I'll post the usual attendance watch figures at the end of this homestand, but this is something that intrigued me now, and I suspect it will interest you as well.
I have always wondered how the Cubs rank among major-league teams in the size of fees charged for online or phone purchases of tickets, beyond the official face price of the ticket. This would have been daunting work to do on my own.
Thankfully, Chris Jaffe of Hardball Times has done my legwork for me in this article. This should surprise no one, but the Cubs rank right at the top of the list when it comes to add-on fees and taxes of various kinds (though the Yankees, with a huge increase in such things from 2012, are getting close). Jaffe writes:
If you’re just buying one ticket, the Red Sox are the worst, thanks to their massive processing fee. (If you want to torture yourself, try to imagine a bookkeeping system in this electronic age of ours so backwards that it actually costs $7 to process a ticket order). Oh, those Cubs. They haven’t won in 1OO-plus years, but they do really well at the turnstiles, so they ramp up the ticket add-on costs like no one else. Actually, you can make a minimal defense for them. While they have some of the steepest price add-ons out there, they wouldn’t be No. 1 if it weren’t for some taxes puts on their tickets. (The White Sox include their tax price with the convenience fee, which is why they don’t have the “other" column. A few other teams also pay taxes but, like the White Sox, include it with the convenience fee.)
A couple of comments: it is really ridiculous to charge such high fees to "process" a ticket order. This is an enormous profit center for tickets.com (which handles Red Sox and Cubs tickets, among other teams) and Ticketmaster, which handles the White Sox (and others). Ticketmaster, at least, has begun to bundle some of these together with the ticket price when you first inquire, which gives you a better idea of the total cost before you click "Purchase Tickets -- your credit card will be charged."
Which brings me to one more point, hinted at above by Jaffe's comment on the White Sox including taxes with the convenience fee. Note that there are only two teams having an entry in the "other" column, the Cubs and Brewers. The Cubs' "other" is the amusement tax. What's up with the Brewers?
Oh, and if you’re wondering, the $2.OO extra for the Brewers comes because they are the only team in baseball that make it impossible to get the ticket without an extra charge. A few years ago, most teams charged you an additional fee to allow you to print your tickets at home. Those days are largely gone, as 28 let you do it for free, with just the Yankees and Brewers charging print-at-home fees. The Yankees charge you $2.5O to do it, but at least give you the option for free mail delivery. The Brewers charge for that, also. Then again, the Brewers are the only team out there that doesn’t have an official order processing charge. Their mailing/home-print charge is the same thing, though. Why they don’t just dump the home print and include a processing charge is beyond me. From reader feedback to previous columns, I can assure you that few things bug fans more than the old home-print charge. There’s a reason teams went away from it, and it’s not because they felt like making a tad less money off the tickets.
Seriously, charging someone to use their own paper and ink to print their tickets at home is... well, it's a few things that aren't printable using nice language, so I won't. But Jaffe is correct -- teams really should stop doing this. It's pure profit, and really nothing beyond opening a fan's wallet and stealing money from him or her.
Finally, since the Cubs are no longer asking the city, county and state for any money in any form for Wrigley Field renovations, it's really time to stop splitting out the amusement tax from the base price of the ticket. Until the Ricketts family took over the Cubs -- through the 2009 season -- the tax was included in the "face" price, with the ticket base price an uneven dollar amount, added to the tax, to produce an even dollar amount (example: my bleacher season ticket from Oct. 4, 2009, the final game of that season, shows a ticket price of $35.71 and a tax of $4.29 for a total of $40.00).
No other team -- in fact, to my knowledge, no other place that has amusement tax added to its ticket price -- splits it out the way the Cubs do. It's misleading, like airline fees. Just tell us what the ticket costs. If the Cubs really mean it when they say they want to be "fan-friendly" -- and not just pay lip service to that term -- this would be a nice first step.