Paying for the right to pay: 2010 style

So there I was, going through a routine experience—buying a pair of tickets for a Cubs-Brewers game later this summer for my friend Adam and me. We’ve gone to several of those games over the years, but we haven’t seen one together in Wrigley in three or four seasons.

So I went through the process, and found out that my pair of $22 tickets would cost me . … . $62.85! WHOA! Yeah, apparently the Total Convenience Fee (aka, the most obvious euphemism in sports) and taxes cost $7.55 per ticket plus a $3.75 order processing fee for the entire order. Damn.

This can only mean one thing: time to write a new column.

As my long time readers—(waves) Hi, Mom!—might remember, each summer here at THT I look at one of the most odious and hard-to-avoid parts of modern day ticket buying: the surcharge fees. Simply put, I compare the surcharges for all 30 teams and see who screws their fans the hardest and who is the mildest at it.

Since I’ve done this, I’ve noticed that surcharge fees can depend on what sort of ticket you buy. Thus when I go through the process, I’ll see what the charge is at the most expensive and cheapest tickets I can find.

For each team, I look at a September game that likely has low ticket demand—either a day game during the week or a contest versus a hapless opponent. I do this to best ensure I can find a cheap and expensive ticket for each game. My hunch is that teams also charge differing surcharges depending on the opponent, but it’s hard to make a clear comparison of that across all 30 teams. Some clubs just sell out too quickly for me to do a good job gauging that.

There are two main types of add-on costs. One is the “Total Convenience Fee,” which is more aptly called a Con Fee. This fee usually applies to each ticket. Buy four tickets, pay four con fees. There’s also an order processing fee, which applies only once to the entire order. I’m buying just single tickets in this study (so it’s easier to find cheap and pricey tickets).

Occasionally, there’s an additional fee, such as a tax. One club also makes it impossible to physically get the tickets without paying an additional charge. Almost all clubs charge you for the right to print your tickets up at home, but almost all will at least either mail them and/or leave them at will call for free.

(Of course, you can avoid these things by buying seats at the stadium the day of the game. But that’s not always possible. With some teams, it’s dang near impossible, especially if you’re going with others, or if you want some particular seats.

Enough of that. Now for the “fun” part: Which teams hit you the hardest with extra costs? Well, based on buying the cheapest seats I could find in the stadiums (I figure those are the most price-conscious shoppers, and thus the most annoyed at paying the add-on gougings), here is how teams treat their fans. Con stands for Con Fee, and OP is order processing:

Team	Con	OP	Misc.	Total
BOX	$4.25 	$7.00 		$11.25 
NYM	$5.00 	$5.00 		$10.00 
CHC	$6.11 	$3.75 		$9.86 
LAA	$5.00 	$4.25 		$9.25 
LAD	$4.50 	$4.35 		$8.85 
STL	$4.25 	$4.50 		$8.75 
CWS	$4.75 	$3.50 	$0.43 	$8.68 
SEA	$4.00 	$3.83 	$0.38 	$8.21 
HOU	$3.50 	$4.22 	$0.29 	$8.01 
PIT	$4.00 	$4.00 		$8.00 
BAL	$3.75 	$3.75 		$7.50 
PHI	$3.50 	$4.00 		$7.50 
NYY	$4.10 	$3.30 		$7.40 
DCN	$3.50 	$3.50 		$7.00 
SDP	$3.50 	$3.50 		$7.00 
MIN	$3.25 	$3.50 		$6.75 
FLA	$4.00 	$2.65 		$6.65 
CLE	$3.25 	$3.35 		$6.60 
TBR	$3.00 	$3.30 		$6.30 
TOR	$3.75 	none	$2.50 	$6.25 
KCR	$2.50 	$3.50 		$6.00 
OAK	$1.50 	$4.25 		$5.75 
COL	$2.00 	$3.50 		$5.50 
ATL	$3.25 	$2.10 		$5.35 
SFG	$1.75 	$3.50 		$5.25 
DET	$1.00 	$4.10 		$5.10 
ARI	$2.00 	$3.00 		$5.00 
CIN	$1.51 	$3.25 		$4.76 
TEX	$2.75 	$1.75 		$4.50 
MIL	$2.50 	none		$2.50 

Every year as I figure this out, I try to imagine some sort of system so convoluted and inefficient that it would actually justify the charges put in place. I have yet to think up a system so poor.

The Blue Jays are the team that won’t let you actually get your tickets without charging an extra fee. I guess that makes up for their lack of an actual processing fee. The other teams in the “misc.” category all have taxes included. The Cubs say they have a tax included in their con fee, but I didn’t bother figuring it separately. I’m more concerned with the column on the right.

There’s been a gradual upward climb in add-on costs since I first looked at this in 2007. I know, it’s not at all surprising. Back then, the Red Sox were at $11 overall surcharge, but no one else was over $9 and only two other teams over $8. Now there are 10 teams over $8. So it goes.

For a few teams—generally those with the cheapest cheap seats—the ticket price is less than half of what you’ll pay for the ticket. The Tigers have a $5 ticket that has a $5.10 add-on fee. It’s $5/$6 for the Royals, and $4/$5.50 for the Rockies. My personal favorite is Oakland, where a $2 ticket (the cheapest in MLB) costs $7.75, which is to say the ticket price is barely one-fourth the overall ticket price. To be fair, you can usually walk up and buy cheap seats at most of those stadiums.

One valid question is how much you should blame the team and how much you should blame Ticketmaster, which actually charges the fees. Far be it for me to defend Ticketmaster for anything, but when I look at the list (and the ensuing ones), it looks a little more complicated that just Ticketmaster deciding what it should be. The teams seem to have some room to maneuver with it.

Sure Milwaukee’s the smallest market, but the Brewers don’t charge any con fee. They never have in my previous studies. Is ticket demand there really so much lower than in Kansas City or Pittsburgh? I should note that Brewers fans in previous years informed me that the club has emphasized a fan-friendly approach, which is in keeping with its minimal add-on costs. Blame Ticketmaster or the team? There’s plenty of bile to go around for both.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Cheap seats vs. pricey seats

Here’s the next question: Which teams have the biggest disparity in add-on fees depending on where you buy the ticket? Well, I have a list, but there is one problem I should note before getting into it. I bought the “best available” seats in every stadium, which usually meant the most expensive. In some places, though, the most expensive may not have been available, so there’s a bit of comparing apples and oranges in the list below. It works well enough, though.

When teams change add-on costs, it’s the con fee that rises, not the order processing fee. Here are how teams’ con fees change from cheapest to priciest available seats:

Team	Cheap	Pricey	Dif
NYY	$4.10 	$32.50 	$28.40 
SFG	$1.75 	$15.25 	$13.50 
NYM	$5.00 	$15.00 	$10.00 
LAD	$4.50 	$13.50 	$9.00 
OAK	$1.50 	$6.25 	$4.75 
DET	$1.00 	$5.25 	$4.25 
ARI	$2.00 	$6.00 	$4.00 
LAA	$5.00 	$9.00 	$4.00 
CHC	$6.11 	$9.71 	$3.60 
DCN	$3.50 	$6.75 	$3.25 
COL	$2.00 	$5.00 	$3.00 
CIN	$1.51 	$4.09 	$2.58 
MIL	$2.50 	$5.00 	$2.50 
FLA	$4.00 	$6.25 	$2.25 
TEX	$2.75 	$5.00 	$2.25 
TBR	$3.00 	$5.00 	$2.00 
BAL	$3.75 	$5.75 	$2.00 
ATL	$3.25 	$5.00 	$1.75 
TOR	$3.75 	$5.25 	$1.50 
CLE	$3.25 	$4.75 	$1.50 
KCR	$2.50 	$4.00 	$1.50 
SEA	$4.00 	$5.50 	$1.50 
HOU	$3.50 	$4.75 	$1.25 
SDP	$3.50 	$4.75 	$1.25 
STL	$4.25 	$5.00 	$0.75 
MIN	$3.25 	$4.00 	$0.75 
PHI	$3.50 	$4.25 	$0.75 
PIT	$4.00 	$4.50 	$0.50 
BOX	$4.25 	$4.25 	$0.00 
CWS	$4.75 	$4.75 	$0.00 

Only two teams don’t change con fees at all, but then again Boston has the most expensive base. Heck, there’s still only a handful of clubs with more expensive overall add-on costs for ritzy seats than the Red Sox. It’s just that others have cheap gouging costs for their peasant seats. The White Sox $8.68 add-on is middle of the pack for pricey seat add-on costs.

The add-on costs for the Yankee tickets aren’t so bad when you realize the ticket itself costs $1,325. Yeah, I don’t think anyone laying down that much cash for a ticket is going to mind the additional 2.45 percent cost represented by con fee.

Since last year

Next question: How do this year’s add-on fees compare with last year? Well, let’s see. I’ll look at the cheap seat add-ons, because those are bought by the people most likely to be annoyed by the unwanted costs.

Team	2009	2010	Dif
LAA	$7.60 	$9.25 	$1.65 
PIT	$6.50 	$8.00 	$1.50 
SDP	$5.75 	$7.00 	$1.25 
CHC	$8.65 	$9.86 	$1.21 
LAD	$8.10 	$8.85 	$0.75 
STL	$8.00 	$8.75 	$0.75 
KCR	$5.50 	$6.00 	$0.50 
MIL	$2.00 	$2.50 	$0.50 
HOU	$7.67 	$8.01 	$0.34 
SEA	$7.93 	$8.21 	$0.28 
MIN	$6.50 	$6.75 	$0.25 
OAK	$5.50 	$5.75 	$0.25 
NYY	$7.25 	$7.40 	$0.15 
FLA	$6.60 	$6.65 	$0.05 
TBR	$6.25 	$6.30 	$0.05 
ATL	$5.30 	$5.35 	$0.05 
BOX	$11.25 	$11.25 	$0.00 
CWS	$8.68 	$8.68 	$0.00 
PHI	$7.50 	$7.50 	$0.00 
DCN	$7.00 	$7.00 	$0.00 
CLE	$6.60 	$6.60 	$0.00 
COL	$5.50 	$5.50 	$0.00 
SFG	$5.25 	$5.25 	$0.00 
DET	$5.10 	$5.10 	$0.00 
CIN	$4.76 	$4.76 	$0.00 
TEX	$4.50 	$4.50 	$0.00 
BAL	$8.00 	$7.50 	($0.50)
ARI	$5.50 	$5.00 	($0.50)
NYM	$11.00 	$10.00 	($1.00)
TOR	$10.25 	$6.25 	($4.00)

Biggest shock on the list? Easy one: The Twins didn’t go crazy with increasing their gouging costs now that they have a new stadium.

In all, four teams dropped their prices, 10 stayed the same and 16 went up. Of those that dropped their prices, Toronto used to have an order processing fee on top of its get-your-ticket fee and the normal con fee. This year there’s no processing charge. The Mets gunned up their prices last year with the new stadium, but apparently decided they overdid it.

Last point: How have these fees gone up/down in the four years I’ve been tracking this? Well, first let me note I don’t have Yankees info for 2008 due to a combination my doing it too late in the year and everyone buying seats for the last year at Yankee Stadium. That said, I have it for all other clubs in the cheap seats from 2007-10.

Over the years, 2007-10

Let’s see how it plays out over time, ordered by difference in 2007 and 2010 add-on costs:

Team	2007	2008	2009	2010	Dif
NYM	$6.50 	$6.50 	$11.00 	$10.00 	$3.50 
LAA	$6.55 	$8.05 	$7.60 	$9.25 	$2.70 
PIT	$5.50 	$5.50 	$6.50 	$8.00 	$2.50 
TOR	$3.75 	$7.75 	$10.25 	$6.25 	$2.50 
STL	$6.50 	$7.50 	$8.00 	$8.75 	$2.25 
LAD	$7.05 	$7.60 	$8.10 	$8.85 	$1.80 
CHC	$8.09 	$8.09 	$8.65 	$9.86 	$1.77 
TBR	$4.75 	$4.75 	$6.25 	$6.30 	$1.55 
SDP	$5.50 	$7.00 	$5.75 	$7.00 	$1.50 
SEA	$6.86 	$8.45 	$7.93 	$8.21 	$1.35 
KCR	$5.00 	$5.25 	$5.50 	$6.00 	$1.00 
HOU	$7.31 	$7.90 	$7.67 	$8.01 	$0.70 
ATL	$4.80 	$5.05 	$5.30 	$5.35 	$0.55 
BAL	$7.00 	$7.75 	$8.00 	$7.50 	$0.50 
MIN	$6.25 	$6.50 	$6.50 	$6.75 	$0.50 
CLE	$6.10 	$7.60 	$6.60 	$6.60 	$0.50 
NYY	$6.95 		$7.25 	$7.40 	$0.45 
CWS	$8.36 	$8.63 	$8.68 	$8.68 	$0.32 
FLA	$6.35 	$6.35 	$6.60 	$6.65 	$0.30 
BOX	$11.00 	$11.25 	$11.25 	$11.25 	$0.25 
PHI	$7.50 	$7.50 	$7.50 	$7.50 	$0.00 
DCN	$7.00 	$7.00 	$7.00 	$7.00 	$0.00 
COL	$5.50 	$5.50 	$5.50 	$5.50 	$0.00 
SFG	$5.25 	$6.50 	$5.25 	$5.25 	$0.00 
TEX	$4.50 	$4.50 	$4.50 	$4.50 	$0.00 
ARI	$5.50 	$5.50 	$5.50 	$5.00 	($0.50)
MIL	$3.25 	$2.00 	$2.00 	$2.50 	($0.75)
OAK	$7.25 	$7.25 	$5.50 	$5.75 	($1.50)
CIN	$6.84 	$7.34 	$4.76 	$4.76 	($2.08)
DET	$7.60 	$7.85 	$5.10 	$5.10 	($2.50)

There’s a problem with Toronto’s 2007 numbers, as I couldn’t find a processing fee. Toronto’s always been an odd one for me.

Five teams actually dropped prices from 2007-10, including the Brewers who were the cheapest back in ’07. Another five teams have the same prices as back then. Four of them—the Phillies, Nationals, Rangers and Rockies—haven’t altered their add-on costs at all. Alternately, the Angels, Cardinals, Dodgers, Royals, Braves, and maybe the Yankees have raised fees each year.

On a personal note, as someone with the misfortune to be a Cubs fan: Boy, does their front office come off looking bad. They’re always among the highest in fees, and meanwhile the team blew its playoff shot and had the window apparently close. Yeesh.

Conversely, the most fan-friendly team here, as it is every year, is Milwaukee. For their add-on cost policy alone, the Brewers are a very root-for-able club.

References & Resources
I checked all 30 team sites for this column.

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13 years ago

Nice work, Chris; I enjoy these.  Maybe in the future you can compare these figures to attendance figures.  I know the Brewers have drawn very well the past few years, thanks in part to their fan-friendly approach.

The fee that irks me the most is the one to print your own tickets.  Thanks for charging me so that I can save you time and money.

13 years ago

Of course, the Brewers name itself makes them very root-for-able as well grin

13 years ago

The Braves for whatever reason this year instituted a price hike of $3 per ticket when bought on game day.

Mark Spangler
13 years ago

The print-at-home processing fees are ridiculous. Although I loathed the Metrodome, it was always easy to avoid these ripoffs because there were always walk up tickets available.  Not so at the new Target Field.  The park’s a beauty,  but now I’ve got to suffer the higher ticket prices and awful fees that I’ve been subject to at other parks like Wrigley, Kaufmann and in Denver.  I guess that’s why my visit to Miller Park, and minor league parks in Des Moines (Principal) and Memphis (Autozone) were more enjoyable. At least there I could get into the park without having to sell my car.

13 years ago

It sure is delicious watching the Cubs flounder. By this point, ownership is taking the Oakland Raiders business model. We don’t win championships, but people are buying our merch, so we can do whatever we want and make plenty of money doing it. Let’s hire angry players to fight with Lou! Maybe hire Barry Bonds for a stint, think of the jerseys!

And it’s not like they’re in a good division either. They’re in the worst division of the worst league, and they still can’t make anything happen.

No, I’m not a White Sox fan, I’m a former Cubs fan. I just learned to smarten up.

13 years ago

For the first time in a long time the Cubs have substantial no shows. I’m not talking late september or after officially eliminated but now. It looks like the fan base hjas finally decided that the ballpark is not enough reason to go. They actually want a baseball game. Wait till next year to see management gets that message and if it translates into lower fees and ticket prices.

lisa gray
13 years ago

one of the few good things about having a lousy ball club is that there are always plenty of tickets available on game day and you don’t have to pay a walkup fee

and you can get a cheapseat ticket and sit anywhere in the upper deck too

i guess that in order to avoid all those fees you would have to buy at the park in advance.

the cubs ticket prices sound like airplane flight prices

13 years ago

Conspiracy theory alert:  The “print at home” fee was forced on Ticketmaster by the Box Office Workers Union of America.  Someone needs to pay these people to sit behind the glass and act all high-and-mighty. 

It’s nice seeing the Tigers’ fees going down over time.  We have a high payroll, yet have the biggest (decrease) change since 07.  Games might not always be sold out, but this weekend vs. the Twins will be!  3 million fans the past few years.  Keep dropping prices, maybe we can get to 4 million?

13 years ago

My season tickets cost a bit more than $20K / year per seat before any fees or taxes. It seems kind of silly to be worrying about ten bucks a seat in fees.

lisa gray
13 years ago


how lucky for you that you can easily afford to pay 300 bucks/seat. no wonder you don’t notice any additional fees.

some of us are not wealthy like you and are happy to get the 5 or 7 dollar tickets at the game. and some people can’t afford to go at ALL after all the extra tack-ons.