From Adele to Timberwolves, a shakedown for fans

If you listen closely, perhaps you can hear the beginning of significant pushback by sports fans against the local sports teams which are making it costlier to buy their product. Or it’s a cry in the wilderness from the powerless.

Other than the airlines, perhaps no industry works harder to anger its customers.

flashseatsIn an op-ed in this morning’s Star Tribune, Minnesota Timberwolves fan Ryan Hamilton lambastes a program from the team (first tried on the Lynx fans) in which all tickets are now electronically distributed through an app, rather than printed on paper.

The tickets can’t be printed and there’s no way to export them to a third-party seller if you wanted to unload them, which many fans like to do as they get more looks at the on-court product.

For years, the Timberwolves have tried to get a piece of — or at least discourage — that action.

I bought these tickets. The Timberwolves shouldn’t care what I do with them after they’ve collected my money. I have been a season-ticket holder for five years, and in each of the previous years I have used my tickets as my contribution in my office gift swap and in my family’s “Christmas dice game.” I love seeing people’s eyes light up when they open the envelope and see two hard paper, high-gloss Timberwolves tickets.

What am I supposed to do now? Print off complicated instructions for Flash Seats and present that to them?

I am not a season-ticket holder to make money; I enjoy NBA basketball and the Wolves. If I can’t go to a game, I’m happy to give my tickets to someone who will enjoy the experience. Flash Seats restricts my right to give my tickets away as gifts when I can’t go. That’s wrong.

I, too, tried to give away my seats to Tuesday’s game against Denver. But they could only go to people who were willing to download the FlashSeats app. Consequently, only two people on Twitter were interested in getting tickets for nothing. As it turned out, the person who missed out on the free tickets came out ahead. The Wolves were unwatchable that night.

For the person who originally bought the seats, FlashSeats couldn’t be easier to use, I should point out, but that’s not really the point of the app, as a commenter pointed out. It helps keep the price of Timberwolves tickets high by attempting to control the secondary market for season tickets.

My biggest complaint beyond what has been laid out here? The cap on how LOW you can sell your tickets!! Are you freaking kidding me? Why do the Wolves get to decide how much of a hit I’m willing to take? Example: Last night we went to the Wild game and the Wolves were home too. Couldn’t find anyone to take the tickets (especially with how many people now know about and HATE flashseats). Tried to sell my Wolves tickets for UNDER face on FlashSeats and the system will only let me drop them to 75% of face value. When I complained I was told that the Wolves are “just trying to protect the value of the ticket for me.” Uh huh. So instead of taking four $25 tickets and trying to get $10-15 a piece, thus maybe recouping half my cost, I got zero. Not to mention four seats went empty that could have been occupied by fans that would have spent money on concessions and merchandise inside the arena. It’s such short sighted thinking.

It’s not a big deal now since there’s so little fan interest in Timberwolves basketball locally. But the team is getting better and once the team becomes a draw, the price of an NBA basketball game should rise accordingly once the StubHubs and Ticket Kings are shut out of the reseller market.

Meanwhile, the Vikings got some criticism this week for its season ticket list policy for the new billion-dollar stadium.

Peyton Barclay, of Batavia, Ohio is a Vikings fan with season tickets here, or at least he had season tickets here.

My turn to select seats in the new Vikings stadium came up months ago. I wanted non-stadium-builder-license seats, was told they weren’t for sale yet and passed on the SBLs. In a hard-sell final push to sell the dregs of the remaining SBLs, I’m now told that non-SBL seats will be sold first to SBL seat buyers and if they buy them all, too bad for me.

This is no way to treat a 15-year season-ticket holder. First priority to buy non-SBL seats should be given to fans that passed on SBLs or bought fewer SBL seats than they held in the Metrodome, in order of their standing on the original priority list.

One other thing: Dome season-ticket holders were told we’d not be punished for not renewing our tickets to sit out in the cold in TCF Bank Stadium during the construction interim. I didn’t renew this year for that reason and found out what not being punished meant — my 15 years of seniority would be wiped out and reset to zero. I don’t think that’s fair, either — I’d hate to see what being punished would have meant.

Baseball doesn’t get off lightly either. It practically invented ways to nickel and dime its customers just trying to buy tickets. It was one of the first sports leagues to charge fans a “convenience” fee for printing out tickets at home, using the fans’ printer ink and paper. Fans went along with the idea like sheep.

Of course, it’s not just sports. Adele fans today will try to bring the circuits down when tickets for her July show at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center go on sale at 10. Music fans know how this works. The tickets will be gone in seconds, and somehow — I’m not sure anybody has ever figured out how — they’ll be snatched up by ticket resellers and scalpers.

Even if you get tickets, you’ll pay the usual tremendous “convenience fees” in which fans get to pay much more, basically, for the right to buy something that someone is selling.

  • Gary F

    The Timberwolves and Lynx not having printed tickets? And what does Glen Taylor do for a living?

    • Aaron Rupar had a great line the other night about the state of the TWolves. “Someone broke into my car and left two Timberwolves tickets.”

      • Postal Customer

        That was the joke among Packers fans during the entire 1980s.

        I don’t have much interest in attending games unless the tickets are dirt cheap. If teams want to continue shooting their own feet, I guess it’s too bad for dedicated fans, but frankly, games are more enjoyable on TV. Especially during winter.

        I guess for me, the value in going to any pro game is just slipping away. Everything is nickel and dime.

  • blindeke

    It’ll just mean emptier and emptier stands for games, so it’s the Wolves’ funeral really. If they want to play to an empty room, honestly its kind of a merciful gesture.

  • Kassie

    I needed to use this app when I went to a Lynx game. Friend bought tickets, sent them to me, and suddenly I’m on the Timberwolves mailing list. Just because I went to one Lynx basketball game does not mean I have any interest at all in Men’s Basketball. There is no anonymity or privacy when using this method, and that sucks too.

  • David

    As for fees: The theater community and MPR is not off the hook on this topic: The “phone order fee” at Fitz and Hennepin Theater Trust in with Ticketmaster. I bought 2 $60 and ended up paying $160.
    With regard to the price floor – that’s obnoxious. I have not been able to GIVE Twins tickets away and those didn’t even have the app hurdle.

  • John

    Wish me luck. My wife wants to take my daughter to see Adele. She has a meeting at 10:00, so I’m ordering the tickets for her. Hopefully I can a) get tickets and b) transfer them to her later (or have paper tickets mailed to me).

    Fees and this kind of stuff has greatly reduced the number of shows and sporting events I’ve gone to the last several years. It’s not even the money, it’s feeling screwed by false advertising on the cost of going to a show that drives me crazy. It’s the (typically) 50% upcharge over face value in the form of “fees.” (note: MPR is not exempt from this either. The last time I went to a show at the Fitz, there were a number of fees that got tacked on.)

    I also almost never fly anywhere if I can drive. Same reason.

    • John

      Apparently everything (except the $240/seat credit card entry only) sold out in less than 10 minutes. so much for that show.

      • I really wish the music press locally would do fewer slurpy kisses to Prince and more reporting on an important issue that doesn’t affect them because they get into shows free. It’s a very important issue for consumers.

        • Kassie

          Last year when Neutral Milk Hotel came to town they made all the tickets Will Call. They still sold out fast, but didn’t end up on Stub Hub the next day. There was a way to transfer tickets, if I’m remembering correctly, but it was difficult. Kept the prices reasonable (actually quite high for First Ave) and made sure it was fans who got the tickets, not just scalpers. Too bad the show kind of sucked…

        • John

          That would be nice, but I’m not too optimistic. That would be right in line with the sports press saying something bad about the Vikings.

          You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

          Also – Prince is one of the few artists that drives me to change stations from the current when I’m driving. I wasn’t a fan back when he was doing groundbreaking stuff. Now, I’m certainly not.

  • DavidG

    And if you don’t have a smart phone? Or a new enough smart phone that can install the app? Or one with too little space to install the app?

    • If you don’t have a smartphone, you use the credit card that you bought the tickets with, which also eliminates any third party selling.

  • DavidG

    Also, I would guess that there may be a potential for some anti-trust action here?