From chits to bits

I was meeting some colleagues and partners last night for the Pistons playoff game. As we sat down for drinks, we realized that we’d left the tickets at our hotel – more than an hour away from the Palace. Six small pieces of paper were tucked in a blue backpack and there was no way to get there and back without missing most of the game.

We could get the hotel staff to find the tickets and send them to us by cab, but that would take at least an hour and we’d have to count on the cab driver not taking off with the prized tickets. (Which were worth a lot more than the $100 cab fare.)

A quick call to the box office and we found a solution: if we could fax the tickets to the box office, they would reprint them. A fax glitch later, we had three of our tickets. (Only one page went through.) Fortunately, I had a digital image of the fax in my email account and the Palace box office also does email.

As this experience illustrates, sports and entertainment venues are rapidly coming into the digital world. Being able to handle situations like this dramatically improves the guest experience and reduces costs for the venue:

  • Tickets purchased directly from the venue can often be reprinted with just a credit card.
  • Print-at-home ticketing eliminates mailing costs and reduces the number of people needed to staff will call windows. (Note that this doesn’t mean reduced costs for you, because the ticketing companies charge for this service.)
  • The San Francisco Giants Ticket Relay allows you to transfer tickets electronically to someone else. If you decide at the last minute that you can’t go to a game, you can transfer the tickets by email and your friend can pick them up at a kiosk.
  • The Washington Nationals are experimenting with mobile phone ticketing that sends a scannable 2-D bar code to your phone.The current technology is too kludgy to be useful, but it will get better.

Digital ticketing also allows venues to generate additional revenue. At the Boston Symphony, season subscribers can electronically return tickets for a tax deduction. Those tickets are then resold.

Major League Baseball’s deal with StubHub allows ticket resales even on the day of the game. (For StubHub tickets that can’t be transferred digitally the market dries up based on FedEx’s schedule.) And, of course, MLB gets a cut. Those extra butts in seats also help to pad concession revenues.

There’s an additional benefit to the venues: digital ticketing increases the risk of buying tickets from scalpers. An “authentic” ticket could have been invalidated electronically.

I expect that we’ll also see more last minute deals offered by email and mobile phone to fill seats at underperforming events.

Pistons Ticket

Pistons vs. Magic, Game 5


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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