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Pricing Tennis Tickets: Risk and Insurance Elements

Most tennis matches are held outdoors. One risk is that it will rain when a match or set of matches is scheduled (and increasingly organizers are considering covering at least the main courts). For ticket holders, tournament organizers must have a good, clear policy in place about how they will handle the effects of the rain and whether to grant refunds or credits.

Clearly if the organizers say, "You pay your money and you take your chances," the demand for tickets would be lower than it would be if tickets holders could receive cash refunds when it rains. And so most organizers have some arrangement to share the risk (co-insure or provide some sort of insurance) for ticket purchasers. Given the prevalence of some sort of credit or refund policy, it is reasonable to conclude that organizers profit from selling insurance along with admission as a part of the ticket.

Apparently, the policy was changed at this year's Rogers Cup in Toronto, Ontario. Alan Adamson at Silly Little Country [and co-blogger at Curling] really likes to attend the Friday session of matches, but not the later ones. He writes:

This session is attractive as the quarter-finals narrow the field somewhat so one has a reasonable expectation of quality, if not of even play; and I do not see the point of later rounds, each of which features at most one singles match. Each year, I buy my tickets for next year at this year's tournament.

Some years it rains and no matches are played; the rain policy (or at least practice) has been to credit this year's purchase to a purchase next year and in those cases, I have always simply applied the credit to the same session in the following year, and there have been such cases.

But the policy has changed.

The new T&C [terms and conditions] say that if I want a refund from a rainout the credit must be applied to a session IN THE SAME TOURNAMENT (i.e. the same year!)

Well, I have NO interest in any following session in the same year (as explained above - and there are other issues - e.g. this year I had other commitments competing with all following sessions). So the value of the tickets to me has dropped catastrophically.

... So how does this affect my future behaviour? Well, I am no longer prepared to carry the risk of buying tickets in advance, as they can lose all their value simply because of some bad weather (such as we have experienced in the ten years of attendance). So that habit is gone. In fact already this year for the first time in years I did not visit the advance ticket office to get next year's tickets.

But there is more to this. I and those I go with have their own schedules and have to go out of their way to clear the time from their jobs to attend the Friday afternoon session. Now that Tennis Canada has made it foolish to buy the tickets until right before the session starts (because rain can make them worthless) how likely is it that we will be willing to go through the trouble to clear our schedules for it? I suspect this year was my last visit to the tournament. Too bad - I have always enjoyed it - it has been a highlight of my planned vacation days each year.

One small point - the Friday afternoon session that I did thoroughly enjoy this year was very sparsely attended. I expect it to be more sparsely attended next year.

And the great thing for me is that other vacation plans for future years should find me close to the French Open early rounds each year so maybe there are substitutes.

Watch for sales and last-minute specials and deals at The Rogers Cup in the future. And this expectation will reduce advance demand even more...