Giants' 'Dynamic' Pricing System Is Downright Evil

Categories: Business, Sports
ud zito z.jpg
The Giants may not be able to afford Barry Zito, but Giants fans on a budget can now only afford to go to his games
Let me say it up front and outright: The San Francisco Giants' long-planned move to charge more for more desirable games makes good business sense. Including factors such as the day's starting pitcher, the weather, and the team's place in the pennant race all adds up -- at least on a calculator.

I expect the team will make scads of extra money, though not enough to write off the Barry Zito fiasco. But I sincerely hope that this is a dismal failure, and those responsible for it are disgraced into finding non-baseball avenues of squeezing every last dollar out of rubes. Maybe they could go work for the Department of Parking and Traffic.

The oft-quoted model for the new, likely soon-to-be-ubiquitous baseball pricing system is airline ticket purchasing. It's almost certain readers have experienced first-hand the joys of last week's $300 tickets this week being priced at $410. It's a strong incentive to buy early before myriad contrived supply-and-demand factors are tossed into the algorithm and you end up paying through the nose. As noted before, inducing people to spend quickly and pinging those who do not is a sound business practice -- if not an endearing one.

On the other hand, it just seems downright wrong that you should be made to pay more for a baseball game because it's a "great day for baseball." It seems exploitative that you should be made to cough up extra dollars when Tim Lincecum is on the mound; will we be given a deep discount when Zito is pitching or Pablo Sandoval takes a day off? Further following the airline model, will we be charged extra for using the restroom? Do clean seats cost more? Do I have to pay extra to stay out of the all-felon, all-drunk, all-jerks talking loudly about work on their iPhone section?

I can understand why the same seats that cost $5 vs. Pittsburgh will run you five times that when Boston comes to town (or more, if it's a really nice day and Lincecum ends up taking on Josh Beckett). But the notion of "premium game pricing" sends fans an unmistakable message. It means "premium" teams visit AT&T Park, but the home squad is not one of them.

Finally, the notion of "dynamic" pricing feels so wrong because it completely upsets the "Hey! Let's go out to a game!"-notion that makes baseball unique. Among professional sports, only baseball is still priced at a level that makes spontaneity possible. No, you can't ditch the car in Little Hollywood, buy a sandwich at Piccolo Pete's, walk a mile, and score bleacher tickets for $3.75 anymore. That rose-hued nostalgia is fading fast. But toting a sandwich into AT&T Park and buying view reserve or bleacher tickets really is affordable for the everyman.

Hey, it still might be -- so long as the weather's lousy, the pitching matchup stinks, and the team's hopelessly out of the race. Go Giants! 
 
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