Bills opt for Malls and not Wegmans
Negotiations between the Buffalo Bills and Wegmans Food Markets to sell game tickets at supermarkets have hit several snags, including ticket surcharge policies and software concerns. Jim Miller, Bills vice president of administration, said the team expects to finalize its new ticketing policy within 10 days and one alternative being studied would involve setting up ticket kiosks in local malls. "That's our No. 1 option right now," he said. Miller stressed that Wegmans "isn't totally out of the picture yet," but he said the team is actively pursuing other alternatives. "We've identified a software ticketing system that we think would be ideal for our needs. But we still want to try to work something out with Wegmans," he said. Under the original plan, the Rochester-based food retailer would have obtained computer software that would have enabled it to print tickets in- store. The plan called for the service at 10 supermarkets in Erie County and one additional Niagara County outlet later in the year. A Wegmans spokeswoman said the chain will move ahead with its plan to develop outlets for tickets for a variety of general events in its 55 stores across New York and Pennsylvania. It is currently negotiating with several vendors and spokeswoman Ann McCarthy said the service is expected to debut in Buffalo-area stores next month. She said it is Wegmans' understanding that the team already has identified its own software program that would enable it to manage ticket sales independently of the supermarket chain. "We believe now, as we have all along, that the quality and appeal of our two organizations make a good fit. To that end, we will always keep a door open to the Buffalo Bills," she said. Miller declined to elaborate on the specific stumbling blocks, except to say that they involve concerns about ticket service charges, software and internal control policies. He also announced Monday that the team will reinstitute its own operation in Orchard Park that will enable people to call and order tickets without having to a pay a surcharge, except for mail orders. The Bills' phone room was phased out two years ago after the team hatched a deal with Ticketmaster. The vendor sold tickets for two seasons before the Bills ended its contract, citing a desire to make the ticketing policy more responsive to customer needs. "We're trying to get away from the previous problems we had involving ticket charges. Our goal all along has been to come up with a system that will best serve the needs of our customers," he said. Fans who made purchases through Ticketmaster paid a service charge of $3.75 per ticket plus a $1.50 handling fee per order. Under the previous contract, tickets were dispensed at 13 sites in Erie and Niagara counties, including Kaufmann's department stores, Movies Plus video outlets and several small stores. Ms. McCarthy said she was unaware that the team viewed service charge issues as an impediment in talks. This isn't the first time a local professional sports team has created its own ticketing system. Two years ago, the Buffalo Sabres, Rich Entertainment Group which owns the Buffalo Bisons, and Tops Markets Inc., began selling hockey and baseball tickets at Tops supermarkets throughout Western New York and Pennsylvania. *Buffalo News
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