Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Digital Revolution

In this day and age, everything is going digital, the world paperless in the oncoming environment awareness.  I was surprised, and disappointed, to see that all three teams I have season tickets for are partaking in this action, abandoning the tradition of paper tickets, authentic pieces of memorabilia and nostalgia.

In the spring, the Washington Nationals sent a letter to all Season Ticket Holders (STH).  Enclosed in the letter were red cards, non-descript, with the STH’s name and account number.  This was to be the ‘ticket’ of the future.  No more would we have to fumble with paper tickets, mistaking one for the other or losing or misplacing them.  No, now we would have this cards, little more than hotel key cards, that counted for our several thousand dollar purchase.  When I saw this, I thought it was a joke, the baseball season does start around April 1.  I threw the cards in a pile of other pieces of mail, quickly forgotten.

Fast forward to the middle of September, I receive an e-mail from the Nationals, reminding me that there will be no paper tickets next year, but to use my fake looking hotel key card as a ticket.  This will make it easier for me to attend games, they tell me, because I won’t have to remember those pesky paper tickets.  Imagine my horror and outrage when I get back-to-back e-mails yesterday from the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals telling me they too are going paperless.

I’m a unique case, I know.  I don’t know a lot of people that have three sets of season tickets.  It started out simply enough, I wanted to make sure I had playoff tickets for the Capitals.  When the option to get season tickets opened, I got on the wait list, with three thousand of my closest friends, hoping that I’d get a chance.  I was shocked and, perhaps, overly enthusiastic when I got my chance.  Tickets were going fast, so they said, and I grabbed the first two seats that were next to each other.  That may sound odd, but they did try to sell me tickets that were in front of one another.  Sounds like the perfect date night, right?  Luckily, I got seats in the VIP section Acela Club, comes with food and a parking pass.  Great deal?  Absolutely.  At upwards of $15,000 a year, not all that manageable to pay solo, so I had to think outside the box.

I’m a top-rated power seller on e-bay, and while there is the option to use Ticketmaster and its exorbitant fees (I’ll revisit this later), I knew I could make more money selling the tickets I couldn’t use on my own.  Is this a violation of my ticket contract with the Capitals?  I asked this to my rep and the answer I got was no, as long as the people using the seats never got thrown out.  This leads me to a very important conclusion, the seats, the tickets, are mine, to do with as I please, not to abuse them, but sell or give them away as I see fit.

The first year I had the Capitals tickets, I lost in excess of $4000 of my own money because I couldn’t sell more than half of the tickets and was unwilling to let them go to waste, so I attended far more games than I meant to.  The following year, Ticketmaster adjusted their online rules slightly, but the best place to sell was still on e-bay, Craigslist or the like.  I found a great buyer last year and didn’t lose money until I got to the playoffs.  This may surprise some of you, but people actually don’t want to pay the cost of tickets for playoff games.  It makes me nervous as I try to sell my Nationals playoff tickets.

So what does all this mean?  Long story short, and it’s too long already, I know, I pay a premium for my season tickets and should be able to use them however I deem.

According to the teams, the new digital tickets will be easier to use.  I’m not sure what they base this off of, but in an e-mail from the Wizards, they want so far as to claim that should you forget your tickets or pull the wrong ones out of the ticket book, now you don’t have to worry.  My counterpoint to this is, if you’re that stupid that you can’t see what game you’re going to and what day of the week it is, you have other issues and probably shouldn’t be spending in excess of $3000 on tickets, and that’s on the low end.

According to the teams, the plastic hotel card is superior to paper tickets.  This one I can’t even begin to understand.  I sat next to a father and son the day Edwin Jackson pitched a complete game (in April) and they had season tickets.  The look on the kids face as he stared at the authentic piece of memorabilia was priceless.  Do you remember your first time at a game or concert?  Do you still have the ticket stub?  I do.  I keep all my ticket stubs, I love the look and feel of them, the care taken in the picture selection, all of it.  Maybe I’m old school, maybe I’m out of touch, but to me, the season ticket holder should be set apart from the rest of the people, having something unique that makes their tickets (not hotel cards) something special and unique.

According to the teams, this change to digital tickets is included in the price we already pay.  Great, so where’s the money I’m paying for the paper tickets?  I know it’s hidden under a by-line in the contract telling me I have no rights, but if you’re charging me for paper tickets or digital tickets, shouldn’t I get to choose?  My season ticket prices have never decreased, not even once, and yet somehow, they’re saving money, no doubt, on the new digital ticket, but am I seeing that savings?  Of course not, that’s absurd.  If you’re going to charge me for my tickets, then give me the paper tickets.

According to the teams, this will be the exact same thing as having real paper tickets from the ticket book.  I’m running out of words to describe the complete idiocy and disrespect exhibited here.  According to the Nationals, Wizards and Capitals, if I print a piece of paper from my computer, with a bar code and a logo of the team, that’s somehow the same as the hard plastic tickets or the cardboard ones I receive in the mail?  When I got my first set of season tickets, only a few years ago, I was awed and humbled by how eye-catching they were, how they made me, as an attendee, feel like I was someone special, because I was in the vaunted group of season ticket holder.  Not everyone can afford it, most don’t care, I agree, but there are many of us that do.  There are games I attend, and I see Caps fans with dozens of pins in their hat or on their lanyard, each pin indicating another year they were a Season Ticket Holder.  In all their brilliance and glory, the teams are taking this right away.  No longer will we have any special ticket to place in the lanyard around our necks.  No, I can print a piece of paper from my computer and somehow that’s the exact same thing.  I may not be a genius, but I’m not that stupid either.

Finally, and this is really all I have left.  If you insist on taking our money, money we paid for paper tickets, at least let us choose to get the paper or digital version.  If that isn’t amenable, as teams are rarely amenable or even willing to listen to their consumers, then how about this: I will pay the $300 or so that it probably costs you for my paper tickets.  Isn’t that a fair deal?  Isn’t that what you want?  As teams, you aren’t providing a service now, are you, you’re taking our money, so if we offer more money, you’ll certainly take it, won’t you? 

To advertise tickets and not actually provide any physical tickets is laughable and deplorable.  I expected to be treated better for paying $3000+ for Wizards tickets, $12000+ for 2 years with the Nationals and $50000+ for the Capitals for 3 years.  This is a sobering reminder to all of us, corporate America is just that.  The concerns of the ‘little’ people who support big business are meaningless.  As long as they get our money, it makes no difference.  Someone else will come along and pay and they’ll win.

If you are a season ticket holder to any of the above teams and are as upset by this change as I am, please, please e-mail your guest service representative immediately.  They are not responsible for the change, but they are the only ones that can let our voices be heard.  I’ve tweeted at Ted Leonisis and gotten no response, and expect the same from those at that level, but as a group, we can protest and hope that perhaps, by the time the season begins for the NHL at least (next season), maybe we can get what we paid for.

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