Terrifying Ticket Fees Are A Halloween Horror!
A $19.80 concert ticket fee? Ticketmaster to the Tower of London? Gut-wrenching tales of sorrow from music fans? That can only mean the special Halloween Horror edition of Fee Free Friday! This week is especially terrifying because Halloween gives us the excuse to pull out all the stops bringing you all the latest news on the omnipresent horror that is plaguing the event industry - Outrageous per ticket fees and service charges.
...but only if you're not too scared to read the ugly truth!
Tickets to the Rolling Stones concert are dripping with blood red ticket fees and that has caused Mark Shenton to write "The ticketing business is in urgent need of being cleaned up" in his column for 'The Stage'.
The Stage, an entertainment paper found in 1880, is normally a great place to read reviews and find out about upcoming shows in the UK. But this week theater critic Mark Shenton expresses his horror for theater ticket fees and reports on the bloodbath of bad press ticket re-seller Get Me In! is facing.
Shelton endears himself to us early on with his take on ticket fees and services charges:
A majority of theatre tickets being sold online, too, audiences are often paying a big service charge for doing exactly the same thing: making the transaction themselves...I love the add-on euphemistically titled “convenience fee” that is sometimes added when you buy tickets online in the US, and the “delivery charge” for printing out your own tickets at home: here, you’re being charged for the automatically generated PDF file, then you spend your own money on printer ink to actually print them.
It always reminds me of the great Bette Midler line about being asked for payment to use a Parisian toilet: “But I did it all myself!"
We could not have described the problem of unreasonable ticket fees any better Mark! (Not that we haven't tried).
After that Fee Free Friday fellowship-worthy preamble, Shelton goes on to describe that the public has pitchforks and torches raised for what their being charged for the Rolling Stones tickets. We covered that consumer atrocity last week's Fee Free Friday in the 'Beast of Burden' line item and it looks like the situation is just getting worse.
Shenton's eloquence sums up unreasonable per-ticket fees nicely:
It’s high time that ticketing services are brought into line, rather than hidden online with multiple charges being applied that the producer of the show never sees. Ticketing is, after all, the most basic level of service that venues have to supply, given that the show is entirely dependent on its efficiency and actually being able to make its sales through. It’s of premium importance; but that doesn't mean it should be delivered at a premium price.
The bloody horror of ticket fees is part of a rampant debate in Europe as well as here in the United States. We'll see if the rancor surrounding Get Me In! results in legislation or in fewer tickets sales - or both. The Halloween horrors in the UK don't stop with the Stones 50th anniversary concert tickets though...
Consumer advocacy and information outlet 'Which?' just published a new scathing indictment of a familiar villain - Paying a fee for the "privilege" of printing tickets at home. The public service announcement alerts consumers of how this offensive is perpetrated:
Research has found that companies such as Ticketmaster are charging customers an average fee of $5.50 to receive tickets by email for some events despite the fact they incur no printing and postage costs. Customers then print off the tickets and have them scanned before getting into events. The fee for Ticketmaster's Ticketfast service is in addition to service charges and is often only slightly cheaper than the cost of receiving tickets in the [postal mail].
Which? contacted Ticketmaster to ask for how the print-at-home ticket fees are justified. The purported claim is that the fees is in full compliance with the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers guidelines. But by digging deeper into the issue a contradiction was found:
However, on the Ticketmaster website it states that service charges, which all customers have to pay regardless of how their tickets are delivered, help to pay for ‘access control at venues’.
For precedent, Which? cites David Paine's earlier post 'Do ticket charges tick you off?'. Paine's OpEd included this poignant bit:
Am I the only one who gets really ticked off when I get charged for printing off tickets I've bought for a concert? I still find it almost insulting that I have to pay for a service that requires me to use my own electricity and printer ink, while essentially saving a company money on postage and packaging.
Again, note the comments made by ticket buyers in response to Paine. Anger, anguish, acrimony. Most of it aimed at the ticket outlets directly and comment represents only those who took the time to write, knowing that commenters represent the true public sentiment, per the 90–9–1 principle.
The Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds in Watertown, NY is neck deep in the ticket fees controversy as described by Jeffery Graham in the Watertown Times. It seems that the municipality is playing fast and loose with the idea of deferring costs incurred from large events back into the venues in the form of taxation for utility usage. Water, power and sanitation use spikes during events, so the city wants to add multiple fees to the event tickets. Graham outlines the issue:
Let’s look at events from a pragmatic, business perspective. A major concert that carries a $70 ticket price likely has a budget approaching $400,000. Of your $70, some goes to the talent, some to the staging, lighting and sound folks, some to marketing, some to printing tickets, still more goes to any number of other expenses people don’t realize or care about when all they want is their favorite performer on stage. One of the components of cost is the venue itself. There is the fixed asset, which is a public facility meant to be used for the public benefit. The city recognizes this and charges only nominal rents.
Many of Graham's point are quite valid, but he may be operating at a public opinion deficit from the get go. Ticket fees are so hated by concert and fair goers, they'll not be open to the fair justifications being proposed. Irrational responses ("I hate ticket fees!") may drown out civil discourse, which Graham hinted at:
"Recently a citizen approached me and asked why I was punishing developmentally disabled children by my position on fees. After I explained the issue of marginal costs in the context of large commercial events, he changed his mind and said of course those should be billed and the city should have an accounting of sales and expenses for events we provide pro bono services to."
Let hope that the city of Watertown finds a solution and that they make a smart choice in applying per-ticket fees, or better yet, none at all.
Wall of Woe - Halloween Edition
This week's special Halloween edition of the Wall of Woe comes with an extra does of heartbreak. Every week you read first person accounts of ticket buyer decrying the exorbitant fees they are made to pay, but rarely have we read such a sad tale at this Joans Bothers fan has written on her blog:
"So, the day before the scheduled concert, they were in the news. Reporters were like, “Jonas Brothers arrived…..” I was like, “WTF!? They’re here!?” I immediately checked the ticket fees and all, I was ready to cry.. I didn’t have enough money on me."
If you own or operate a venue that is currently charging unreasonable per-ticket fees, we dare you to read the entire post above.
From one sad ticket fee tale we return to the more pervasive story of ticket fee outrage and the resulting lost sales...
"You can't advertise a ticket range of, say, $95 to $750 then levy additional charges that are related to the actual concert! That's totally false advertising."
"What the f--k is convenience fee??"
"It's just a matter of time until I turn into the Hulk and start tossing cars around!"
Bonus: Check out Bryce Lambert's bio used for his columns in the Boston Lowbrow:
"Bryce Lambert hates Live Nation ticket fees, watching concerts on jumbotrons, indie-rocker inter-song banter, and buying tickets months in advance (or buying tickets at all). Maybe this is why he sees so much theater and classical music, and thinks more people should too."
Millions of angry consumers writing their frustrations on blogs and in social media are being cached by search engines Often the venue or ticket outlet is cited by name. Is your venue or event being publicly shamed for charging unreasonable per-tickets fees? Does a Google search for your business return 10,000 results all starting with negative publicity about ticket fees? There is a better way.
ThunderTix allows you to sell tickets online with no fees. We encourage you to pass along those savings to the consumer and show them the long-term vision of your business is tied directly to their satisfaction. Your patrons will love that you don’t add fees. It’s that simple. Lower ticket costs through no added fees translate into higher sales and greater patron satisfaction.
Have a happy and safe Halloween. Fee Free Friday, the TMZ of ticket fees, will be back next week. Until then, be sure to take a look at our other features and sign up for a free trial today!