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Patriots Ticket Sale Is A Farce

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Update [2006-5-14 11:46:31 by tommasse]: (See the end of the article)

Gone In 30 Seconds?

Within 30 seconds, not a single standing room ticket for the entire regular season was available.

Hard to believe?

No. Not hard.

Impossible.

Last year, I was able to get a pair of standing room only tickets for 4 different games over the course of a half-hour. This year, not a single ticket, and it took less than a minute.

Not that I gave up quickly. I was on the Ticketmaster website for a solid 25 minutes, and then checked back periodically over the next 45 minutes. Not a single ticket.

Here is my experience this morning:


I booted my computer at 9:45 a.m. I'm a long-time computer guy, and I know that a freshly booted computer runs at least that little bit faster. Once booted, I started up just my browser and no other programs. I wanted to be running as fast as possible.

I browsed to ticketmaster.com and logged in. I set up an account on Ticketmaster a few years ago. It makes the checkout process faster, which means you can get back to the event list faster when you want tickets for multiple events.

I went to page where Patriots tickets were listed. Ticketmaster presents a calendar-style selection page, but you can see only the events scheduled within a particular month.

There's an option to choose list-style. Generally, that's the way to go. You can see all the events available.

I opened that list view in four windows -- just like I did last year -- so I could go from completing an order in one window and start choosing new tickets in the next. I remember last year, which was more restrictive than the year before, that if you tried to start a new search before the previous purchase was complete, you lost your tickets. I obviously wanted to avoid that.

So, by 9:50 I was ready to go. I reviewed the games available and planned my strategy. Like anything, without a solid strategy, you're already two steps behind. I kept my strategy secret, too. That's what made it a good strategy.

I was going for Standing Room Only tickets. The Krafts started selling SRO tickets specifically and separately from the regular seating tickets last year. Very clearly -- last year, anyway -- SROs are in less demand and far easier to obtain.

Evidently, that was last year.

I also planned which games I would go after. Here is where I tweaked my strategy just an iota from last year. This year I was going for what would probably be the No. 1 in-demand game of the season: Sunday, Nov. 1, at 8:15 p.m. The Indianapolis Colts. The return of Adam Vinatieri.

I figured if I got in there quick enough, I'd be OK and still have time to get a couple lower demand games, like Chicago, Detroit or Houston, all late in the year. (Actually, maybe a few people would want to see Houston after the they had.)

Soon enough, it was 9:58. I clicked on the link for the Indy game. Predictably, it loaded quickly and said that tickets were not (yet) available for that event. Nothing new there. Back to the list page.

9:59:15. Back to the Indy page. Still not available. Refresh once. Twice. Still not available. Wait.

9:59:45. Refresh. Still not available.

10:00:01. Refresh. Still not available. Not unusual. Not every clock can be synchronized, even if those on computers that snych with standard time servers. A few seconds probably won't kill anyone -- at least not when they're trying to buy tickets online.

10:00:05. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. No yet. Refresh. Ah-ha! A new page loaded. "Looking For Tickets: New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts". I see a line that says "Ticket Limit. here is a two (2) ticket limit per person per game. Each person is limited to four (4) tickets for the season." Hmmm ... would have sworn you could get four tickets per game and a limit of 8 for the season last year.

Whatever. I'm not particularly greedy. Be nice to get to a couple games.

This processes all in my brain in less than a second. Something noticed in passing that's not as important as getting to the bottom of the page and finishing the form. I'm already further down the page.

I click on the drop-down and select 2. I don't bother with any other option. There really aren't any. I click on the "Look For Tickets" button. It's 10:00:37.

At least it's 10:00:37 according to my computer's clock, and it's less than 30 seconds since the purchasing page became available.

A couple more seconds, and the "Word Verification" page displays. This was created to prevent programmers from setting up short programs, or "bots," that automatically buy as many tickets as possible as quickly as possible. It forces someone (or something) to view the word, which is displayed graphically distorted, and to type it into a box before proceeding. This makes it (virtually) impossible to program, ensuring only real living and breathing people can purchase tickets.

I type the word. Maybe a couple seconds. I hit Enter on my keyboard.

"Searching ..."

"Your wait time is 1 minute."

Seconds later ... maybe 20 ...

"Your request Is not available"

"There were no tickets available that matched your request"

What?

I bounce to the next page. No sense wasting time back-paging and reloading.

I click on Standing Room Only: New England Patriots vs. Detriot Lions on Dec. 3. I mean, who really wants to see the Lions? In December!

Two tickets. Type the word. Wait time is 2 minutes.

"Your request Is not available"

"There were no tickets available that matched your request"

You're kidding. This is a joke, right?

I try a Buffalo (they stink), Chicago.

One time, something different appears!

(paraphrasing) "You have multiple windows open. Please close the other windows and try again."

Well, isn't that special. They've built in yet another "security feature" to prevent ticket agents and scalpers from scooping up all the tickets. Except I'm not an agent or a scalper. I'm just a fan. A real fan.

Denver. Jets. Miami. Houston.

Nothing.

No tickets at all.

In the back of my mind, one thing strikes me as very odd: Last year, the "Searching ..." wait time was much longer. This time, I've made several requests in just a couple minutes.

And last year, in lots of cases, I got "error processing your request" screens when the page timed out or the system appeared overloaded. And I still ended up with 4 pairs of tickets.

But not this time. This time it was just a lot of "No, you can watch on TV."

In desperation, I try obtaining actual seats, pairs of course. You can (allegedly) get up to 4 seats (as opposed to 2 SROs). But there's no way you're getting 4 tickets. That's utterly laughable.

No pairs of tickets at any price. I start looking for single tickets. I am able to get one for the Jets game. In the end zone. $89.

Ya. Right. I'm going to spend $90 for a ticket and $30 to $40 for parking to sit in the end zone with a bunch of strangers to see Chad Pennington or Patrick Ramsey and the Jets? I don't think so.

It's now 10:20. That's it. There's no chance. They were sold out by this time last year. It could only get faster. Besides, last year, I had 4 pairs of tickets by now.

How is that possible? Four pairs in 20 minutes last year. Nothing within 30 seconds or for 20 minutes this year.

I'm a rabid fan, and technology is my livelihood. I had a legitimately foolproof plan going in and I executed it flawlessly. Yet, I ended up empty-handed.

Let me tell you: If I got shut out, every fan did. But I can't tell you who bought these tickets. Either the agents and scalpers came up with something really innovative, or something is Colossally (with a capital C) #@!&*$ up.

Update [2006-5-14 11:41:44 by tommasse]:

Oh, I Almost Forgot

One more thing I remember from last year is checking out eBay within a few hours after the sale, and there were a handful of people with new auctions trying to sell the SRO tickets they had just bought.

How many "fans" are selling their tickets so far on eBay?

None.

BUT, there is someone, or should I say some 'people' selling Pats SROs -- and they're all ticket agents, and most of their auctions started before the public sale.

Now, the only thing I can figure is that season ticket holders are guaranteed some number of SROs (why, I couldn't guess), and they've already sold them to the brokers. If anyone can confirm that either way, thanks.

Solutions?

Yeah, online sales were, at one time, a great convenience. The system is just too easy to abuse. It's no good anymore until someone can prove that it really works.

Maybe we just have to go back to the "bad ol' days." Sell tickets only at the box office and physical Ticketmaster locations.

Will that keep the brokers, agents and scalpers away? Probably more than the online sales. Time is money, and you can be paying people to stand in lines, sell the tickets at the going rate and still make money. And you can guarantee the real fans, inconvenienced as they will be, will wait in line for tickets.

Anyone else have any ideas?