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How Cubs’ bizarre ticket-pricing system turns $128 package into $504 at checkout

Cubs fans buy tickets outside Wrigley Field. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

When Cubs fans are trying to decide which tickets to buy this year, the club provides a lot of options. One series of them are called “eight-game packs,” which as the team describes on its website, “provide a choice of five pre-selected, eight-game plans, with each option tailored to different fan interests.”

There’s the “Friday Pack,” which offers tickets to eight games at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoons. There’s the “Rival Pack,” which offers tickets to games against the Cubs’ biggest rivals, including the White Sox, Cardinals and Brewers. There’s even the “Promo Game Pack,” in case you don’t want to miss out on any of the team’s nifty giveaways.

Pull up one of these packs on the club’s ticketing website, and you might start thinking you’re going to get a really sweet deal. One “Rival Pack” for a terrace reserve infield seat is listed on the team’s website for $128.

Cubs’ ticketing website. Screenshot by Sun-Times.

On that site, before you move forward, you’ll notice this clause below the “Continue” button:

“Prices shown above are estimates based off the first game of the pack. Prices vary for each game. Actual pricing will be displayed on the shopping cart page once seats are assigned for each game.”

So here’s the price that’s served up to you when you move forward:

People who buy tickets to live events are used to prices being inflated by various fees at this point. However, the difference in pricing here between pages is striking, and it’s not simply the result of taxes and fees.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening here to explain the difference.

The first sentence of the Cubs’ disclaimer above says the prices shown are based off the first game in each pack. For the “Rival Pack,” that’s a Pirates game on April 10 priced at $16. So if you multiply $16 by eight games, you get $128, the price they’re listing on the site.

But not all of the tickets cost $16. Not even close.

Five of the tickets in that package cost $60. One of them, for a Cubs-White Sox game on June 18, costs $71.

Only one of the tickets costs $16 – the one they’re using to set estimated pricing – and the subtotal for those eight tickets is actually $414. There are still a good deal of taxes and fees tacked on afterwards, but the tickets themselves cost 313 percent more than the original listed price.

Jeff Gross, a Cubs fan from Kenosha, told the Sun-Times via email that the practice is “terrible” and “sucking people in” by listing inaccurate estimates. “There is no excellence, integrity and respect there,” Gross wrote.

“The system takes the first price and multiplies across 8 games so the initial price for the pack could be based on a bronze tier game (times 8) or in the situation you highlighted where the first price is an Opening Day game at $74.00 and the rest of the games are lower so the customer sees a lower price at checkout,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green wrote in an email to the Sun-Times. “We clearly disclose these are estimates on the website and the customer sees/gets the correct/actual price in their shopping cart before they checkout as outlined below.”

Green added that the purchased flow is managed by tickets.com, not the Cubs.

“While this can be confusing, these ticket packs are very popular among fans and is a far less expensive way to attend multiple games during the season because you buy early. That said, will continue to explore updates to make the web experience favorable for fans.”

The Sun-Times has replicated this pattern across all of the packs in both directions. A “Sunday Pack” bleacher seat that’s listed at $112 turns into a subtotal of $333. A “Summer Pack” terrace reserve outfield seat listed at $296 turns into a subtotal of $386.

Meanwhile, a “Promo Game Pack” upper box outfield seat listed at $592 turns into $387.

The only consistent thing about the system seems to be its inaccuracy.

For fans looking to buy tickets to attend Cubs games this season, the club’s eight-game packs might provide great value. Just know that the tickets might end up having a much different price than the one that’s originally listed.