In today's news, I wrote a bit about the Yankees' new ticket policy, which prevents fans from printing tickets at home. It's an overtly bad policy because this now forces fans to either buy through Ticketmaster, the official Yankees Ticket Exchange, or order a physical ticket from the secondary market. The initial argument was that it will prevent fraud associated with printing PDFs out wholesale, but many have hinted that this is a veiled attack against StubHub, who routinely undercuts the mandated price floors on the official ticket exchange.
Now, a good organization--one with an amenable relationship with fans--would respond in the following way: they would apologize for inconveniencing their devoted fans who work hard to afford Yankees tickets, and they would eliminate or alter the policy. Instead, they doubled down.
In an interview with Newsday's Neil Best, Yankees COO Lonn Trost not only defended the policy, but implied that poorer fans should be separated from the richer fans:
"The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and [another] fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount."
That's bad. It's bad from a PR standpoint, it's bad from a business standpoint, and it's just flat-out bad from an ethical standpoint.
I'm a Yankees fan, as you know, and I grew up in a middle class family that, for many years, could afford one set of tickets for a family of four a year. Sometimes we'd get more than one via corporate giveaways, but in terms of sheer cash, one game was what we had.
To tell these fans, including myself, that they don't deserve to be sitting next to someone who paid full price is absolutely absurd. We deserve to be in Yankee Stadium. We deserve to sit wherever we want, and we certainly have the right to sit there if we, you know, legally bought a ticket.
The real problem, though, is that the Yankees don't think this is legal. They already sued StubHub in 2013 because they opened a "ticket office" (aka a kiosk where you print out your already-purchased tickets) within 1,500 feet of Yankee Stadium, which they argued was in violation of anti-scalping laws.
Reportedly they're coming to a settlement, but this was essentially the Yankees using a loophole to banish StubHub, only because they're undercutting retail prices. When they couldn't win in court, they just banned PDFs. The only people who truly lose, though, are the fans.
Yankee Stadium already has its criticisms: it's incredibly corporate, seats were removed to make room for luxury boxes, the premium seats are expensive (and often unfilled, hence the "moat" nickname), and they're dead last in drink options. Nonetheless, they haven't been seriously hurt by a drop in attendance. They ranked fourth overall in 2015 (with 3.1 million attendees), down from first overall (and about four million attendees) in 2008 at the old stadium, which had a higher capacity anyway.
This drop can be partially attributed to the recession and the state of the team from 2013-2015, but the Yankees haven't been hurt nearly as much as smaller market teams. Even with all of these glaring problems, Yankee Stadium still remains one of the most popular ballparks in the country. Add in the ticket concerns, though, and it may get worse.
I can understand an organization pursuing their business interests, but it is important for them not to sacrifice the service to their customers in the process. Fans do not want mandatory price floors or forced mobile ticket purchases, and they definitely don't want to be shamed for buying tickets below market value. The Yankees are allowed to follow their best monetary interests, and so are fans.
I can also understand (partially) the fraud aspect, if that's at all relevant and not just some cover-up for the feud with the secondary market. In an interview on the Michael Kay Show, Trost outlined how fraud with print-at-home tickets was "rampant", and how Yankee Stadium employees supposedly dealt with fans trying to scan in with tickets that were copied multiple times. He didn't provide anything in the way of numbers, so "rampant" is all the evidence provided.
This likely won't be the end. Fans will continue to be outraged about this as we lead up to Opening Day, and from that point on, it's anybody's guess. At best, this is a minor inconvenience that we all forget about by mid-April. At worst, this is a PR nightmare that alienates a ton of working class fans who want cheap tickets, and it could bring in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has already targeted the NFL for their price floors.
Whatever happens, one thing is for certain. The Yankees' ownership and business operations continue to be out of touch with the average fan's needs, and that's not changing any time soon.