COMMENTARY | Two months after opting out of Major League Baseball's deal with StubHub, the New York Yankees recently unveiled their own website for fans to buy and sell Yankees tickets. For now, at least, it doesn't look like the best option for fans.
Through a link on the Yankees' website, which already offers fans a link to buy tickets directly from the team, buyers can shop for tickets from other fans through the "Yankees Ticket Exchange," the team's joint venture with Ticketmaster. Unlike StubHub's sites for teams other than the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels - the only other team to opt out of the StubHub deal - the Yankees' site will, at least temporarily, not have a minimum sales price.
For now, the "Exchange" is charging season ticket holders a 5-percent seller's fee. According to some reports, other sellers will be charged 15-percent, equaling StubHub's commission. (The site says that sellers "will be notified of the exact commission value prior to the posting" of their tickets.) Buyers, meanwhile, will pay a 10-percent commission, which is equal to StubHub's.
To get a snapshot of market forces at work, I did a quick analysis of prices for some of Yankee Stadium's worst seats (bleachers section 201) for one of the worst match-ups of the year - the Thursday, April 18th contest against the Arizona Diamondbacks:
- StubHub - which is still serving as a marketplace for buyers and sellers, albeit without the option for the electronic delivery of tickets - has 266 tickets posted. Ticket prices range from $7 to $32.80 (including delivery and service fees) with an average price of $14.02, including 90 tickets priced at or below $12.
- eBay, which owns StubHub, is offering 22 tickets with a "Buy It Now" price (with free shipping) ranging from $9 to $25 with an average price of $11.90.
- Yankees Ticket Exchange has 39 tickets available in the same section, ranging from $13 to $53, with an average price of $15.79.
It's still early, but even with its lower selling fees and the lack of a price floor, the Yankees' official site is the most expensive site to buy tickets.
Real vs. Fake Tickets
The Yankees' site guarantees the authenticity of tickets and allows for "print-at-home technology," as opposed to waiting for a StubHub seller to send tickets through the mail.
In the past, team officials have argued that, under the team's prior arrangement with StubHub, some resellers would list tickets that they didn't own, thereby impacting market prices. In other words, someone could list 10 phantom tickets for below face value with the hope that others (with real tickets) would follow suit. With that, the phantom seller could buy the real seller's ticket and, perhaps, resell them at a profit.
The formula sounds complicated, especially for a commodity for which there are hundreds, if not thousands, of buyers and sellers for individual games. Nevertheless, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner blamed these practices for the rise of "counterfeit tickets."
In a statement, Steinbrenner said, "It is unfortunate that unscrupulous resellers utilize deceptive practices and tactics and employ unofficial websites, all of which give rise to counterfeit tickets. Fans must be careful when purchasing from unauthorized websites as the tickets they are purchasing from the unauthorized resale websites could be counterfeit, stolen or otherwise void and as such will not permit the purchaser to be admitted into Yankee Stadium."
"StubHub claims they are a market maker, but we all know it - they're not," Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost told Newsday. "The scalper doesn't need the ticket to set the price. StubHub turns a blind eye to it."
Despite few reports of fans being duped by illegitimate StubHub sellers, the company plans to open an office similar to its Manhattan "Last Minute Service" center across from Yankee Stadium. Whereas the Yankees' official site will halt ticket sales three hours before game time, StubHub will allow buyers and sellers to complete sales right up until game time.
"We're looking forward to competing against both the Yankees and Angels,'' StubHub spokesman Glenn Lehrman told Newsday.
According to Trost, the Yankees' ticket resale site is expected to feature price floors after the team reviews the site's performance. He said the team is experimenting with the concept and will determine how to implement the concept. For example, certain games or individual sections may have price floors.
As I've indicated before, if the Yankees want to let market forces win out, the team should do what a majority of other ballclubs are doing to attract fans -- dynamic pricing, the purest economic form of pricing. Such a system adjusts prices of individual game tickets (either up or down) based on demand, which is generally driven by the day/night of the week, the opposing team, the opposing pitcher, or the weather. By asking fans to use the team's own site to resell tickets tickets already bought from the team, the Yankees only succeed in looking greedy.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.