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?
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.