Sports Sermon: The death of the ticket stub

September 25, 2008

Resting on the corner of my father’s dresser in our old house was a tall glass pitcher full of ticket stubs. Having long ago lost its identity as a generic container, the pitcher transformed with each new addition into something more. By the time I was old enough to care, it was overflowing and looked more like a Cézanne still life than a simple glass. That’s just how I treated it—as a masterpiece. One of my favorite things to do was to empty it and rifle through the stubs, exploring every event my dad had been to, from Rush concerts to Penguins games. Every single ticket in that pitcher was the ultimate souvenir—a paper rectangle that made the same simple but important statement: he’d been there.

My own efforts to mimic my father’s collection have fallen far short, but it’s not because I’ve been denied my share of games and concerts. My pitcher—the corkboard hutch on my desk—is sparse because of a sad development in the world of live sports: the death of the ticket stub.

On the way out of a Nationals game that I attended last week, I stopped at a trashcan to dispose of my ticket. Such an act is a sin in my household, but this particular ticket, which I had picked up from a scalper outside the gate, was a computer printout. No reverence is owed to these online Ticketmaster abominations, which look more like Mapquest directions than ticket stubs. I’d just as soon tack a hotdog wrapper to my corkboard as a folded piece of printer paper.

Of course, it’s my decision to use Ticketmaster or any other website that offers printable tickets. The stubs still exist at the end of the long lines at the box office, but the prevalence of the printed variety seems to grow each year, and why not? Online tickets guarantee your seat in advance and expedite your trip into the venue—two undeniably positive things.

So while I shudder at the thought of a world without ticket stubs, I guess I don’t really have any answers. Chalk it up to technology and the evolution of sports entertainment, and cherish every traditional stub that you manage to get your hands on. I just hope that years from now when I sit my kid down and talk sports, he believes me when I tell him that I was there.

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Special Report

Electronic Seating: Death of the Ticket?

Could this be the end of ticket stubs as collectors know and love them?

In the last decade technology has brought ephemera fans amazing new printing abilities, resulting in some great tickets.

But at the same time, that technology is threatening the hobby in the form of electronic seating.

There are a few entrants in the market, so far, but Cleveland-based Veritix seems to be leading the charge.

Veritix markets Flash Seats, providing its electronic ticketing service to venues and professional sports teams around the U.S.

The program allows ticket holders to obtain seats in a new way. They arrive at the venue, swipe their credit card or driver’s license and a printer then generates a receipt, or “Seat Locator.”

So, there is the de facto stub. Veritix’ Flash Seats CEO Sam Gerace said “We understand commemoration is a part of the fan experience.” To that end, Gerace said most if not all of Veritix’ clients’ seat locators are glossy, four-color, and the size of a business card ” that fans like. ”

The convenience lies in the ability to instantly transfer ownership of the seats to whomever you wish — even while standing outside the venue at game time — by a variety of online methods.

Gerace says “It’s not just about convenience, it’s about piece of mind and authenticity. Counterfeit paper tickets are a bigger problem than you might think. Every act in the Top 200 has counterfeit tickets to combat.” Even the secondary market gets assurances. Since buyers register tickets online, they can instantly move the tickets by e-mail to another buyer at an agreed price.

Flash Seats’ roster of clients includes four teams from the NBA and one from the NHL.

Houston Rockets Account Executive Cara Tamburello says her clients can select how they receive their ducats — 75% choose old school tickets and 25% choose Flash Seats.

“It’s the system of the future” said Tamburello.

Another Flash Seats customer, the NBA’s Cavaliers, have seen use increase from 14% in their first year to over 65% this season. (Veritix’ majority shareholder — Dan Gilbert — also owns the Cavs.)

Baseball resists

And as for baseball? One MLB ticketing executive said, “(Flash Seats) isn’t an option for us and MLB.”

The executive, who wishes to remain anonymous because he’s not authorized to speak on behalf of MLB, said, “Season Ticket Holders want more and more these days. For the season ticket model to continue we as teams need to make sure we are offering more value than just good seats … Working with corporate partners, special offers locally and nationally, as well as creating a country club type membership is the way of the future.”

Phil Sorensen, President of Globe Ticket, doesn’t see electronic ticketing as an issue. Sorensen said the majority of their customers understand people start getting excited about the event when they buy the tickets. “People post them on a corkboard until the event, and they save them afterward. Our customers know this and want to provide attendees with a keepsake…we have over 17,000 customers and chances are slim to none they’ll be leaving us.”

Collectors respond

Ticket collectors, somewhat predictably, are also weary of the use. Detroit-based Gordon Fall laments the possibility of not having a tangible gift to give. “I have U of Michigan hockey season tickets. 21 games, four tickets per game. Inevitably, lots of tickets get used by friends and family. It’s incredibly convenient to have an envelope of tickets to send to friends, tickets to put in Christmas cards as gifts, et cetera. Having something electronic isn’t necessarily good, and it eliminates a big part of the joy that comes from giving tickets to friends.”

Fall also notes the lack of security, the expanded use of credit card fraud, and the piece of mind knowing “exactly where they are, and who has them. There’s no conflict on where the tickets are saved, or where the files have been sent. I know that I have Friday’s tickets because I can see and touch them on my desk.”

So what does all this spell out for the hobby’s future?

Does the convenience outweigh the loss of a time honored memento? Or is this another sign of the apocalypse? Sound off in the forum section…

Flash Seats At A Glance
Owned by: Veritix
Raison d’etre: Allows ticket holders greater ticket handling flexibility and ensures authenticity

Pro’s: Green business, allows for instant transfer of ownership
Con’s: “Dude, Where’s My Stub?”