Refund! Refund? Refund!

It is a
compelling story of the rich getting, if not richer, then at least getting
richer discounts
.
This week, the Yankees have been pounded everywhere from the New York papers to
the business publication Forbes for offering freebies, two-fers, and especially
refunds
, to only
those customers who had paid the stadium’s absolute top season ticket price of
$2,500 a seat.

There is
only one complication. The Yankees aren’t actually going to wind up giving
out
any refunds.
This is for the remarkably simple reason that the tickets for which they announced
refunds or credits,
are the ones they weren’t able to sell.

Though the
Yankees are in the most curious of business predicaments – they
set the bar too high, the bottom fell
out of the economy, they made a gesture to give back some of their loot (and,
in the process, fill the embarrassingly empty seats), and yet they’re still getting
yelled at
– the
Steinbrenners have nobody to blame but themselves. More specifically, they can
chalk it up to an incredible, almost labyrinthine
press releaseissued by an
outside publicity firm, that offered no less than fifteen different responses
and plans to the various ticket prices and locales. The document is slightly
less intelligible than a book of IRS forms, nearly as long, and obviously just
as confusing.

The
standard reporting on this has fallen in line with
Forbes’ account:”The bum
economy managed to turn the famous Legends Suite seats in the first few rows,
priced as high as $2,650 apiece, into infamous symbols of overreaching during a
time when businesses are gun-shy about lavishing money on sports and other
forms of client entertainment. So top seats will now go for $1,250 a pop, with
those who already laid out the bigger money getting a credit or refund…” There
was a snotty burst to the Associated Press from some television guy who’d
bought three of the $850 suite seats behind the plate. “”If they’re
offering only selective refunds, depend upon it: There are going to be
lawsuits. Great, more tickets nobody wants. The silver lining here is that even
more charities are going to be getting even more tickets from me.” The
shoot-from-the-hip complainant was named Olberding or Overmann or something. The
average egalitarian complaint echoed that of my friend Rich Sandomir of
The Times: “The Yankees
did not consider giving refunds or credits to fans in nonpremium seats because
Hal Steinbrenner felt only a small number of top-tier tickets were overpriced.”

As it is,
the Yankees are actually not giving refunds or credits to almost any of their
fans. A Yankee source did say that as many as four ticket-buyers – literally, four
customers,
in the
suites hanging from the upper deck in left and right fields – would wind up
with some extra perks. But the source added they weren’t certain: it might only
be three

customers.

The
understandable confusion seems to owe to the first subheading (item “A” on a
list of ticket price adjustments that goes all the way to item “I,” then pauses
for a few sentences and then re-starts with another
item “A”, and then a “B” that is
followed by sub-
subheadings
1, 2, 3, and 4). It reads “the full season Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses in
the first row in Sections 15A, 15B, 24B and 25 will be reduced from $2,500 to
$1,250 per regular season game. All fans who have purchased such full season
Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive, at their choice, a refund or a credit.”

The thing
is, sections 15A and 15B are at the far end of the Yankee dugout – most are
behind the camera well beyond
the
dugout – and sections 24B and 25 are their opposites behind the visiting
dugout. The front-row seats in those sections are the equivalent of fourth row
seats in the rest of the park. I’m reliably informed that the Yankees didn’t
manage to sell any
of
those seats, so there’s no refund to be had. Reality here reads like something
out of “Catch-22″: you can get a refund on those tickets, but only if you
haven’t bought them. And you can now buy many of those high-end tickets at half the original price, except you can’t, because the Yankees gave them away as make-goods.

So, amid
all the dollar figures, topic lettering, references to sections “15A and 15B,”
the press release had all the clarity of assembly instructions pulled out of a
swing set on Christmas Eve. The team certainly is giving its high-end customers
extra tickets – the ones it couldn’t sell – particularly those wide swaths of
exposed blue leather down the third base line. But that real story of what the
Yankees were doing was buried down in items C, D, E. Those who actually bought
those $2,500 front-row seats would be getting not refunds but a free set of
front-row seats further away from home plate. Buyers of $1,250 seats would get
24 games’ worth of freebies. Buyers of $850 seats would get 8 free games, and 4
more games’ worth in the $500 section, etc.

Speaking as
one of those $850 buyers, I want to make it clear that nobody, but nobody
, should feel sorry for us. Once you
are actually paying three or four figures for one
ticket to a sporting event, you are
on your own. The first year my father bought season tickets at Yankee Stadium
(1972), four seats to each game cost a total of $1,000, and we only managed it
by canceling all further vacations. Last year, the same four seats cost a total
of $1,000 per game.
The
advent of the Amazing Colossal Yankee Ticket Price didn’t exactly sneak up on
any of us, and we could have gotten out at any time – as hundreds, maybe
thousands, did.

But there
was a certain apparent inequity to the way the Yankee ticket adjustment was
framed – an inequity caused mostly by that blasted press release – that the
franchise didn’t deserve. It was not offering a fifty percent rebate to the
highest of the high rollers, and a token handful of tickets to the next group
down. It was giving the people who did buy tickets, all the rest of the tickets
that nobody had bought.

What
remains unaddressed, of course, is the 2010 season. Not mentioned in any of the
coverage of the cutbacks in the Bronx – at least that which I’ve seen – is that
beginning this season, the Yankees instituted multi-year ticket licenses. The
minimum commitment demanded of season seat-buyers at virtually all price ranges
was three years. An inverted sliding scale of maximum annual price increases
accompanied each
deal (the longer you signed for, the less they could raise the price of your
seats each winter), and the paperwork was as thick as a good-sized magazine. No
matter what the economy does, it will be fascinating to see whether the Yankees
try to enforce those price jumps next year, or hope they can just get people to
pay what they agreed to in more halcyon days. Or 75% of that. Or 50%.

Because if they can’t, the most dreaded thing imaginable might happen. The Yankees might send out another one of these press releases.

16 Comments

The shoot-from-the-hip complainant was named Olberding or Overmann or something.

Oh that Olberding, what a trouble maker! Funny thing is that I found out about the $800 tickets you buy from DP, he mentioned it on his show recently =)

My daughter complains about this Oberhead guy. “No! That is toooo boooooring! Blah, blah blah! The President of the United States! Can I watch Flapjack?”

I know this forum is a baseball blog, but as the daughter – in – law of a teammate of Dave Blase on the ORIGINAL “Cutters,” I must point out that the title of this thread comes from the movie BREAKING AWAY (for those of you who didn’t know the title’s origin to begin with). And, yes, my father – in – law was on the Little 500 cycling team which inspired the plot of the movie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_Away#Real-life_inspiration

Now, going back to the subject of the thread, I’ve always been a bit conflicted when it comes to ticket prices, the cost to build new stadiums, where the money comes from, etc. If I was independently wealthy & lived in Chicago, I’d be sitting behind homeplate during every game at Wrigley Field. It would be my money my choice to spend it how I want. When it comes to ticket prices, team owners obviously feel there is a market for the prices they set. No one would buy the tickets at those prices if there wasn’t a “market.” More than a little greed figures into the equation, too, I imagine. But, I have a BIG problem with sports teams touting what they believe to be their VITAL role in the economic development in the communities in which they play & using that attitude to hold local tax payers hostage, to some effect. I live in Indianapolis & had a proverbial front – row seat into the building & issues surrounding Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts & other teams act like tempermental 2 – year – olds & say they’ll hold their breath & take their “balls” somewhere else if the community at large doesn’t fork over the tax money. And, going back to the pickle in which the Yankees “box office” seems to find itself, they go through the APPEARANCE of offering refunds but only for seats that hardly sold to begin with. The current big story in my town involves the State of Indiana trying to renegotiate their deal with the CIB (Capital Improvement Board) & the Colts because Lucas Oil Stadium is costing more then envisioned – go figure. I suppose if Indianapolis had a major league baseball team, we’d experience this “battle” 2 – fold.

So the Steinbrenners finally over-reached, wow, just wow. Perhaps they should throw the stadium open first come first served $10.00 a ticket, hey, it’s better than selling no tickets at all! (Of course, the resulting riot would cost a bushel!) It’s still my opinion that MLB owners are not doing a good job of creating new baseball fans when the price of 4 tickets to a game is more than the average person’s take home pay for a month. Oh, and I dislike corporation names on stadiums. Do you really think jocks like to play in a stadium with a name like Minute Maid Park?

Lovely explanation of the entire ticket situation. KO, you slice and dice on a level equal to the the best chefs in the world.

The Yankees need to take some lessons from small market Milwaukee which is:

– Filling up the Ball Park.

– Making the playoffs.

– Not spending like they are printing their own money.

I usally like that “Olbbermann” guy in my best Bill Orally voice.

Keith in my opinion, the Yankees lack of ticket sales is a win for the average fan. There is now way a ticket to a baseball game should cost 800-2500 dollars which is what I understand these seats are going for.

I had free tickets for the Phillies 2nd home game this season. I went to the game, sat in the freezing cold weather paying too much money for pizza and a soda. Tried to pay too much for a hot chocolate but they ran out 3 people in front of me.

Then don’t get me started with the behavior of my ‘fellow’ Phillie fans complete with my wife and I having to see a 40+ year old ‘man’ walking around in the parking lot with his pants and underwear around his ankle, and the drunken girl passed out face first coming out the stadium, that people kept stepping over.

Bottom line, I am pretty much done attending major leauge games. They are pricing themselves out of business and the people that buy the cheap seats, well, not exactly salt of the earth people.

I will continue to support my hometown AA team where the most expensive ticket is $10 and is much more family friendly enviroment.

PS, I am sure the lack of ticket sales for the Yankees is some king of NBC conspiracy theory to make O’Reilly look bad. ;)

Sports is a business, just like any other. I don’t think I really realized that until the 1994 baseball strike. Over money. I couldn’t believe what big babies they all were.

I have been to one major league game since then: to see the Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Rangers, which — ironically — also opened in 1994. I paid $5 for group grandstand tickets. ALthough I’m still mad at MLB for the 1994 screw-up, at least homeplate tickets at the Ballpark can still be had for $205 at the gate (which I still think is outrageous).

Several years ago, the owners of the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars (barely) convinced the public that we “needed” a huge expensive shiny new arena. The AA Center is nice, but has not lived up to its promised potential of revitalizing a blighted area of the city.

Now, the Dallas Cowboys are about to christen their new stadium, which required the purchase or condemnation of more than 150 private properties. The thing is so big, I’m sure it can be seen from space. Even there, though, the top price per game for season tickets is a mere $340 (after purchase of a 30-year option for upwards of $50,000).

Used to be you could take the family out to the ballpark for practically nothing. I’m reminded of the old Mastercard “priceless” commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71KAO_bmc2o

Keith,

As always, well said.

You are up there with Bouton – for great and funny reporting you do to keep our favorite game honest. When you retire, your first task must be a “Ball Four”, but from a sportscaster’s perspective. Or, heck, do it now.

Why should your need to get any sleep interfere with us annoying fans having another great book to read?

Thanks and keep up the great work.

Max Flores

TO: Mr. Annonymous poster keith-is-a-hack.

# I watch KO on MSNB. I like him. Don’t know much about sports, but he does. (Even olbywatch gives him that.) I came here to learn more about sports. # So… SHoUT THE dUCK UP or GO ELSEWHERE. # NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR YOUR TIRED OLD… whatever it is that you think you are doing. # ****. # Even a ‘celebrity’ is allowed to have his/her own passion/interests. Especially if they started in sports like KO did. It wasn’t an exchange program: KO didn’t have to give up sports to do political commentary. # So, Mr. Anonymously Stupid, are you so cowardly you need to hide behind an alias? Here? On a sports blog? # Asked an answered. # I don’t read this this blog on a daily basis, but, whenever I do, and I read another of your moronic comments, I’m going after you. I own you. Deal. Be afraid. Whatever…
“I have a real name and I’m not afraid to use it”
— S A GOULD
#PS- Actual sports people: I believe what I just did was considered “trash talking,” right? And I issued a “throw-down” (challenge/whatever), right? ‘Cause I don’t even know the current sports lingo and clearly, I must learn them… #

Yeah, right the Yankees ought to be more like the Brewers!
Maybe the can convince MLB they can compete if allowed to
switch leagues. Since switching Milwaukee is not so competetive-I say make them play in the American League again and restore the 5 team per division symmetry.

Thank goodness for this site. I have been wondering how to follow MLB (Yankees)Mets from DE who happen to love those Phillies AND to have a comment from KO.

Thanks. I have bookmarked this site for the duration of living away from home.

Keith

You may sit in the nice seats, but I was impressed to see you on the 4 train last Saturday. Keep up the great work.

SP1akb Very true! Makes a change to see someone spell it out like that. :)

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