Why the Broncos preventing ticket printing is evil

Broncos embrace mobile ticketing for 2018 season

In which by “embrace mobile ticketing”, they mean they’re taking away the ability for season ticket holders to print tickets from home, requiring you to use their ticketing system to broker not only re-selling the tickets but any transfers as well.  I always love the PR spin that acts like they’re giving you something when they take something away.

One one hand, I can understand their justification for doing this, and the selling point that this will cut down on high-margin scalping and counterfeit tickets, which is all well and good, but when I heard about this policy change, I couldn’t stop thinking about two formative stories that shape my view of mobile ticketing.

  1. Back in the fall of 2017, I purchased tickets to Mumford and Sons, only available as a moble ticket. It turned out that I had to travel for work the week of the show, and tried to transfer 2 of the four tickets to my wife and the other two my friend. The ticketing system was so shoddy that it ended up taking days of attempts before I believed the transfers went through. Fast forward to the night of the concert, when I got a call from both of them stating that the tickets I transferred to my friends weren’t coming up.  So there everyone was, in line and stressed out about not being able to get in, while I was far away and essentially powerless to help them out.  The concert attendants weren’t particularly helpful, and who can blame them when they have a compounding line of people eager to get in.  We finally solved the whole problem by me re-claiming the transferred tickets, screen shooting them from my phone and texting the image over to my friend – which I should have just done, to begin with.
  2. This time the last year, the Broncos went on a massive audit of season ticket holders, establishing a newly-formed policy that they would revoke tickets to people who didn’t go to any games that year. They used the only data point that was convenient at the time – the NFL Ticket Exchange and tracking the electronic tickets. I detailed my concerns about this last year, but the bottom line was that for all practical purposes, my tickets should have been revoked and the only thing that saved me was the wherewithal of “selling” (and by selling, it was at-cost to friends and family) the tickets through the printed tickets.

Make no mistake, this is about making sure the Broncos and the NFL have the data points for all ticket transactions and can harvest the data for their own purposes, especially for retroactively enforcing policies that they just made up.  I wouldn’t be surprised after next season they’ll take tickets away from someone who wasn’t able to go, transferring the tickets to friends and family. And yes, I understand that there are fans that abuse their tickets by massively upselling them and not attending any games for years at a time. It would be fair to call their fandom into question. However, there are also many other fans that simply may have had a life event (like a birth, a sickness, a temporary job relocation) disrupt a single year of their attendance, and despite devoutly attending games for a decade before, they’re subject to the same revocation.  The Broncos have every right to do that, but it doesn’t make it a complete jerk move and fan-hostile.

Mobile ticketing ENABLES season ticket audits. I’m all for preventing scalping, but if you were serious about punishing scalpers you could send an intern out on game day, pretend to consider a scalper’s ticket and note the seat #, call the ticket holder the next day.  Sure it takes a little more work, but it punishes those who are egregiously violating your policies, rather than the low-hanging fruit of new parents that sold the tickets to their next-door neighbors.

If you go read the article and the FAQ, they’ll tout that 35% of their fans used mobile ticketing last year, conveniently forgetting that 2/3 of their other fans have never used this process.  I’d get it if 80-90% of the fanbase were using their phones to get into games, but don’t pretend they’re not trying to ram something down fans throats that they didn’t even ask for. Don’t piss on my leg and then tell me that you’re making me fire-retardant.

What about for friends who buy my tickets or if I can’t go? Now they’re all going to need TicketExchange accounts and I will basically need to handhold their app experience. Where’s the convenience in that? Now the Broncos are making their season ticket holders your front-line support for your app. I imagine that many more fans are going to have a similar experience to my Mumford and Sons story from above. Emailing tickets to my friends wasn’t a problem that needed solving.

I went back & forth on Twitter with one of their PR reps (and to their credit, they were at least responding – unlike last year), and he was quick to justify that other teams were doing this and that the NFL is moving over to this.  However, the Avalanche, Nuggets, and Rockies are still providing paper tickets with nice commemorative designs.  Even if many more teams were using this system, just because others (don’t) do it, doesn’t make it right. This is a race to the bottom for the fan experience. Commemorative tix aren’t the issue – introducing a barrier (preventing printing) to my “honest fan” experience, all to collect data to possibly punish me later on – is.

This isn’t about being a luddite or not embracing technology, this is about protecting yourself from data harvesting that is only going to be used to punish you, as the Broncos and NFL continue to squeeze blood out of turnips for their money-printing machines.

More proof that the NFL doesn’t love you back

Good news for those at the front of the Broncos’ nearly 75,000 season tickets wait list:The team is not renewing season tickets for those who didn’t attend a game in 2016

Good news everybody! The Broncos want to make sure those greedy bastard season ticket holders won’t be able to make profits off of their tickets any more!

Oh shit, we actually didn’t go to any games last year.

Granted, we sold all of our tickets at face value, to friends and family. In fact the whole time we’ve bought four tickets, two of the seats have always gone to other people. In all the years we’ve been buying tickets, we’ve never sold a ticket for more than face value, and have made every effort to avoid selling them to fans of the other team. I realize that not every season ticket holder is as altruistic. There are people who make quite a bit of money off of their tickets, rarely go to any games and probably laugh all the way to the bank.  The problem is that those people won’t be punished.

The people who will be punished will be the poor saps that used the NFL’s Ticket Exchange.  If you’re not familiar with the service, Mike Shanahan will tell you all about it.

Over the last few years, the NFL and the teams have made huge efforts to get season ticket holders to use the Exchange to broker tickets. They’ll tell you it’s to ensure authenticity and combat scalping, but the reality is that the teams want to double-dip ticket revenue and take a cut for selling your tickets again. The irony here is that all the fans that thought they were doing right by using the Exchange, when now all they’ve done is give the teams ammunition to build a revocation case against them.

Right now my family is in the dark period of our season ticket stewardship.  With two kids under 4, it’s become increasingly difficult to go to games.  Between the packing, traveling, tailgating and finally seeing the game, seeing the Broncos is easily an 8-10 hour event. With the kids that gives us three options: cash in one of our coveted “free babysitting” cards, one of us leaves the spouse watching the kids all day while the other goes and parties (and feel really guilty about it, despite that we’re both happy to watch our own kids), or stay at home with the kids on one of the two family days we get each week. In addition, there are no more family events and obligations that prevent us from going to games. The one game we were planning on attending (the Patriots game), conflicted with Clara’s first dance recital.

However we know that before we know it the kids will have grown to a game-attending age (although stadium behavior now convinces me that it’s now 25, but that’s a post for another day), and our “dark period” will be followed up with a game-going renaissance where we’ll romantically pass our fandom onto our kids.  In the end, isn’t this the point of season ticket ownership? Rather than invest in a team for a single season, fans are taking stock in the family experience that spans multiple years, hopefully into generations?

The other aspect that’s not considered is the fact that the NFL jacks up playoff ticket prices as well. A playoff run (of 2 games, mind you) typically cost season ticket holders 1/4-1/3 of what they paid for the season, which is always due right around Christmas when money is already tight for folks. A lot of people resort to selling next year’s tickets to recover the costs for the previous year’s playoff glory.

I get that there are people who abuse their season tickets, but these tactics aren’t going to punish those guys. If the Broncos wanted to punish them, they would be conducting stings of people selling on Craigslist or even on the street corner outside the stadium.  You don’t even need to buy the tickets, just look at the seat numbers and flag the owners.  Instead the Broncos are going to go with the low-hanging fruit and punish people that likely mean well and used their sanctioned scalpin-errrr-ticket-reselling tool.

More proof that the sport you love doesn’t love you back.

Listening to your customers–what a concept!

Reacting To:  Microsoft reverses Xbox One online check and used games policies following backlash

Thank you, Microsoft, for actually listening to your customers.  After so many of them complained about your draconian online policy, they finally saw the light and realized they need to rethink their decision.  Microsoft could have easily kept their arrogance, telling their customers to just deal with the decision.  They didn’t make it in a vacuum – there were definitely new features and benefits this policy would introduce (like their family-sharing feature, full hard drive installations of the games), but the price was too much for many (including soldiers stationed in areas without pervasive internet).

Some companies – like Apple – can get away with the “just deal with it” attitude, but not Microsoft, not when Sony is looking to eat your lunch with a console going in a different direction.  I’m glad they were smart enough to realize this before it’s too late.

Now if only someone at the NFL would take a lesson in this and reconsider their stupid bag policy.  Come on NFL, Microsoft demonstrated that no company is beyond reproach, just come to your senses and follow suit.  There difference here, unfortunately is that the NFL doesn’t feel the pressure of competitors.  They can be as arrogant as they want. Just remember NFL, the MLB had the same level of arrogance about their sport, and gave up their superiority in the process.

The ridiculous new NFL bag policy

Reacting to this story on ProFootballTalk: League alters bag policy for safety, convenience

What an absolutely stupid rule change.  It only becomes more obvious that the NFL doesn’t give a crap about the fan experience.  I love how their primary reason for this change is to reduce the wait times for fans entering the stadium.

I realize that NFL brass are used to going through their VIP entrances, so let me enlighten them on the typical fan experience: there are already express lines for fans who don’t bring bags to the games! The fans that do bring back already choose to sacrifice their time by standing in a longer line.

There are good reasons why fans choose to bring a bag:

  • Trying to gear up for a cold weather game. In Denver, there’s always at least 1 game that requires a multitude of blankets, layers and hand warmers.
  • You somehow have an aversion to paying $4 for a bottle of water, electing to bring in the same bottle that costs 1/10th as much – same is to be said for snacks.
  • You have young kids that require a diaper bag

The NFL can hide behind “safety” they want, but the reality of the situation is that bags cost the NFL money: be it in the form of additional security that screens them and lost revenue from outside food sales.  For them to claim safety being the issue is deplorable – they just want more Coin.  Let’s be honest: anyone who is looking to bring or do something terrible would already be causing plenty of damage outside of the stadium, or find another way in – just like how two random guys managed to wander their way into the Super Bowl.

I don’t blame the NFL for wanting to operate like the business they are, but I do take offense when they do it in the guise of safety, showing little regard for their customers.  I wonder if their “Fan Conduct Committee” actually includes any paying fans. It’s only a matter of time before the NFL’s customers grow tired of repeatedly being kicked in the ass.

Championship fallout, Cutler cries

What a crazy couple of games yesterday! I love Championship Sunday. In in a football sense, it’s probably the best weekend in the game – even better than the Super Bowl. Instead of one over-hyped game, you get 2 hyped games, that typically deliver in some fashion.

I thought that the Jets/Steelers game was going to be the one to watch, but it turns out Bears/Packers was a more compelling game. Not only was it closer at the end, but it was packed with tons of drama. You have CSU’s own Caleb Hanie leading the Bears from a 14-point deficit and putting them in a spot to win the game. While I began the game rooting for the Packers, I thought a bears win would have been incredibly compelling, if anything for the 2 weeks of distractions this QB situation would cause.

cutlercries

As a football fan I’m extremely grateful for the sacrifice the players make, just so that we can be entertained, and I do feel bad when a player is injured.  I don’t know the workings of Jay Cutler’s body, and when he says he’s injured, I have no reason not to believe him.  At the same time, players need to understand that the perception of a situation can be worse than the situation itself – and this one of those cases.  It’s one thing when fans are questioning his toughness, but when you had players on Twitter (one of the many reasons why Twitter is so compelling) questioning his toughness, it apparently moved Cutler to tears when he found out.

The issue isn’t whether Cutler got hurt. We’ll out find out in the next day how bad the injury is, which will lead to vindication to one side of the debate.  However, the issue lies with the actions that took place before and after the injury that cause the perception of his injury to take shape.

Before the injury Cutler was playing poorly, and Cutler’s body language reflected his displeasure at the way the game was going.  As much as I hate Tom Brady seemingly berating other players on the sidelines (sometimes for his own mistakes), it’s at least a better reaction than hanging your head and staring at the ground.

Then came the moment that the Bears decided to pull Cutler.  Cutler didn’t go back to the locker room to conduct further tests, nor did he even put an ice pack on his knee. He didn’t put on a headset or try to huddle around his replacements when the came back to the bench. Cutler simply sat down, by himself and stared at the ground the rest of the game, completely disengaged.  At that point, I think Cutler would have better served himself being off the field or even out of the stadium, at least he could use the "we’re looking at the injury" excuse.

Again, I’m not going to question the guy’s heart. Only the training staff knows the severity of his injury at the time, and only Cutler knows how he felt during the game. Unfortunately sometimes in life, perception can be more important than the actual chain of events – and I think to many Bears fans (as well as Cutler critics), the perception speaks volumes.

I’m sorry Bears fans, you guys had a good run.  As crazy as Denver’s QB situation is, I’m just glad that Cutler’s no longer a Bronco. Denver has enough controversy already.