Nats playoff tickets and postseason fees (Updated)

September 25, 2013

(Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

SIGNIFICANT MAJOR UPDATE: The Nats were eliminated early enough from the playoffs that the team halted the ticketing and shipping process. The $20 fee mentioned below will thus be applied toward next year’s season tickets. That has torpedoed the rest of this entry. But feel free to read on, if you want to know what it looked like for the two minutes I believed it was accurate. I had asked the club about these non-refundable fees last Friday, and was not told that halting the process early was an option.

The Nats, as you know, won’t be playing in the postseason this year. But some season ticket holders could still have been will still be out $20 for their playoff tickets.

How’s that work? Longtime Bog reader Jon explains. He sent me this last week, before the Nats were officially eliminated but well after their playoff tickets went on sale:

My dad and I have a partial game plan for the Nats….They are demanding a 20 dollar processing fee to even apply for playoff seats. This money is not refunded if the Nats fail to make the playoffs….Charging 20 dollars for tickets where there is a one percent chance of making the post season is just wrong…Someone should write a story about the fee, because it’s just not a right thing to do to loyal fans.

So I looked into this. Here’s what I can report. Indeed, there was a non-refundable $20 fee for season-ticket holders to order Nats playoff tickets, regardless of whether the team qualified. (And the team’s mathematical chances never went north of 10 percent after playoff tickets went on sale, so it was always a dramatic longshot.) That’s because the team needs to process, print and mail playoff tickets in case the team qualifies, and can’t wait to find out whether the team qualifies before doing these things.

Now obviously, season-ticket holders didn’t even have paper tickets this season — they had Ultimate Ballpark Access digital cards. But that system wasn’t yet ready to handle playoff ticketing, necessitating paper tickets, which means printing/shipping/handling costs and all the rest.

The Nats are certainly not the only team to charge non-refundable fees for potential playoff tickets without knowing whether they’re in. The Orioles, who had similarly poor chances, charged $25 this season.

“It is industry standard among MLB teams not to refund this charge if tickets are shipped,” a spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail.

And while the Orioles chances are also over, most of their playoff tickets were already shipped last weekend, when hope was still alive.

The Royals — another team that had a slim shot at the postseason for most of this month — also charge season ticket holders $20 in non-refundable convenience fees for postseason tickets. The team was planning on allowing plan holders to purchase additional tickets — which would not have been on souvenir stock, and thus could have been shipped in a non-express manner. Fees for those tickets would have been refundable. But plan holders who received playoff tickets for their own seats will pay the $20 fees, regardless if the games are played.

The Diamondbacks take a different approach.

“We do not charge any type of shipping fee,” a spokesman said in an e-mail. “Fully renewed season ticket holders have a few options to Cheer Now/Pay Later. However, if we don’t make the playoffs, they have the option to have the credit applied to their account for next season’s tickets or refunded back to their credit card.”

In other words, Arizona plan holders who wanted to reserve playoff tickets this season, just in case, will not be out any money.

That’s about as good as I can do right now, but if you have any additional questions below, leave them below, and I can try.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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Sarah Kogod | September 25, 2013