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Neman: Busch Stadium ticket prices seem unfair and un-American

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Cardinals dynamic pricing

The Cardinals always get big crowds, now matter how labyrinthine their pricing policy. This picture is from Ballpark Village on Opening Day, April 7, 2022.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman looks at the state of the St. Louis Cardinals. Also, a happy birthday shoutout to Jose Jimenez! And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

And do you know what else I hate? The dynamic pricing at Busch Stadium.

Dynamic pricing, as the Cardinals wield it, is the concept that tickets to baseball games have no intrinsic value. The cost of any given seat in the stadium changes depending on the circumstances.

The same seat, with the same view, costs more on weekends than it does on weekdays. More insidiously, the same seat, with the same view, costs more when the Cards are playing certain teams than it does when they are playing others.

I looked at the price of a single seat chosen at random (Section 163, row 15, seat 1) for every Friday night home game from mid-June through the end of the season. I hate dynamic pricing, as I mentioned, and even I was shocked at the results.

It’s a good seat, so the cheapest Friday night tickets for it were $65.90, for games against the Phillies, Brewers and Braves. The most expensive Friday night ticket for it was nearly double that, $125.90, against the New York Yankees.

You could argue that this is capitalism in its purest form, that it is the most efficient way for a corporation to extract the greatest amount of money from its customers. Or you could argue, with me, that the experience is the same for both games. The only difference is the pinstripes on the uniform.

Those are the prices for the seats as of a few weeks ago, when I checked them. Joe Strohm, the Cardinals’ vice president of ticket sales, said the prices can change daily, depending on supply and demand.

“Our whole goal is to price the tickets fairly,” he said, adding that the prices go down as well as up over the course of the season. And dynamic pricing has allowed the team to offer extra-low rates, as little as $10, for the vast majority of the games.

Strohm compared dynamic pricing to the ticket costs of other forms of entertainment. Children and senior citizens often get discounted rates, he said, and some movies charge less on certain less-popular days of the week.

But movies, theater and concerts don’t have giveaways, and they are perhaps what gets me the angriest about the Cardinals’ dynamic pricing.

Giveaways are the jerseys, bobbleheads, caps and other doodads that teams hand out to entice more fans to the park. The Cardinals have perhaps more of them than any other team. But while the name “giveaway” would seemingly indicate that they are free, Strohm said that their desirability is built into the demand side of the supply-and-demand equation.

Here is what gets me about that: You still have to pay the full price, even if you don’t want the giveaway.

It is as if you go to a hardware store, looking for a stepladder. They say, “Here is a stepladder for you, and you also have to buy an electric toothbrush.”

“But I don’t need an electric toothbrush.”

“That is of no concern to us. All of our stepladders automatically come with electric toothbrushes, which you have to pay for.”

And what if you come too late to the game to get the giveaway? The stadium only hands out 25,000 giveaways, and it seats more than 40,000 fans.

You have to pay for both the stepladder and the electric toothbrush, even if you don’t get the toothbrush.

Some of the giveaways are for children only. If you aren’t bringing in children, you are paying for the giveaways that are given away to other people’s children. For that matter, if you bring children to a game that only has giveaways for adults, the price of your child’s ticket is subsidizing the adult giveaways.

I have a modest proposal for a more fair and equitable form of dynamic pricing. I think pricing should be determined by the game’s outcome. You pay as you leave the stadium.

If you’re a Cardinals fan and the team wins handily in an enjoyable rout, that seat should cost $100. If it was a dull game with the Cards driving in the decisive run with a lazy sacrifice fly in the third inning, then they should only charge you $30 as you leave.

But if you’re a fan of, say, the Cincinnati Reds, and your team is leading by one run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Tommy Edman smashes a walk-off two-run home run off a relief pitcher who has no business being in the major leagues, and you are devastated, just devastated, then they should only charge you five bucks.

Ten at the most.

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