Saturday, June 30, 2007

Buckets of Ducats

It's the beginning of July, and like the swallows returning to Capistrano, complaints about ND's ticket policies return to the various message boards. I had a couple thoughts on the ways ND could handle their various constituencies and ticket policies in general, which I share with you in the interest of fostering discussion.

Embrace Technology

Putting on my Captain Obvious cape for a moment, Notre Dame must join the rest of humanity in the world of portable bar code readers.

At just about every sporting or concert event I've attended in the last five years, be it at Comiskular, PNC, the Rosemont Theater, Heinz Field, the Louisiana Superdome, wherever, I'm greeted by a ticket-taker holding a PDA on steroids in his or her hand. A quick laser swipe over my ticket, sometimes itself merely a sheet of paper printed on my inkjet at home, and I'm good to go.

Ah, but not at Notre Dame Stadium or the Joyce Center. There, my cardboard ticket is still ripped asunder or paper-punched. This throwback to simpler times, while quaint, impedes ND's progress towards not only a more efficient ingress to its events but also better use of data mining to determine how tickets are being used and all the associated benefits of having that knowledge.

It's difficult to enjoy the 21st century when you still have not embraced the 20th. I want to hear those beeps at every arena/stadium entrance.

Save the Trees

Most of the people who end up with Notre Dame tickets on a consistent yearly basis belong to relatively static groups:

  • Students
  • Faculty / Staff
  • Alumni
  • Season-ticket holders
  • University donors

The first two groups already are required to carry a specific identification card indicating their membership in their group. Why not create ID cards for the other two? It's not like someone would stop being an alumnus of the school, and while there's no guarantee someone would retain season tickets or continue to donate to Notre Dame at large levels, there usually isn't a tremendous amount of movement into or out of the group.

Members of those groups would receive bar-coded ID cards corresponding to their typical number of seats for a given event. A season-ticket holder, for example, with four seats would have four cards, each with his or her name on it, which would be used every year for entrance to the stadium. An alumnus would have two or whatever max number of seats he or she could win in the lottery for a given game. Students would use their ID's, while faculty and staff could use ID's plus cards for whatever other ticket(s) they were entitled to. The functionality would exist for card owners to convert their tickets into regular paper versions in specific cases, and lost cards could be replaced just as any other identification cards are.

The card(s) would be read at the stadium gate to indicate the owner had used that ticket for that event. Ushers would be armed with the same bar code reader to check cards in the event they need to determine if a person is in the right seat. In the event the ticket holder needed to exchange the card usage for a paper ticket or wanted to not use his or her ticket to that game, that could be facilitated by contacting the ND ticket office, much the same way that people arrange for the sale of unused tickets today.

I believe this approach can save the school some money. Tickets would be assigned to the cardholder's accounts. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars printing the same tickets for the same people every year on expensive cardstock, ND could print one page on a sheet of regular paper telling the ticket holder where his or her specific seats are for that game. In the case of season ticket holders, this would be moot since they have the same seats every time.

Some paper tickets would still be required, particularly for University guests or the visting team's allocation, but the costs of printing and shipping the tickets would be greatly reduced.

Students of the Games

Right now, students have to track full ticket books and show them at each game. Eliminating the books and tying the tickets to their ID simplifies things greatly.

For non-football events, it also makes the system more flexible. If a student decides at the last-minute to attend a basketball game, for example, they can go to a website on ND's network and purchase a seat. The ticket is added to their account, and instead of having to track down or pick up a piece of cardstock, they simply get their ID scanned at the Joyce Center. If another student cannot attend a given game, they can make their ticket available not only to other students but also to walk-up general admission traffic, and the ticket office will know about it in real time. The students could also "trade" tickets for games directly, eliminating the ticket office middleman. This kind of schedule flexibility might improve student attendance at basketball games.

The same would be true for faculty and staff. They could use their ID plus whatever additional card(s) they're entitled to. If they can't make a game or want to attend a game on a whim, the way is smoothed for them to do so.

Scalpers Beware

This system will also help curtail the scalping market, putting more at-cost tickets into the hands of Notre Dame alumni and fans.

A member of a card-holding group is not about to trust a complete stranger with their ticket cards, and the hassles associated with shipping cards around the country makes such a practice undesirable. Therefore, people are less likely to put in for games they or someone they know well will not be using themselves, leaving more available for people who do want to attend the games.

While it would be possible for card owners to convert their seats into regular tickets, they would have to go through the ticket office to do so. If a card owner used this process an excessive number of times, it would give the ticket office the sufficient red flag to check out how the seats were being used. It would also give ushers a list of tickets that had been converted from cardholder to paper, giving them the opportunity to see how those seats were being used. If visiting fans were turning up in those seats every week....

There is no perfect solution to the perceived problems of ND's ticket distribution system. But I have to think something like this would work better than trying to price the less rabid folks out of the market via PSL's, which seems to be the plan du jour. ND needs to use the existing technology to make its ticket processes more efficient before they try beating their constituencies over the head with price increases.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good thoughts there, Bonger. If I don't need anything but a sheet of paper with a bar code and my ID to board a plane to the Bend, why not for the game as well. Only objection I can see might come from those who save their pretty cardboard ticket stubs as souvenirs.

6/30/2007 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger rockne1977 said...

Great commentary. Scalping has been a longstanding issue. With ND football on the rise again, the demand for tickets by true ND fans will be on the rise. ND's football team deserves a house full of rabid (yet class) fans who willsupport the team, win or loss, not whining babies who sit there and bitch most of the game. For too long, ND Stadium has been visitng team friendly. This must end. Greedy people caught scalping tickets, whether alumni, faculty or others, should lose their ticket privileges for at least five years. It is time for the University to step up.

6/30/2007 05:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Meghan said...

I agree that the tickets should be scanned instead of being ripped. I dont agree with putting everyone's tickets on cards though. I'm not positive but I do think that they putting the students tickets on a special card or something that is personalized to help cut down on students passing ticket booklets to other people. Why I disagree with the use of cards for everyone is because the university get alot of money from the sponsers whose information and logos are on the backs of the tickets. I'm sure that that money pays for the tickets and more, so I would think the university would end up losing money if they went to a credit card type of system instead of the paper tickets.

As for the scalping, scalping isn't illegal in Indiana. You are not suppose to scalp tickets on campus and undercover police sometimes attempt to buy from people on campus to catch scalpers. If you go off campus, scalping is perfectly legal so I don't know what the problem is. Most of the people who buy scalped tickets are ND fans anyway, most of the other team's fans dont want to pay that much for tickets.

I can't really complain because I haven't really had to go through the lottery yet, but I am mad that they limited the number of games a parent is allowed to get tickets to. My guess is that Notre Dame has the same problems as every other team that is popular... there isnt enough seats for all of the fans. I dont see that problem being fixed so its always going to be a problem even if they incorporated scanners and such.

6/30/2007 09:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The advertising and souvenir issues could be solved by the ushers printing out a receipt after the ticket is scanned -- could have the date, time, game photo, directions to the seats, and the ads. Kind of like the custom coupons you get at some grocery store checkouts. A heck of alot easier to do that then to have all the anti-tamper material on the current tickets.

6/30/2007 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous GraceAce said...

Some interesting ideas. I would say that requiring alumni / season ticket holders to produce a special ids would be a game day nightmare... people would forget them / lose them with regularity.

6/30/2007 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger Jake said...

Wow... you have a lot of time on your hands ElK. You have a lot of good ideas, but the problem I see is that technology, expecially that employed by ND, is not 100% reliable. I can easily see a student going to a game and thinking the game is on their card, and then, Whoops! it's not on the card. You have to remember that ND is still very much in the 20th C, so I can see this happening. Also, a commenter mentioned putting ads on receipts. People don't keep receipts, so I don't see that as a viable solution. All that said, man you need to get out and just keep busy till training camp.

7/01/2007 01:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Uncle Rico said...

While I agree with your entire post, Meghan had very valid points and Michigan still sucks.

7/01/2007 02:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is very easy to solve the scalping problem... have a couple of N.D. employees go out and buy every ticket that they can find by all the methods the scalpers use. then turn around and bill the person that orginally bought the ticket through the N.D. ticket office for the amount of the ticket that they just bought from the scalpers plus a $50.00 fine for the first offence $250.00 for the second and $500.00 for any additional offences. all the people that receive tickets through the N.D. ticket office will get information warning them of this change of policy so they cannot complain when they get a huge fine when their tickets get bought from a scalper!

dont pay the fine... and you wont get anymore tickets through the N.D. ticket office!

7/01/2007 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather update the technology used in the lottery.

First, let us rank the games we want to attend. Make it a priority to give every alumni tickets to one game before giving out tickets to a 2nd, 3rd game etc. There are a number of algorithms that can be used to accomplish this fairly. This would probably eliminate the years where you get every game but should also greatly reduce the number of years you get no tickets in the lottery.

Second, why not embrace the web and allow (at least the younger generation) to enter the lottery request online and mail a check. This would allow more flexibility in grouping tickets since you could just add a list of other "ticket id numbers".

I'm all for scanning tickets to avoid fakes but I'm not sure that the cards are a great solution. I, for one, would always ask for paper

Keep up the good work.

7/01/2007 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah that would be just great. Now the rest of us who aren't alumni, students, or facility could look forward to never seeing a game at ND stadium again. Your ramblings are pure elitist crap. Maybe you could suggest a policy where these terrible "outsiders" could be prohibited from stepping on YOUR campus altogether.

7/01/2007 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Rory said...

I've been hoping the university would do something along the lines of this suggestion for quite some time. While not illegal, scalping tickets at above face value does violate the ticket holder policy that you agree to before buying tickets, so it's still dishonest. Notre Dame football is supposed to be a family friendly activity, and having ticket prices driven up to astronomical prices by greedy staff/alumni/donors not only makes it harder for people to take their families (the next generation of domers) with to the games, it also is the reason that at last year's game I was sitting amongst a throng of Michigan fans (and that was in the monogram section). If you don't want the tickets for yourself or close friends/family who are ND fans, don't put in for them at all.

7/01/2007 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Quixotehan said...

Let's take this one step further:

7/02/2007 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about all the Notre Dmae fans who aren't alumni. Wouldn't you be alienating them for a chance to get tickets??

7/06/2007 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Non-alums would not be shut out. If they're in the carded groups (e.g. season ticket holders), they should remain unaffected.

By eliminating people in the carded groups who obtain tickets strictly for scalping purposes, more tickets will be available for public purchase, and those tickets would be available at cost as opposed to paying scalper rates.

7/06/2007 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

the reason student/faculty ids work is because those individuals use those all the time and have a high interest in having them on person always. I can only imagine what a logistical nightmare it would be if I had a card I needed to carry around so that I could use it 7 days a year. That'd never get lost. What if I can't make the game and want to mail the tickets to my parents to use? do I have to mail them my card? what if they can't get it back to me in time for next week's game? am I shut out? what if I lose it at Corby's the night before? am I out of luck, or is there going to be a handy university office to replace them on gameday?

while the student ID tickets are a good idea, the alumni id card is a terrible one and does, as another poster pointed out, smack of elitism. Lots of people get tickets and then don't personally use them and there's no insidious purpose behind their actions at all.

also, this kind of attitude is what sets us apart, and not in the good way. being a notre dame alum is sometimes embarassing because of the company that necessarily entails.

7/06/2007 03:01:00 PM  

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