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In-Depth Q&A With VP Of Ticketing & Team President On Policies That Have Led To Revocation Of Season Tickets

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Recently there has been a lot of noise about the decision of the Golden Knights to cancel the tickets of certain season ticket holders. A few reported stories have sparked questions and in many cases fear for current ticket holders that they could be next to have their tickets canceled.

We sat down with Todd Pollock, VP of Ticketing, and Kerry Bubolz, Team President, to help try and clarify the situation.

Both Bubolz and Pollock answered questions, but their answers were combined to avoid any confusion.

What is the policy and has there been any change in the policy that has led people to have their tickets revoked?

This policy has been in place since Day 1. We formulated membership agreements almost three years ago, so this has always been an expectation that people will sign and follow the rules, it’s not like all of a sudden we got good and we’re arbitrarily making decisions. People first started signing the agreement around November of 2016, and to date, we are at 100% of members that have signed it.

There are a couple of things that are key in the agreement. One is that people are buying season ticket memberships with the intention of being a fan and not for financial gain. That is clear as day in the agreement. The second notion is that the team will offer a secondary resale market option because we do not expect everyone to go to every game. The agreement states that they must use our secondary site option. Last year it was StubHub, but we are no longer working with them so we are utilizing the Flash Seats marketplace this year. That’s the biggest change in relation to where people can sell.

When were the first seats revoked from users?

Not until June, July, and August did we start pulling seats. We gave everybody the benefit of the doubt. They had 55 home games to show us what they do with their seats and now we have the data and we can go ahead in making fair decisions. We were looking at it throughout the year and along the way, there was some communication.

When was the first person warned that their seats may be revoked?

It was near the end of the regular season.

So no one lost their tickets in November? 

No. No one.

Did anyone even lose them before the playoffs ended?

There were a few but they were blatantly abusing. Double-selling and such. That was very much few and far between.

(Double selling is when people will list the same tickets on multiple sites in an attempt to sell the tickets twice. It results in one of the buyers not getting legitimate tickets.)

What is the main reason you don’t want people to sell tickets?

People can sell. They are absolutely permitted to resell. They do have to use the secondary marketplace that we’ve authorized them to use. That’s the policy because it’s the only way we can guarantee the authenticity of the tickets that are being sold.

Why is it not acceptable for people to sell on Facebook?

First and foremost, we cannot guarantee the authenticity of that transaction.

Was that common, fake tickets from Facebook?

Yes. There were a lot of either hard fake tickets or fake barcodes and they would attempt to come to the building and we couldn’t let them in. Then it becomes our problem. In most cases, we tried to figure out another solution, but there were examples where there just weren’t options. In the Cup Final we had multiple $1000 purchases that came and were out of luck. It kind of falls on us even though it’s really not our fault.

I think the bigger thing is that when people think it’s okay to buy and sell on Facebook and Craigslist it confuses people, it diminishes the legitimacy of our authorized secondary market. People then don’t know when they go to the doors if those tickets are going to work.

How are there still thousands of tickets on StubHub, VividSeats, and other unauthorized sites?

Some users are breaking the agreement, but there are also people who are speculatively selling. They believe they’ll be able to get the tickets, so they list them and figure it out after they sell.

Aside from it being the agreed upon authorized resale site, are there any other benefits to selling on Flash Seats?

Absolutely zero seller fees. Last year on StubHub it was 12-14%. The second thing is it’s now intertwined with our primary seat viewer. So, if John Smith comes from Winnipeg and he goes to our website and sees zero seats from the team, he’s going to see all season ticket holders who listed their tickets for sale’s tickets. Also, it’s integrated on Flash Seats. You can go on the app and list them for sale right on the app. It’s very robust and trafficked.

What if someone posts seats for face value and do not sell, why are they not allowed to try to sell them elsewhere so they do not go unused?

We can’t guarantee that any seats sell. It just goes back to being the authentic guaranteed resale site. It’s also much more of a process to use any other website than Flash Seats. If you sell seats through our reseller, and something happens, we own it and we’ll fix it. We cannot do that with any other site. That’s important for both the seller and the buyer.

We’ve had a lot of people reach out to us to say thank you. We are not in the business of canceling seats, we are in the business of selling seats. By far our most important revenue stream is selling tickets. When we cancel an account it costs us money, but we think it’s the right thing to do. The only good thing that happens is we go back to our “Can’t Wait List,” someone who has invested money with no guarantee, and we get to make their day. The first group to go when demand is not at this level is the brokers because they are only here for one reason, to profit off the team.

There’s a certain level of fear from many people who have season tickets, especially those who were original depositors and wanted to help the cause and bring the team here that knew they could not go to every game and were always planning on selling tickets, there’s a level of fear that their tickets are at risk of being revoked. What is the process that is gone through that eventually results in someone losing their tickets?

I do think we need to do a better job of communicating, not just the policies but also where they are allowed to resell tickets. First, everyone has an account representative that would reach out to them, which would supplement an email. So if we see a seat on StubHub we would reach out with a gentle reminder of how to use Flash Seats resale market. If they ignore that, we will do that multiple times. It’s kind of a three strikes and your out type policy with phone calls and emails. No one is waking up one morning and seeing their seats disappear. We do not run the business that way.

They’ve been contacted at least three times. So as long as someone is paying attention, they are not going to get their seats revoked without them breaking the rules over and over again?

That’s correct.

Was there any connection between the lawsuit with StubHub and the new policy not to use StubHub?

That situation had nothing to do with this situation. What we’ve said is you are not allowed to resell on any other marketplace, there’s only one that is authorized. We’ve parted ways, it was an amicable parting, so they are no longer an authorized partner with the team. It was a choice both entities made.

We were planning on using Flash Seats in Year 1, but the integration just did not work out so we did not launch it last season. Flash has always been in the plans and it was in the original agreement we made it clear that we wanted to use that marketplace.

How large is the waitlist?

It’s in excess of 6,000.

One of the ways people are viewing the policies on reselling is that they are being enforced strictly because there is a large waitlist. Normally no one would have any issue with that until you bring up with fact that the people who currently have the tickets are essentially investors in the business. When they put down money to buy the seats it was sold as without them and their money that the team would never have even been possible. So, how much do you feel as though you value those people and is there any sort of leniency to those people because they were there first, because they were willing to “invest” in the team before it was a reality, as opposed to the “Can’t Wait List” people who saw the success, saw how awesome it is going to Golden Knights games, and said I’ve got to be in on that now?

There isn’t really any consideration in that because we believe if they are breaking the rules, they shouldn’t have the tickets. It doesn’t even matter how many people are on the wait list, we just want the best home-ice advantage possible.

(I outlined an example of a person who clearly identifies as a fan and goes to a few games. The person sells the rest, a majority, of their tickets, all through the authorized resell site, and ends up not only recouping the money for the games they went to, but also profiting a bit.)

It comes down to the intent. What’s the intent of the seller? In every example in which we’ve canceled tickets, the intent was clear.

But the intent for most sellers, even true fans, would be to maximize the value of their ticket and make the most amount of money possible…

Not necessarily, not in every example. That’s why looking through the history and being able to have a dialogue about their goals and their intentions is important. It’s very difficult to put an exact number (on what would cause a cancellation), but I can say that in every instance in which we’ve canceled it’s been very clear what the intent is, it was to profit. Despite the reported stories, I can tell you we have clear data to tell you that the intent was clear.

Even in those cases, I think on every single one with the exception of blatant brokers from out of state, we have said to the person with the tickets, “hey we see you can only go to 10 or 11 games, why don’t you pick the games you would like to go to, we will give you the same discount, keep the same seats, and get all the benefits you used to have.” When they said no, that’s when the intent became clear. We have offered that numerous times.

If the intent is, I want to go to games for free by selling the games I don’t go to and making up the difference in cost? The thought is, I should be able to do this because I “invested” when “investors” were needed, do you view those people as “in it for profit?”

I think it’s tough to answer that. We would have to go through each one on a case by case basis and come up with a solution that works for that person.

Do you view the original depositors, the 16,000, as investors in the team?

I don’t know how I would label them, but there is truly an appreciation for their support. We’ll always have that affinity for those people, to your point, that’s the only reason we are sitting in this room. It comes down to, are you a fan or are you trying to break the system and make money? The ones that are fans will always be given the benefit of the doubt. We will always work with them and appreciate and recognize them. Whatever we call them, their importance is still the same.

The conversations about canceling tickets are not fun to have, we do it for the benefit of our own fans. I’ve gotten dozens of emails of people saying thank you for actually doing something about this problem. We’ve even had customers rooting out other season ticket holders.

How much influence has The Creator had in saying, “I don’t want away fans in this building.”?

Well, he has not said that about the regular season. That was a focus of his during the postseason, but during the regular season, he has not said that. What he has said is that we got out of balance in certain games, and there were obvious ones. (Chicago, Detroit, Winnipeg were given as examples) What our objective was, part of it was increasing our fan base, but the other part was to find a better balance. Having some is good for the environment of our games and we’ve all witnessed that, but you know when it’s too much. That’s where we are trying to be more strategic in that effort. This is Las Vegas, we want to honor what this market is, but we also have our first priority which is always having a home-ice balance, and I’m anxious to see if it works. I’m confident that whatever the highest number is during this season is less than the highest number last year.

And to that point, on this whole perception that we are taking seats back to try and make more money, we went from 12,000 season ticket members to 14,000+. We sold more tickets at a season ticket holder discount with no intention of making money. In fact, we may lose money on that, but the value of the home-ice advantage and getting more local fans to games is the prevailing thought as it relates to who is buying the tickets.

Did the Golden Knights ever hold tickets back and sell them through other sites on their own to profit off the inflated secondary market?

No. Never. I think when people make that assumption it’s rather ridiculous.

Is there anything else that I may have missed that you would like to add?

Two minor things. On the misconception, that member benefits are dwindling. We have a member event on the 18th like we did last year, our goal is to distribute the member boxes at that event. I think they are as cool, if not cooler, than the ones from last year.

Have any member benefits of any kind disappeared this year that were available last year?

No. All the same, benefits are there aside from the special inaugural season jersey.

Why would I, as someone who has season tickets, have possibly thought that there were potentially going to be fewer benefits?

We call it delight and surprise. We don’t tell people everything because it’s really our preference to have people say “wow, this is cool” when the benefits are delivered.

And the other thing?

The notion that casinos have thousands of tickets is false. There are no more than 200 seats a game that the casinos have tickets. That misconception just simply is not true.

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20 Comments

  1. I am now hereby declaring #DelightAndSurprise a new hashtag. Thanks for the great interview! There is an overwhelming value being communicated here in a concise and easy-to-understand way.

    I look forward to the analysis of this discussion including extra anecdotes ( “rabbit hole threads”) on your next blog!

  2. Jim

    Great stuff as always. This is definitely a sensitive subject for both the team and fans, but one that has to be addressed in light of the examples of fake tickets (or double selling) given. What I hope is that there is better communication and transparency on these sorts of issues (this interview is certainly a part of that better communication).

  3. Mike

    As a 10-year season ticket holder that has never missed a game (some on TV a few preseason on radio) but can’t possibly get go to every game, I thought that was a great interview. Thanks. It is still a bit ambiguous but answered many questions I had.

  4. Tiki Owl

    Ironic that right below your article there is an ad for Ticket IQ. Plus this site has actively partnered with Ticket IQ with a first purchase discount. I would assume the Knights would not be happy with this arrangement even though your site isn’t reselling your own seats.

    But good article. I bought tickets last year through both Stubhub and the “official NHL resale marketplace” on Ticketmaster. I would have been interested in whether the Knights endorse the NHL’s resell site.

    • Jim

      Ticket IQ sells more than just Knights tickets. I don’t think the team cares about that sort of sponsorship for this site, especially when it’s those sorts of sponsorships that allow this site (which has the best coverage of the team bar none) to exist. While the use of Ticket IQ may be outside the membership agreement, what is clear is that intent of the ticket holder governs, and so occasional, non-profit seeking season ticket holders should be able to use Ticket IQ without a real threat of seat cancellation.

  5. Nathan Goldberg

    Good stuff, this was a big discussion at the Gym last week.

    My experience is that I have a quarter season package (3 seats). This season I will miss one game due to being on vacation, plus another game where I can go but my family cannot. The method i use is a list of friends, coworkers, neighbors that I offer them to for face value and do the Flash Seats transfer after we exchange the cash, Venmo or whatever. With the frenzy about this team locally I can’t imagine not being able to find a VGK fan that you know to buy them from you when you can’t go. No need to gouge friends for big dollars.

  6. Mike England

    They continue to emphasize “No seller fees”, but have you purchased tickets on Flashseats yet? Buyer fees are an additional 25% of the listed ticket price. These fees are the reason so many of us wanted to bypass all of the re-seller sites in the 1st place. I personally loved the Facebook group and never had any problems, but I know some that did. 25% seems excessive!! Go Knights Go!!!

    • Steve

      The buyer fees as a percentage are higher on Flash, but the overall final price is less. The 10% seller fee on StubHub just inflated the list price by at least that much. A seller who wants to get $100 for a ticket has to list it for $110. If you compare the two Flash is better. The website/app for Flash & AXS is one of the worst I’ve used to buy tickets.

  7. Matt

    I would like to know how many season ticket account holders (members) there are. There are not 16,000 holders. I personally have 4 tickets and everyone I know that have season tickets hold 2-4 seats which would leave me to believe there are 5000-6000 account holders.

    Great job on the article and questions. Many of them I had myself.

  8. Tom Ross

    My biggest issue, at least through the preseason, is that StubHub still has more than 10x the amount of available tickets as Flashseats. So I list mine, like a good little season ticket holder, and almost without fail, the listing expires with no sale, even pricing below face value. You can’t say demand for the tickets wasn’t there, the building was over capacity every game. John Doe wanting tickets to the game is going to go to the biggest ticket site out there in most cases, fees be damned. Buyers could care less about supporting the team’s “authorized ticket reseller” only getting in. I understand that’s the team’s defense if they get burned with bogus tickets: “see, you should have bought from OUR site,” but if I have to sell my tickets, I’d like to have people actually be able to see my tickets lised.

  9. Pierre S Martin

    I use Ticket IQ to buy tickets to the Sharks Games, (It’s only a 4 Hour drive from Reno). Went to the playoff game 6 at San Jose with Ticket IQ also!

  10. J

    So, it seems that the main thing the team is trying to avoid is people profiting off of the secondary market. My main question is, do they care if people are giving away the majority of their tickets? I probably give away 2/3 of my tickets not necessarily because I can’t go, but because I can afford to let family and friends use them instead, and I love being able to give them that opportunity that they might not otherwise have had. I’m not profiting, but I am transferring a majority of my tickets. I feel i’m in line with the team’s philosophy, but I wonder if they would see it that way since I am not the one physically at the games.

    • Jonathan

      I’d also be curious to know that, because I agree I feel that honors the intent. They’re your tickets, you’re sharing them with people close to you, other Knights fans, so don’t see how that would be a problem.

  11. bill

    If you buy from an unauthorized site, is it possible you will show up and not have a ticket if it is from a real account that gets revoked?

    • No. That will definitely not happen. They are looking to “punish” the people selling not the buyer. They are very very conscious of not having anyone come up the gate with a fake ticket. So they wouldn’t put someone in that spot on purpose.

  12. Dale Nixon

    First off, this was a phenomenal interview and thank you. However, if you invested in the team from the beginning but want to try to sell tickets to x amount of games you can’t make, or want to profit to cover games you go to on your original investment you risk losing your tickets. I think it’s completely ludicrous. Maybe the Golden Knights should’t try to profit on their team. I agree that if someone is selling tickets to 90 % of the games they probably aren’t a true fan but this policy seems like a giant waste of human resources and time to find the “ticket broker fans”. I invested in the team from day one and if I want to sell tickets to 20 to 25 of the regular season games then I should be able to do as I please. Doesn’t mean I’m not a “fan”. Sorry we all don’t have as much money as the head honchos of the Knights have. Yeah, I’m sure the lawsuit w StubHub had absolutely nothing to do with the move to Flash Seats. Now we’re stuck selling on a site with a terrible interface and probably 95 % less buyers then StubHub. It’s gonna be a challenge for those who want or need to sell tickets and are unable to do so on other sites when they have trouble finding buyers on Flash Seats. At least upgrade your site to a similar interface that StubHub or Vivid Seats has, Flash Seats site looks like it was made in 1999.

  13. Maria

    Ken – Thank you for great article and interview. We are ST holders and last season the ticket holder(s) next to us vary rarely attended a game. These four seats were listed on stub hub for three times their face value and usually sold to opposing team fans. Same situation with four seats behind us and seveal seats in front of us, always opposing team fans. Sitting with opposing team fans was hit and miss, either they were really well-mannered or down-right rude. Contrast to this season, most of these seats are now filled with local fans and partial season ticket holders. Our in game experience has gotten dramatically better. If we cannot make a game, then we have plenty of interested friends, co-workers, and family that we can transfer tickets too, all local people who are VGK fans and really want to see a game. ST holders all signed a contract knowing that the VGK management would be scrutinizing our ticket usage & behavior. It’s not a complicated contract. Given the high demand for tickets by locals, I’m supporting the VGK on this decision, I really like seeing more local VGK fans sitting in those seats.

  14. Brian

    To say they gave buyers warnings multiple times before they revoke tickets is simply not true. I got my tickets cancelled with zero warning along with someone else I know. However the friend we have based in Chicago is a good buddy with the same client rep For the Knights who had attended only 2 games and sold his tickets on 3rd party sites last year and got to keep his no problem. Living out of town and flying in multiple times attending games is not enough they say even after I pay 100% in full and followed all rules about listing games last year on stubhub only per their terms. Got my email that thay cancelled tickets with no warning and no answers.

    All these people on the waitlist for tickets saying they are big fans, had the same opportunity to buy season tickets day one just like everyone else.

  15. Thanks for providing the information.

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