Oh dear. Outrageous tickets fees may have finally caught up with everyone involved. In this week's Fee Free Friday Russel Brand fans get bitten by an extra $100.00 per ticket they weren't expecting. A Google employee says "Don't be evil". Sports ticket holders are caught in the middle trying to re-coop their five figure seat license fee. Plus we are reminded that an elephant never forgets.
Read on to find out who gets arrested by the Karma Police!
A wise person once said "If something seems too good to be true, it probably is" and that seems to be all too true for fans of comedian Russell Brand.
While buying tickets to Brand's stand-up comedy show in Wellington, New Zealand, they were presented with a pleasant surprise in the the checkout cart - tickets were "only" $12.90. That low price flew in the face of the widely advertised amount of $129.00 each. That wandering decimal point should have been a hint, but the completed purchase process ended up only charging buyers 13 bucks - at least temporarily. Hayden Donnell explains:
Fans in Wellington affected by an identical error when buying passes through Ticketek were allowed to keep their discounted passes. An online error caused Ticketmaster to sell 36 tickets to Brand's Vector Arena show on November 28 for $12.90 rather than the $129.90 advertised price. The ticketing vendor contacted all those issued the discounted tickets demanding they pay full price or accept a refund for their purchase.
Area resident Maree Street decided to go to Brand's performance after seeing discounted passes advertised in a New Zealand Comedy Festival flyer. She too got the "discounted" ticket price. Later she was forced to pay the full price after being contacted by an event representative who demand she pay full price.
Street describes her experience:
Ticketmaster should have allowed her to keep the tickets she bought or offered her a discount. It's like they're saying we stuffed up but it's your fault so you have to pay ... If they have something at an advertised price and you've agreed to it, that's the deal.
Ticketmaster executive chairman Maria O'Connor said the price error allows the company to cancel the purchases under New Zealand law. But laws of karma say something else.
A Consumer Affairs spokesman said Ticketmaster may be able to cite the 'Contract Mistakes Act' in order to charge the full price, plus ticket fees, but that "The customer has to have known the original price was likely to be wrong." which may or may not have been the case. The Comedy Festival advertising promised tickets buyers a deal but did not specify any dollar amounts.
We won't close the book on this case just yet. If the website displayed and allowed the entire process to be completed for a certain price, the onus is one the ticket vendor, not the consumer. Regardless, no one ended up getting away with the $13 ticket, all had to fork over an additional $100 each to attend the November 18th event. In the United States, this scenario could be considered "bait and switch".
While we're on the subject of bad karma, a very high profile person has some choice words about ticket fees...
Don't Be Evil
Internet search giant Google is famous for its "Don't be evil" corporate motto. Earlier this week Google employee Josh Estelle wrote a rant about the outrageous per-ticket fees he was charged.
In the tirade, Estelle describes his ticket buying experience for the Bridge School Benefit Concert in San Francisco. He states the total amount in ticket fees and services charges was beyond his tolerance:
The face value on these tickets are $35.50 each. Yet my bill for two tickets – $91, or $45.50 each. This breaks down to: $35.50 (face value) + $4 (facilities charge) + $6 (convenience fee)...It's the $6 per ticket convenience fee that really gets me. You know why? Because I went to the box office, at the venue, to buy these tickets. When I buy at the box office of the venue, I don't understand how this fee is okay.
Estelle goes on to say that he is bewildered by what he considers nefarious business practices and hints at legal action.
How in hell did the SEC allow Ticketmaster and LiveNation to merge? I guess I should write my congress-person...
You are strongly encouraged to read the entire personal post, especially the comments made by sympathetic consumers. By the way, normally we would add those comments to the Wall of Woe (below) but there are just too many too list! Seems like every week we accumulate news of thousands of grievances about unreasonable per ticket fees, but listing them all would take too much time, putting us between a rock and a hard place. We're not the only one's in that position...
Man In The Middle
Earlier this week we tweeted a rumor that the Chicago Cubs were cracking down hard on season ticket holders who re-sell their tickets on the secondary market. A quick look at the sports headlines confirmed the hearsay as fact.
Danny Ecker, sports reporter for the Chicago Business wrote at length on the situation in the windy city. The article 'Cubs purging season ticket 'brokers' outlines the Cubs crackdown as being in the best interest of both the ball club and the fans. The purge notification was a formal letter sent to season ticket holders deemed to be acting as "ticket brokers". Ecker writes:
The Chicago Cubs are dedicated to ensuring Cubs games and other events at Wrigley Field remain available to as many fans as possible who are interested in enjoyable and memorable experiences. Your season ticket location will be reallocated and made available to fans at the top of our Season Ticket Waiting List...Cubs spokesman Julian Green emphasized that the notices will have no impact on other season ticket holders that sell some or even most of their seats on secondary sites like StubHub.
We are not fans of the so-called "value added re-seller who often exploit the ticket buying public with face value mark-ups of 1,000% or more. But we must acknowledge the idea of a ticket buyer's right to make use of a purchase how they see fit. Other areas of sports ticketing are embroiled in their own consumer hostile donnybrooks - seat licenses.
If you'll recall, we reported back in early October the Atlanta Falcon's may make season ticket holders pay a five figure seat license in order to keep their place in the new stadium. In the line item '$17,000 fee – What the Hell?' line item, we explained that the practice of mandatory seat licenses are extremely unpopular with sports fans and legal battles are already brewing.
We must extrapolate these two developments out and ask where it will ultimately end. The season ticket holder must by a seat license AND they may not re-sell their tickets to re-coop the seat license cost? What if the season ticket holder has a personal circumstance that makes it impossible to attend the games? They'll have their season tickets taken anyway If so, will they be given the money for the seat license back?
We will continue to read everything that Danny Ecker writes on the matter, you should too.
An Elephant Never Forgets
The University of Alabama's mascot is an elephant and one needs a long memory to remember a time when outrageous per-ticket fees were not an issue. This week, 'Bama's newspaper, The Crimson White, published 'Fees pay 3rd party costs, raise prices' on the behind the scenes intricacies of the ticketing industry and its hated tickets fees and service charges.
Author Becky Robinson starts off withe a statement we are all too familiar with here at #FFF:
Students who have been to their fair share of concerts know the actual price of a cheap $20 ticket can rise quickly because of charges and fees.
After acknowledged the problem, Robinson write of the ways in which venues apply fees and makes several good points about their ultimate point of origin - performers and management companies. The article quotes venue employees and owners who say that the venue rarely make money from per-ticket fees and they are unnecessary and sometime contractually required. Performers may make tickets fees a legal obligation, and their collection is not optional for the venue:
A senior majoring in political science and criminal justice, said she often goes to sporting events and concerts and has to pay a variety of fees. Ticketmaster usually charges their convenience fees for buying the tickets early, but those aren't usually horrendously expensive. Patricia Pratt, box office manager of the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, said despite the many fees associated with tickets, the venue rarely sees much profit.
If you are a venue owner who finds themselves being forced to apply ticket fees at "gun point", so-to-speak, be as open and honest about the source of the fee as you can. State clearly on the printed ticket or on the website so the consumer knows the true origin. Angry ticket buyers, including Bama students, have a long memory, don't let negativity be permanently associated with your business.
Wall of Woe
This week's wall is as ugly as ever. In fact, the cries from consumers bemoaning high ticket fees were updated every hour on the hour, for the entire world to read...
"After being bitten by TicketMaster for 'convenience fee' of buying online through their awful awful interface plus paying them to print the tickets myself and a restroom facility fee."
"And f*** you to convenience fees! How is an extra $20 tacked onto an already too expensive ticket convenient?! #fail"
"Concert ticket fees suck ass"
"Math question: what's 2 x $16.50? $43.30 according to https://www.gigsandtours.com. Really fed up with ticket company fees and won't be buying tickets."
"I really f****** hate Ticket Master fees. I wish y'all didn't need to pay that sh**. It's so unfair!"
You need not fear arrest by the Karma Police. There is a way to run a very profitable event while making your customers very happy - reasonable tickets fees, or none at all.
ThunderTix allows you to sell tickets online with no fees as well as at the box office. We encourage you to pass along that 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.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons