I am not much of a soccer fan. Hence, I don’t really care that tickets for next year’s World Cup tournament go on sale today — except, as MarketPlace reports, the sales process is crazy complicated and kinda interesting (A confusing path to get World Cup tickets, Aug 20).
This figure gives an overview of the phases of the sale.
At a high level, the processes is broken into phases that reflect when the schedule is known. If you buy now, you don’t know where or when your preferred team is playing. If you wait until Phase 2, you will know just when and where your team is playing. By the third phase, the tournament is starting. For more, you can peruse the official FIFA brochure on how the process works.
What’s really interesting here is that both Phase 1 and Phase 2 include lotteries. So it’s not completely accurate to say that tickets go on sale today. Rather you can enter the lottery today but you will have the same chance of winning if you enter in early October. Why go through so much trouble?
Congestion is a common problem in services. A large number of customers put demands on the system all at the same time and delays ensue. A few weeks ago we posted about GymFlow, an app that tries to address congestion at health clubs by providing better information. GymFlow doesn’t tell you can’t go to the gym at 5:30. It just points out that the gym is going to be a whole lot less crowded if you got 3:30.
Now the Wall Street Journal has an article on a different way to ease congestion by relying on games and lotteries (Gaming the System to Beat Rush-Hour Traffic, Aug 1). It reports on the work of Balaji Prabhakar, a Stanford Computer Science professor, who has tested out various systems to get commuters to tweak their travel habits. The article’s author discusses his approach here:
Here is a summary of one of Prabhakar’s at his place of employ.
His team recently brought the technique home with a federally funded experiment to help Stanford keep its promise to Santa Clara County to alleviate rush-hour traffic. The 3,900 participants—a significant share of the relevant pool of 8,000 parking-permit holders—installed devices on their cars (soon to be replaced with a smartphone app) and got points for arriving and leaving an hour before or after the rush hour.
The popularity of the Chutes & Ladders-like game stunned Stanford’s director of parking and transportation, Brodie Hamilton. He doubted people would take the time to spin the electronic dice to play it, and insisted that Mr. Prabhakar include an auto-play feature. But, Mr. Hamilton says, “I have people on my staff who play it regularly. People are really into it. Balaji was right!”
About 15% of the trips taken by participants have shifted away from rush hour. Students tend to come and leave later; staff tend to come and leave earlier. Smartphones make all this easier to implement: A new mobile app tracks bikers and walkers and gives them points, too.
Those who commuted off-peak got points to play in the on-line game with a chance to win cash. We are not exactly talking a year’s tuition here. The program’s website touts “random cash rewards from $2 to $50.”
Check out these two images from the Wall Street Journal (Airline Seats Available for Elite Fliers Only, July 12). Both show available seats on an American Airline flight from LA to New York. The first shows what’s available if you lack any status in American’s frequent flyer program. The second shows what seats are offered to a flyer with sufficient status in the frequent flyer program.
To be clear, these seating charts are for the same flight at the same time — all that differs in one’s frequent flyer status. Further, while this example comes from American, other airlines play similar games.
Unlike American, Delta Air Lines shows the Preferred seats it has held back for elite customers, but doesn’t allow regular customers to book them until 24 hours before departure. At that time, Preferred seats are offered for a fee to nonelite-level customers.
US Airways also blocks seats for elite-level customers and labels them Preferred. The airline sells what it calls Choice seats in rows near the front of the cabin for $5 to $99 one-way that don’t have extra legroom but do have early boarding privileges. On the whole, US Airways says 9.5% of its coach seats are labeled Choice. Preferred, Choice and exit-row seating, which is sometimes sold for a fee, account for an average of 30% of coach seats on the airline’s planes.
Those seats open up to customers without seat assignments who don’t want to pay starting 24 hours before departure, US Airways said.
Not to surprisingly, a lot of customers find these games rather annoying. In the American example, there is one seat to be had for free for a non-elite flyer in what can only be described as a crappy location. The article has this wonderful quote “American says it doesn’t think blocking open seats from view pressures customers into paying for extra-legroom or Preferred seats.” which makes you wonder whether the folks at American are naive or dishonest.
TKTS has long been a Time Square fixture. For those unfamiliar with it, TKTS is a non-profit that sells discounted tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows. It recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary and Marketplace had a story summarizing its business (Broadway discount booth TKTS turns 40, Jun 26).
“Shows look at their inventory the day before and they say: I’ve got tickets to sell, I don’t have tickets to sell,” says Victoria Bailey, executive director of the Theatre Development Fund, a non-profit that owns TKTS.
Bailey says TKTS sells nearly 2 million tickets a year. Theaters get the ticket money, and TKTS takes a $4 service charge. Bailey says a good year on Broadway isn’t necessarily a good year for TKTS.
“A good year for TKTS: You need a lot of shows running, doing well enough that they keep running, but not so well that they don’t have empty seats and need us to sell seats for them,” she explains.
That’s all good. The quote in the story that got me thinking, however, was the following.
Larson notes critics have said TKTS pushes ticket prices up because theaters know that they can get rid of seats if they overcharge. TKTS’ Victoria Bailey says Broadway ticket prices have risen sharply over the years. Tickets now generally run $100-150, but can easily be more than twice that. Still, she says, you don’t have to shell out that kind of money to see a show. You just have to wait.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous in Chicago today. It’s so nice that when our son said he wished he had a Little League game today, my wife and I said that we would see about getting Cubs tickets for tonight’s game against the Rockies. So where should I go look for tickets? Should I buy them from the Cubs themselves or look on the secondary market? The secondary market, of course, means StubHub, the partner for most Major League Baseball teams for reselling tickets. Here’s how the Chicago Tribune puts it (Baseball teams get dynamic with ticket pricing, May 12).
Teams deal with StubHub because the online reseller provides a trusted outlet for season ticket holders to dispose of tickets to games they don’t attend. Buyers also have confidence that tickets on StubHub are not counterfeit.
But the first signs of backlash against StubHub appeared in the past offseason, when MLB renewed its five-year agreement with the website.
Two teams, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels, opted out of the partnership to form their own ticket exchanges with Ticketmaster because they wanted more control over pricing on the secondary market, said Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB Advanced Media.
StubHub spokesman Glenn Lehrman was more blunt: “There’s one clear reason why those teams are not using StubHub. They did not like to see tickets resold below face value. We let the market dictate prices.”
The Cubs also considered opting out. Team officials were unhappy after some of their tickets were listed on StubHub for less than a $1, not including fees, for the team’s final three home games last season. In 2012, the Cubs lost more than 100 games for the first time since 1966.
To address some of the league’s concerns, StubHub now includes fees in ticket listings. The cheapest baseball ticket on StubHub is $6, which includes commissions and a delivery fee.
The Cubs also are one of two teams that cut off StubHub sales six hours before game time, up from two hours in 2012. By ending sales on StubHub earlier, the Cubs presumably hope to sell more last-minute tickets.
Getting moved from coach to the front of the plane is one of the nicer things that can happen on a long flight. If you fly a lot (especially on full fare tickets), getting upgraded can be a routine occurrence. Of course, that raises the question of why airlines pretty much give upgrades away. Yes, it makes sense to take care of really good customers particularly when moving someone up to business class costs the airline very little. But there is no guarantee that high status frequent flyers necessarily want the upgrade more than some more lowly coach passengers. That is, Mr Executive Platinum may not be willing to pay more than Ms. No Status for the privilege of escaping the cattle car.
Airlines overseas have started auctioning off upgrades, with travelers in economy or premium-economy cabins bidding against each other for seats that offer better space, food, service and sleep. Bids for premium seats that otherwise might fly empty begin online weeks in advance and typically close 48 hours before takeoff. The company behind the auction technology says it may come to the U.S. soon.
So far, airlines say travelers end up spending more for upgrades in online auctions than they would spend at check-in. Unlike a casual offer at an airport kiosk, the auction system can generate excitement as fliers strategize about how to win.
“You can buy the cheapest ticket and still have a chance of sitting in business class,” said Danny Saadon, North America vice president for El Al Airlines, where the average winning bid for a business-class upgrade is $800. That’s a deal when the airline’s business-class tickets cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 more than coach.
Different airlines run the auction in different ways since the system from Plusgrade, a New York City company, allows flexibility. An airline can choose who can participate in the auction so it may choose to offer the opportunity to bid to all customers or only those that bought in a particular fare class or to those that meet a certain profile. Besides access to business class, El Al also auctions off empty middle seats to those in couch want some extra elbow room. (more…)
I live in Wilmette, the village just north of Evanston. It is a pleasant place if a little sleepy. However, we currently have a controversy brewing over Wilmette Harbor. The harbor is where the North Shore Sanitary Channel enters Lake Michigan. To quote Wikipedia, “The North Shore Channel is a drainage canal built between 1907 and 1910 to flush the sewage-filled North Branch of the Chicago River down the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.” Of course, that quote doesn’t quite do justice to the harbor. Where the channel meets the lake, there is a lock that keeps the nasty stuff out. Wilmette Harbor is actually a picturesque place with a Coast Guard station and space for 300 or so boats.
The kerfuffle is all about who will run the harbor. It is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), a regional government entity tasked with maintaining water quality, not accommodating boaters. Hence, they have outsourced the management of the harbor. For the last 75 years, the Wilmette Harbor Association has had the gig. The Wilmette Harbor Association’s lease has expired and they and other parties have bid to run the harbor, notably Wilmette Harbor Management. Following a murky process, the staff of the MWRD recommend the Wilmette Harbor Association’s bid be accepted even though it was lower than Wilmette Harbor Management’s. The MWRD’s commissioners voted against granting Wilmette Harbor Association the lease and now it is uncertain whether the harbor will be open this summer. For Chicago Tribune articles on this soap opera, see here and here.
I don’t own a boat so don’t have a whole lot at stake in this fight. However, there is an interesting operations question at the heart of the conflict. The Wilmette Harbor Association and Wilmette Harbor Management have very different ideas about how manage the queue for slips at the harbor.
My colleague Sunil pointed me a neat article on Domino’s Pizza’s Indian operations. While the chain long ago gave up on an explicit delivery time guarantee, their Indian franchisee Jubilant Foodworks still promises 30 minutes or the pie is free. That is not an easy promise to keep in, for example, an old neighborhood with streets running every which way and no really good maps. Still they manage to hit the thirty minute target remarkably often despite not having a whole of lot time for the actual delivery part of the process (Domino’s deadline to deliver, Financial Times, Jan 17).
With preparation, baking and boxing of pizzas taking 12-13 minutes, Indian deliverymen have 8-10 minutes to ferry their piping hot cargo to its destination – leaving a margin of just a few minutes. Riders cannot race to their destinations either: their motorbikes are modified to restrict their maximum speed to 45kph. That means riders must know every street, pothole, traffic light, choke point, construction site and police roadblock in their sectors of fast-changing, densely populated cities. …
Of all Domino’s deliveries in India, less than 0.5 per cent take more than 30 minutes to reach the consumer. Top managers monitor every store’s late rate closely. Rising pizza giveaways are seen as an indicator that a store is being overwhelmed by rapidly growing business – and that the area may be ripe for an additional outlet – or that local congestion is worsening considerably. “We watch that number like hawks,” Mr Kaul says.
Now there are obviously several steps in making these deliveries happen — from making sure that the kitchen staff is well-trained to scheduling enough delivery drivers. The most interesting part to my mind is the last thing hinted at in the quote above: How does Domino’s think about locating stores — and defining their service areas — so they can hit their delivery window?
A (really) brief follow up on yesterday’s post on pricing Warrior basketball tickets. Checkout what our colleagues Sandeep Baliga and Jeff Ely are doing with the price of Northwestern basketball tickets! Here is how the describe on their Cheap Talk blog:
We are using a system which could roughly be described as a uniform price multi-unit Dutch Auction. In simpler terms we are setting an initial price and allowing prices to gradually fall until either the game sells out or we hit our target price. Thus we are implementing a form of dynamic pricing but unlike most systems used by other venues our prices are determined by demand not by some mysterious algorithm.
But here is the key feature of our pricing system: as prices fall, you are guaranteed to pay the lowest price you could have got by delaying your purchase. That is, regardless of what price is listed at the time you reserve your seat, the price you will actually pay is the final price.
What that means is that fans have no reason to wait around and watch the price changes and try to time their purchases to get the best possible deal. We take care of that for you.
This program is available for games against Ohio State (Feb 28) and Penn State (Mar 7).
Back in the early 90s, I was in graduate school in the Bay Area and playing in a regular faculty-PhD student basketball game. At the time, the Golden State Warriors held a high draft pick and while waiting for everyone to show up for our game, there was an animated discussion about what the Warriors would. Our conclusion was that they would screw it up. After all, they had recently traded away Mitch Richmond and had previously had traded away Robert Parish so they could get their hands on Joe Barry Carroll. Twenty years on, the Warriors basketball performance hasn’t gotten a lot better. Sure, they are currently sixth in the West and would make the playoffs if the season ended today. But that would only be their second playoff appearance since I left the Bay Area many years ago.
That long history of mediocrity makes the team’s business performance all the more remarkable. In each of the last eight seasons, they their average home attendance has been over 18,000 — giving them one of the highest average attendance in the NBA. How have they managed to do this? They used lots of data in order to make sure that seats don’t go unsold while also making sure that they don’t give out unnecessary discounts (Warriors Go On Offense to Fill Seats, Wall Street Journal, Feb 6).
The team looks at data generated by Ticketmaster as well as resale-market sites like StubHub, and pores over weather forecasts and ticket sales from competing entertainment in the Bay Area.
The Warriors examine, for example, how much ticket buyers historically paid for a Tuesday night contest against the Houston Rockets versus a Friday night game against the Rockets. This helps the team predict how much it can charge for tickets without curbing demand. In some scenarios, price-points can change hourly, part of a growing sports-business practice adapted from airline bookings known as “dynamic pricing.”
The Warriors also use data when planning to move the last unsold seats for a game with an online offer. The team will take its 200,000-person email list and break it into chunks, testing different times, different subject lines and different links in the body of the message to gauge what brings the quickest response.
“We’ll send 100,000 messages 10 minutes after a victory, and 100,000 the next day,” says Mr. Schneider, 33 years old, now in his 11th season with the Warriors. Data on response time, tickets sold and the price point for each ticket tier will determine how the team tailors future pitches.