My ticket booklet from the 2009 inaugural season of the Seattle Sounders FC.

Call me old school, but I still like to head to a sporting event with a paper ticket securely tucked in my billfold. But are the glory days of the ticket stub numbered?

After getting an email from my beloved Seattle Sounders FC this week it’s probably just a matter of time before paper tickets follow Kasey Keller into retirement. The subject line of the email said it all:  Choose Your 2012 Tickets – Exciting New Ticket Technology.

Here’s what the Sounders are offering to season ticket holders. Instead of receiving a paper ticket for each home game this year, fans will be able to choose a Season Ticket Membership Card. The card, about the size of a credit card and containing a bar code, provides access to all 18 home matches when scanned at the gate.

“No need for paper or worrying that you’re grabbing the wrong ticket, it’s all on the card,” the team wrote in its email.

The message continues:

“As this (rave) green technology advances, you will soon be able to purchase your favorite jersey at the Pro Shop, pay for concessions throughout CenturyLink Field and take advantage of exclusive card member-only offers and rewards at a variety of outlets. All with one card!”

Fans who are unable to attend games can forward tickets to friends without handing over the card, with recipients printing off tickets for the individual match. Card users also can post tickets for sale on the team’s Ticket Exchange.

Sounds great, huh? Well, for a  soccer nerd like me who has old ticket stubs stuck in a file, I am not so sure. There’s something about having a physical reminder of special events, and a membership card (despite the rewards and convenience) doesn’t quite preserve those memories in the same way.

There’s also the pure joy of interacting with scalpers outside of FX McRory’s when you’ve got an extra ticket to sell. As my fellow season ticket holders know all too well, I take a certain amount of pleasure in negotiating on the street with real people in a dynamic marketplace rather than through some faceless online channel.

Just to be clear, the Sounders are not mandating the use of the membership card. Season ticket holders have until January 26th to make a decision whether they’d like the card or the old-school tickets.

So, what’s a Sounders fan to do?

On one hand, I am intrigued by the card concept. I like the environmental friendliness of it and the rewards. And I recognize that it’s just a matter of time before this technology takes over and, eventually, moves beyond a physical card altogether to where fans can access tickets on their smartphones.

On the other hand, I am not quite ready to abandon physical tickets. I love the photography on the tickets and having that reminder of being in a certain place at a certain time in my life.

“The season ticket product is evolving and we want you to evolve with us,” the Sounders wrote in their message.  “Here is your chance to choose the type of season ticket you want for 2012.”

I am really on the fence on this one: Should I “evolve” with the team or stick to my old-fashioned ways? What do you think?

 

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/gueritaverde Christina Green

    We talked about this a ton at Eventbrite! Some people like the security of paper tickets, but more and more people are asking for the electronic version. People want them for keepsakes, to gave to stores to sell for shows, and for promoters to sell as well. I think that eventually it will on be online though since it’s easier for organizers to track and more secure (plus attendees don’t have to worry about forgetting them at home or losing them). Another huge issue is scalping – some places it’s fine to resell tickets but obviously others want to prevent scalping. 

  • SwitcherMark

    I received the same email and had exactly the same thoughts as you. I haven’t decided what to do.

  • Matt Scoble

    Go with it, John!  I made the switch this week when I saw their email.  I figured it was easier than carrying around the over-sized tix.  But I will say I hope that they design it in such a way it can be used with a lanyard or something just to make ease of carrying it better….

    • johnhcook

      If the Sounders tossed in a free Stella and hot dog for every $50 I spend at CenturyLink, I’d certainly make the switch. :)

      I do end up folding up the paper tickets in order to get it into my wallet. 

      I also have a friend on my ticket plan — one who hates paper and refuses to use a checkbook — who’d love to go “paperless.” 

      According to the Sounders, you can’t split your ticket plan with one getting paper and the other on the card. 

  • http://twitter.com/dubrie Bill Johnson

    I’m also wondering why the Sounders are even bothering with a card at this point.  With mobile devices everywhere it feels like they should follow the Starbucks route and integrate everything into a mobile app for season ticket holders.  Although that would probably require reliable service at the venue which we all know is pretty poor.  I may have just answered my own question…

    • http://blog.daryn.net daryn

      +1, and it wouldn’t really require connectivity.

      At a bare minimum, it’d store your id number locally, so you could always quickly pull that up, even if extra value adds weren’t able to load. It could probably cache a lot of the other mostly static content (schedule, stadium map, etc) too.

      • johnhcook

        It would be cool to build the ticketing option into the @soundersfc:disqus 
        smartphone app. I’d go for that too, and I am sure that’s where they are headed eventually. 

        And, yes, the connectivity problems at CenturyLink are pretty legendary as I’ve written about in the past. 

        http://www.geekwire.com/2011/sounders-fc-unveil-iphone-app-score-goals

        Daryn, in terms of your comment below, you are probably right. This is more about the Sounders collecting more data on its fan base, and rewarding loyalty. Maybe they need to “gamify” it and hand out badges to fans based on various activities. :)

        And yes, the Sounders could just offer both the physical tickets and the card. That way, if you did forget your ticket, you could just provide the card. (Not sure if that would work with their ticketing system, though).

      • johnhcook

        It would be cool to build the ticketing option into the @soundersfc:disqus 
        smartphone app. I’d go for that too, and I am sure that’s where they are headed eventually. 

        And, yes, the connectivity problems at CenturyLink are pretty legendary as I’ve written about in the past. 

        http://www.geekwire.com/2011/sounders-fc-unveil-iphone-app-score-goals

        Daryn, in terms of your comment below, you are probably right. This is more about the Sounders collecting more data on its fan base, and rewarding loyalty. Maybe they need to “gamify” it and hand out badges to fans based on various activities. :)

        And yes, the Sounders could just offer both the physical tickets and the card. That way, if you did forget your ticket, you could just provide the card. (Not sure if that would work with their ticketing system, though).

        • Anonymous

          Forgetting your ticket isn’t an issue. STHs who forget their paper ticket can go to the ticket office and they’ll print out a replacement ticket for you, for a $5 charge iirc.

          As for the mobile app, Android users are still waiting, waiting, waiting for an app. I’d rather have the app than special offers and awards. Beer is so expensive at CLink that I stopped buying it, so I consume nothing at games. In fact, I get really annoyed that after shelling out $$$ in advance for ST that the FO expects me to spend more money on overpriced items. 

  • http://blog.daryn.net daryn

    I used to have a big box of ticket stubs, so I’m torn too. Especially for pretty season tickets. It’s convenient, but I don’t see the need for either/or. Just like you can use a Starbucks card or the card app, seems like this should just be an additional checkin option.

    I don’t really buy the environmental impact argument, the amount of paper for printing season tickets is absurdly trivial compared to other wastage at each game.

    • Anonymous

      Right, as well as how many scarves do I really need?

  • http://wac6.com/ William Carleton

    I didn’t get the email yet, but appreciate the heads up. Not sure what I’ll choose, but the card doesn’t sound as bad as a retinal scan or a chip implanted in one’s skull! (What about a QR code knit into the design of a scarf?)

  • http://www.joshuamaher.com Joshua Maher

    With the current solution – Paper tickets is the only way to deal with:

    Selling that extra seat at the last minute
    Splitting up ownership of seats during the season
    Selling or donating tickets for charity

    Even an app would be a tough way to deal with these scenarios – I don’t think “Bump” for scalpers would be a good feature for the Sounders Ticket app.

  • Derek Johnson

    “There’s something about having a physical reminder of special events” sounds like what my parents said about books before they saw the light and purchased a kindle. It’s called change, it’s a good thing.

  • Derek Johnson

    “There’s something about having a physical reminder of special events” sounds like what my parents said about books before they saw the light and purchased a kindle. It’s called change, it’s a good thing.

  • http://twitter.com/Vroo Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    There are a bunch of things I carry all the time that no one else does. My driver’s license, various credit cards, and a cell phone. If you’re going to eliminate paper tickets, why create some other thing for me to carry? Just register each thing I want to use to identify myself.
    For cell phones, it’s pretty easy to make it secure and not require an interent connection. The phone just displays a time-sensitive digitally signed QR code.

  • johnv59

    The Trail Blazers issued cards this year to the STH, same deal. It’s a whole different feeling. I have to say it’s convenient, but I do miss having the paper ticket, especially when I just want to give or sell my tickets quickly to someone. Doing that with the card requires machines and Internet – not very convenient at all.Plus I just like having something that says who we are playing, what date, at what time.

  • http://twitter.com/jt_simpson JT Simpson

    As someone who has ticket stubs for every sporting event and concert I’ve ever attended, I understand the souvenir aspect of the issue. But when Philadelphia switched to the ticket card for the 2011 season, I was surprisingly okay with it and became a bigger fan of it as the season went on.

    I stopped worrying that I forgot my ticket or grabbed the wrong game while heading to the stadium because the card was already in my wallet.  For the two early season matches I couldn’t attend, it took a couple mouse clicks to allow my friend to print out a ticket for my seat instead of an extra half-hour of driving to pick it up from me in person.  And even though I personally didn’t take advantage of it last season, I thought the opportunity to earn points towards auctions for autographed jerseys and whatever else the team offered was cool.

    The only (very slight) issue I had was the artwork was rather bland, but when I look at the many, many generic Ticketmaster stubs I still have, even that is an improvement.

  • Curious GAer

    I wonder how they will handle GA seats.  In previous years, there are ushers confirming that you have a GA seat prior to letting you down to that section. Will my card be branded with GA?

  • http://josephsunga.com Joseph Sunga

    I’ve made my decision. I’m sticking with the paper tickets. Here’s why:

    – The name on the membership card for all 3 of our seats will be my name. I have two other folks who own those seats and it doesn’t make sense to have my name on their “membership cards”.

    – They don’t automatically add tickets to the card for CONCACAF or playoffs. Doesn’t really make sense — couldn’t they just add those tickets to the card digitally or something when we buy them? You’ll end up with paper tickets for those.

    – We couldn’t have 1 ticket as a card and the rest paper tickets. It’s one or the other, which makes sense.

    So, I’m getting the paper tickets not because of the nostalgia…but because we can’t specify names on the cards and can’t have all the games we buy on the cards. Either way, go SOUNDERS!

    • johnhcook

      I’ve come to the same conclusion with my Sounders Tix, sticking with the printed variety. (Unless my buddy who I share tickets with makes one final plea).

      I am in the same boat where the account is under my name, but that didn’t bother me too much. 

      One other consideration that came into play — as pointed out by Josh Maher above — is that it’s especially difficult to sell tickets under the card system at the last minute. 

      As I said in the piece above, I like dealing with the scalpers. And, there were several occasions last season where I needed to move a ticket at the last minute. 

      Heck, sometimes it even generated enough cash to cover the cost of one beer!! :)

      • http://josephsunga.com Joseph Sunga

        I think having my name on the other cards would have bothered my cousin and buddy. For me, not a big deal — it’s my name. :)

        Also, I agree with you and @joshmaher:disqus — it’s so much easier to sell a ticket when you have the legit physical one instead of a printed version. And like you, I love dealing with scalpers. Haha.

      • Anonymous

        I came to this conclusion for the same reasons as well. I have 2 tix in my name, but take a different friend or family member to each game. And I have A LOT of flaky friends, so I frequently am selling tix at the last minute and it’s easier with the original ticket. I’m trying to get $$$ up front this year to prevent this situation, but I know I’ll always have last minute selling to do :-(

        • johnhcook

          Sounds like we have the same type of flaky friends. :) Oh well, at least they are Sounders fans!!

          • Anonymous

            I think the flakiness stems from the fact that they’re not really Sounders fans. They’re like Joel McHale’s character in “Community”:  “I’ve been forcing myself to be into soccer since 2004.” When something better comes along, they bale!

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