Watching Jeff DaVanon

Watching Jeff DaVanon

A weblog devoted to #55 of the Anaheim Angels, Jeff DaVanon. How is he doing? Is he getting his due respect yet? Let's watch and see...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It sure is great to live in the age of modern technology!

Guess what time of year it is?

It's select-a-seat, that special time of year when dreams are crushed, the strong and fast rise to the top, and any advances that technology may have made in the past 20 years are employed only as they relate to the ancillary practice of photocopying.

If you have, or wish to have season tickets, this is the week when you can change your location or add additional seats to your account (new rule: max of 6 per account! this is not a good year to enter into the ticket re-selling business).

They group us up by seniority and release us on the stadium in packs every hour or so. We run around the stadium like crazed animals trying to spot seats tagged with white papers, which indicate they are available to buy. We then sit in those seats, look out onto the "field" which is always landscaped in dirt for some monster truck or motocross event, and try to decide if we like these better than our old ones. Then you remove the white papers, and stand in line to make your change.

The vulnerabilities of this system are almost too numerous to count. Problem #1, you have to go to Anaheim. Then, the marking of the seats is suspect... people sometimes tear off the tags, etc. But the biggest problem is that any seats "released" are not immediately made available to subsequent seat-hunters. For example, we traded our terrace seats for field seats farther down the baseline, but closer in. The terrace seats are better than the newer ones, but field level seats in the first few rows have a higher perceived value, and since we sell this pair of tickets 90% of the time, we wanted to maximize our ability to sell them and sell them for a good price. But those nice seats that we released are not made available to the 800 or so people that came in after us to pick seats Tuesday, they are not re-tagged until the next day. OK, this is only speculation on my part, based on observed staffing, staff behavior, and the fact that when you ask, they refuse to tell you how fast they re-tag released seats, which can only mean they aren't exactly proud of their speed. It only makes sense that they tag the seats each night, and not while the staff is busy processing all of us through. This is a stupid, inefficient, anachronistic process. And they tell you with such pride that they've done it this way for 6 years! Maybe I just resent driving down to Anaheim to look at dirt and watch grown-ups race through the concourses like 5-year olds.

I imagine one of the main reasons for doing it this way, and not moving to a more fair, automated on-line system, is that they think they are giving you this fantastic opportunity to "preview" the seats and get the best sense of the sightlines, etc. Well, the real reason is probably money, but the "story" they probably tell themselves is this "previewing" thing. This is a huge load of crap. The usefulness of previewing something when the field is not made up quickly approaches zero. For example, we spent our first year as season-ticket holders having to slouch a bit in our seats because my husband had incorrectly approximated the location of homeplate when selecting seats, and he'd picked the row where the railing blocks homeplate. Yes, you get a real sense of the distance, the nearest restroom, all those things. And those things are important. But the most important things is your view of the field, and without the field, we are only guessing. When you buy tix on eBay, people usually at least post the view from the section, which is more info than you have at select-a-seat.

The number of seats sold to season ticket-holders is rapidly approaching 30,000. There is quickly becoming nothing available to the public on the field level between the foul poles, between the bases in the upper sections, and in the right field pavilion area. A look at the pricing sheet for 2006 illuminates some interesting things:

The ticket prices in the area where the public can actually buy tickets is staying the same. All of the price increases, averaging 20%, are targeting sections which are almost 100% season ticket holders. The season ticket price is discounted from the single-game price, but in a situation where the public can't buy those tickets... the single-game ticket price becomes an arbitrary construct to justify raising the prices only for season-ticket holders. In a brilliant move, the Angels have instilled a sense of scarcity (forming a waiting list for season tickets, maxing accounts at 6 tickets) charged their core customers more for the product, but have kept the prices level for those seats that the general public actually buys (and frequently doesn't). There is informational asymmetry at work here, and this frustrates me. I'm being led to believe that these tickets are of great value, but it doesn't demonstrate a strong confidence in the product to only raise the prices of the pre-sold version. In most baseball cities with storied teams, the season ticket numbers are minimized, because single-game tickets command a higher price and are in demand.

In addition, the team has revised sections, creating new premium seats that didn't previously exist. If your seats have traditionally been behind the dugouts, you now get to pay extra for that, the person behind you pays the usual price, you get to shell out more. Even the price differential is screwy here: the difference between row C and row D is $5 on the single-game price... but it's $7.50 per game for season ticket buyers. (Dugout MVP is $55 for single tickets and $49.50 for season tickets, Field MVP is $50 for single tickets and $42 for season tickets). The difference in price between two sections should be higher in a single-game comparison than in a season-seat comparison. For example, there is a $14 difference in price for Terrace MVP and Terrace All- Star at the single game price and a $12 difference for season tickets.

If you've ever enjoyed a seat at the Knothole Club (and really, who has?) this is now a ticketed location, move it along. People are expected to shell out $50 per game for these seats, which are structured to include a F and B credit of an amount to be named later (it better be at least $20, otherwise save your cash and sit in the Club Loge (my pick for the worst seats for the price paid $30).

The View section has seen it's stock rise as well, a section in the middle of it has been carved out and designated "View MVP." Keep in mind that "Lower View MVP" already existed, so this premium is being applied only to the folks in the absolute top section of seats.

These section changes and price hikes come on the heels of a declining interest in season-seat-holder happiness over the past few years. Game attendance is up, but ushers have remained fairly static. Season-ticket-holder autograph sessions were quietly eliminated last year. [You'll notice that with Angelfest on hiatus this year, and the lapse in Sunday autographs and season ticket autographs, there are no longer any official autograph opportunities]. Other perks of season tickets have been phased out as well. The only enhancement that has been made is the ticketexchange, but even that has drawbacks and costs that we have yet to fully appreciate. This is the byproduct of success, and there isn't anything inherently wrong with it, but it is annoying to keep paying more for less. I curse the laws of supply and demand!

Of late, the mark of a true Angels' season-seat-holder is the quietly expressed wish that the team would have a lousy season or two, so as to weed out some of the fair-weather fans and elevate the station of those who remain. What can I say? We're in it for the long haul, and we'd prefer a better view of the action, and the return of season-ticket-holder autograph sessions.

We were hoping to upgrade this year but the only thing available was in a higher row with a pole blocking our view. We decided to stay in what I call our "lower nosebleed" section - 430. Wave at us if you see us - we're in row B.
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