While Ticketmaster and the National Football League continue to force consumers into mobile-only ticketing options as a matter of course, there remains one team where fans are allowed the choice for a ticket that isn’t locked to their phone: the Buffalo Bills. When asked why, a team official commented that the team “realize[es] there may be a customer that does not have a smartphone.” That recognition of one of the basic facts surrounding the difficulties in mobile ticketing has drawn praise from the United States Minority Ticketing Group (USMTG) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The mobile ticket entry system has been recognized as rife with problems as it has been forced on consumers in recent years. Keri Russell spoke to News 5 Cleveland after being denied entry to the first Cleveland Browns preseason game of the season. “Kickoff is literally in eight minutes, and it’s my first year with season tickets,” Russell said. “They’re just telling me there’s nothing they can do.”
Problems did not abate in time for the first official game of the season. All but two NFL stadiums saw major delays as frustrated fans queued for entry. One family in New York was unable to attend the opening game at all. After holding season tickets for nearly a decade, the New York Jets did not issue any printed tickets. After spending $2500 for his tickets, it was discovered that the ticket holder would be unable to use the mobile tickets because his flip phone would be incompatible with the ticketing app.
This problem is not isolated to just the NFL, though the league is alone in its choice to unilaterally (save one franchise) force mobile-only entry on all consumers. Fans on the opening day of the Texas Rangers experienced similar issues with mobile ticketing that caused the stadium to appear empty well after the first pitch because of entry delays up to 45 minutes. Fans of Kid Rock and Garth Brooks also have experience the same issue when using mobile ticketing entry systems,
Sarubah from Talk Travel explained that there are often problems with the scanners in mobile-only entry scenarios. “The bar code is not read properly because the scanner is dirty, or it is too dark, or there is some technical error with the scanner,” he says. “The mobile screen was not clear, cracked or some other issue. This leads to long queues sometimes, and can get really irritating.”
Matt Benn from Soundplate discussed another common complaint consumers have with mobile-only systems. [The] “basic disadvantage of mobile ticketing is relying on all visitors to have a phone battery,” he says. “I remember being stopped outside a venue recently and asked if someone had a portable phone charger as someone had their tickets on their phone which had died and didn’t know the password to the account they bought the tickets with!”
Beyond obvious technological limitations in the moble-only world, there are numerous other barriers to entry which can prove vexing to many consumers forced to enter events using only their mobile devices.
Official instructions on how to use tickets are a multi-step process, and often the how-to process or videos are limited to English speakers. Any moble-only system involves signing up for one sometimes multiple accounts, downloading the tickets, connecting to stadium Wi-Fi, setting up Apple Wallet and changing the brightness on the device. Android and iPhone devices can have completely different instruction sets, and it is also not clear whether each ticket holder will need to repeat these steps before transferring and then subsequently accepting the mobile ticket.
Furthermore, numerous investigations have found that mobile ticketing applications required for access to these types of tickets generally access users contact lists and locations, which raise numerous privacy concerns.
As stated above, the Buffalo Bills stand alone in contrast to the NFL policy, the lone franchise in the league to allow single-game ticket sales in a non-mobile format. This is a welcome sign for many organizations worried about the potential barriers to entry and privacy issues that the mobile-only ticketing world presents.
While smartphone usage is increasing on the whole, Statista reports that as many over 30% of the US population does not own a smart phone. Access to mobile smartphones, as well as reliable internet, are problems that disproportionally affect poorer urban communities.
“We applaud the Bills having a policy that allows fans to exchange tickets freely and make tickets available to folks without mobile phones,” says Scot X. Esdaile, President of the USMTG. “Poverty shouldn’t be a reason to keep people out of the process.”