This past Labor Day weekend my family took a weekend trip to the lovely city of San Diego… and while I was there I ran smack dab against a Major League Baseball rule that didn’t make a lick of sense to me.
Bear with me.
We were staying in a hotel right across the street from PetCo Park, a stadium I hadn’t seen yet. Now the Padres were playing the Rockies Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. Our Saturday and Sundays were packed and my wife and I were putting the boys to sleep around 8:30 that night.
When they were down, wifey saw how close we were to a big league game and I was starting to act like Gollum longing for the ring.
“Go watch the end of the game.”
So off I went across the street. I knew it was late in the game, but I figure I’d get in. The Padres have had trouble drawing.
I went up to the Ticket window on Tony Gwynn Drive and asked the teenager working behind the counter “One please. Where do you have available?”
“Sorry. No tickets.”
I was surprised. The Padres had sold out. Maybe the pennant race had finally caught on with San Diego fans.
“Wow,” I said. “You guys sold out!”
“No sir. There are plenty of tickets.”
Now you can see how there could be a disconnect here.
“OK, I would like to buy one of them” I said, not 100% sure why there was confusion.
“I can’t sell you any tickets sir.”
“Major League Rules. No tickets sold after the 7th inning.”
Now I understand no selling beer after the 7th inning because, well, people are probably smashed and they don’t want them MORE smashed. But I had never been to a place of business where they were actually saying “Sorry… we won’t let you be a paying customer.”
I showed him my cash, maybe thinking he thought I was homeless or something.
“I have money and I want to spend it on your product.”
“Sorry sir. I can not sell you a ticket.”
Now I am no economics major, but I can tell you a surefire way to NOT make money is to turn away people who are saying “I want to spend my money on the product that you are having a hard time selling.”
Buster’s, the local ice cream shop and cafe in my town, is always selling day old bagels and Rice Krispy treats trying to squeeze and extra buck or two out of their product.
Not the Padres. They were saying “Sorry. We do not want your dough.”
“What if I promise to buy a sundae in a plastic helmet?”
“Sorry sir. We have games on Saturday and Sunday.”
“I’m seeing Shamu tomorrow. And besides, my kids are asleep, my wife is reading her book and there is a game on RIGHT NOW! THERE! BEHIND YOU!”
It was surreal. It was reverse capitalism.
I walked up to one of the ushers who guard the gate to that great park just beyond center field.
I told him the story. He confirmed. “I am sorry. There is no selling of tickets after the 7th inning.”
Hearing it again made it somehow make LESS sense.
Let’s think of a not exactly outlandish scenario… Petco Park is located in the Gas Lamp Quarter where there are lots of bars and foot traffic. Let’s say you didn’t buy a ticket to the ballgame, but Mat Latos is throwing a no hitter and it is the 7th inning.
You find yourself at Rockin’ Baha Lobster watching the game and you think “Oh man! He’s throwing a no no! I should walk 2 blocks to the big ole half empty baseball stadium and be in the stands and cheer!”
Or you are at the Tipsy Crow and you see the Padres were down 8-1 but are coming back and rallying in the 7th inning.
Or you are AT the game, sitting in the empty upper deck, you get a text from a friend saying “Where R U?” You write back “At the Padres game.”
Turns out they are a trolley stop away and they buy a ticket and join you in the 1/4 filled third deck.
None of those scenarios are crazy or out there.
And each of them throw some extra bucks into the Padres coffers.
And MLB has set up rules to prevent that.
So I got in for free.
I pleaded my case to the usher… whose gender, race and general description I will not divulge… and the usher nodded, reached into their pocket, gave me a ticket and said “Just go in.”
So I got in for free.
The ticket was a $50 ticket. It cost me exactly gotch.
I was willing to spend $20. Instead I spent $0.
Lo and behold I went in and…
But man I found this rule to be peculiar.
I’ve never run a business before but I am sure that turning away customers isn’t the way to do it.
I am sure if they an eager customer says “I want to pay $20” the correct bartering technique is NOT “I say $0.”
The beautiful ballpark with character and charm is sitting 1/2 empty on a Friday night during a holiday weekend with the team in first place.
Shouldn’t the goal be putting asses IN the seats?
Oh I am sure someone will write to me and explain why it is smart to turn customers away and why it hurts the business model.
But let me tell you… it won’t be long before the Padres have to figure out what the hell to do about Adrian Gonzalez’s contract.
And they’ll be fretting that they can’t afford to sign him.