It's a familiar scenario: Season-ticket holder can't make the game, so he sells his seats to a middleman; middleman takes a cut and resells to a desperate fan. Most would call this process scalping, the venerable capitalist dance of the stadium parking lot. The San Francisco Giants call it the Double Play Ticket Window.
Here's how it works: A season-ticket holder logs on to sfgiants.com and sets a price for his seats, provided it's above face value. (The team doesn't want to alienate other season-ticket holders by underselling tickets.) Fans can then buy the tickets on-line and pick them up at the game. No shady ticket brokers, no are-you-kidding-me-these-are-worth-fifty-each! scalpers and nowhere to go but your computer. The Giants, as middlemen, take a 10% cut from both the seller and the buyer.
"Ball clubs should love this," says Matthew Freedman, editor of Team Marketing Report. "They can fill their stadiums to capacity and make good figures doing it." Indeed, the Giants have taken in an estimated $150,000 since the program began on June 9, selling tickets they'd already sold once. Giants brass maintains that Double Play is foremost a "customer satisfaction service," in the words of executive vice president Larry Baer. Still, the projected income over a full season is $400,000 (at an average of 500 seats per game). That figure could top $1 million as the program grows.
Replicating such success elsewhere may be hard, however. Reselling tickets above face value is illegal in 12 states, and for the system to work, Freedman says a team needs the rare combination of a high season-ticket count and high demand. The traditional middlemen, the ones shuffling around the parking lot, don't seem too worried. "This on-line thing is for geeks," said a busy scalper before a recent game at PacBell. "It's not a problem for me, and it's definitely not affecting on-the-street sales." Not yet.