Dynamic Pricing & Rocket Surgery

by on April 5, 2011 · 0 comments

When the Cardinals first made the announcement about “dynamic pricing”, my first reaction was to picture that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he’s mining huge gold nuggets and carrying them into town.  My eyes started to roll back into my head, and dollar signs just suddenly appeared to be floating in front of my face.  Cha-ching!  I was also imagining a magical black box which had been designed by Casholla – the Greek god of paper money (totally made that up).  Actually, I began thinking about just how dynamic pricing would work in the real world, and just how it would impact fans.  Okay, I was way more selfish than that.  I only wondered about how it would impact our 3 loyal readers. 

Fortunately, we had an opportunity at the United Cardinal Bloggers event on Sunday to get a really great explanation from Derek Throneburg (Director of Ticket Development).  Derek tried to throw us off by claiming that he didn’t really understand all the complicated math, but he wasn’t fooling anybody.  His explanations about all the variables taken into account really left us with a much better understanding of the full scope and purpose of dynamic pricing as well as how the magical black box works to a certain extent. 

Yes, the Cardinals are in business to make money, and I don’t think anybody really has an issue with that.  The good news is that they are not trying to do so at the expense of angering season ticket holders or gouging anybody else, either.  The bad news is that you need Stephen Hawking, a team from the CDC, and Watson (of Jeopardy fame) to fully understand how dynamic pricing works.   Just consider some of the factors taken into consideration by the software gurus who designed the algorithms that adjust the prices:

  • Historical ticket sales broken down by day of week
  • Historical ticket sales data broken down by month of year
  • Historical ticket sales info separated by stadium section
  • Historical ticket sales data broken down by opponent
  • Historical ticket sales broken down by place in pennant race
  • Historical ticket sales data broken down by day of week, stadium section, opponent, and place in division
  • Price of premium unleaded gasoline averaged across nearest 10 stations by distance (no, probably not really)
  • Time of day for scheduled first pitch
  • Temperature / weather factors
  • Anticipated quality of National Anthem performance (no, not this one either)
  • Starting pitching matchup
  • Promotional events
  • Whether or not members of the UCB are in attendance (probably not)
  • Whether or not members of the PH8 are in attendance (almost certainly no)
  • Proximity of Brandon Phillips to Yadi’s shin guards (this might actually be somewhat accurate)
  • The national debt ceiling (geez, I hope not)
  • The Mayan Doomsday Calendar / Drinking Game (again, probably not)
  • The number of Twins announcers who can properly pronounce the name “Descalso”
  • The frequency with which the #WellPlayedMauer hashtag gets used on Twitter within any given 24-h0ur period (uh, no)
  • The total projected paid attendance at any given point in time (multiplied by Avagadro’s number and divided by pi…..mmmmm…pi)
  • The number of chucks that a woodchuck would chuck, if a woodchuck would could chuck wood
  • Whether or not a baseball game is actually scheduled for a given day (this is probably more important than one might realize)
  • List of players on the disabled list
  • Milestone and record-breaking performance potential achievements
  • The possibility that Aaron Miles will pitch
  • Competing events occurring the same day/weekend as the game (Lady Gaga concert?)

In theory, the basic supply and demand model has been expanded and tweaked to the extreme here.  However, it’s worth pointing out that the Cardinals were already charging a premium for premium games against teams like the Cubs, anyway.  It’s also worth noting that season ticket holders benefit greatly from a substantial discount, and the Cardinals are sensitive to maintaining dynamic prices high enough not to step on the toes of season ticket holders.  Fair enough.  I’m interested in a good deal, but even I don’t think our 3 loyal readers deserve a better deal than the folks who are willing to cough up a wad of money at the beginning of the season.

Sure, $20 for a $100 seat beats $0 for that same seat, but it also risks annoying the heck out of the people who spent $70 for the seats next to that seat for each of the 81 home games.  In that regard, it’s not exactly like an unused hotel room.  At the other end of the spectrum, the team does sell some tickets for less than the price of parking.  Seriously.  Save enough money on tickets, and you might be able to afford a trip to a Stephen Hawking lecture, and then you’ll be able to explain the black box a little better than I just did.  It’s not exactly “rocket surgery”, but it might be close.

TIDBIT:  The Cardinals are 1-0 when the pitcher hits 8th, and they are 0-3 in all other games.  I think we all know what this means.  Yep, more #HonkinForJaime. 

Like it?  Any idea how many chucks a woodchuck could chuck?  Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, and maybe we can sort out this #WellPlayedMauer hashtag thing!

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Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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