to know the truth about their motives.

To listen to the Yankees after the postseason, the main reason there were swaths of empty seats during the 2012 ALCS was the amount of tickets on StubHub and fans having become accustomed to paying less than full price for a ticket. I thought an average ticket price of $225 a game might have had something to do with it.

But reading the Yankees’ recent press release today concerning the switch, and after listening to Trost explain the whole thing to Mike Francesa on 660 AM, you’d think that the Yankees only cared about making sure that fans didn’t receive counterfeit tickets.

That seems to be the focus of the Yankees’ PR in the last two days. Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement: "It is unfortunate that unscrupulous resellers utilize deceptive practices and tactics and employ unofficial websites, all of which give rise to counterfeit tickets." Trost told Francesa that fans can trust that the resale tickets are authentic because "Ticketmaster is our primary ticket seller."

The Yankees are deliberately not mentioning StubHub by name, because since StubHub guaranteed their ticket sales, there may be legal issues with doing so. But the implication is that you can’t trust those shady dealers on websites in the secondary market—and the most well-known of these websites is, of course, StubHub.

Show of hands: anyone ever bought a counterfeit ticket on StubHub? I haven’t.

Try to say this with a straight face: "We want to avoid unscrupulous ticket sale practices that hurt fans, so we’re going to partner with Ticketmaster." Ask anyone who’s ever paid $85 for what they thought would be a $65 concert ticket what they think of Ticketmaster’s scruples.

Trost also mentioned to Francesa that StubHub is currently generating a profit of 25% on each ticket with their fees…as if no one will notice that with their new Ticket Exchange, the Yankees and Ticketmaster will be taking (at least) a 15% cut from tickets being sold for the second time.

The Yankees also expressed concern for the season ticket holder, which is at least a little bit more of a legitimate motive for floors on resale prices. Season ticket holders, Trost said, will not be able to attend every game, so of course they’re going to have to re-sell some games. With the glut of tickets on StubHub and no floor on prices, they would often take a hit on re-sales.

Since Yankees season ticket holders pay a nice chunk of change for the privilege, it’s understandable that the team would make an effort to improve their re-sale prospects. But let’s back up a bit. Exactly why would season ticket holders take a beating on re-sales? Could it be that the ticket’s face value is much more than people are willing to pay?

This is the beauty of StubHub, in my opinion. It presents a sharper picture of the ticket market, for better or worse. Trost himself even pointed out that there were 76ers tickets going for 18 cents on StubHub. Has he ever been to a 76ers game? Anyone who has ever lived in the Philadelphia area, as I do, knows that basketball for whatever reason has always been a difficult sell. If Sixers tickets were going for 18 cents, it’s because people considered 19 cents too much to see the team.

I am fairly well off these days (not doing this—I sell shrimp out of a van), and if I really wanted to buy a Field Level ticket to see the Yankees, I have the means. That’s not the issue to me…the question is do I want to? When I have to weigh whether I want to buy two comfortable seats for four hours at a game or a very nice recliner that I can use forever, that’s kind of a red flag.

What’s really happening, and what is irritating every team, not just the Yankees and Angels, is that StubHub is telling them what their game tickets are really worth. Sometimes that’s more—even much more—than face value; apparently teams are okay with that. But when a ticket pricing model designed to maximize revenue from the wealthy residents of a region was threatened, that’s when the Yankees decided something must be done to protect fans.

As someone who dedicates a good portion of his time to improving the baseball fan’s experience, this Ticket Exchange idea bothers me. If it works out for the Yankees…and I imagine they will do as much as they can to see that it does…other teams may follow suit, and the actual market will have much less say about what Joe Fan pays for a ticket. Let’s not kid ourselves. There will be floors on resale prices and like everything else at a game, they will be as high as a team can get away with.

That’s the real motivation. I don’t remember the Yankees ever expressing any concern over counterfeit tickets in the past. They can put on a fan-friendly, ensuring secure and safe face if they want, but I imagine anyone reading a comment section of a story can decide otherwise. In fact it’s kind of baffling. You’d think the Yankees would understand that this type of PR isn't likely to fly with New York fans.

Fans understand that all of this boils down to a simple point: that the Yankees charge way too much for tickets, and they refuse to accept that fans won’t pay it anymore.

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