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Can't Tell the Ticket Price Without a Scorecard
2008-01-26 15:38
by Philip Michaels

I hardly noticed this in the last fever dream/post, but if you'll forgive me the indelicacy of quoting myself...

...sections 316 through 318 will be untarped. But, instead of costing about the same as a bleacher seat as they did in days of yore, the third-deck seats will now go for $35. That will not only give you a seat in the stadium, it will also entitle you to engorge yourself one all the hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, ice cream and soda pops. (Tickets for premium games will rise to $38 -- presumably, that won't mean a corresponding rise in the quality of the concessions.)

You caught that bit about premium games, yes? Well, I sure didn't. At least, I didn't until about a day or so later, when the fact that there are two different prices for the same seat finally sunk in.

"If I didn't know any better," I said to myself, as I am the sort of person who talks to himself out loud, "I would say that the A's have instituted some form of variable pricing, where different prices are being charged for different games.

Indeed, a glance at the 2008 single-game pricing suggests that they've done that very thing, with prices for single games in one column and "premium games" in another. And what constitutes a "premium game," you might wonder? Well, according to the fine print on this page:

Premium games consist of all regular season series vs. San Francisco, New York and Boston.

Chances are, you already knew this because you are more on the ball than I am. Me, I didn't know, nor do I have any idea how long this policy has been in place. Up until last year, I was a season ticket-holder so your talk of single-game ticket pricing had no relevance to my life. And because attending Red Sox games means encountering a preponderance of Red Sox fans, I stopped going to A's-Sox tilts in 2003, and my life is the richer for it. As for the Yankees and Giants games, I am but a shy country boy who is frightened by your big-city crowds, so I tend to stay away from those games, too.

So for I know, this is the first season, the A's have done such a thing. If I'm wrong, kindly contain your mockery of my ignorance to e-mail. And if, by some miracle, I am telling you something you don't know -- MUST CREDIT CATFISH STEW!

This is the point in the program where you are no doubt expect some catty comment from me about Lew Wolff and his get-rich-quick schemes. Sorry to disappoint, but I'm relatively indifferent to this whole variable pricing thing. For one, the phrase "whatever the market will bear" is a very beautiful one to me. For two, there is the aforementioned bit about me not being a regular attendee of the impacted games, so this affects me not a whit. If Red Sox Nation wants to turn the Coliseum into Fenway West three to six times a year, and the A's figure that the best response to this is to charge them extra for the privilege, I figure that's a problem for Murph and Sully, not me.

Besides, do you know how many teams actually have some sort of premium pricing plan for select games? I spent my Friday evening visiting all 30 Major League Web sites, and it would probably be quicker for me just to tell you the teams that don't appear to charge more for certain games -- the Angels, Pirates, Cardinals, Tigers, and Red Sox appear to be the lone hold outs. (The Blue Jays and Nationals might eschew variable pricing, too, but right now, their sites only list season-ticket pricing. As of this writing, the Marlin Seating & Pricing page contains no pricing information -- the failure of that franchise to win the hearts and minds of South Florida is not nearly so mysterious anymore.)

Everyone else has some sort of variable pricing in place. In some cases, it depends upon the opponent (the Twins and Brewers, for example) or what time of year you're coming out to the ol' ballyard (it's more expensive to take in a Phillies game in the summertime than it is in the spring or September) or whether you had the foresight to buy your tickets in advance or at the gate on game day (the Dodgers and Yankees).

And those are just the straight-forward variable pricing plans. Some teams have apparently decided that their paying customers need to have a slide rule, tidal chart, wrist chronometer, and a bagful of chicken bones in order to figure out the cost of a single-game ticket. The Mariners charge you one price if you buy single-game tickets before March 29, one price after, and a third price if you wait until the day of the game. The Cubs have three tiers of pricing; not to be outdone, the White Sox have four. The Mets have five tiers, and a clever name for almost all of them -- Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and, disappointingly, Value. (Why the Mets didn't stick with the precious metals metaphor and name that fifth tier Tin or Aluminum I'll never know.)

What I'm getting at here is that the A's premium-game scheme, when compared to some of these other structures, is a model of simplicity and restraint. "We would like to charge more for high-demand games against opponents we're always selling out for anyhow," the A's are essentially saying. Fair enough, I reply.

But you know, perhaps this is a little too straight-forward for the A's. Clearly, other Major League teams have decided that buying a ticket to see a baseball game should include more variables, conditions, and if-then constructions than buying passage on an airline. If Oakland hopes to keep pace, it will have to ratchet up the confusion by a considerable magnitude. I am happy to lend a hand, with the following proposal for a variable ticket pricing program that will leave patrons slack-jawed with indecision at Coliseum ticket counters.

Coliseum Seating & Ticketing Single Game Premium Game* Subprime Game** Games Played on The Third Thursday of Every Month Games Played on Pagan Holidays Games Played When Moon is Waxing
MVPInfield $50 $55 $45 $58 X-(Y/Z) $85 - the game-time temperature + (Eric Chavez's RBI total/Rich Harden's MRIs)
Field Level $35 $40 $34 $62 $50² Spin the wheel of ticket prices
Plaza Infield $30 $35 $29.99 $73 6.0221415 x 10 to the 23rd power $49.99 a night double occupancy
Plaza Outfield, Even-Numbered Seats $18 $20 $17.43 √81 Eight haypennies (H + TB + 1.5*(BB + HBP + SB) + SH + SF)/(AB + BB + HBP + SH + SF + CS + SB)
Plaza Outfield, Odd-Numbered Seats $18 $21 $18*** 1,800 pennies -- and only pennies 5 ounces, gold bullion $3.99 for 3 12-packs
Bleachers $13 $15 £10 24 shiny beads $1.5 million for two years with a club option for year three $4 with purchase of a Mark Kotsay bobblehead^^
All You Can Eat Section $35 $38 €35 Just $300 a month with 10% down 6.50% $20 * GNP of Senegal
Mount Davis $10 $12 $5 per inning $17**** $12,207.17 $20 in Lew Wolff FunBucks^^^
On a Lawn Chair, Just Behind Second Base $72 $75 $50 (local surchages apply) ¥4000 $1.99 with coupon^ $42.22 - standard deduction for married couples filing jointly
Festival Seating $29.99 $31.49 $28 + shipping & handling π to seven decimal places a² + b² = c² A roll of dimes with one Canadian dime stuck in the middle
Next to Bob Geren in the Dugout $115 $200 $100 ($80 if you agree to start at short) +8¾ μ = (Σ X1)/N
Balcony $32 $32.01 Two-bits A jade monkey, delivered before the next rainfall Ca(CHO2)2 3:2
Orchestra Pit $8 $9 A sawbuck No parking 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (street sweeping) N/A How much ya got on ya?
A Subterranean System of Sewers and Tunnels $2.50 $5 Whatever loose change you find in the couch cushions -$ 12 A fattened goose as tribute to Billy Beane Make us an offer

* Premium Games are games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Chiba Lotte Marines, and a team of historic Hall of Famers compiled on Billy Beane's computer. ** Subprime Games are games against the Devil Rays, Royals, Midland Rockhounds, local Little League teams, and intrasquad games. Unless fireworks are involved. In that case, it's a Premium Game. *** $19 if you don't wipe that smirk off your face. ****Payment only accepted in Thai bhat; current conversion rates apply. ^ Coupon does not actually exist. ^^ While supplies last. Season ticket-holders may use a bobblehead of equal or greater value. ^^^ Lew Wolff FunBucks are not recognized as legal tender, except in New Wolffnasia, an island off the coast of Florida Mr. Wolff hopes to develop into a retirement community/independent principality.

We're having a good laugh about all this, but truth be told if this variable pricing thing is here to stay -- and the number of teams now offering some form of it suggests that it is -- I wish someone would go all Radiohead on us, and offer a more fan-friendly option. Let the fans set the pricing for their tickets, giving them a range to choose from so deadbeats like my father don't decide that the price they want to pay is bupkis. Let's say I sit in the bleachers for a taut, well-played game played before an enthusiastic crowd -- I'd pay $20 for that. But if it's a dull, plodding affair where the A's unenthusiastically swing at that ball as if they had a previous appointment back on the bench, and for five innings, the guy behind me is suggesting in quite graphic terms how the opposing right fielder should spend his free time that evening -- that's more of a $5 game to me.

I expect this plan to be adopted by some forward-thinking baseball executive some time approximately after never.

2008-01-26 19:03:06
1.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Last year, the Rockies had "Value," "Regular," "Premium," "Classic," and, most, insultingly, "Yankees."
2008-01-26 20:22:38
2.   Bob Timmermann
The Dodgers charge the same regardless of opponent. The variances come from things like whether or not you purchase the ticket ahead of time or not.
2008-01-29 13:13:49
3.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
2 Which is similar to assessing a "convenience fee", and less similar to variable pricing. Movie theaters have variable pricing (matinee, regular), the Dodgers do not.

However easy it is to throw stones at this largely humorous piece: Radiohead's pay-what-you-want-to for the digital download was not a reflection of business sense, and more a reflection of the fact that they are a ROCK BAND and *&!%-ALL to ALL THE SUITS.

2008-02-01 09:34:57
4.   Mike J
Wait - it gets worse. The Cubs, in all their genius, have added 70 new seats in between the bullpen and the dugout. The seats are to be auctioned by the club. They say is a good idea because now "everybody can now go." Right. It's the first step on a slippery slope, if you ask me. Next thing you know, all "box seats" will be auctioned off. You just watch.

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