Monday, December 11, 2006

The Red Sox Virtual Waiting Room

On Saturday, Red Sox tickets for some April-May games, and a few packages, became available on-line. As I did last year, I logged on and took my place in the virtual waiting room. Mostly I spent my two hours staring at the virtual head of a person standing virtually in front of me. I.e., I got to look at a message that read Please Be Advised that Patrons Are Selected from this Virtual Waiting Room on a Random Basis.

My number never came up, so I never actually got the pleasure of entering into the next phase of Red Sox ticket purchase. Last year, when I had more time to devote, I did manage to get randomly chosen a couple of times. All that did, however, was enable me to try for a game, only to find that there were no tickets available. Or one ticket only. Now, I've gone to games solo, but it was in the good old days when - at the last moment - you could find yourself with nothing to do, and no one to do it with, and just walk out to Fenway Park at game-time. I have no interest in planning 8 months ahead of time to go to a game by myself. That's no fun.

As for what was left for these games 24 hours after the tickets went on sale, here's yesterday's message:

The April & May games which went on sale yesterday have very limited availability - only scattered single seats, obstructed view grandstand and/or standing room tickets remain.

Single seat obstructed view? Great. A crappy seat and no one to complain to about it.

Last year, once I cleared the virtual waiting room, I'd try for a game. I was smart enough not to go for a game that a lot of people might be vying for: Yankees, last game of the season, White Sox, Mets - anything that looked like a hot ticket. No, I was after Kansas City and Tampa Bay games, middle of the week, middle of the season, who cares? kind of games. Still no luck. But the worst thing about trying to get tickets was that once you failed to close on the game you'd said you were interested in, you were tossed back into the virtual waiting room for another virtual wait. I sat there fuming that there was no "find me the best tickets you've got against the worst teams" option. Or even "worst tickets for the worst teams."

I came up empty.

This year, I didn't even get that far.

And if I had managed to score a ticket, the Red Sox were going to levy a $4 per ticket "convenience fee." Whose convenience might that be? It's presumably cheaper to sell tickets online than it is to pay for ticket sellers. And just how convenient is it when the system isn't smart enough to find you an alternative if the game you're looking for is sold out? (Maybe it was different in this respect this year; I'm going by what happened last year.)

I suppose that if I want to get any tickets, any game, I'll have to go out to the Box Office in person. At least I live nearby - a half-hour's walk on a nice day (and since we don't seem to be getting much winter this year, the day probably will be nice). Or I can go online to the legal scalpers and pay an amount that will let the $4 convenience fee look like chump change. Or go on game-day and pay an illegal scalper whatever the market's bearing at that point.

It's hard not to succumb to nostalgia for the good old days of Red Sox fandom, but I'm really not going to. They've been much more fun to watch in the last few years than they've been at pretty much anytime during my long history as a member of Red Sox Nation. Sure, there were exceptions during that time, but they've had a pretty good run since the turn of the century.

It's just that I've been a Red Sox fan for such a long time, I feel that I deserve to score tickets. Maybe even sit in an old-timers virtual waiting room.

Just how long have I been with the Red Sox? A lot longer than Theo Epstein's been alive. And long enough to not only remember when Ted Williams' head was attached to his body, but to have seen him hit a home-run in his last season. (July 1960, Red Sox beat the Indian 6-4. We sat in the bleachers. You could look it up - the score, not whether or not we sat in the bleachers. Of course we did.) And as an old-timer, I wish that getting a ticket weren't the equivalent of gearing up for the Oklahoma Land Rush or the Running of the Bulls. Okay, in the Virtual Waiting Room you don't get trampled, but that's about the only positive I can think of about it.

And it gets even worse: a few minutes after I drafted this post, I checked my e-mail. More good news from the Red Sox: they'd put more tickets on sale. I read this e-mail in virtual real-time - nano-seconds after it had been sent. Still, on click through, I found myself yet again in the Virtual Waiting Room. Arggggghhhhh!

All I can say is this is some business they've got there. Where else can you make your customers push and shove each other for the chance to leap over higher and higher hurdles just to make a purchase - when you have no idea whatsoever whether the product this year is going to be any good.

Looks like another season in front of the TV coming up.


Mary Schmidt said...

Yes, why do they make so hard? And, that "convenience fee" is a pet peeve of mine - for all types of tickets and events. They're really passing on the credit card fee to us - so why don't they just adjust the price internally accordingly if it's that big of a deal Grrrr...

Charles H. Green said...

Oh, my, how far we've come from "take me out to the ball game." High time to catch baseball in the minors or in the grapefruit league in wintertime, when you really don't care who's playing, because the game itself is beautiful.

Hey at least you can see the majors now on flat screens in high def! Seems to me like a no-brainer, compared to being forced to emulate waiting on Hewlett Packard's customer service line.

Maureen Rogers said...

Mary - Exactly: just bury the fee in the ticket price and quit annoying me. I'm complaining about the ticket price anyway, so what's another four bucks.

Charlie - Good reminder. We are fortunate to have quite a few minor league choices around here,indluding big league affiliates (Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Lowell Spinners) and guys just hoping that something can still happen (Lynn Spirit and Worcester Tornadoes). The games are great and there's a very low hassle factor.(Other than that, unlike going to Fenway, I can't walk to a game.) Plus you get to see future stars: I saw Nomar Garciaparra when he played for the Trenton Thunder years ago.

Anonymous said...

The Red Sox are ridiculous. Ticketmaster could sellout the whole season in 1/2 hour and everyone would get a shot. I thought that John Henry was some technological guru that found a way to get rich in the markets a fraction of a penny at a time (and benefitting society not one bit... but that's another philosophical arguement). Their incompetence is astounding. They make me long for the customer service of the John Harrington era.

Maureen Rogers said...

I assume that "Anonymous" took a shot this morning on the single ticket game sale. And I assume that nothing has improved since last I posted. Today I took a pass - just couldn't face the idea of sitting in that Virtual Waiting Room and driving myself insane.

Anonymous said...

The virtual waiting rooms are a pain in the a**. Why don't they do a lottery for tickets?? Would seem much more fair. You pay up front for tickets you want and if you get them you get them. If not, you get a refund. Sox would like it as it is $ up front. I tried one time a few years back to get sox tix on the weekend at work and had 3 or 4 computers open with multiple browsers open to no avail. Frustrated yet again.