Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Investigative reporting from Las Vegas tops this week’s Fee Free Friday as the cost of casino show tickets has spiked causing show producers to cry foul. Plus, a $6.00 “telephone call convenience” fee being charged just to speak to someone in the box office? And a LSU Tigers fan says 50% of the ticket purchase price was fees.
We also find someone so articulate at describing the two sides of the ticket fee controversy we think she may be the Manchurian Candidate of the ticketing industry. If you like sleuthing, read on...
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Mike Weatherford of the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote an in-depth article yesterday on the recent surge in on ticket fees and services charges for shows at Caesar's Palace.
Weatherford's 'Producers fretting over ticket service fees' is old school journalism at its best, reporting the facts with quotes from all parties including the outrage expressed by consumers. We highly recommend all venues and industry professional take the time to read Weatherford's excellent reporting.
The report starts off with the harsh reality of lost sales due to ticket fees. The individual show producers are complaining that fee increases at all Caesar’s Entertainment properties, as applied by TicketMaster, have had detrimental impact on sales.
The intertwining of relationships between show producers and the venues is rather complicated and apparently so sensitive, Weatherford was asked to keep some identities anonymous. One unidentified show producer explained the points of contention:
[Ticket] handling fees - which have nearly doubled in some cases - to Internet search issues and Ticketmaster's ability to accommodate all the coupons and discounts that are typical of middle-tier shows on the Strip. We've all lost our Internet optimization through Ticketmaster. In New York all you need is Ticketmaster or one vendor. Here you have as many as 15 vendors. None of us [producers] can get them all selling us.
Another producer, also asking not to be identified, expressed frustration at the ticket fees and service charges being increased during the current economic downturn.
That convenience fee, $9.50 for many evening shows, will prove to be excessive for middle-tier titles. I don't think it's the right time for it now. With the mom-and-pop shows it's all about value these days. Our expenses are more and we're netting less, the customer is going to pay the service charge regardless, so the fee could drive the customer to rival shows.
Proper journalism is observed in the second half of the article when Jason Gastwirth, senior vice president of entertainment for Caesars Entertainment, is confronted with responding to the producers accusations. Gastwirth begins by explaining the ticket fee business model:
Our ticket fee structure is commensurate with the others in the markets in which we operate and help support our service levels and system enhancements. As we've just recently finished up our transition to this new model, we expect to just now start seeing significant sales growth to the shared benefit of our artists, producers and ourselves.
Both parties speculate on the ultimate outcome of the issue as it relates to ticket sales and the fiscal health of the Las Vegas strip.
We don’t need to speculate. We know how much people hate unreasonably high per-ticket fees.
While the fear and loathing of ticket fees in Las Vegas continues, let’s look at where else the war against rages....
Anarchy in the UK
The BBC posted a follow-up to their summary of consumer hostile practices from last week which ended with a question posed to readers: "Are there any other charges that are particularly baffling to you?” The response was so overwhelming the BBC has published '10 more charges that make readers scratch their heads'.
Can you guess what ranked second highest on the list this time? *drum roll*...Outrageously high ticket fees and service charges.
Buying a concert or theatre ticket used to be a simple art. The face value equated to the price paid by the customer at a straightforward ratio of 1:1. Nowadays, the array of booking, transaction, facility and delivery charges leave the average customer perplexed.
Transaction fees relate directly to the cost of processing the order and producing the tickets. These apply per order, rather than per ticket. London's Barbican, charge transaction fees from £2-£3.50 for phone bookings. When ticket agencies do charge for box office collection, they justify it by saying it's part of the general costs of the business.
We applaud the BBC for taking the time to curate the grievances and letting the people's voice be heard. BBC now qualifies as an official #FeeFreeFriday kindred spirit :D
Call Me Maybe
Alex Falcone has 'Questions for Concertgoers'. He wrote them in the Portland Mercury, one of which made us wince.
Who gets the money tacked-on to the ticket price? In addition to the cost of the ticket ($22) and the service fee ($6) there was an order processing charge ($1.50) and a handling charge ($1.22). I printed my tickets at home, so I was the only person handling the ticket. Shouldn't I be paid the dollar twenty two?
Of the list of responses one was especially frank, mocking the ticketing industry and empathizing with Falcone in the same breath:
The official answer is: A chunk of that fee goes to the venue. They get to keep this without having to pay it to the band. A chunk goes to whatever ticketing system they were using. This is how ticketing systems make money these days, they charge you to use the software rather than charging the venue or band. All of that theoretically adds up to processing and user fees that fall outside the boundaries of money you paid for the actual art/music you consume.
The real answer: They could just as easily roll that cost into the stated price of the ticket with no perceived fees. But people have repeatedly proved that they are more likely to pay $22 with $8.72 of add on fees than they are to pay $30.72 with no fees for the same show, all other things being equal. So they do it cause it works. And keeps working. Sorry.
The response author "Trisha" didn't identify herself. But her answer is so knowledgeable we wouldn't be surprised if she is works at a venue or is the Manchurian Candidate of the ticketing industry. Our offer to "Trisha" as a future guest author for Fee Free Friday is hereby open - Give us a call Trisha!
Eye of the Tiger - Circa Survivor
Every week we hope to not write an entry for the Wall of Woe, where we chronicle what people are saying about venues that charge exorbitant ticket fees and services charges - but to no avail...
Alyson posted her excitement in anticipation of seeing her favorite band Circa Survive with the caveat of how miserable unreasonably high ticket fees have made her.
Very excited to see this in two weeks, however…I just had to pay $18 in ticket fees on two $20 tickets (that’s almost 50%), needless to say the venue got a strongly worded email and Facebook post.
Note that she's a sophisticated computer user, savvy enough to include a screen shot in her Tumblr post.
A LSU fan asks "Surcharges Get So Outrageous?" in the forum for Tiger sports fans. It isn't pretty.
"Haven't bought concert tickets in years outside of the casino. When the did the ticket fees start costing as much as the tickets?"
"Bought 2 tickets to St Louis Cards game for $2 each on stubhub and paid $10 in fees."
"I guess it seems more pronounced when you're buying tickets for $15 accompanied by $10 in fees."
"Sometimes if you go to the venue, you can get some of the fees omitted. What is especially problematic is charging me to print my own tickets. WTF?"
Note the ticket vendors and venues in question have dodged a bullet, for now at least, by not being mentioned name.
Momentum against unreasonable per-ticket fees gathered quite a bit of strength this week. We hope the train keeps on rolling toward a new era where happy ticket buyers and profitable events can peacefully co-exist. That is the ThunderTix vision.
We have written our thoughts on the best practices for ticket fees in ‘Sell Tickets Online with No Fees’ which you are encouraged to read. ThunderTix online ticketing software has industry leading tools that give you complete control over fees and services charges - including the option to go fee free.