Zigabid Rocks! Leveraging The Laws of Supply and Demand in the Concert Ticket Industry
This is a story about Zigabid and front row ZZ Top seats at The Shoreline in Mountain View, but it starts with Rush.
On Monday August 9th 2001 at 3pm I got news that my grandfather just died. At 3:30 pm my old friend John calls me up and says he has an extra ticket to Rush at the Shoreline.
“I got an extra ticket, do you want to go?”
“Heck yeah! But what do you mean by extra ticket? Like as in free or do I have to pay?”
“No, it’s free.”
“Awesome! I didn’t get tickets because I really couldn’t afford at the moment but I really wanted to go. Thanks!”
“No problem. I’ll meet you out front around 5:30”
So I meet John and we head to the seats. They are serious nosebleed section, the last row before it turns into lawn, but I’m at Rush for free, so life is good.
During intermission John says he’d like to see ZZ Top this year. They’re touring and he’s never seen them before. I head to the bathrooms and I notice a sign that says:
ZZ Top Lawn Seats – $10
Friday September 3rd
No service charges!
So I go back to the seats and I tell John the news.
“Really? I’ll be back.”
He comes back fifteen minutes later the proud owner of four lawn seat tickets for a total cost of $40.
Now this has been happening all year. Except for a handful of reliable draws, shows have been selling slow. So weeks after the tickets go on sale they start slashing prices. That’s why I got half price Lilith Fair tickets. This, of course, is creating a problem. Early purchasers are resentful and rightfully feel like dupes. Conversely, the later buyers are rewarded for holding out. Taken to its logical extreme, concert goers wait to purchase in anticipation of a discount, thus causing promoters to slash prices to fill seats because of low tickets sales caused by people waiting for a discount.
It’s a classic dilemma that all businesses and brands that engage in discounting face. Once you establish yourself as a discounter, people will refuse to pay full price, thus forcing you to be a full-time discounter. This hurts profits which it makes it difficult to invest in expansion, marketing, and research and development.
A week before the ZZ Top show, John calls me up.
“Three people bailed on me. Do you want to go to ZZ Top?”
“Sure, why not?”
But as the day of the show gets closer, I’m starting to dread the law seats. You can’t see the band because you are so far away, so you end up watching television the whole time while freezing your butt off on a lawn chair. Not fun.
I know ZZ Top hasn’t sold out so I hit Craigslist the morning of the show looking for an upgrade.
The economics are simple. Since the tickets were only $10, we could buy some last-minute discounted seats and still come out cheaper than if we would had purchased the same seats the day they went on sale.
Some of the Craigslist sellers are clearly in fantasy land. They’re asking $150 a pop for section 102 seats to a non sold out show where the face value is $89. Not going to happen. However there are a few standouts and one in particular that had two choice seat for $52 each that you could buy right now – or you could make an offer.
Make an offer? Just what I’m looking for – discounted seats with a chance to get them even cheaper. The show is not sold out, there are plenty of seats at the box office and online, and it starts in about four hours, so it’s clearly a buyers market.
The seller has a link to his Zigabid profile. I’ve never heard of Zigabid but I click around the site and it seems legit. I look at his offer closely and notice that they’ll be a $15 rush fee on the tickets. The show starts in four hours. How exactly are these tickets going to be “rushed” and to where or whom? So I call them up.
“I’m looking at the ZZ Top tickets for Shoreline tonight and notice it says there’s a $15 rush fee. Aren’t these electronic tickets?”
“No, these are hard tickets.”
“So how will I get them?”
“We use a courier service to take them to the event. We do it all the time. They know us there and the tickets will be waiting a will call.”
“So is this per ticket or per order?”
“So fifteen bucks flat.”
I create an account, select the pair of tickets, and then press make offer. I enter $25. The worse he can say is no, right? The seats are pretty good – section 102 which is center stage and row G which is thirteen rows from the front because there’s a series of six AA, BB, and so on type super elite rows first.
I wait awhile and I get no email response so I go back to bid on the tickets that are row M. When I get there I notice that he counter offered with $40. Still a good deal but my buddy is already in the hole $40 for the lawn seats so I want to spend as little as possible. I counter with $30.
I check back twenty minutes later and the tickets are gone. Damn, I guess somebody paid the asking price. So I put in a $25 bid for two tickets in the M section.
Shortly after that I get a call from a Zigbid rep.
“Congratulations, the seller accepted your offer, I just need to verify the name for will call.”
“Oh, that’s why the tickets disappeared, the person who bought them was me. Well I just put in a bid for another set of tickets because I though I lost out on these. What do I do now? I don’t want them.”
“Not a problem, I’ll show you how to cancel that bid.”
So he walks me through, I cancel the bid, and I’m all set with killer seats that I paid less than half of the face value for.
Ten minutes later I get a call from Zigabid again.
“Uh oh, I hope this isn’t bad news.”
“No, it’s good news. We’re giving you a free upgrade to row A.”
“This is still the same section right? 102 center stage?”
“So this is really free. No extra charges at all?”
“Nope. It’s a free upgrade.”
“You’re sure about that.”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Yes, no charge.”
“Yes, for real.”
“Wow, that’s really nice. Thanks. I guess this a very lucky day for me.”
You can understand my scepticism. Who voluntarily gives you more when they don’t have too? Row A is seven seats closer than G and as close as you get without getting into the super elite AA rows. It’s a pretty foreign concept to encounter. About as unlikely as a cop letting you off with a warning.
The order is processed and I get an email receipt showing an additional $10 service charge for the order. I go back to the website, and sure enough it was there all along, I just didn’t notice. Which makes sense because the operating expenses have to come from somewhere. Oh well, still better than the per ticket service charge from Ticketmaster and I got the tickets for such a great price that extra ten is easily absorbed into the total cost.
So it’s three hours before the show, I scored front row seats at half face value, and they are waiting for me at will call. I’m stoked, but part of me will only believe it when the tickets are in my hand. I figure if I get shafted, at least we still have lawn seats to fall back on, and I’ll just handle the charge backs tomorrow.
So you know by the foreshadowing in the beginning of the story that the tickets were there as promised. I pick up my tickets at will call. They have this really cool red and silver band on them that says VIP.
“Sir, you can go through the VIP entrance around the corner.”
Yes, the best seats have their own entrance which looks identical to the other ones for the commoners but you need a red banded ticket to use it. It even drops you into the same area with everyone else. It makes about as much sense at marking one urinal as “VIP” in the restroom even though it still functions the same, smells just as bad, and sandwiched between the toilets for peasants.
But you know what, it works. I do feel about seven percent more important and entitled than I usually do even though I’m completely aware of the psychology of the ruse.
On the way down to our seats it’s a series “right this way sir’s” and “enjoy the show sir’s” until we reach our destination. The opening band, 38 Special is already on and we’re shockingly close. Closer than I’ve ever been at a reserved seating show that I wasn’t shooting for the local newspaper.
After the band is done, I prop up my heels on the seat in front of me and take a wide-angle shot of my view to commemorate our good fortune.
Naturally, I brought my Sanyo Xacti camcorder to shoot some footage but I’m sitting right up front and surrounded by staff and security. I feel really exposed. Will there be a problem? That questioned is answered by the guy in front of me, first row, two feet from security, who starts shooting the entire 38 Special set with his Flip camcorder. Then a friend comes up and gives him his Flip and he starts shooting the show with a digital camera in each hand. He looks like Chow Yun-Fat in a double fisted shootout in The Killer.
Now the Shoreline is pretty lax about these things, but in the VIP section, it’s almost your God-given right to shoot the show. Even with two cameras at once.
So how was the show? Awesome.
How were the seats? Killer. You could see each hair on Billy Gibbons beard, the seems in his jacket and the details in his jewelry. Combined with the intense light, it felt voyeuristic and very immersive – like seeing Avatar 3-D for the first time.
How was my video footage? Go see for yourself on my YouTube channel.
How close is close? This next shot was taken with my cell phone.
So whats the deal with Zigabid? Well, unlike the other ticket resellers like Stubhub, Zigabid has a “make offer” component which enables haggling, or more accurately, enables the buyer and seller to act upon real-time market forces. As the show gets closer to start time, both the parties have a greater interest in making a deal happen. Nobody wants to miss a show and nobody wants to get stuck with tickets they couldn’t unload. Better to eat half the cost than the full cost. Would I have paid $52 for the tickets? No way. Did the seller need $52 to make the sale worth while? Under the conditions, apparently not or he wouldn’t have accepted my lowball offer.
As for customer service Zigabid does it right. When I had problems or questions about the system I always got a real person on the phone and they were always friendly and helpful.
Why did they give me a free upgrade? I’m not sure. Could be just to fill in the seats closer to the stage. Could be that they understood the PR value of a smooth move like that. There is no better advertisement than word of mouth. If the latter is the case, it obviously worked.
File Under: The Ultimate Zigabid Review – Ticket Reseller Reviews – The Economics of Aftermarket Concert Ticker Industry – Ticket Scalping