Gaming the Market

It’s funny how my status as a Mets ticket plan holder has evolved over the years.  I was in some way shape or form a mini-plan holder, then became a full season holder.  Believe it or not, depending on where you sit, being a baseball season ticket holder is not prohibitively expensive; of course, it’s all in the eye of the beholder on what you want to spend your discretionary income on.  For myself and my husband, though, we enjoy going to games, good or bad, win or lose, plus we can barter or sell tickets to go on road trips.

I would be lying though, if I didn’t tell you that each year I wonder if I’ll still want to be a season ticket holder.

It started in 2007, the “whispers” of being “priced out of CitiField.”  Everyone started freaking out because the Mets couldn’t figure out how to package their mini-plans, and season ticket holders really weren’t given a fair shot at where they wanted to sit.  I’ll be the first person to tell you that.  In 2008, they raised prices at Shea Stadium, to give us an idea of what we’d be up against.  For the marketplace though, it was almost fair.  Try going to a game at that place in the Bronx, or even a basketball game at Madison Square Garden.  You’d be hard pressed to find a cheap ticket there.  I’ve always argued that when we visit smaller market teams like Pittsburgh or even Baltimore, the tickets are priced according to that market.  They are cheaper to us and more bang for the buck because of where these teams play.  Whether their teams are bad is inconsequential.  When I visit those stadiums, if I don’t have a rooting interest, I just enjoy the game.  The prices, though, may be prohibitive to those who live in those markets, however.  This is something we need to consider when griping about the Mets’ pricing structure.

Of course, in 2009 when CitiField opened, the Mets put the screws to some of their loyal ticket plan holders.  I had seats in the Mezzanine, and the comparable area would be the Excelsior level or “Logezanine” as Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing calls it.  The tickets were not realistically priced, and I had to settle for the Promenade.  At the time though, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Remember, the Mets were supposed to be good that year, right?  Fast forward a few months later, I had trouble selling my $18 seats for 18 cents.

That intro was to lay down the foundation for how the ticket pricing is going on now.  It’s evident then that the Mets and most appropriately the Sterling Equities group (Wilpons/Katz, etc) were not gaming the market efficiently. A new stadium in the biggest media market should have been sold out at every single game, or close to it.  Some will point to the season itself; some will say it had to do with pricing overall; others will say it was economic factors.  What is evident is that the Wilpon/Katz family in their infinite wisdom thought it would be wise to introduce premium luxury seats to a blue collar fan base to settle their own monetary issues stemming from bad investments on their watch.  Quite possibly, CitiField was one of those investments.

Each year I have been at CitiField, my prices have gone down significantly.  In 2010, I even moved my seats to a lower level, as it was still cheaper than my 2008 seats at Shea Stadium.  In 2011, my seats went down even further.  I had about three games that people did not attend in my seats.  They also introduced “perks” to ticket plan holders, such as taking the field with a player (I took position with Scott Hairston back in April!), subscriber events (such as breakfast at CitiField, raffles, winter team events), and ticket vouchers for additional tickets to a game, in premium seats.

Photo credit to Sharon Chapman

Photo Credit to Me!

The Mets just released their ticket pricing structure for 2012.  Season ticket holders once again get savings, I am saving nearly 20% if I decide to renew for 2012 (which I probably will).  They are issuing “dynamic pricing,” which means you get a structured level of pricing for what game you go to.  This is nothing new, they’ve been doing this for years.  You pay a higher dollar price for Mets/Yankees, Mets/Phillies, but you save going to see Mets/Nationals, etc.

The kicker?  We need to renew by November 7 in order to indulge in the Season Ticket Perks, which was introduced last year.  In previous years, we’ve been able to pay by December 15, and even have had payment plans introduced to us.  The whole saving-money-thing doesn’t bother me: this the whole commitment-thing-before-hot-stove thing does.

At a season ticket holder function the last Sunday of the season, another fellow season ticket holder and I started chatting about the park.  “Nice stadium,” he said.  “Shoulda been sold out every game in 2009.”  I agreed; it shouldn’t have been so hard to sell tickets.  It still shouldn’t.  There are several factors at play.  The injuries are one thing.  The AAA supporting cast is another.  The lack of a plan or foresight in both 2009 and 2010 adds on to the uncertainty.

The team neglected to game the market.  The Wilpons thought wrong in making the stadium for them, by making it smaller and raising ticket prices in a down economy and after two late season failings (though in fairness, there is no way they could have seen the last two things).  They brought in new ticket people (including parting ways with Bill Iannicello, who had been with the team for as many years as I could remember), but it was a year too late.  Even all the perks they are trying to woo season ticket holders with may not be enough.  I remember the days when they didn’t offer us jack, just the good name of the Mets and the tickets.  They figured a nice new park would be shiny enough to make us forget we were watching a crappy team after a while.

But will any of this make us want to go to games?  Lowered ticket prices are nice.  Would you pay an average of $29/ticket for outfield reserve (that’s how much mine cost, if you’re looking to buy next year, ha ha)?? Other monetary factors figure in like parking and tolls, gas even (As an example, I invited Randy from Read the Apple to a game where the ticket was FREE, and he said that even though the ticket I was giving him would be free, by the time he made it to the park, it would be upwards of $40, and he’d have to do it again since he was going to another game that week).  Some people who have to travel find that the SNY broadcast along with the comforts of home like HD TVs and surround sound plus your own food make it enticing to just stay home.

Factor in a crappy team.  At least they’re trying to game the market, but like most Mets’ efforts, they will probably fall short in this plan too.

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7 comments

  1. I had a 40-minute chat with my rep today. She’s very nice, and visits me at my location throughout the season. As she tells the story, she’s getting some season-ticket-holder backlash, and being yelled at quite a bit. She took my money today, but could not even tell me what the 15-game plan will look like, let alone where I’ll be sitting. That bothers me less than the timing. I told her that the sentiment of the fan base is that the Mets are trying to lock us in before Reyes signs elsewhere, and it’s VERY transparent. Don’t you just dislike the whole concept, that we’re unaware of what’s going on?

  2. It’s obvious they are taking the threats of people leaving in droves should they not sign Reyes seriously, but by taking an ass-backwards approach (typical of the ready-fire-aim production of this team’s outfit). Instead of ensuring that they’ll look to put a better product on the field, they’ll come to the people who have supported them through thick and thin. I know that if I were to stop going to games, I’d be hurting myself more than the team. Because I would miss it. But the whole locking into the season ticket thing? It shouldn’t matter for the timing, because it should be a matter of when. The whole raking over the coals we get in the meantime…not cool.

  3. In general, what they are doing is disgusting. Business-wise, I absolutely agree with what they are doing. They’re trying to force your hand and make you commit because they know 99% of season ticket holders won’t abandon their tickets even when they anger you. But as I always said on my radio show, the fans have the power. If all of you collectively held the line and refused to commit early, they would be screwed and have to accede to your wishes. But we all know that won’t happen because fans can’t help themselves and refuse to see the big picture.

  4. I agree on a certain level, Jake. I really do. I remember with an EX of mine (lol) used to get all preachy and self-righteous about professional sports, and be like “Well I’m not spending MY money there.” I thought, well, if you don’t spend your money, they won’t care, some other idiot will. Usually,that idiot it me, since I support the Mets and the NY Rangers, a team also rooted in dysfunction and mismanagement. Each year I kind of take it because I’m all, well again if I don’t spend it, some other idiot will. And I haven’t had a ton of problems reselling. Like you said, it’s hard to rally the troops because each fan has their own personal agenda as to why they do this, why they go to games. For me, though I agree – business wise, it’s good. Treating the people who have kept you afloat like the commodities you think they are: not cool.

  5. worst case scenario for the Mets with the dynamic pricing – prices bottom out such that what amounts to season ticket holders end up paying no discount over the box office (that’s the floor in the dynamic pricing), while the tickets could be sold much cheaper on the secondary market. any bets as to when that will happen? but that doesn’t sound appealing to me because it undermines the season ticket holder’s ability to sell their tickets to either make some money, fund a road ttrip or two, or at least break even on the games they don’t attend. but i heard they wanted to control the secondary market better. and I’m like Randy from The Apple in that it can cost up to $40 just to get to the stadium and back home again, before you consider the cost of the ticket.

    I am now a season ticket holder for what I’ve always believed to be the most functional hockey team in the area (the one with a new head coach every year and a mascot who can pitchfork you) and one of the reasons why is that I have discounted season tickets that are at most 50% of the box office price (for the first time, the they have tiered pricing depending on the game, so in some cases, i’m close to 33% of the box office price). ideally, i can sell tickets for somewhere between my cost and the box office price, make it look like it’s a discount to the outside world, and i make a profit. if the team flexes prices downwards towards what i paid, i’d feel cheated, and would probably have to sell at cost, if not lower, and i lose the incentive to have season tickets when i really don’t need them.

    but back to the Mets, one thing that I’ve always thought about Citi Field is that the stadium itself is a hard sell in some areas. take the deep LF seats in the Promenade. i think they were on sale for $5 at points last year from the Mets (yet the box office wouldn’t let me have one on the final Sunday game for some reason). the only thing those seats are good for is watching soccer or hockey at Citi Field. I’ve been there for baseball, and it’s not very good. i’ve had other seats that I’ve walked away from (both literally and figuratively) in the Prox Boxes in RF that had design flaws (remember all of the obstructed views that fans discovered in 2009). that limits the available supply, in addition to the club seats for the wrong fan base, and other overpriced seats, and that has hurt the Mets just as much as the team on the field has.

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