Kiosk Newsbit

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 

    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 

    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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