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Dynamic ticket pricing is a good thing

Feb 10, 2010, 1:20 PM EDT

Nelson Algren said it best: Never play cards with a man called Doc, never eat at a place called
Mom’s, never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own, and never start spewing stuff about economics when you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.  Here’s SF Weekly’s Joe Eskenazi on the Giants’ new dynamic ticket pricing:

. . . it just seems downright wrong that you should be
made to pay more for a baseball game because it’s a “great day for baseball.” It
seems exploitative that you should be made to cough up extra dollars
when Tim Lincecum is on the mound; will we be given a deep discount
when Zito is pitching or Pablo Sandoval takes a day off? Further following the airline model,
will we be charged extra for using the restroom? Do clean seats cost
more? Do I have to pay extra to stay out of the all-felon, all-drunk,
all-jerks talking loudly about work on their iPhone section?

Baseball writer/economics professor J.C. Bradbury schools him:

I’m not really all that sympathetic. People are paying a price for a
product they value at that price or higher, I’m not seeing a downside.
You used to be able to buy something you valued more for less, and now
you have to pay a higher price that is still equivalent to or less than
what you value the product. And when the product is a baseball game,
cry me a river in the name of social justice.

OK, that was the fun part, not the schooling part. For that you’ll have to click through and read why it makes perfect sense — for everyone — for teams to do the dynamic pricing thing.

  1. Charles Gates - Feb 10, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    This isn’t a hard concept to comprehend. You pay hundreds, if not thousands, to sit close to the field while you pay ~$15 to sit in the nose-bleeds. Now, substitute Lincecum on a Saturday in June against the Phils for first row field level, and Zito against the Feesh on a Tuesday, early April.

  2. ecp - Feb 10, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    It’s kind of difficult to predict when, for example, Lincecum is pitching or Sandoval is sitting, so there are some difficulties inherent to tying pricing to individual players. But many teams already charge more for “premium” opponents at the team level; eg, you’ll pay more for a ticket when the Yankees are in town than the Indians. And this has the advantage of being establishable (is that a word?) well in advance.

  3. Gary - Feb 10, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    Bradbury can suck it. I ain’t gonna play that game.

  4. Ryan - Feb 10, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    I disagree. I don’t want to pay more for a ticket to see Albert Pujols hit and Adam Wainright pitch, then get to the game to find out Wainright slept on his arm wrong and Albert is getting a day off. I’ll continue to pay my flat rate MLB.TV fee and enjoy beer and hotdogs for 1/10th of the ballpark price.

  5. Gary - Feb 10, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    If they are going to charge more, then the “premium games” should count more in the standings.

  6. Michael - Feb 10, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    The problem with Dynamic Pricing: there doesn’t seem to be a ceiling, but there seems to be a definite floor.
    So in effect there’s an unlimited upside for the team, but not for the ticket buyer.

  7. Glen L - Feb 10, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    The only flaw with Bradbury’s argument is that baseball is a monopoly and fans can’t exercise voice through choosing a competitor’s product … in a more freed market, dynamic pricing would likely work wonderfully

  8. Will - Feb 10, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Sure there is, it’s the secondary market. It’s those tickets you pick up on the cheap from stubhub and the like.

  9. JC - Feb 10, 2010 at 8:35 PM

    Glen L,
    Price discrimination requires market power to work. Being a monopoly is one of the conditions that allows charging different prices.

  10. Old Gator - Feb 11, 2010 at 2:18 AM

    Back home in sunny Macondo (it’s cold as a bucket of penguin shit here in Albuquerque tonight), the Feesh charge among the lowest prices in MLB for their best and near best seats. The reason, of course, is that we don’t go to many games – and last season, for the first time since the team was spalded into the glare of reality, I displayed my disgust for the way our cheapskate ownership keeps letting our best players walk by not going to any games myself. We’ve got what would be terrific package deals too, if this K-mart team were actually worth even paying what they’re asking us to pay.
    Now and Barnes and Noble do the ol’ “dynamic pricing” (boy, talk about Zieglerspeak) number too. I combat that handily by buying my books, DVDs and CDs from the associates instead of from the corporate web page, usually used in very good condition, and save a small fortune in the process. If I bought straight off the main screens they’d’ve been jacking the prices on me on a day to day basis. Eengleesh, I evacuate my nostreels in your direction, got that?
    In other words, folks, like you learned on the Bell Telephone Hour (television’s long ago forerunner to Physics for Dummies), for every action there’s an equal and opposite (if reluctant) reaction. Stiff the bastards and you’ll force the price down. Do like Comrade Ryan above doesn’t. You don’t like the pricing, screw ’em, stay home and watch on the cable channel you’re already paying a flat rate for. If enough of you do that, the teams will get the message in a hurry.

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