Thoughts on Moving Away from Tickets & Toward Card Systems
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
Paper or plastic? That’s something heard at the checkout of many supermarkets. Some have banned plastic altogether; even the tiny country of Aruba is “green” with a single-use, plastic bag ban. Some supermarkets like Aldi don’t provide bags at all, you have to bring your own or buy one.
Last week, I was in an FEC where players were carrying armloads of redemption tickets and feeding them into a shredder so they could get a slip of paper to redeem their points for prizes. I just watched it as if I have never seen it, but of course, we’ve all seen it countless times. This time, I viewed it through different eyes.
Buying all of those paper tickets to keep refilling ticket dispensers that will go empty so the players can get the tickets to shred them in another machine that fills up with shredded paper that is probably not recycled seemed like such a waste to me. Think of just shredding your money instead.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for redemption tickets and that everyone should be on a debit card system. I’m just making an observation: The choice to give tickets is the belief that “people like to see the tickets come out of the game.” Maybe they do and that’s why it’s “tradition.” Others may be concerned that “if we stop giving tickets our revenue will go down.”
I love old-school thought, but I love new technology more. If you’re using tickets, the thought of going to a debit card system, its cost and the change it brings to your operations, may seem a bit daunting. I wonder how many new FECs being opened today use tickets only without a debit card system? I’ll bet not many.
I remember the resistance to go to tokens from quarters, and how many people said the loss of tokens was a big downside to using them. I think we all now understand what an advantage it was to go to tokens from quarters (some people are still waiting for another new dollar coin).
The advantages of debit card systems are numerous: customer tracking, loyalty building and repeat business, accounting, promotions and more are pretty well known and accepted. On the redemption side, young people today who can navigate an iPhone before the age of two, can also easily figure out the tickets they won are now added to their player card. If they registered that card and they lose it, the tickets are still there, too.
The worry that “we will make less money if we go to a debit card system” is only proven right or wrong by actually making the change from paper tickets to a debit card system. There are many locations that take cash, credit cards, tokens and debit cards and reward players with paper tickets, as well as tickets on their player card. It gets confusing sometimes.
Try to run quick-coin games on a debit card system. The player needs to buy a card, swipe the card in a changer, get tokens, play the game with the tokens, win credits and then swipe their player card on the game to collect the tickets on their card!
Think of all the other options and actions associated with the many games in FECs today that have collectible player cards, colored chips, collectible tokens or coins, special RFID boxes, keys, giant ticket rings and more coming along. We can see that there are many currencies in the FEC today for the players to understand, engage with and process before they get their prize.
It’s all part of the experience for the player and the fun of winning. I think it’s all good as long as the player base is happy and growing. I just pause to see people unpacking boxes of new paper redemption tickets filling up ticket dispensers at the same time they are tossing trash bags full of shredded paper into the dumpster. It seems like shredding money to me, but I guess it’s good business for the trash company.
Paper tickets or plastic cards? Paper, plastic, both, maybe none in the future. We shall see.
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at jack@ jerseyjackpinball.com.