Sunday, October 25, 2009

Steve Wynn: Socialist?

On Oct. 13, Steve Wynn went on Fox Business Channel to say this of President Obama's health care aims:

"We are seeing socialism-lite here. It would be OK if it worked, it never works.”

Two days later, he was on the Encore Theater stage with Garth Brooks explaining how he would approach ticket sales for the country singer's comeback appearances:

The stars. Wynn telling story about how the Garth thing happe... on Twitpic

"People that buy seats are going produce ID. And the ID will be used to identify them when they come for the performance. Our goal is not to have these tickets jacked up to $2-, $3-, $4-, $5oo or $1000, which is the case in Las Vegas. We are taking evasive action from ticket scalpers. [Garth] was very insistent about it."

Am I the only one who sees the contradiction here? Other observers have been intrigued by how Wynn can extol the joys of doing business in totalitarian China while casting aspersions on Obama's efforts to revive a capitalist economy and provide health care for all. But I'm more intrigued by a different paradox.

Isn't shutting down scalpers the same as attacking the free market and capitalism? Aren't they people who make an investment at Wynn's foolishly under-market price of $125 a seat and take the risk that others will want to pay more? Sometimes scalpers are wrong and get stuck with tickets they can't move; that's the nature of the beast, no?

Let's go over the rules as they are published on the Wynn website:

Specific procedures have been put in place in an effort to ensure that the tickets for concerts are accessible to fans at face value and through authorized sales channels exclusively.

Limit 6 concert tickets per order or per person or per credit card. Persons who exceed the ticket limit may have any or all of their orders and tickets cancelled without notice by Wynn Las Vegas, LLC at its discretion. This includes orders associated with the same name, e-mail address, billing address, credit card number or other information. No exceptions.

Tickets will be available for pick-up at Will Call at Wynn Las Vegas after 12 p.m. PT on the day of the concert upon presentation of valid photo I.D., confirmation number and actual credit card used for payment. Under no circumstance will tickets be distributed in advance.

Ticket holders must enter the Encore Theater with their entire party. Wynn reserves the right to request valid I.D. of the ticket holder prior to entry into the Encore Theater at show time. The person who purchased the ticket(s) must be a member of the party entering the theater.

All ticket sales are final and are non-refundable and non-transferable.

No one has the permission of Wynn Las Vegas to sell this ticket for a price in excess of $143.00.

Management reserves the right to cancel any ticket and refund the face value of the ticket to the ticket holder, if management determines, in its sole and absolute discretion, that such ticket was purchased from a ticket reseller at an amount in excess of face value.

Tickets must be picked up no later than one-hour prior to show time or will be subject to cancellation with no refund.

That's cold. No refunds. No advance ticket issuances. Final. Non-transferable. No exceptions. Theoretically you could resell them for $143 or less, but how would anyone get in under that circumstances? You can't even, so far as this reads, GIVE AWAY your tickets. Huh.

At the press conference, the crowd -- including journalists!?! -- cheered this anti-scalping effort. But those folks won't be cheering so loudly when they try to surprise Grandpa with tickets for Christmas during his upcoming Vegas trip and realize he can't get in without the presence of the ticket-buyer, who's not going on the trip. Can I call ahead and make such an arrangement? If so, how do you know if that's really my Grandpa or if it's some ticket-broker client? What if I get swine flu three days before the show? I'm stuck with tickets and Garth is stuck with empty seats? Again, I can't even give these seats away?!?

Today, Wynn Las Vegas staff began a thankless game of whack-a-mole. Jade Bailey-Assam, the Tweeter (@WynnLasVegas) wrote: "We're looking for unauthorized sales of Garth Brooks tkts. Please help & tweet links to sites where you see tkts for sale."

Well, gee, how hard could that be? EBay alone has about 100 entries already. Scalpers have figured out the end-run, that they can pick up the seats themselves on the day-of and personally deliver the tickets. A pair of seats advertised as center section Row H on Feb. 12 has 22 bids now and is at $710 right now. That's three times the face value and there's five hours to go on that auction.

The intensive efforts that would have to be undertaken here are unreasonable and prohibitive. It would require someone being hired specifically to do nothing but root out this alleged evil. As Steve Wynn, in his heart of hearts, must appreciate, entrepreneurs will always find a way. Always.

The folks hurt by this? The normal people, actually. They'll be stuck with tickets they can't resell if they really need to and can't give away if they so desire. I thought of a partial solution, but these rules don't allow for it: Wynn should accept refunds less, say, 10 percent. They know they can resell them, so at least that solves the problem of what people can do if their circumstances change at the last minute, if they get sick or snowed out or whatever. This still doesn't solve many other dilemmas herein, though.

I appreciate the idea here. It's admirable. It's nice. Garth wants everyone to enjoy his performances and to pay the face price because that's fair. Wynn wants to oblige his talent to close the deal.

But he might have considered saying this to Garth:

"We are seeing socialism-lite here. It would be OK if it worked, it never works.”


jeff said...

two my friends mistakenly bought tickets for two different shows on the the same weekend. Now they are stuck, they can't sell the extra tickets, hell it appears they can't even give them away unless one of them goes in with the others in the groups.

Seems to me Wynn needs to either allow refunds, or allow the transfer of tickets if sold at face value.

Suzanne said...

I'm really interested to see how this all works out. I'm all for canceling scalped tickets and have already sent a couple of links with tickets that were listed at $700+. My hope is that when it's my turn to make the trip that I will have a better chance at getting tickets (legitimately - I won't pay inflated prices for any show, ever).
Although it would be nice if you could gift tickets to someone or if refunds were granted for a canceled your trip, I don't see that as a pressing issue for us "normal" folks.

And for the two friends getting tickets to 2 shows on one weekend and they can't re-sell them? Boo freaking hoo. Sorry, but no sympathy here - go to both shows and keep in better touch when purchasing things like this - that's what texting, twittering, facebook updates are for.

jeff said...

Suzanne, perhaps you won't be able to go because we are sitting on free extra tickets that are going in the trash can. Wouldn't you like to be able to buy those tickets at face value?

They aren't looking at making money on their mistake.

Dave Lifton said...

This is largely a response to the public outcry over the secondary ticket market that has erupted in the past year. It makes sense that Brooks, and Wynn, are sensitive to the idea of the professionals getting the first tickets and re-selling them for exorbitant rates on Stub Hub (which is owned by TicketMaster). Brooks, because he doesn't want a PR disaster like Hannah Montana had, and Wynn because spending extra on tickets cuts into the vacation budget that could otherwise be spent at his properties.

But if this policy will prevent people from giving tickets as gifts, I wonder how long before Wynn is forced to change it when the second round of shows go on sale.

Dave Lifton said...

It shouldn't be tough for a customer service-friendly property like Wynn to implement a policy for transferring tickets.

The purchaser's info is already in the Wynn database, so all they would have to do is call in to the box office, provide the credit card and order numbers to identify themselves. Then they could transfer the names on the tickets to the recipient, along with a security question - similar to the "Forget Your Password" question that gets asked on websites - that will be asked when the recipient goes to pick up the tickets.

Suzanne said...

Sure, I would like to buy them at face value rather than have them empty but you and I both know that is not how it would work out. I would be all for being able to turn them in for a refund (less a handling fee perhaps) and putting them back on the public block.
Why aren't you just going to both shows? There are worse things to have to go see twice.

As far as gifting the tickets goes, I can see them implementing a policy of providing the recipients name and other security information at the time of ordering. This wouldn't help scalpers because they would have no idea who the end user would be but will still allow the general population to give Christmas/b-day gifts etc.

jeff said...

Suzanne, what happens if you find your self not able to go at the last minute, they wouldn't have names on file that you are giving the tickets to.

As for going twice, thats probably what will happen if we can't do anything with the tickets, but as much as we all like garth that seriously eats into the other things we want to do on our trip to vegas.

Jeff in OKC said...

This is nowhere near socialism, I assume Wynns response would be something like "It's my damn Casino and I can do whatever the hell I want." It is not a Government approved show, it is a company that wants to allow only people that paid their price for their tickets at their box office to attend. Why is there anything wrong with that, and why does it need to be attacked?


Jeff: Because (a) it harms the wrong people and that is worth noting and (b) because just like "socialism-lite," it never works. It doesn't have to be literal socialism to have the same problematic outcome for the same reasons. And my purpose isn't simply to address Wynn's policy, it's to remind everyone out there that anyone who ever wanted to give away a ticket is out of luck if these rules become commonplace and anyone who hoped to recover a little bit of money from a ticket because of an unfortunate turn of events is technically a "scalper."

Scalpers provide a service that, clearly, the marketplace desires. It's how I enjoyed one of my most precious childhood memories, Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. My dad got our seats from the guy outside the stadium.

Wynn's ideal is nice, but it's not realistic. Why is there anything wrong with saying so and taking note of the unintended consequences?

Jeff in OKC said...

What if Wynn and Brooks took this into account, and don't see these as consequences? The rules of purchase on their website are clear.
This is academic, anyway; most bloggers feel that Garth fans ain't got 'nuff money to 'ford no tickets for a hunnert twenny faive, much less more'n thaut.


Just because Wynn and Brooks don't see it as a consequence doesn't mean it's not one. Since when did everything Steve Wynn does become right or beyond analysis or judgment? What IS that? If these consequences are fine by Garth and Wynn, they're going to face a mammoth customer service nightmare. Many, many people buy show tickets for other people, and if the tickets are for something in Vegas, they're going to have a very rude awakening when they find their money gone and the recipient can't enjoy them.

I have absolutely no idea what bloggers you're talking about or who's being insulting to country music fans. Certainly not me.

James Taylor said...

The policy may need some fine-tuning, but I'm all for cracking down on scalpers. It is entirely consistent with what Brooks has always believed in: giving his fans good value for their money.

Michael said...

Isn't tip sharing a form of socialism as well? For all the love that Steve Wynn seems to generate from fanboys it is funny how lousy some of his decision making processes are. Tip sharing, Garth tickets, choice in shows, Treasure Island, losing Mirage corp to MGM.

Those are some pretty significant missteps for someone who is painted as a visionary.

NotSocialism said...

"Am I the only one who sees the contradiction here?"


"If these consequences are fine by Garth and Wynn, they're going to face a mammoth customer service nightmare."

No there isn't. And it isn't socialism either.

Socialism is government interference that inhibits trade and commerce. Wynn gets to set the rules. He runs the place. Only he decides and then its the customer who takes the risk. It's PRIVATE ENTERPRISE.

The rules are onerous and that's the idea. The marketplace already responded with sold-out dates. That's the deal. Can't go, then what can you do? Don't buy it if you can't take the loss. Scalping of tickets are already taking a big risk, but that's the blackmarket, right?

With socialism, there will be growth of the underground economy. There will be more Wynns and they will operate outside of the law. Oh yeah, the mob used to run Las Vegas, and now it is the corporations. Who knows if it becomes the mob again and they set the rules.

jeff said...

See my twitter from "ellinj" Ticket holders must now identify all guests by 12pm tomorrow or risk ticket cancellation


This is lunacy, what happens if someone in the group is sick? How can I know everyone that is coming for tickets I bought for 4 or 5 months from now?

Anonymous said...

Gonna be a whole lot of mad people.

jeff said...

Today, with the help of @WynnLasVegas my friend was able to get a refund on of his duplicate ticket orders. They are very excited about going to the show, they got front row seats on 12/11.

I still think many people will be very mad with what Wynn has been doing.

ucsb1990 said...

I have to admit, after reading a couple more news stories about this, I'm starting to wonder if Wynn's ticket policy is an example of Friedman's Law in action. Friedman's Law (named after the late economist) says to write down the purpose of a rule or law; then write down the exact opposite of the purpose. The rule/law will often more nearly accomplish the
exact opposite than its original purpose. There's a real question now about whether or not Wynn's anti-scalping policy is really helping Brooks's most devoted fans.