By Jim McCarthy Aug 23, 2012 0 comments

Radioactive Tomatoes in Your Basket

A few weeks ago, I asked what for me has become a question in which I have an ongoing interest: when you buy a ticket to live entertainment, what are you really getting? In fact, I can’t say much, but I can tell you that Goldstar Laboratories is working on digging into the answer to that question much, much more deeply.

I talked, in the previous post, about the fact that you’re buying a number of things when you buy that ticket: the ticket itself, the ability to socialize with other about the event, the actual experience of the event, and the memory, among other things.  One way to think of this is that when you buy an event ticket, you’re buying a ‘basket’ of goods.  All of those things come as part of what you buy.

But the first time around, I was thinking of them as ‘goods’ in the sense that they are all things you would place some value on.  One person might care more or less about the social aspect, for example, than others, but that there is some non-negative value to getting that aspect of it in your “basket.”

Then of course, I realized that this isn’t completely right.  Some things don’t just have little to no value.  They have negative value.

Imagine a basket of goods in the literal sense, and let’s say it’s produce.  If you buy a basket of produce and you can’t pick each item individually, you’ll get some things that you love (fuji apples, if you’re me), some you like but aren’t crazy about (raspberries, if you’re me) and some that you won’t eat but you’re happy to ignore (once again, if you’re me, kiwi).

But, suppose there were something even worse in the basket: a radioactive tomato.  Not the ones they irradiate to improve their shelf lives (although some may feel that way about them too).

I mean a green, glowing, radioactive tomato that would put a geiger counter into a tizzy.  I mean something you don’t want anywhere near you, much less to eat.

This radioactive tomato has negative value to you.  You would pay NOT to get it.  You would pay someone to get rid of it for you.  You wish it didn’t exist at all, but it’s part of the basket you bought, so it’s yours.

In the world of live entertainment and the basket of things you buy when you that ticket, I believe there is a major radioactive tomato there too: the experience of going to and being in the venue.  This includes parking, standing in line, security, concessions, seating, riding the subway, and every other little aspect of it that your mind can easily fill in for you.

Here’s why I feel this is so: take a hundred people who are sitting comfortably at home with no plans for the evening; call each of them and offer them free tickets to a show, game, concert, whatever that they would like, but the venue is inconveniently located and known to be a hassle to get into and there’s a mediocre to poor experience once you’re there.

My guess is that 15 or 20 of those people will take you up on your free ticket offer.  Why?  Because the negative value of the radioactive tomato is greater than the value of all the stuff in the basket that they DO want, including the show itself.

I also believe that our industry undervalues improvements in this area and, because it’s a little less glamorous than what’s on stage, tries to ignore the issue.

But it’s hard to ignore a radioactive tomato if you’re the one carrying the basket…

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