Friday, March 13, 2009

End This Once And For All

I got a disturbing letter today. It came in an envelope from the Red Sox' 4 Yawkey Way address, but it was from Ace Ticket, which is the agency partnered with the team. They're the ones the Red Sox advertise for with signage at Fenway. The letter was geared toward me as a season ticket holder (I only get ten games), telling me all the reasons why I should sell my extra tickets to them.

And I'm still trying to figure out how this is legal.

The Red Sox have been getting more and more vague with their ticket policies, but one rule is that they may (notice they don't say "will") cancel or revoke tickets for "The purchase of tickets for the purpose and intent of reselling the tickets on the secondary market". The fact that even a person who sells all 81 games could argue that they bought the tickets with the initial intent to go to the games leaves the Sox free and clear of all of this. They sell the tickets, and happily tell you to shop at the agency of their choice, and that's the last they think about it.

But wait. Let's see what Massachusetts state law says about this.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Safety Web site has a whole section on rules that these ticket agencies have to follow. Look at this section:

Q: Where do I obtain the tickets for resale?

A: Even as a licensed ticket reseller, you must still purchase your tickets directly from exhibition venue, from a licensed ticket seller, or from another licensed ticket reseller. You are not entitled to a separate process by virtue of holding a Ticket Resellers license.

That's the first law they're breaking. It is illegal for me or any other fan to sell my tickets to these places, unless I have a license to do so. And if they buy directly from the team, that goes against team rules. In other words, every single ticket these licensed agencies are trying to sell you were obtained either illegally or in a way that breaks team policy. (You could add "unless they got the ticket from another licensed agency"--but where do you think that agency got it from?)

They go on:

Q: Are there limitations on how much I can charge for the tickets I am reselling?

A: Yes. Under G.L. c. 140, ยง185D, you may charge a service fee, which may include but is not limited to, charges for messengers, postage, and long distance telephone calls, extensions of credit and costs attributable to resale. You may also charge for the cost of the ticket. By statute, it is illegal to increase the price of the ticket by more than two dollars ($2) above the face value of the ticket.

And that's the second law they're breaking. 99% of the Red Sox tickets Ace sells is more than two dollars above face value.

What bothers me the most, though, is that even if all of this was legal, the Red Sox (and all of MLB, who are partnered with a different agency) had the chance to fight these agencies. Instead, they joined forces with them. They warn me about re-selling my seats, then send me a letter telling me how to do it and with whom. You might be saying, "Look, I can't get tickets, and these agencies provide them for me." But why do you think you "can't get tickets" in the first place? I put that in quotes because you can get tickets through the team--I'm going to 20-something games this year, all with tickets I bought at face value through the team. But yes, that took work, and the reason it's so hard is because when you're trying to buy tickets, you're going up against all the people who are buying with the specific intent to re-sell, encouraged by these agencies, and now the teams themselves. You know, when they're not telling you not to do it, right on the back of the ticket.

The point is, the teams need to have a rebuilding year, ticket-wise. Cancel the partnerships, and revoke every ticket that agencies have. Put them all out of business. Then start fresh, and sell your tickets as normal, making it truly illegal to re-sell them. An entire segment of the population won't bother to try to buy them, knowing they can't make money off them, making it easier for the actual fans to get through and score seats. There will still be demand, of course, so you have a giant, user-friendly system that allows any ticketholder to sell their ticket to someone else for face value, or two dollars above or whatever the law is. Put, like, ten cops around Fenway to make sure those sweatpants guys aren't re-selling--they're very easy to spot, it wouldn't take much if you were serious about it. And continue the scalp-free zone, but add a few more of them, making them more visible. Leave even more tickets out for day of game sales. That way, for the biggest games, the average fan will still have a chance to get in if they don't have tickets.

And if that doesn't happen, I again encourage all baseball fans who re-sell tickets to stop being so greedy. First of all, surely you've got friends who are dying to get into Fenway--if you find yourself with an extra ticket, why not give 'em a call? Just give it to them, you'll feel much better about making someone you care about happy than you will with a little bit of filthy money in your pocket. If you have no friends you can give or sell the ticket to, and you see that the lowest price the agencies are selling for is, say, 100 bucks for your 26 dollar seat, don't think you have to get 100 bucks. Who cares what the "fair market" is--what's wrong with getting 75, 50, or just getting your money back? That's the one that disgusts me most, when I see some greedy bastard on craigslist saying, "these are going for XXX on StubHub, so serious offers only." Go get your damn business degree and head to Wall Street, and remember to cover your head with your jacket when they lead you off in cuffs. It's not hard to see what greed is doing to this country; just flip on the news.

And speaking of craigslist, think about using them if you absolutely have to re-sell, or some other online community where you can deal with another person directly, instead of supporting these ticket agencies, who collect fees even if you were to sell for under face value.

And most of all, stop accepting the agencies' offers to advertise on your blog or Web site. If you want advertising money, hey, that's your call, but why take it specifically from them? (I know. Because they offered.) If you do a baseball site, why promote the people that are screwing over you and all your readers by making it hard to get tickets and then driving up the prices?

Well this is interesting. It appears the Yankees are doing ticket sales entirely by online lottery this year! There's a registration form for buying tickets to all games in '09. It doesn't say it's a presale or anything, so I think this is just how they're gonna do it.

So this brings up an interesting point, because at first I thought, There ya go! That's how teams should do it. Then I thought, Wait, if you don't get selected, you have absolutely no chance to buy Yankee tickets this year. So maybe what teams should do is just have everybody who plans to buy tickets register ahead of time. That way everybody gets a shot, but you have to be pre-registered. I know having people show ID at the turnstile would take time, but you have to show ID to get into a lot of places, to buy stuff, etc. It would be worth the extra wait if we were all getting tix at face value every time.
And most of all, stop accepting the agencies' offers to advertise on your blog or Web site. ... why promote the people that are screwing over you and all your readers...

Preach it, brother!!

Couldn't agree more! It's a MAJOR peeve of mine, and a total outrage that the Red Sox and MLB support this. The whole subject usually starts me on an entire rant, but you hit all the points and sum it up so well, that I'll just say... Thank you!
First off, I'm mostly just posting this info to get you all worked up about it... I'm not too thrilled either, but trying to find a way to benefit from it personally.

A friend of mine's father has season tix to the Red Sox. His father is moving to FL and wants my friend to take over the season package. These people are yankee fans, btw, and have no biz owning Red Sox season tickets anyway. My friend would like to do this if he can keep the tix for about ten games and cover his entire season's cost by selling the rest to a ticket agency. Does Ace lay out any plan like this in their marketing letter?
The real problem is MLB. The Sox used toresell unwanted season tickets for you through replay. But, MLB signed the stubhub exclusive, which isn't legal in MA. So, the Sox went to Ace so that season ticket holders could still get rid of unwanted tix. They made the best of a bad situation.
s36--Red Sox Replay does still exist, as far as I know. I will admit that going with a local agency over StubHub is better, but only in a "lesser of two really evil evils" way.

Reb: Again, I recommend craigslist or selling to people you know if you have to go above face value, at least that takes out the middle-demon.

RSDH: No problem.

redsock: Nice.
If Sal DiMasi had gotten his way, that anti-scalping law would've been repealed.
Interestingly, there's a suit pending before the Supreme Judicial Court about whether someone can bring a consumer protection act suit against a ticket reseller if he didn't buy the ticket that was being scalped. See here. The superior court said he could, but the intermediate appellate court said he couldn't.
I just instead of trying to legalize scalping, they should try to stop what's causing the prices to go up and the tickets to become harder to get. Legalizing scalping is admitting that you've lost, and the people who wanted it won, to me.

I guess we'll see what happens with that case you linked this month.

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