Trickle Down Ticket Theory

Written by Joe Driscoll

November 26, 2009

If an economist were to study the situation, the eventual solution might be known as the “trickle down ticket theory”. Unfortunately, however, the unused tickets that companies purchase to major sporting and other community events rarely “trickle down” to the average employee.

“Luxury boxes” are commonplace in all modern professional sports facilities these days. They are a good source of revenue and an attractive amenity. The owners of the boxes are usually successful area businesses. They pay a high annual rental fee to the stadium operators and agree to buy season tickets for all the events held at that facility.

Look around most major league sporting events. You will nearly always find empty seats in the luxury boxes. It’s a scene that’s repeated throughout the country. Company owned tickets going unused because they are not made available to the average employee who would really appreciate them.

It had been about six years since I had last been to Fenway Park. As I looked around the historic old ballyard, it was easy to spot the changes that had been made. Seating capacity had been increased along with the addition of a row of “luxury boxes”.

That evening the Red Sox were scheduled to play the Blue Jays before a sold out crowd at Fenway Park. The only opportunity for a fan to see their beloved ballclub was to wait in line for a chance to buy one of the few “standing room only” tickets that go on sale two hours before game time.

Tonite, being the opening game of a crucial three game series, those tickets sold out in a hurry. Five bucks for the privilege of standing in the aisle for three hours to root for the home team.

As the crowd strolled in prior to the start of the game, the “standing room only” crowd searched for any seats that remained empty. Local practice is that if a previously sold seat is not occupied by the third inning, the ushers allow the standing crowd to take the seats. No chance tonight, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

Well, almost all the seats were full. If you cast your glance to the upper reaches of historic Fenway, nearly half of the seats in the “sold out” luxury boxes were empty. Why?

There are fifteen seats in each of the forty plus boxes. While the original intention of the companies that purchased the boxes is to have them available for entertaining important customers and top management, I’m certain that in each of the companies there were countless employees that would have loved the opportunity to have attended the game, even on last minute notice. I’d bet that a few of the standing room only ticket holders were employed by companies that owned unused tickets in the luxury boxes.

Companies that support local activities from professional sports to youth leagues, from children’s theater to concerts should be commended. They can gain additional benefits for their employees however, by making sure that the tickets they purchase don’t go unused. Particularly the hard to get tickets.

Call it the “trickle down theory of tickets”, but it can generate enormous goodwill. I’m sure their were a lot of employees that would have been happy to have called home at four o’clock and said “the boss just gave me two tickets to the Sox game tonight”.

While a guest in a corporate box a number of years ago, a bank president proudly told me how they limited access to the the box to maintain its condition. There are still some managers that think they are better than the people that work for them. Different maybe, but not better. A “classy” organization has no “classes”.

My guess is that the companies that wasted tickets for the best seats in the house while others stood in line for the worst, don’t even realize the opportunity they missed. That lack of awareness is probably evident in other areas of their business.

As hard as it is for the beneficiaries of the privileges to admit, there is an inverse relationship between executive privilege and productivity. When opportunities are shared, a company’s “we/they line” moves in the right direction.

Because its your business and your community, continue to support local activities as sponsors and patrons. If you’re a “class” organization, make sure that a broad cross section of your employees get to benefit from that support.
The street corner ticket scalper provided this writer the opportunity to attend the game. While it may appear otherwise, the ticket “after market” is a sophisticated and interesting business, but that’s another story.

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