Mobile Printers Help Make Hot Tickets Easier to Get
Zebra mobile printers power an innovative electronic ticketing system used at Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seats are bought, sold and transferred online, but tickets don't have to change hands because they are produced with mobile printers when fans arrive at the arena.
LeBron James has made Cleveland Cavaliers tickets hard to get. Flash Seats wants to make them practically disappear.
Flash Seats is an electronic ticket marketplace, venue entry system and marketing information system that the Cavaliers launched at the start of the 2006-2007 NBA season. Available tickets come from season ticket holders who can't use them. Buyers purchase tickets through the Flash Seats Web site, receive confirmation by e-mail, and gain entry to Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavaliers' home court, by having a Flash Seats representative scan their driver's license or credit card at the turnstile.
"We are making history by eliminating the preprinted paper ticket," said Joe Angelo, VP of operations of Flash Seats, LLC. "If we do our jobs properly, our children won't know what a paper ticket is."
Flash Seats isn't strictly eliminating tickets. The Flash Seats representative uses a Zebra mobile printer to create a commemorative ticket with the seat location for the fan.
Flash Seats is eliminating preprinted tickets that need to be distributed and can be lost, stolen or damaged. By doing so, it eliminates the need for ticket holders to work out a way to deliver the tickets they sell to buyers. By doing that, Flash Seats creates the flexibility to sell tickets, even after tip-off. But to do that, Flash Seats needed printers that could quickly and reliably produce tickets as fans swarm gates in the last few minutes before game time.
"Roughly two-thirds of the crowd enters in the last half-hour before the event. That's the rule of thumb," said Angelo. "So we needed a device that could print tickets at a high rate of speed. It also had to handle commemorative ticket stock, have a high capacity, and be easy to reload.When thousands of people are trying to enter an arena, we can't take five minutes to change a roll of media."
Before each game Flash Seats typically has more than 50 representatives working around Quicken Loans Arena. Most are stationed inside near the doors, but others work the concourses around the arena and in adjacent parking garages, where the system is also used to validate parking passes that are sold with tickets.
All mobile Flash Seats representatives use Zebra® RW 420™ rugged mobile printers and handheld computers from Motorola's Enterprise Mobility Business. The printers and computers communicate by cable, but Flash Seats plans to take advantage of the built-in Bluetooth® connectivity in the future, according to Angelo.
Flash Seats had its RW 420 printers configured with integrated magnetic stripe readers, which are used to swipe a driver's license or credit card to authenticate the fan and authorize redemption of the seating or parking privilege. No financial transactions are processed with the mobile system. Once the handheld computer validates the card holder's identity, the RW 420 quickly prints the ticket.
Cavs tickets are hot, but most game nights are not. The RW 420 printers perform reliably when used outdoors in the sub-freezing temperatures that are common during basketball season in Cleveland. They are also rugged enough to keep working if dropped on the sidewalk or in the garage.
"Our printers are not used gently," said Angelo. "But they work very reliably." The RW 420 printers also provide plenty of battery life to get through each
Some nights several thousand fans got their tickets through Flash Seats, according to Angelo. About a third of the season ticket holders initially signed up for Flash Seats, and participation increased as the six-month NBA season progressed. By playoff time, the Cavaliers were so confident in the system that they announced they would not issue preprinted playoff tickets to season ticket holders.
The reliability and convenience the mobile printers provided contributed to the confidence and success. Cavaliers tickets are still hard to get, but are easier to buy, sell, and transfer, thanks to Flash Seats and Zebra printers. Other teams and venue operators have taken notice and may soon offer their fans Flash Seats service for upcoming seasons.
"Teams compete on the court, but collaborate off it. They share best practices, and there has been a lot of interest from other teams in Flash Seats," said Angelo. "We look forward to collaborating with Zebra as we move into other facilities and venues with larger capacities."