It’s a question that theatre goers and sports fans have asked themselves for years. There’s a better seat over there. Why don’t we move down to it? What’s the harm.
We saw this happen several times at Saturday’s Argos/Redblacks game. For once we had pretty good seats, in the sixth row near the center of the field behind the Ottawa bench, and admittedly there were quite a few empty seats in the area (which is a problem that’s very hard to solve, apparently, but I am going to keep going to Argo games until this works!)
And quite a few people snuck down to our section – and a BMO staff person was politely shooing them away. Many were, I think, parents of the large dance group that was performing at halftime – and the staffer asked them to come back when halftime started when a lot of people leave anyway, just not right now while the game’s still on – but some were just fans wanting a better view than the one they’d paid for. I don’t envy the BMO staffer having to be the heavy, but they have a job to do.
So should you move down?
Well, let me modify that. You could try, but if someone calls you out on it, you should move back to your original seat.
It seems tempting, doesn’t it. What’s the harm if I sit in that unoccupied seat?
This is strong language, but you are cheating and stealing from the team if you do that.
Try this the next time you’re on an airplane. Can I sit in that empty business class seat? We’re all flying to the same place. It’s going to take the same amount of fuel whether I sit in the back or not. Forget the fancy meal, I just want to sit here. Can I? I suspect they’d say “no.”
People often wonder why a team with lots of empty seats doesn’t give away a billion free tickets either. Both things have the same answer: It cheapens the product. If people know they can pay $20 for a cheap seat and move to a $90 expensive seat later, why would they buy an expensive seat? Or why wouldn’t they just wait for a free ticket? You’re sending the message that the experience is only worth $20 or less.
It’s bad for business, IMHO, and we all want our team to succeed, we need all the seats filled with paying customers.
Randy Cohen, the former New York Times Ethicist columnist, wrote about this years ago. I like Randy – former Letterman writer – and I bought his books, but I think he’s wrong. (He was also wrong about whether you should recline your seat on the airplane, but I think I straightened him out on that one.)