Even a “Free” Ticket Isn’t Free

“Free parking revisited,” © 2008 Alan Cleaver, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

“Free parking revisited,” © 2008 Alan Cleaver, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

The price of a ticket is much more than just the amount of money they give you to be allowed in the venue.

I don’t just mean parking or the babysitter or the other legitimate hard costs that might come with a trip to see an event, though those are very real too.

Recently, we talked about realizing that we are, as an industry, on the wrong side of the Convenience Gap compared to other forms of live entertainment, and I want to explain that a little more.

When I buy a ticket, I get something good: an experience, a show, an opportunity to socialize, some cool memories, etc.

But I also get bad things: I have to drive or travel somewhere; I probably have to wait in some lines; I probably have to put up with some unpleasant crowds; I have to spend time organizing my group of friends to go, and other things like this.

So I get some “goods” from this, but I also get some “bads.”

That’s why I say that the price of a ticket is much more than the amount of money you pay. In fact, if the value that I as a consumer place on the goods is not greater than the value I place on avoiding the bads, I will not go.

Here’s how I prove this.  Imagine an event you have a moderate but not high interest in seeing. This scenario happened about a year ago, when a friend of mine was offered some pretty decent free tickets to a hockey game later that week. He’s a hockey fan and has attended before and expected that he would enjoy it a lot if it did go. These were not “nosebleed” seats and they weren’t out of town or on a night that was especially busy for him.

But given the drive and what it would take to rally a babysitter and the general hassle, he said “no thanks” to $500 worth of NHL tickets.

Because even though he would have paid $0 for the tickets, his non-cash cost was pretty substantial: effort, hassle, mental bandwidth. If he’d been a fanatic or there was some other reason that made the experience more enticing, the goods the ticket brought might have been enough to overcome the bads.

On the other hand, if the arena had been across the street and he had a live-in nanny, perhaps, the cost of the bads would have been so low that the goods were worth it.

So never fool yourself into thinking that the price of the ticket is the price for the consumer. The price of the ticket is the price plus the negative value of the bads. It’s only when the goods outweigh both that you can count on getting somebody in the venue.

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