Revenue / 09.17.19
Who’s All in for These Tickets?
To be “all in” is to be fully committed to something — a task, an endeavor, a plan of action. Let’s say you have what you think is a winning poker hand. What do you do? You excitedly nudge all your chips toward the pile and exclaim, “I’m all in!” Or, you go to a bachelor or bachelorette party and discover that the real plan for the night is much more than what was on the invitation. You think about the possible consequences. But, in the end, chances are you’re going to declare, “I’m all in!”
All-in tickets look to generate that same level of enthusiasm. Danny Katz, co-founder of Complete Ticket Solutions, was quick to give the most basic definition. “All-in tickets provide the full price the customer will pay as the actual price of the ticket from the outset to purchasers. There are no additional fees added during the sales process. $40 is $40.”
Indeed, the customer purchasing the ticket only sees the final price. The long list of fees attached to most tickets are effectively eliminated. Smith’s Tix President Deirdre “Dee Dee” Naff states, “Our customers have been asking for this. We receive emails, tweets and Facebook messages asking us to please stop listing the fees. I have to add, however, this is a shift in consumer thinking. In 1987, for instance, consumers in Kansas lobbied to have fees broken out on the tickets. They demanded to see what extra charges they were paying for. Back then, it was a shocking $1.50 per ticket!”
That’s certainly not the case today. Of course, many promoters and patrons do not like seeing fees added during the sales process that can make a supposed $25 ticket end up being closer to $35 or $40 when the transaction is completed. According to Katz, “all-in pricing doesn’t leave anyone sending an email to the promoter, asking, ‘Why am I being charged a fee? It is my computer, my printer, my paper? What’s this fee for?’ It really isn’t a customer-friendly response to say what my real answer is: ‘Someone has to pay for the technology!’ But all of this is removed with all-in pricing.”
There is, of course, a difference between how tickets are priced in the United States and the United Kingdom. Chiefly, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) applies the codes written by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), which require that all organizations who sell tickets advertise the prices with all non-optional taxes, fees and/or charges included. The goal is to avoid misleading customers and increase the public trust.
Katz speaks with the voice of experience. After all, he has been in ticketing since 1992, starting with the Florida Marlins. He left in 2000 as the Director of Ticket Operations overseeing the Marlins, Miami Dolphins and stadium events at what is now called Hard Rock Stadium.
“My business partner and I started Complete Ticket Solutions in 2000 to provide outsourced box office solutions for nontraditional venues that need assistance, including online, call center, and on-site staffing and management. While located in South Florida, we travel anywhere needed to get the job done.” Indeed, their clients have ranged from the Coconut Grove Arts Festival to the New York International Air Show.
Naff, meanwhile, joined Smith’s Tix in 1999, first as Director of Operations and eventually President. She has 37 years of experience in the sports and entertainment ticketing industry.
Both agreed that all-in ticketing has its share of challenges. “First, there are the tax challenges,” Naff says. “Depending on what the fee is for, it can be taxed at a different rate or not at all. The second challenge: Is the artist willing to have his or her ticket price be bumped up possibly 20% or more over face value?”
She continues, “Our first big success story was with the Salt Lake Bees, a Triple A baseball team. We had a promotion ‘No Fees for The Bees’ that was started in 2010. Tickets were priced the same regardless of where they were purchased. They increased their advance sales and were able to lower their staffing costs with a smaller walk-up crowd. We have used this success story to sell it to other clients. Another advantage is with all the other fees being inside the ticket, we are now adding sales tax. Five years ago, this wasn’t happening. Sales tax is a fee that all consumers are used to paying, and we haven’t received one complaint.”
Iain Bluett, co-founder and president of Ticket Alternative, says he is “in the other lane” as far as all-in ticketing is concerned. “We really don’t see many people doing all-in tickets. If anything, I have been getting more requests lately to break down the base price of the ticket and then to see the fees, the sales tax, the facility fees and so forth.
He adds, “I’m also seeing more event organizers, venues and concert promoters breaking out the fees to offer [the public] that level of transparency. I think that’s what consumers are looking for these days. They want transparency. There could be the alternate perception that by essentially hiding the fees within the all-in ticket price, you don’t really know what that ticket price is or where those fees are going.”
Katz acknowledges that views vary among promoters as to the benefits. Some think it is a bad idea, wanting instead to aggressively and creatively promote and offer the best price possible. But others who want to avoid the customer seeing the list of fees prefer going the all-in route.
“The additional challenges are accounting related, and we aren’t accountants,” Katz adds. “So, we simply make sure the promoters of our events using all-in pricing are aware that there are potential issues. They should consult with their people on items such as the requirement to show sales tax [and potentially fees] separated on a ticket, and potentially having to pay sales tax on a higher artificial ticket price because you built fees into it. There is also the concern of having your ticket price rise so much in a single year. Promoting a $50 ticket that the next year becomes a $60 ticket because you’re going to all-in pricing is still sticker shock even if it really is the same price.”
Fortunately, there has not been much need to educate the general public on all-in tickets. Naff says, “We have not had to overcome any stigma. But we always use the ‘no fees’ in the promotion pieces that are sent out. In every situation where we have implemented ‘no fees,’ advance sales have increased.”
Katz concurs, adding, “Ticket buyers always look for the total cost, and there have been enough examples of all-in pricing recently that it isn’t surprising to see it anymore. I don’t think there is a “too good to be true” stigma either. We have historically noted that ‘the price includes fees’ or something to that effect when we have provided all-in tickets.”
He concluded, “We just need to be aware of all the options and changes and be able to present them to our event promoters as available options and let them decide what is best for them. There is constant innovation in this space, and we’ll be keeping our eyes open for what comes next and be ready.”
In other words, Katz and his colleagues are “all in!”
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Tags: Consumer Preferences