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Boom Goes the Astros' Dynamic Pricing Model: Get Ready to Shell Out the Big Bucks

Are you an Astros fan? Do you love going to Opening Day? Do you have a good credit score? Well, if you want to attend this Opening Day against the Texas Rangers, you better have a fantastic credit score because you're going to need to get a bank loan to buy a ticket.

The Astros have more than doubled prices for Opening Day, with the price of dugout seats, normally $56, going for $130. And you better get used to higher-than-face-value prices, because the prices for games this season against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will also be higher than normal.

The Astros are able to do this, they claim, because of a tremendous demand for tickets to Astros baseball games, especially that Opening Day game. And because there's supposedly a huge demand for tickets, the Astros state that they can raise the cost of the ticket to whatever in the hell they want to charge because you, the fan, are a sucker who will pay anything they demand you pay for the right to watch the worst team in baseball get its ass kicked.

Here's what was said in yesterday's Houston Chronicle (stuck behind a paywall):

But Astros president George Postolos said Thursday prices for the Astros-Rangers opener on March 31 are simply a reflection of demand and the club's increased emphasis on dynamic pricing, which will be used more often in 2013 and in all areas of the stadium for the first time. The Astros' 2013 home-opener and AL debut is also MLB's season-opener. Thus, the March 31 high ticket costs are an anomaly.

Here's a note for Brian T. Smith at the Chronicle: If the prices are going to be hiked due to so-called dynamic pricing multiple times, and if the team's telling you in advance when the prices will be hiked, then the high ticket costs aren't an anomaly. Something can't be a departure from the normal if it's a common occurrence, and this season, it's going to be a common occurrence.

And here's a note for George Postolos and the Houston Astros: Dynamic pricing is supposed to be driven by the demand for tickets. The more demand there is, the more the tickets should cost. The less the demand, the cheaper the ticket. But single-game tickets for the Astros have yet to go on sale, so how can there be a market-priced demand when there's not yet a market to set the price?  

Dynamic pricing also means that the price of tickets should fluctuate -- it's based on market demand, after all. But the Astros have set a concrete price for these tickets on Opening Day -- and for the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Angels. There's no fluctuation. The price is set. So while the Astros might like to call it dynamic pricing, it's not. It's price gouging.

The Astros aren't the only team to use dynamic pricing. It's the up-and-coming thing in sports, and the Astros have been using dynamic pricing for several years, though it's been limited to only certain sections of the ballpark. But if the Astros are going to do this, they should do it properly, and don't do it on Opening Day. Not when you're the worst team in baseball, and not when you're trying to win over a fan base that has become increasingly turned off by management and ownership decisions.

There's the owner crying about his team losing money. There's the fact that the team's TV network still can't be viewed by a majority of Houstonians, and that due to MLB TV rules, people in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico who purchase the Extra Innings cable package or who buy MLB.TV can't watch the Astros.

There's the Astros vetoing a deal that CSN Houston and the Rockets had reached to put Rockets games on Direct TV. There's the departure of the popular Jim Deshaies. The Astros being moved down the dial to 790, a station with a much weaker radio signal than 740. There's the unceremonious axing of Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan. There's that stupid-ass erector-set-quality sign in left field that blocks the view of downtown Houston. Oh yeah, and the team is bad.

The Astros should want fans to attend games. More fans mean more dollars spent on concessions and team merchandise. Attending games is a good way for fans to get to know the youngsters on the squad. And with most of their fans unable to watch the games on television, it seems as if the Astros could possibly be looking at decent attendance. Except for one thing: The Astros are setting the prices for certain games so that nobody can afford to attend.

If I didn't know better, I would think Jim Crane was actually Rachel Phelps in disguise and there was a secret deal in place to move the Astros to Miami. Only we now know that baseball and Miami don't mix. I also don't think Crane is as smart as Rachel Phelps, and frankly, I don't see a Pedro Cerrano, Jake Taylor, Roger Dorn, Ricky Vaughn or Willie Mays Hayes anywhere on the current Astros roster.

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