Has this Dbacks' season ticket giveaway raised any eyebrows around here? Like most of you, I'm delighted when disadvantaged folks get to enjoy games through the kindness or sacrifice of others, but a few wrinkles here strike me as curious.
First, if priority consideration is given to current ST holders, how "disadvantaged" are they? We may likely be talking about people with deteriorating health or families who "lost" a breadwinner, so I dont mean to be flip or disrespectful towards their personal hardship in any way. I guess what I'm asking is, how disadvantaged are they in terms of attending lots of baseball games? Presumably, these are not proverbial newbies entering a stadium portal for the first time, awed by the sea of green, transported by the resonant crack of the bat. These folks, the priority folks, are regulars.
Second, does anybody really neeeed season tickets? Besides shoewizard, I mean. Arent they more of an indulgent luxury than a need? I dont deny beneficiaries will enjoy the gift, up to a point, but if we're talking about people worried about paying the mortgage, or how to get to their next doctor's appointment, isnt gifting ST books pretty disconnected from their "need"? Tons of underprivileged kids in the valley grow up without ever attending a single game, yet the Dbacks are donating, not single games, but entire ST books, to stadium regulars.
I get the part about doing something nice, something fun, above utilitarian "needs", for people in trouble. Honest, I do. But if a kid is sick and wants to go to Disneyland, do you send her eighty one times? Does she get utility out of that? At what point does it stop being about her and start being about the conspicuous largesse of her benefactors?
I'm trying to keep an open mind about this. We may get some real tear jerking stories that could change my mind, win me over. But right now, there's two things about the tone of this program I dont like. One is this perception that the Dbacks are fulfilling a genuine need. There are people with needs, certainly, and they will be receiving something of value over and over and over again, but how this rather ostentatious, recurring gift matches their need just isnt clicking with me. Second, is the perception that the Dbacks are providing this at considerable sacrifice. Per below, I've made 9 assumptions about the program that call this idea into question. I dont know if they're all true, but I believe they're reasonable. Feel free to challenge them.
- Ordinary "paying" ST holders will not be relocated to accomodate this program.
- Existing ST holders who qualify for hardship will be relocated. (We know this because Hall already identified the allocated seats as "nice seats" in November, before hardship applications were even solicited.)
- The allocated seats(40 or 50?) will have negligible impact on new ticket sales. (ie people who were going to buy tix will not be discouraged by these occupied seats, unless there is a sellout).
- Since the allocated seats are not in current ST seat locations, it's unlikely they would sell out otherwise, across 83 games, on a game by game basis. Depending on location, this fraction of 83 could vary considerably, but many upper and middle deck seats, for example, sell for less than a third of games. If you feel that's low, consider that Derrick Hall (of all people) recently characterized the upcoming 2008 single game price hikes as "a big increase", which should further suppress single game sales.
- When the Dbacks assess this "charitable donation" for tax purposes, the write off will not be valued on that fractional "lost revenue" (ie the true cost to the Dbacks); the write off will be for the full 83 game value(the fictional "cost" to the Dbacks, for seats that otherwise wouldve been empty much of the time).
- The net cost to the Diamondbacks will be negligible. Depending on seat location, overall attendance and how 4 and 5 play out, it's entirely possible the tax gains could offset lost revenue and this charitable exercise actually results in a net gain.
- We will hear about this "act of generosity" again and again and again. On dbacks.com. On "Playin' Hardball". On local TV news and in the AZ Republic. On blogs and message boards. Todd Walsh will interrupt live game action to ask a woman how her husband died. "Aside from that, Mrs Lincoln, are you enjoying the game?". Walsh will give a little speech about the Diamondbacks' "unprecedented generosity" and then spoonfeed several "questions" to grateful beneficiaries about the Diamondbacks' "unprecedented generosity". Daron Sutton will say "Great stuff, Todd". Derrick Hall will "pop in" to the booth and remind listeners of the Diamondbacks' "unprecedented generosity".
- The Diamondbacks will tangibly benefit again from this strategy, repairing their brand and selling more tickets.
- Other teams have considered similar strategies, "donating" season tickets in emptier areas to realize tax and brand advantages, but have aborted these plans due to ethical or legal concerns.