Indians playoff tickets purchased on a secondary market other than StubHub could be canceled

Courtesy of Crain’s Cleveland Business:

Late Monday afternoon, the Indians announced that single-game tickets to the American League Division Series will go on sale on Sept. 29.

That was noteworthy for non-season-ticket-holders who are excited about possibly the best two words in sports — October baseball — returning to Progressive Field.

But what really stood out to us was the second half of the email, which revealed that the Tribe has “aligned exclusively with StubHub,” which serves as MLB’s official secondary-market provider.

“Under this agreement, any fan who resells Indians postseason tickets on a secondary site other than StubHub — and the fan who purchases those tickets — are subject to have their tickets revoked or the tickets’ bar codes canceled,” the Indians said.

That’s significant, because it could mean that fans who buy postseason tickets on secondary markets such as SeatGeek or Vivid Seats could be turned away at the gate on game night. The Indians don’t have buyer information from sites other than theirs or StubHub, so, unless a fan reaches out to the Tribe in advance of game day, the only way to notify fans that their tickets are in danger of being voided would be at the gate, when the tickets are scanned.

Sept. 20 update: We received additional information from the Tribe on how this process will work. Here are some details from the team:

If a fan learns of the Indians’ requirement to only purchase on or StubHub after they have already bought tickets on an unauthorized marketplace, the club encourages them to reach out to verify that the ticket is valid well in advance of the game. If the ticket doesn’t scan properly, “there is potential a fan could be turned away.”

In that case, the Indians said they wouldn’t be able to provide service to the fan because they would be unable to determine the transaction history of the ticket. (That’s only available on purchases made on their website and StubHub’s.) So “there is risk for those who purchase on all other unauthorized marketplaces,” the team said.

The easy reaction to this is that the Tribe is trying to avoid a repeat of the 2016 World Series, when Cubs were everywhere at Progressive Field. But as we wrote after Game 7, that situation was the perfect storm.

The combination of the Cubs’ lengthy championship drought, the size and strength of their fan base, the relatively close proximity between the two cities, the skyrocketing demand for the seats and several other factors made it a given that Chicago fans would be traveling everywhere and anywhere for the Fall Classic.

Instead, what the Indians are doing for the 2017 postseason is an extension of something they started a couple years ago.

The Tribe stopped selling full and partial season-ticket packages to brokers, and in some cases, the club revoked their seats and offered them to other longtime season-ticket holders. (You can read more about that practice here.)

Prior to the 2016 season, the Indians also notified season-ticket holders that if they tried to sell or transfer more than half of their tickets to “persons or entities that are not Registered Share Partners,” they would be classified as a broker.

On Aug. 24, I spoke with Tim Salcer, the Indians’ vice president of sales and service, for a storyon the Tribe’s expanding season-ticket base.

“I think what we’re most proud of,” Salcer said that day, “is how we grew the season-ticket holder base and how we’re aiming to make sure we’re selling to pure fans in Northeast Ohio. I think that separates us from other teams. We strictly sold to Northeast Ohio Cleveland fans. We have not sold additional incremental seats to other brokers.”

When I asked how vigilant the team is in its secondary-market stance, the Tribe VP said, “It’s nonstop.”

Salcer said the Indians make sure their reps “understand who we’re selling to.”

They ask where the person works, how many children they have — questions that the Indians say can help them “find a product that fits their needs.”

Such queries can also help them in their fight against brokers, and that battle has never looked as intense as it does now, in the wake of Monday’s news.

Asked for a reaction to the Tribe’s announcement, a SeatGeek rep said the company didn’t have much to add, other than it believes the company’s Open platform model “is the future and leads to much better fan experiences.”

Mark Klang, who owns Amazing Tickets in Mayfield Village, said customers who purchase Tribe playoff tickets on his website would not be impacted by the crackdown, because “the Indians don’t control all of the inventory. Major League Baseball controls a portion of the inventory.”

Another update: The Tribe refutes Klang’s claim, saying the ticket’s “back language clearly states the Cleveland Indians control our tickets and not MLB.” That language is as follows: “The Club reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate the revocable license granted by the Ticket.”

In the statement released by the Tribe, Salcer said StubHub “provides superior and consistent service for our fans, along with the most secure purchasing option on the secondary market. This requirement will protect our fans who must purchase on the secondary market.”

If you’re among the many fans who have complained about thousands of Cubs fans being at Progressive Field last October and November, you might be thrilled with this move.

But if you were planning on shopping for deals on SeatGeek, you’re likely less than pleased.

We understand both reactions.

For those in the latter camp, we’d stress that the Indians say your seats are at risk of cancellation, and you should check well in advance of the playoff contest you’re planning on attending.

Finding out such news on game night wouldn’t be good for anyone — other than perhaps a neighboring bar or restaurant that is looking for extra customers.

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