Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The art of ticket collecting dies in a digital age, and the trouble venues face

By Zachary Baru

Remember coming back from a game and saving your ticket, storing it in a closet, only to say "one day I'll create a collage of this".  Some of us did, others like myself are still telling themselves this, but either way it's yet another lost art to the digital age.  For those of us who love collecting memories to events, or for Gen Z who probably don't even know such an option existed, the reality now is it's just no longer an option at all.  

This creates two sets of problems: fans will no longer have something physical to connect to past experiences, and venues now have 18,000+ fans entering, of which only half actually are given a ticket.  The ladder actually represents a myriad of problems, but let's save that for later.  

Experiences That Last a Lifetime, or Until Deleted From the Apple Wallet

Starting with experiences, they can certainly be digital, and often now will be videos and pictures on phones, but experiences are also often physical.  A ticket from a past event can bring the mind back to exactly when that event happened, and just how great that event was.  It's fun for fans, just as pictures on a wall trigger great memories, but from a marketing perspective its also a great promotional tool reminding fans of positive experiences.  This might be the part where some would say I'm reaching too far, but just think of all the things you see and touch each day and how often those objects remind you of certain tasks, and especially memories.  Either way, something tangible can and will remind a fan to want to return to an event.  A digital ticket on an Apple Wallet that is deleted after a game is useless once the event ends.  

And for what?  If it is an attempt to reduce expenses, my question is just how much are venues really saving on tickets that don't exactly cost a lot to purchase in bulk orders.  But more importantly, how much are you saving now that you are eliminating the opportunity to place advertisements on the back of the paper tickets, as some venues formerly did?  Now that venues may hand out an extreme limited quantity of paper tickets for each event, often because there was some email or text transfer issue, venues are not going to have the opportunity to sell advertising.  Especially if a venue is only printing well under 100 paper tickets to an event that seats 18,000.  This can possibly be the biggest reason for a need to bring back paper tickets, as a lot of potential advertising revenue is lost for each event.

"I Don't Have a Ticket, My Friend Bought It"

Finally, there is one last problem with the loss of paper tickets, which almost anyone who has attended an event over the last few years has noticed - many people simply don't have tickets.  Laughable, I know.  But it is the reality with a digital approach to ticketing.  I work for two pro teams in Florida in two different departments, both of which involve working with fans each event.  Working in guest services for one team, I notice this every single game - half, at most, of the fans entering a section actually have a ticket.  

When a person buys multiple tickets, only the fan who purchased the tickets receives them.  They are immediately told they cannot screen shot, and by now most fans know that if they attempt to screen shot, they are just sent back to the box office because they are denied entry.  What happens here is one person buys for two, three, or more people, and only one person actually knows where the seats are, and only one person can actually prove where they are sitting to ushers or fans already in the seats.  This causes many negative interactions between fans, but also negative interactions with ushers and supervisors.  Since fans know screen shots are not allowed, many simply will not do this even for proof of where to sit.  Not to mention, I have noticed the overwhelming majority of fans immediately add a ticket to their own Apple Wallet, something obviously only viewable to themselves.  The end result is in your average party of two or three who attends an event, typically only one person actually is in possession of a ticket showing where they are sitting.  This creates a laundry list of problems for fans entering, fans sitting in a seat where someone else thinks they are sitting, and yes of course, the ushers and supervisors who are left to try to police it all.  

It's not easy when once again, half of the fans actually have a ticket showing where they are sitting, and the other half have consumed more alcohol than they probably should have.  All kidding aside, the fact remains that when tickets are not physically dispersed, it is extremely difficult for fans to determine where they are sitting and how to prove if they are actually allowed in a specific section or not.  It can be chaotic, and having been on both ends of this, I can attest that it is frustrating as a fan when someone else buys your ticket, and the usher does not believe you when you try to return to your seat from the bathroom.  In some venues, their platform does not allow the ticket to be transferred without being resold.  All of this could be fixed by simply buying cheap paper tickets, selling advertising on the back, and giving them to fans at the box office. 

The Goal

I'd like to think the goal of all of this is a positive one like "going green", but while that may be true in some cases, in most cases it seems teams' carbon footprints are so far through the roof in other areas that it is hard to buy that claim.  Many teams do not have recycling throughout the venue, many teams do not have proper use of solar power, and teams' carbon footprint with flying and buses to and from airports and hotels does make it hard to buy a claim of being green.  To be fair, there are some teams that do excel in this category, and they should be applauded.  The majority of them however, do not, making the case for a common sense approach to brining back an art that anyone in Gen Z may not even know.  A time when you could actually remember an event without staring at an iPhone screen.  A time when you actually had a ticket to enter a section, and a time when you could actually pick up a piece of your childhood, and remember it for the rest of your life.


Writer's Note: This was a special article for me.  I do not write these posts for monetary gain.  I do not host advertisements like other bloggers or writers may post, I do it simply because I love sports and I love business.  This to me is a great way of combining my two passions, and this particular article was extremely special for me to write.  Not only am I a nostalgic person, someone who loves remembering the past and learning about the past as well, but I also have been given a great opportunity over the last year to work for two pro teams where I see this very topic come up each week during the games.  I started this past season looking at this particular change to ticketing as a positive one, but now that I am experiencing it on a week-to-week basis, I've noticed, well, there is at the very least a discussion to be had here.  It's also been interesting to me that I have not seen many articles about this written or discussions about this in the media.  I hear fans' feedback every event, and even co-workers feedback as well, but I just don't see this topic at all in the media.  So if you read this, do not think there is a right or wrong answer here.  Any article that leaves a reader with that, in my opinion, is not leaving the reader with a proper feeling.  I just want people to look at this change in live events with the question of "is this good or bad for the industry and the fan?"  It's that simple.  Only the reader can make that choice, because lets face it, some fans love this change.  There's also a lot of paper being saved.  And there's also a lot of memories that fade away and a lot of fans left frustrated.  I love the phrase "adapt or die", but I wonder, are there some things that just don't always have to change?  Thanks for reading.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at  Zach also writes and

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