04 April 2009

Unavailable

Less than 48 hrs from real ball and Monday's Chase extravaganza's looking closer to a sellout at dbacks.com. Today they say there are no bleacher seats available, less than three days after offering four stubs together in the tenth row, about two thirds of the way down.

Wow. Those bleacher seats sure filled up fast, huh? Maybe that happens when thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of Infield Reserve seats in the same price point are mysteriously "unavailable" for 36 hours online. We detailed this curiosity three days ago.

And hey, guess what. Now that bleachers are "unavailable", you can get half a dozen seats togther in the twelfth row of the previously unavailable 18K seat, 40 row Infield Reserve! But wait, it gets better. For days now, poor saps saving up for a pair of the worst seats in the house (OF Reserve) have been offered just that -Row 40, Row 38. Yet just now, for giggles, I requested a dozen OF Reserve seats together - and got em in Row 25!

Let's review what's happening. For at least several weeks, the Diamondbacks have systematically rerouted online shoppers from requested sections that subsequently indicated what appears to be fairly widespread availability. We have documented this in the two largest upper deck pricepoints, Infield and Outfield Reserve, and are monitoring the currently "unavailable" bleacher area in anticipation of similar developments.

We can think of two explanations for this on-again, off-again status. Either this is a strategic ruse by the Diamondbacks, or secondary sellers (brokers, concierges, etc) are contractually dumping unsold seats back to the club. In either case, our initial concern this was an isolated computer anomaly no longer applies. The problem with the secondary seller argument is that the abruptly frozen sections are upper deck, hardly the currency of resort concierges, and it's typically midrow seats that suddenly 'become available' - not low row, higher markup locations normally favored by scalpers and brokers.

If this is a strategy, why would the Diamondbacks employ it? Artificially reducing seat supply (or the supply of any commodity) increases the equilibrium trigger price for a given level of demand. Surfers looking for Opener tickets typically dont opt out when the system implies uppers are gone - not when the system reroutes them to other comparably priced sections. It creates an illusion that tickets are harder to come by, and a false sense of urgency to scoop up what's available before it's too late. This tends to drive up the price people are willing to pay for a given location. ( Keep in mind, our front office has expressed interest in artifically (albeit publicly) reducing seat supply, flirting with construction of a wall circling midway around the upper deck.

The rerouted sections appear, for the most part, to be comparably priced, so this doesnt appear to be an obvious money grab. But what else do the rerouted areas have in common? For one thing, they're more visible on television. Despite being a much larger section, IF Reserve is more easily hidden from game action cameras. Bleacher and OF Reserve vacancies are often picked up by first and third base wells and shots from behind home plate. Most shots from centerfield, focused on pitcher and batter, are too tight to catch much of the upper deck in foul territory - especially if camera operators are instructed not to.

At the very least, whether this curious practice is a cynical strategy or a secondary dump, it's evident many of the Diamondbacks' most cost sensitive customers have been systematically offered and sold seats of lesser utility (to them) by ordering their tickets farther in advance. They are effectively penalized for planning and prioritizing their ticket purchases. While this may not violate any law, it would certainly seem to fall short of many fans expectations of disclosure and fairness when they go online to purchase event tickets.

If the Diamondbacks are denying available seat locations to unknowing customers, merely to create a false sense of dwindling supply, or to look better on TV, then they have breached a longstanding trust between buyer and seller, between fan and ballclub, and between ethical men. Virtual seats arent the only thing that can be made unavailable by the click of a mouse.




Fans can be "unavailable" too.

10 comments:

PAUL said...

Whaddaya wanna go and sit in the bleachers for anyway? Unless you'd like to be the lucky fan who catches the first gopher ball allowed by one Scott Schoeneweis in a D-Backs uniform. You don't hafta be there for opening day to catch one of those; there'll be plenty; trust me.

Matt said...

I'm seriously humbled by what appears to be your casual, on-demand ability to spell Schoeneweis

Russell said...

I think you may have something with the TV theory it seems to make sense. I'm guessing I'd be pretty annoyed if I'd requested the best available seats and then got to the stadium to find better seats empty.
One of the worst mistakes an athlete can make is to "overthink", and the FO seem to be doing the same thing in it's whole ticketing and marketing strategies (either that or you are overthinking their ticketing and marketing strategies).

Garyt said...

I think some of it is holding blocks for season ticket purchases. I experienced the same things last season. I'd look for tickets in the bleachers a couple of weeks before a certain game only to be turned away. But, a few days before the game, all of a sudden, big blocks of tickets were available in areas where two weeks before, there were none to be found.
I'll see if that plays out this season too. If the economy turns and things aren't so dicey at work, I may still get the weekender package.

PAUL said...

All Jews know how to spell one another's names. It's a tenet in the pact of the cabal.

Matt said...

Gary,

Interesting, and something I didnt consider. Not sure I buy it, the idea of discouraging an opening day sale in hopes of an illusory ST purchase, but I appreciate the contribution.

For example, they were routing folks to the OF Reserve (Row 38), and I was later able to buy 20 tix togteher in a much lower row. They aint saving those mosebleeds for season prospects who'll never come - no rational person or program would.

Elsewhere in the park, lower down, there may be a few 'set asides', but again, I cant imagine it would be more than a few - not the kind of vast availability I've come across, preceded by freeze outs.

Thanks for the visit and good luck w/ work.

Russell,

Am probably overthinking. Dirty job, but someone needs to do it.

Paul,

Who knew! (That's what I get for going to Sunday School)

Jeff said...

Stay home and watch on TV. Screw the man.

PAUL said...

Do I get any kinda, y'know, STUFF for being right about Scott Schoeneweis allowing a homer on opening day to a lefty (I said it'd be Todd Helton, but whatever)? You do remember I said that right after he was traded over, don't you? Hee, hee. You don't get these crowns for nothin'!!!

Matt said...

Ha. I thought of you the moment he hit it. No lie. 'Course, there were eight friggin' homers in our bandbox today, off a variety of pitchers ;-)

But dont worry, dont worry - I'm very impressed :-)

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