Chicago Cubs ticket pricing offers a lesson in economics

Chicago cubs box office windows.
Not many fans in line, but those who went to Wrigley Field to purchase tickets saved a boatload of money in fees. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

Friday was the day single-game tickets went on sale at Wrigley Field for the upcoming baseball season.  The problem I had this year wasn’t availability, as it has been in many years past. This year, it was a question of economics more than anything else. And not because I can’t afford a ticket or two, either.

Face value for Chicago Cubs tickets, when purchased online, did not include a $4.75 fee that was tacked on to every single ticket sold. I did lots of “almost buying” in order to see that this was indeed the case. But I didn’t buy a thing, in part because I found the $4.75 fee to be patently outrageous.

Let’s take a look at two different tickets to see how this works. I chose a random date of April 30, which is a Tuesday night game with the Chicago Cubs facing the San Diego Padres. A single Dugout Box ticket costs $120 face value. When the $4.75 fee is tacked on, that represents roughly 4 percent of the ticket price. At the other end of the price spectrum, a single Upper Deck Reserved ticket has a $9 face value. Applying the $4.75 fee onto that ticket adds another 52.8 percent onto the cost of the ticket.

In other words, the guy who can afford the $120 ticket to begin with pays an extra 4%, while the guy who can only afford the $9 ticket has to pay another 52.8%. I think I see why the idea of a flat tax is so popular with some people. The ticketing service adds a flat fee onto the ticket price, and the inequity of it — if you don’t have much money — is readily apparent.

But when going to a Chicago Cubs game, there are city and county taxes added onto the ticket price, as well. And this is where a flat tax come in. At a 12 percent tax rate, the $120 Dugout Box ticket pays an extra $14.40 cents in taxes for that ticket, while the $9 Upper Deck Reserved ticket pays an extra $1.08 in city and county taxes. So, the guy with the $9 ticket pays the same tax rate as the guy with the $120 ticket, but relative to that flat $4.75 ticket fee, he pays less, while the other guy pays a lot more. The more you spend for a ticket, the more taxes you have to pay, if everyone is taxed at the same rate.

If you ever want to know why the very wealthy hate the idea of progressive taxation, and want to sell the rest of us on replacing it with a flat tax instead, just keep these two tickets in mind. It all makes perfect sense when you do. Your best bet? Head down to Wrigley Field and buy your Chicago Cubs tickets to avoid the online fees.

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