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.