Chris Heck-onomics

Generally, in business you don't want to alienate a large swath of your customers -- especially the most loyal ones -- right off the bat. And you certainly you don't want to do it so you end up the face of that alienation. In the case of President of Business Operations Chris Heck, he ended up doing just that after Heck raised season ticket prices across Red Bull arena everywhere but in the South Ward, while dividing up many of the sections, leaving a rather convoluted seating chart for 2012.

Suffice it to say Heck and Red Bulls fans didn't quite start off on the right foot.

The most earnest Heck haters will tell you what he's doing is absolutely economically illiterate. When you average roughly 20,000 in a stadium that seats more than 25,000 why would you, potentially, price out fans? The supply clearly outweighs the demand. That means prices should drop, not go up. Economics 101. What's worse is the customer service aspect of it, they'll tell you. For a long suffering fan base of a team low on the New York sports totem pole, why would you seemingly go out of your way to raise ticket prices on the guys who are willing to buy said tickets? You know, the guys who are there because they want to be there?

Bring him up in certain sub-circles of Red Bulls fans and he's practically persona non grata. Some fans boycotted season tickets, opting for partial season plans or single game tickets. "Heck no" has become something of a rallying cry among these fans.

To his credit, Heck has gone on a bit of a PR tour, knowing full well the fans' opinion of him. In December he talked to Goal.com. He had January and February mailbags where he fielded questions -- even letting some negative ones slip through -- from fans and in January he appeared on the Seeing Red! podcast. During his February mailbag he had one answer in particular that stood out.

Q: Several times this year there have been games that were announced as being "sold out". Yet due to the large number of no shows the stadium looks substantially less than full. This seems to be a constant thread when it comes to the sideline seats that get the most time on the TV cameras. Has there ever been any thought given about filling those seats? Perhaps moving the supporters sections to those seats, similar to what DC United has done may be the answer. Ed Kanitra – Hightstown

A: I agree that that the no-show rate was a big challenge for us last season and we have been working on finding a solution. In the meantime, there are a couple of variables to consider that will have a direct impact in this area: a) many of the seats you point out are owned by new season ticket holders, b) with the higher value of the ticket, we expect a better attendance rate and c) a large amount of those seats were sold to ticket brokers in the past, which is not the case in 2012.

Emphasis (in the answer) mine.

It's true that no-shows were a big deal last season. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look around Red Bull Arena during any of the declared sell outs and see that the stadium still had more than a few empty seats.

But Heck seems like he's got something up his sleeves here. Making the ticket something of value and forcing people who buy not to skip out by, essentially, forcing them to throw good money away is one of those sounds-so-crazy-it-just-might-work scenarios, like something out of Freakonomics. It's as if we're all part of some kind of behavioral economics case study. Will people value a product differently based on how it's priced?

Funny story, there's research to suggest it can (surely there's more, but my time reading economics papers is mostly over).

Anyway, even if Heck isn't reading scholarly journals in his spare time and feels the team is giving away tickets below value, at least he's considering the supporters groups feedback on how the South Ward is run. So things could be worse.

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