the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

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the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby drutter » Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:15 pm

The reason for tiers all along has been that it allows the more affluent Burners to contribute more than their fair share of the costs, so that other Burners who have less dollars but have other things (skills, labour, expertise, etc) to contribute can still do so. What a wonderful concept! It fits right in with the whole BM philosophies of inclusion, shunning greed and consumerism, and community. Talented and amazing people with less money were still able to help make BM amazing. It not only fit nicely, it actually made BM a better place.

Now with a ticket's price tag determined randomly, that entire element is lost. Many well-off Burners now will end up paying the lowest possible price, leaving many other Burners holding tickets that are uncomfortably expensive or even out of their price range. Gone is the "pay what you can" aspect.

I'm fairly certain this is not the ticket-system change Burners were clamoring for after last year's implosion. We wanted the website to stay up, we wanted our place in line not to be lost. Not this.

As unfortunate as that is, it leads to another disturbing issue: Why make prices random at all? If there's no chance to "pay what you can" anymore, there's no longer a need to have tiers. All the tiers do now is make it so that you don't know how much you'll be paying until after you've paid it. How you can charge somebody's credit card an undisclosed amount of funds is legally beyond me, but even more than that, it pushes people like myself, who worked hard to get tier 1 or tier 2 tickets in the past so that I could afford the trek from Canada, out of the running. If I don't win the lottery, I can't go, and since I can't be guaranteed to win it, I can't enter it. Do you suppose any of the rich Burners who get cheap tickets will want to trade with poor Burners who got expensive tickets? Maybe, but I won't hold my breath.

This would have been my (and my girlfriend's) 5th consecutive burn. We live and breathe BM every day of the year and it gets us through the cold winters, dreaming of our next magical road trip and week of everything dusty and good about the world. Yes, "it's only a few hundred more dollars", I know. We just don't have a few hundred more dollars. She's a student and I'm an entrepreneur in a very hard economic climate for small business. BM is why we eat less (and cheaper) food every day, why we don't go to movies, why we don't go on any other trips or to any other events. Contributing whatever we could to Burning Man has become our way of life. Nobody wants to hear anyone else's money problems, I know that. All I'm saying is it would be nice to know how much something is going to cost you BEFORE you buy it, and that it's very unfortunate the BM philosophy no longer extends to the ticket process.

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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby Eric » Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:30 pm

drutter wrote:The reason for tiers all along has been that it allows the more affluent Burners to contribute more than their fair share of the costs, so that other Burners who have less dollars but have other things (skills, labour, expertise, etc) to contribute can still do so. What a wonderful concept!


Um, no. Tiers originally existed so that the Org could get up-front operating money at the beginning of the year (give us money now & pay less!). Low income & scholarship tickets exist for "Burners who have less dollars but have other things".

Lower tier tickets haven't gone to "poor" Burners in years, if ever- they go to either the early planners or, lately, the ones lucky enough to hit a button on their computer faster than other people.

The mythology of "lower tiers are for poorer Burners" is as fake as the story that Europeans thought the earth was flat before Columbus.
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby jkisha » Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:34 pm

drutter wrote:
Now with a ticket's price tag determined randomly, that entire element is lost. Many well-off Burners now will end up paying the lowest possible price, leaving many other Burners holding tickets that are uncomfortably expensive or even out of their price range. Gone is the "pay what you can" aspect.


Yeah! Let's hear it for all the well off burners out there! Go 1%!

In the free market system how the fuck does what one makes determine the price they should pay for something!? Well off people enjoy bargains too, why would you want to discriminate against them? Just start making more money or choose hobbies that your income level can support without whining.

Hell, I'd like to be one of those people that have paid for a flight to the space station, but alas, I can't afford it. Do I come on here and whine about it being too expensive and they should lower the price? NO! I just don't go.
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby remi » Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:57 pm

My gf of 6 years is also a student.. however, she works in a bar and makes sweet ass tips to support our drinking habit. Perhaps, (providing she's not in some sort of masters class,) she can work a couple evenings a week. That's a shitty situation, and you have my condolences. Good luck man.
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby drutter » Thu Dec 01, 2011 4:02 pm

Eric wrote:The mythology of "lower tiers are for poorer Burners" is as fake as..

Wrongo. We've been living that "fake mythology" for years now, and so have dozens of Burners I know personally. The BM website, the JRS, and many official sources back me up. Perhaps tiers originated one way and changed over the years? This has been my experience for the past 5 years - your mileage may vary.

jkisha wrote:In the free market system how the fuck does what one makes determine the price they should pay for something!?

Look everybody, the ePlaya's asshole has opened, let's smell what comes out! Actually, let's not. Learn how to discuss something without attacking the other person and you might be taken more seriously.
Strawmanning gets you nowhere. I didn't suggest "what one makes determines the price they should pay", you did.

jkisha wrote:Do I come on here and whine about it being too expensive and they should lower the price? NO!

That's nice, neither do I. Pay more attention.

remi wrote:My gf of 6 years is also a student.. however, she works in a bar and makes sweet ass tips to support our drinking habit. Perhaps, (providing she's not in some sort of masters class,) she can work a couple evenings a week. That's a shitty situation, and you have my condolences. Good luck man.

Thanks remi, good ideas. My gf is physically disabled and limited in what she can do for income (at least until she graduates with a degree) but she's certainly willing to do whatever she can to make it happen, as am I.
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby BBadger » Thu Dec 01, 2011 4:21 pm

Oh how naïve...

Just because official sources try to create "good feelings" by "encouraging" people to take "the highest price tier you can" doesn't mean it is the actual reason for the system. In fact, the lower-priced tiers are made that way in order to generate a large cash-flow earlier in the year for operating the event and paying for projects. If tickets were all the same price throughout the year people would probably just keep the money until the end to ensure that they really could go. Scholarship tickets are about the closest thing to tickets that are actually for the "poor" and they operate much in the manner of Medicaid: you must be extremely dirt poor and out of resources for it to be worthwhile.

I could've probably afforded a higher priced tier last year, but I didn't opt for it. Why should I? I didn't get up early just to opt for a higher priced ticket.

I don't feel bad about it either. If you're going to Burning Man in the first place you're really not that dirt poor. Every time I hear "if I can't get X cheapest tier, I can't go" I call BULLSHIT. If you can't afford $70 more for a luxury vacation taking place in one of the most inhospitable locations on earth you shouldn't go in the first place.

But I entirely agree that the lottery negates the purposes of the tiers. To me, the tiers rewarded those who made extra efforts to get a cheaper ticket. It meant that someone who is poorer could try and shift odds in his or her favor by getting up and early, clicking at the right moment, and possibly getting a cheaper ticket. Even being "late" would get you a Tier 3, which was pretty nice still.

This whole lottery scheme reminds me of a school Easter egg hunt where the teachers wreck the game to accommodate the slow, stupid kids because they whined too much.
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby Rice » Thu Dec 01, 2011 4:33 pm

I wish I could claim that I have always paid into the ticket tier that I could afford, but I cannot.

My first burn I paid more than I could really afford, but in the end the experience was worth it. The subsequent years I have paid the lowest ticket price that is available when my turn in line came up. (I probably could have afforded more, but paid the cheapest tier remaining.)

I have borrowed money from family, friends, work to make my burns happen. Always happy to pay my debt off after each burn.

My burn costs have steadily gone up each of the 5 years I have attended. (I have to travel from Canada) My first burn was about $1200 with ticket, my last burn was just a few dollars less than $2000 (not including ticket). I also went from driving and taking 2 weeks off work, to flying and doing 3 weeks on the playa. It certainly never has been easy, but, as long as I save a bit each month it is certainly doable.
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby drutter » Thu Dec 01, 2011 4:47 pm

BBadger wrote:the lower-priced tiers are made that way in order to generate a large cash-flow earlier in the year

Assuming that was true for the past, is it true for the lottery-ticket present and future? Does randomizing ticket pricetags ensure people buy them any sooner?

BBadger wrote:If tickets were all the same price throughout the year people would probably just keep the money until the end to ensure that they really could go.

Except that doing that would mean not getting a ticket at all, now that they sell out very early. And other factors, like some people enjoy being on top of things and prepared. And the fact that many Burners are return Burners and know they're attending next year while the current Man is still smoldering. Fact is, ticket sales would still be huge from day 1 even without tiers.

BBadger wrote:I could've probably afforded a higher priced tier last year, but I didn't opt for it.

But you had the OPTION to. You chose not to, which is fine. Not everybody is you, though, and I've met many wealthy Burners who DO opt to chip in extra. Taking away that option doesn't affect you, but it affects others.

BBadger wrote:If you're going to Burning Man in the first place you're really not that dirt poor.

Sorry to break it to you, but you're wrong. I dunno, maybe my gf and I are the only poor people who love Burning Man and have something to contribute, but I really doubt that.

BBadger wrote:But I entirely agree that the lottery negates the purposes of the tiers.

That's really the topic of the thread, so it's nice to hear your feedback on it, thanks.

stretch80 wrote:My burn costs have steadily gone up each of the 5 years I have attended. (I have to travel from Canada) My first burn was about $1200 with ticket, my last burn was just a few dollars less than $2000 (not including ticket). I also went from driving and taking 2 weeks off work, to flying and doing 3 weeks on the playa. It certainly never has been easy, but, as long as I save a bit each month it is certainly doable.

Pretty much exactly my experience too, except that we somehow manage to do it slightly cheaper. Perhaps you come from further East in Canada and therefore have a higher gas bill? We're just outside Vancouver.
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby BBadger » Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:15 pm

drutter wrote:Assuming that was true for the past, is it true for the lottery-ticket present and future? Does randomizing ticket pricetags ensure people buy them any sooner?


Yes it does. They've even further reinforced it by forcing people to pre-authorize the purchase during the week sign-up. That's 25,000 tickets sold all at once for T1 and T2 alone + some for T3. The randomization helps too, because then people are not given the choice of what price point to buy at if they want to maximize their overall chance to get a ticket. The hoarding mentality brought on by lottery-panic will also prompt people to accept purchases at higher tiers, even the no-discount tiers.

Except that doing that would mean not getting a ticket at all, now that they sell out very early. And other factors, like some people enjoy being on top of things and prepared. And the fact that many Burners are return Burners and know they're attending next year while the current Man is still smoldering. Fact is, ticket sales would still be huge from day 1 even without tiers.


That's just conjecture. Last year was the only year that ever sold out, and it doesn't mean it's a pattern. Even then, the tickets only sold out 6 months after the initial sales, showing that they were not selling like hotcakes. The bulk of tickets were sold in the first days because of the cheaper tiers. Beyond that there was little incentive to purchase early for a ticket that wouldn't change price for months.

Without tiers there actually are negative incentives to buying early: you could be forced not to go and be saddled with a ticket that has no resale value above what could be purchased new from BMorg. It used to be that it was hard to sell tickets at face value, so you'd lose money if you had a spare ticket. Hence why there were no scalpers before last year.

But you had the OPTION to. You chose not to, which is fine. Not everybody is you, though, and I've met many wealthy Burners who DO opt to chip in extra. Taking away that option doesn't affect you, but it affects others.


I'm not convinced that even a mentionable number of people opted for higher priced tickets when they could've purchased at a cheaper tier. Why even bother getting up early to buy a ticket at the cheaper ticket tier otherwise?

BBadger wrote:If you're going to Burning Man in the first place you're really not that dirt poor.

Sorry to break it to you, but you're wrong. I dunno, maybe my gf and I are the only poor people who love Burning Man and have something to contribute, but I really doubt that.


A love of Burning Man doesn't change the fact that you're stretching your budget too much to go on a luxury vacation like Burning Man. Maybe you have different financial priorities. Unfortunately, many poor people make stupid decisions to squander what they have and live on the edge. Other poor people are smart and save up for what they want.

I won't make a judgment on which "poor" type of person you are, but the fact remains: if $70 or even $140 is the difference between going and not going, you're stretching your budget too much in the first place to attend BM. Full stop.

BBadger wrote:But I entirely agree that the lottery negates the purposes of the tiers.

That's really the topic of the thread, so it's nice to hear your feedback on it, thanks.


Maybe we disagree on the reasons for the tiers, but yes, it is true.
Last edited by BBadger on Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby Rice » Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:15 pm

drutter wrote:Pretty much exactly my experience too, except that we somehow manage to do it slightly cheaper. Perhaps you come from further East in Canada and therefore have a higher gas bill? We're just outside Vancouver.


Saskatoon, SK. The drive is about 3000Km each way. We are not a central hub for airlines, so I have to fly through Calgary, Denver, Vancouver, Toronto {shudder} etc. which pushes up the flight costs. The last two years I have flown down, needed to pick up gear I could not bring on the plane, and staying on the playa longer/earlier... which seems to push up the cost.

For me, the value of burning man tickets changed when they sold out. I realized what attending Burning Man means to me and have changed my attitude on what I will pay for tickets. In previous years, I would have paid the lowest (still-available) tier. Now, I have decided "I want to spend $__ for my ticket" - and intend to register for that tier. Most likely I will get a ticket. Assuming that I do, I will not pay more than I intended to (possibly pay less).

This new system (and the apparent scarcity of tickets) makes attending burning man a much less spontaneous decision. That sucks for those who do not have extra cash on hand (and for those who just don't know if they will have the time to attend).
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby trilobyte » Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:38 pm

@drutter - on paper, that was certainly the intention but in practice over the last several years the lower tiers have been purchased as an early buyer discount regardless of financial means. So the very small minority of burners who got through when lower tier tickets were available and yet choose a higher tier were funding anybody's lower priced ticket. As for the "just a few hundred more dollars" remark, the lowest tier is only $30 more. And there are 25% more of them this year. And you'll have a two week window to register for those tickets, instead of needing to take a day you may not be able to afford off work and sit in front of the computer and how you manage to get through while lowest tier tickets are still available. Based on a fair number of comments posted on the board (from people who've either complained about the price increase or mentioned that they couldn't afford the higher priced tiers), it seems that tiers are still a necessary thing (otherwise all those people would simply be shut out).
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby BBadger » Thu Dec 01, 2011 6:49 pm

I do think there is a net loss in the discount for cheaper ticket this year. Not saying I disagree with it, but it is what it is.

There's some interesting math going on with the tickets:

While there are 10% more T1 tickets (+1000) at a deeper relative discount compared last year(61% of full price vs. 65%), and 66% more T2 tickets (+ 6000), we lose an entire tier T3 which held 9000 and overall have 2000 fewer cheaper tickets.

This year's T2, however, is priced slightly higher than midway between the relative placement of T2 and T3 last year:

T2_2011 = (240 - 210) / (320 - 210) = 30 / 110 = 27%
T3_2011 = (280 - 210) / (320 - 210) = 70 / 110 = 64%

average = 45.5%

T2_2012 = (320 - 240) / (390 - 240) = 80 / 150 = 53%

The average price for cheaper tickets last year was:

(210 x 9000 + 240 x 9000 + 280 x 9000) / (3 x 9000) = $243.33

whereas this year it is:

(240 x 10000 + 320 x 15000) / (10000 + 15000) = $288.

Relative to the full price tier, last year's average discount was:

(243.33 / 320) = 76% of full price.

This years will be:

(288 / 390) = 0.74%

Moral of the story: cheaper tickets are 2% less expensive (on average) than last year as a percentage of full price, but with 7.5% fewer to go around. You have a higher chance of getting the cheapest tier. Overall, you will see a net benefit if you get in on a cheaper tier, but your chances of getting in on a cheaper tier at all are lower (all other things made equal).
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby jkisha » Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:18 pm

Maybe the reason I have little tollerence for this thread is that the topic has already been discussed ad nausiam, and if your contribution to BM is as original as you seem to think your post is, I doubt your presence will be missed. viewtopic.php?f=290&t=52566&p=765238&hilit=Lottery+tiers#p765238

Geeze, re-reading this post I think I must be channeling Isotopia.

Nothing personal drutter. This is an anonymous Internet forum don't forget. :shock:
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby junglesmacks » Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:11 pm

I thought Badg's contribution of mathematical analysis was pretty sweet and very interesting, personally. OP's redundancy notwithstanding..
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby Dr Helix » Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:43 pm

jkisha wrote:Maybe the reason I have little tollerence for this thread is that the topic has already been discussed ad nausiam, and if your contribution to BM is as original as you seem to think your post is, I doubt your presence will be missed. viewtopic.php?f=290&t=52566&p=765238&hilit=Lottery+tiers#p765238

Geeze, re-reading this post I think I must be channeling Isotopia.

Nothing personal drutter. This is an anonymous Internet forum don't forget. :shock:


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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby A Jester » Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:08 pm

The tiers exist so you have a chance to buy a cheaper ticket. Some people will register for all three tiers, some will register only for one or two. The lottery system makes it fairer to the average burner without means because they probably aren't sitting in front of a better than average computer with a better than average internet connection.

Let's just look back on that last point, if you're paying for high speed internet and can't afford the extra $70 for a higher tier ticket, Badger is right and you should seriously reconsider going to Burning Man at all. If you're traveling from out of country, it's got to cost you about $500 to show up with food and water, minimum. It's more likely to cost $750 or $1000. You're deciding not to go over $70. Heck, you're deciding not to TRY to get a ticket in the lottery over ... I'm not sure why.

The people who really want to help out, who have the extra means to do so, would probably be better off donating to a poor friend directly, or supporting a kickstarter, or something along those lines. Buying a higher tier ticket shouldn't be your philanthropic gesture (and I love the way that word sounds) for the year.

In the time you've spent on this website, you might have been able to collect enough bottles and cans to make 50 cents. Do that 140 times, and you can buy a full price ticket. The man burns in 275 days, so that's just about every other day off from collecting a few bottles and cans.

THERE! Problem solved.



jkisha wrote:Maybe the reason I have little tollerence for this thread is that the topic has already been discussed ad nausiam, and if your contribution to BM is as original as you seem to think your post is, I doubt your presence will be missed. viewtopic.php?f=290&t=52566&p=765238&hilit=Lottery+tiers#p765238

Geeze, re-reading this post I think I must be channeling Isotopia.

Nothing personal drutter. This is an anonymous Internet forum don't forget. :shock:


You are kinda being a dick in that post.

Oh wait, maybe you were just being an ....

drutter wrote:
jkisha wrote:In the free market system how the fuck does what one makes determine the price they should pay for something!?

Look everybody, the ePlaya's asshole has opened, let's smell what comes out! Actually, let's not. Learn how to discuss something without attacking the other person and you might be taken more seriously.
Strawmanning gets you nowhere. I didn't suggest "what one makes determines the price they should pay", you did.


I guess that's what he was looking for from you, anyhow.

Mission accomplished.
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby jkisha » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:52 am

A Jester wrote:The tiers exist so you have a chance to buy a cheaper ticket. Some people will register for all three tiers, some will register only for one or two. The lottery system makes it fairer to the average burner without means because they probably aren't sitting in front of a better than average computer with a better than average internet connection.

Let's just look back on that last point, if you're paying for high speed internet and can't afford the extra $70 for a higher tier ticket, Badger is right and you should seriously reconsider going to Burning Man at all. If you're traveling from out of country, it's got to cost you about $500 to show up with food and water, minimum. It's more likely to cost $750 or $1000. You're deciding not to go over $70. Heck, you're deciding not to TRY to get a ticket in the lottery over ... I'm not sure why.

The people who really want to help out, who have the extra means to do so, would probably be better off donating to a poor friend directly, or supporting a kickstarter, or something along those lines. Buying a higher tier ticket shouldn't be your philanthropic gesture (and I love the way that word sounds) for the year.

In the time you've spent on this website, you might have been able to collect enough bottles and cans to make 50 cents. Do that 140 times, and you can buy a full price ticket. The man burns in 275 days, so that's just about every other day off from collecting a few bottles and cans.

THERE! Problem solved.



jkisha wrote:Maybe the reason I have little tollerence for this thread is that the topic has already been discussed ad nausiam, and if your contribution to BM is as original as you seem to think your post is, I doubt your presence will be missed. viewtopic.php?f=290&t=52566&p=765238&hilit=Lottery+tiers#p765238

Geeze, re-reading this post I think I must be channeling Isotopia.

Nothing personal drutter. This is an anonymous Internet forum don't forget. :shock:


You are kinda being a dick in that post.

Oh wait, maybe you were just being an ....

drutter wrote:
jkisha wrote:In the free market system how the fuck does what one makes determine the price they should pay for something!?

Look everybody, the ePlaya's asshole has opened, let's smell what comes out! Actually, let's not. Learn how to discuss something without attacking the other person and you might be taken more seriously.
Strawmanning gets you nowhere. I didn't suggest "what one makes determines the price they should pay", you did.


I guess that's what he was looking for from you, anyhow.

Mission accomplished.


LOL Yup, that comment was my inspiration. Thanks for noticing!
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Re: the "lottery" negates the need to have tiers at all

Postby CapnJoe » Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:12 pm

Ignorance is Bliss :D
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