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Should We Make Customers Pay For The Convenience of Doing Business With Us Over The Internet? Mon 05 May 08

Astros_tickets_3Yesterday, I took the family down to Minute Maid park to watch the Houston Astros play the Milwaukee Brewers.  It was a  great day.  The weather was beautiful, I got to spend some quality time with my family and enjoyed a great ball game.  The Astros won!  My daughter's favorite player, #9 Hunter Spence, hit a 2-run walk-off homer in the 12th the win it 8 to 6.  Oh Baby!

Like a lot of other things I buy, I bought the tickets over the Internet.  Buying over the Internet is nice.  I could buy them when I wanted, not just when the box office was open.  It was easy and fast and I could print my own tickets.  Without question buying tickets over the Internet was very convenient.

At the same time it is a good thing for the Astros too.  Making it easer for customers to do business with you is always a good way to promote increased sales.  It also reduces costs.  When customers print their own own tickets the Astros' printing expense is reduced.  Likewise the staffing costs for the will call and tickets sales windows are reduced.  The more people that buy over the Internet the lower the Astros' costs.

So although this would seem like the classic win-win situation there is one little catch.

The catch was 2 different fees.  First there is an "Order Processing Fee" of $4.11 and then a TicketFast fee of $2.70 so I could print my own tickets.  That's right, if I want to buy tickets I have to pay them to sell them to me.  Arguably, the Order Processing Fee, may be the passing through of fees they pay to TicketMaster for processing.  Nonetheless the concept of having to pay a fee to buy tickets is a rather strange concept.

The TicketFast fee is the one that really gets to me small as it is.  It just smacks of taking advantage of your customers just because you can.  Having customer prints their own tickets does offer benefits to both the Astros and the customer as I mentioned earlier but I don't see why the customer should pay for this.  Even if this is a TicketMaster fee the Astros should absorb it as an offset to their reduced cost.

Banks once did a similar thing by charging customers to use ATM machines rather than using the much more costly live tellers and to use online banking rather than the more costly individual check process.  Eventually some banks caught on to the concept that making it easier for customers could be a competitive advantage.  Eventually due to competitive pressure these types of banks fee became much less common.

You can make the case that the Astros don't have anyone to compete directly with them since there is no other local pro baseball team.  However, there is indirect competition through other entertainment options.  Because of this they may get away with this concept for some time.  Unfortunately there are still organizations that still think this way.  Goverment is a prime example of this (2nd example, 3rd example).  And even sadder to say they are not alone by any means.

In the end I think they are misusing Internet and online technology.  Rather than using it to enhance the customer experience, to engage the customer and to create customer loyalty all of which will ultimately benefit the Astros they have instead chosen to go for the quick buck.  In my opinion they have squandered a good opportunity.

What's your opinion?  Should we make customers pay for the convenience of doing business with us over the Internet when it also benefits us at the same time?

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