Scandalized by a late-breaking change in policy, Washington Capitals season ticket holders took to social media on Wednesday night.
The Capitals detailed their new policy at the bottom of an email to STHers:
PRINT-AT-HOME – 72 HOURS PRIOR TO EVENT
Effective starting with the 2014-15 season, tickets will only be available to print-at-home within 72 hours of the event. The time limit is an added security measure for our fans and customers as it helps to eliminate occurrences of counterfeited and duplicated PDFs. All other features of Account Manager, including Transfer and the ability to distribute tickets to friends/family/clients in advance, do remain available outside of 72 hours to the event.
The reason stated in the message is security– that the potential for counterfeit printed tickets endangers fans, players, and staff at the arena.
Another effect, as told to RMNB by season ticket holders, is the destruction of the secondary sales market.
Here’s how one STHer, whom you may know as Ranger Nathan, explained it to me over email. I’m gonna interrupt him a few times, so pardon my rudeness.
Because they’ve eliminated hard tickets altogether (replacing them with the card and digital “tickets” a few seasons ago) you have to print them from the online system to have a hard copy.
StubHub allows sellers to upload PDFs of tickets so buyers can get them electronically. But as far as I can tell the seller has to upload them a week before the game. The Caps implemented a new rule that you can’t print tickets from the online account manager until 72 hours before the game in question. So it’s now basically impossible to list them on StubHub because you can’t get the PDF in time.
Get it? StubHub requires resellers to upload one week before the game, but the Caps won’t let you get your tickets until three days before the game. StubHub, which I’m told is the best and most popular reseller marketplace, is essentially moot.
This means the only site you can use to resell tickets is the NHL Ticket Exchange run by TicketMaster, which is terrible in that the user interface is awful, and they of course take way more from
both sellers andbuyers in fees than StubHub and most if not all other sites. You know, TicketMaster. [Update 9:58 PM: Sellers fees are actually lower on the Ticket Exchange, but buyer fees are higher.]
TicketMaster is a corporate partner of the NHL.
Monumental Network operates the local TicketMaster franchise. [Update 9:46 PM: There is no longer a local TicketMaster franchise.] StubHub is the competition. So the Caps’ financial interests are served by changing the policy.
Back to Nathan. Sorry for cutting you off, Nathan!
Rather than competing with StubHub on service and price, they’re forcing season ticket holders onto their site. And of course they just announced this several months after they locked people in to their renewals. It’s manipulative and monopolistic and a terrible way to treat their most loyal source of revenue.
As an added insult they’re claiming it’s for security to cut down on PDF duplication and counterfeit, which is completely bogus.
So the STHers are peeved about the timing of the policy change, which is way after renewals, and about their stated reasons for making the change, which touted safety but left unmentioned the money the team would stand to make from the policy change.
This, quite understandably, has upset the season-ticket holders. One of them, Charles P., wrote a letter to his ticket rep. Charles was kind enough to share that letter with RMNB:
Note: This was a letter sent to my Washington Capitals season ticket representative in response to a sudden change in their ticket policy. Season ticket holders are no longer able to print tickets until 72-hours before a game. This effectively destroys the resell market for season ticket holders unless we use their preferred partner, Ticketmaster. Without being able to print a ticket, we are unable to upload them to services like Stubhub.
I understand it wasn’t your decision, but please understand in no uncertain terms that the change to a 72-hour print-at-home policy is incomprehensible. I’m upset and my anger cannot be understated. As many of us support the Capitals through our purchase of season tickets at not a little financial stress to ourselves and our family, the decision to change the policy FOUR MONTHS AFTER we’ve all committed to a new season is manipulative and infuriating.
This seems to me, and to many others no doubt, a serious breach of trust.
After a disastrous 2013-2014 season, ticket renewals and sales were understandably depressed. This reads as a blatant attempt to ensure that the loyal season ticket holders who have and will renew regardless of the team’s fortunes don’t interfere with the team’s ability to sell their excess inventory. It’s a seriously cynical way to treat the fans that are the backbone of the team’s financial success.
It also seems like a transparent ploy to force us to use NHL Ticket Exchange on Ticketmaster – since I’m assuming selling on Ticket Exchange will still be available outside the 72-hour window. I’d love to use Ticket Exchange – the fees are lower than Stubhub – but they never sell there. Why? Because the NHL, the Washington Capitals and Ticketmaster have done only the bare minimum in promoting it.
And the idea that this will decrease counterfeiting is laughable. Don’t couch a business decision behind our best interests. You have a completely digital system in which every ticket is checked in by a scanner – you can’t have widespread counterfeit issues if the system is working. Sure, you may get people who buy fraudulent tickets, but exactly how does limiting when a legitimate ticket can be printed stop people from making fake tickets? It doesn’t.
The change in policy months after the renewal is clearly an act in bad faith. We renewed with the understanding that you would continue to act in good faith and that policy changes were announced before the fact. You sure as hell let us know if there were any changes in price.. The ability to sell tickets that I am unable to attend played a major factor in my decision to renew at the level that I did. If I knew of this policy, it’s very likely that I would have either declined renewal or moved my seats to the upper levels to reduce cost. Due to changes in my job this year, the likelihood that I will be unable to attend a game is higher.
I cannot imagine that the benefit the Washington Capitals will gain in the short term will offset the anger and resentment among season ticket holders, the loss of season ticket renewals next year this policy is likely to incur and the empty seats that will be highly visible during broadcast games.
I’m disappointed in this policy change. I imagine I’m not the only one.
Section 117, Row M, Seats 9 & 10
I expect we’ll hear more about this in coming days. Please feel free to share your thoughts below.
Update, Thursday 9:45 am: Commenters have noted that StubHub is allowing sellers to offer a deliver-by date of 3 days before the game. For at least some of the season ticket holders we spoke to, this wasn’t the case as recently as Tuesday. Whether it’s a new policy in response to the Caps’ new restrictions is unclear. We’ll report more as we learn. Please keep us posted.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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