The new “Boarding Pass” issued by True North Sports and Entertainment, parent company of the Winnipeg Jets, set off a storm of trouble in what must be the first miss-step since the return of the beloved franchise. While what is transpiring isn’t necessarily what one would call ‘drama’ it seems so out of place after 15,000 fans chanted “Thank You True North” at the conclusion to last year’s season.
The problem revolves around tickets, and how there are no printed tickets for season ticket holders this year, just a card per seat with a bar code. The card is scanned upon admission and allows entry into the MTS Centre for the game. Simple enough?
Not so as many season ticket holders are part of buying groups of 4 or more and share the tickets, it’s not so easy to share a card. The more troubling aspect was how this entry into “the digital world” as CEO Jim Ludlow said many times today would play out for the passionate fans.
There of course was a solution to the ticket distribution problem and that was laid out in the accompanying book that came with the cards. A seat holder could e-mail or print his or her ticket by entering their account with Jets and choosing the particular game. While printed paper tickets present a nostalgic and tangible keepsake for fans the white paper with bar-code and ads was far from desirable, it was not the crux of the controversy. The associated $2.50 charge that came with emailing and printing the ticket did as well as being charged the same amount to resell the ticket on the Jets own ticket exchange board.
It all started late Monday as season ticket card, or “flight passes” as they have been dubbed arrived yesterday and before long people were taking to Twitter, Facebook and the airwaves to voice concern and displeasure.
While the new format may not be what everyone wants as part of their season ticket license, something they have paid for, it’s the fee, which caused the outrage and ensuing damage control by TNSE on Tuesday.
Jim Ludlow, President and Chief Executive Officer or TNSE, held a press conference this morning addressing many issues, some positive but more importantly the dreaded $2.50 fee. In his presser he apologized for confusion and said that it was not certain that the fee would be continued on past this season. Even though you can see the fee and the statement “waived for the 2012-13 season” printed three separate times. If a person holds 4 tickets in their name and has to distribute 3 to each game to the group he is in for a regular season, plus playoffs, the fee adds up to 2.50 x 45 x 3= $337.50 extra. No imagine if that happened thousands of times?
That’s a lot of coin going into the coffers of TNSE if only 3000 seats are exchanged 45 times at $2.50 each time. Say what you will about big league prices and costs that’s a lot of money to collect after you have already paid for your tickets just to let another person attend the game.
Credit is now given to TNSE for saying that fee is gone after this season but go back and listen to the audio, I don’t think anyone said ‘permanently’ or ‘forever’. It will soothe the thrifty masses of season-ticket holders who bought in groups in that fifteen minutes of frenzy back on Jun 4th 2011, but for how long?
Jim Ludlow was on the afternoon drive show, Hustler and Lawless, on Jets broadcast partner TSN Radio 1290 Tuesday. For full disclosure: Hustler, Andrew Paterson, is a former TNSE ticketing representative and Gary Lawless also writes for The Winnipeg Free Press one of the other key media sponsors. To say they threw nothing but softballs is akin to asking if Luongo is going to be traded, but that’s okay and forgiven. Was there a need to play hardball with Ludlow, to uncover some dirty secret about how this debacle possibly happened? Only for the most cynical of people but there are a few questions that remain unanswered.
First, Ludlow explained that TNSE was not sure when they were going to launch this ticket-less program, but it was going to happen “this season”. The revelation that this had been in the works for some time and not a peep was said is a testament to the wall of silence that TNSE has among its group. However, did they not think to do a focus group on the technology and desire for fans, new ones just beginning their journey with the new franchise, to make such a dramatic change after one season?
Second, where did this fee come from? It was never explained but Ludlow did say Tuesday afternoon that it had been in there “all along” in the development process of the ticket-less system. I’ll give Ludlow and TNSE a bit of a pass here as the whole ticketing system is based through Ticketmaster, one of the most predatory and monopolistic companies around. If you have had any experience with them you know that fees are part and parcel with them for just about anything, and as part of the technology platform to provide this service they were going to charge. TNSE, like most businesses did the automatic response to a new expense associated with their service to customers…they passed it on.
Whether that is a fair excuse or not the management of the Winnipeg Jets ultimately decided to eat the cost, one way or another, and let fans have the freedom to hand over their tickets to whoever they please without charge, just like most other products or commodities.
Are there benefits to this system? Absolutely, scalping is almost all but done for Jets tickets and the ease of keeping a card in the wallet is certainly appealing. The real upside was hinted at by Ludlow when he said that he sees “loyalty and affinity programs available in the future to fans”. That is where this card system leads but as we saw early out of the gates there’s cost, now it’s a matter of when that cost arrives.
An FYI here is the agreement language right from the Winnipeg Jets
Ticket Assignment, Transfer and Resale
The Ticket Purchase Agreement, the Account, and any rights the Primary Account Holder may have hereunder, shall not be assigned or transferred in any manner by the Primary Account Holder to any other person or entity without the prior written consent of the Team, which consent may be unreasonably withheld by the Team in its sole and unfettered discretion.
The Primary Account Holder and/or any Bearer having possession of any Ticket(s), can sell, resell, assign or transfer such Ticket(s) to any person or entity provided the Primary Account Holder complies with the Ticket Purchase Agreement and with all provincial or civic law or statute, or rule or regulation of the Team. The Team recommends the use of the ticket exchange service provided by the Team with respect to the resale of Tickets. In the event that Tickets are sold for any price while on the premises of the MTS Centre or are sold for any price greater than the purchase price shown on the Ticket(s) or are advertised for sale at a price greater than the purchase price shown on the Ticket(s), in contravention of Provincial Law, the Account shall immediately be considered in default. The Primary Account Holder shall be notified of the default with no right to cure the default, and the Team shall have all of the rights and remedies available to it at law and provided under paragraph 11 of the Ticket Purchase Agreement.