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May 10, 2008

Ticketmaster is a ripoff

Generally speaking, I go to concerts where you pay cash at the door and get change from a twenty--but someone special has a birthday coming up, and Stevie Wonder is coming to town.

Do you know how much Ticketmaster charges to place an order online? Well, there's a "convenience charge" of $12.45 per ticket, plus a $5.15 order processing fee, plus $2.50 for the privilege of printing my receipt. That's a total of $32.55, or 27% of the cost of the tickets. A 27% markup for a service that failed the first time I logged in, sending me back to the end of the line.

How convenient.

These days, any schmo with a website can take secure orders online for next to nothing.

Amazon.com doesn't charge me a separate "convenience fee" to pick out a physical product from an inventory of millions of items. And they throw in the receipt for free, like everyone else in the capitalist system.

 

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Other countries actually have competing online ticketing services, but not us! And yet, we still suck it up and do it, because if you really want front row seats for your favorite performers, what else can you do? When the seat isn't such a priority I sometimes go to a physical Ticketmaster outlet, where the fees are significantly lower. Which is STUPID because surely staffing costs more than doing it all online.

Except for the silly "capitalist" comment, I agree with this post very strongly.

Ticketmaster is an absolute scam, which benefits the consumer 1%--if you're from a remote place, you get to buy tickets easier. It doesn't benefit the performers at all. 99% of the benefit goes to the arena/ticket company.

But I think that Ticketmaster sees their true customer as the arena owner. Who gets free of some of the burden of manning a ticket office, to an operation that is open 24/7 and that gives them a big fat cut of the fees that you mention.

I loathe Ticketmaster and try to never use them.

When buying Mets/Yankee tickets a couple of times a year, I have been known to travel to the Bronx /Queens beforehand, because their stadium ticket offices do not charge any such fees.

Simiarly, I believe that Madison Square Garden, Radio City and other arenas in NY and elsewhere either do not charge "service charges" for tickets purchased at the arena, or they charge lower fees.

Ticketmaster is anticonsumer and anticompetitive. It's the opposite of competitive capitalism. Ticketmaster should die.

Except for the silly "capitalist" comment, I agree with this post very strongly.

You don't agree that amazon.com, like everyone else in the capitalist system, throws in a receipt for free? Or you don't agree that the capitalist system is overwhelmingly dominated by vendors who provide free receipts?

I'm just trying to figure out what part of that comment you disagree with.

What's silly about the capitalism comment? Anywhere else in the modern market economy, when you exchange money for goods or services, a receipt is customary, if not legally required. Doubly so if you pay with a credit card. It's just part of what a merchant is expected to provide to the customer. When I sell a photograph or an article, I don't charge my clients extra for the invoice. Some fast food chains will even give you your order for free if the clerk fails to ask you whether you want your (free) receipt!

It's outrageous and anomalous when a vendor sells you "tickets" and charges you extra for the opportunity to print the receipt on your own computer. A) It costs them nothing, B) Your receipt is your ticket, so you're getting charged twice for the same thing.

I totally agree that the practice of charging for receipts is wrong. I just don't think its a capitalist practice. I think its' a scumbag practice of a predatory monopoly.

Amazon and most other companies are capitalist companies that provide enormous value. Ticketmaster in my opinion is a shady quasi monopoly company that adds very little value to any end user.

Concertgoers and other end users would be better off it Ticketmaster went out of business.

So, we agree on the capitalism angle. The norm is to give a free receipt. Ticketmaster is flouting the norm because they have a monopoly and can therefore bilk the consumer without fear that we'll take our business to a competitor.

Yes, if you want to push it, I'd think about making a complaint with the NY Attorney General's office. This is a completely indefensible practice.

Don't like large crowds, don't like Ticket Master. Never have.

Don't like large crowds, don't like Ticket Master. Never have.

Much like when a commenter chimes in on a thread about Battlestar Galactica to say that he doesn't own a television and doesn't want one, I have to wonder what your point is. If you have no interest in attending the sort of large events with hundreds or thousands of people whose ticket-processing ends up getting outsourced to Ticketmaster, what kind of insight can we expect you to have on the matter?

concert ticket is monopolized. The venue is owned by the same ticket company. And some acts are also signed to ticketmaster.

The entire recording industry is nothing but a giant cartel. Indie acts are basically squeezed out.

Tyro

Ticketmaster also controls ticketing for small venues, such as Broadway and off Broadway theaters, and probably similar venues across the country.

--


If an act wants to avoid Ticketmaster, as Pearl Jam did a while back, they will find themselves frozen out of nearly all sizable venues in the US. It is a very bad situation.

What is the barrier to entry for competing ticketing companies? If a venue would get more sales by using a more friendly ticket vendor, what prevents them from doing so?

Zed -

There are exclusive contracts between Ticketmaster and the concert halls.

If the concert halls used someone else, then fans of a band wouldn't see the band listed in an email from Ticketmaster about upcoming shows.

If the bands don't want to use Ticketmaster, then they can't get access to the concert halls.

Via wikipedia:

"In 1994, the rock band Pearl Jam appealed to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, complaining that Ticketmaster adopted monopolistic practices and refused to lower service fees for the band's tickets. At the time, Pearl Jam wanted to keep ticket prices under $20 for their fans, with service charges no greater than $1.80. The company had exclusive contracts with many of the large venues in the United States and threatened to take legal action if those contracts were broken. The Justice Department ruled in favor of Ticketmaster, which culminated in the cancellation of the 1994 Pearl Jam tour. Four years later, Pearl Jam resumed their relationship with Ticketmaster."

OUTRAGED !!! It's how I became a major fan of eddie vedder. he put it TO them. Locally I try to travel to the venue and buy live but if you want something special the GD venue works with ticket master to screw you as in all of OURS are sold out but you can try tixmstr. As you might have mentioned.

ASSHOLES !

Interesting. Have just been on to the Australian Ticketmaster site and ordered 2 tickets to Elton John playing here next week to see what the additional charges are and surprisingly they are zero. You get the option to print off the tickets directly or pick them up from an outlet or the venue itself all free of charge or pay an extra $3.50 to have the tickets posted out.

You are being ripped off blind. Ticketmaster tried to introduce the heinous parctice of auctioning off the best seats that I notice is common for large acts in the States but it has been a real flop and I notice they seem to have quietly dropped it.

Lloyd -- Australia is one of those countries with competing online outlets (like Ticketek). Funny how that makes them eliminate all their ridiculous fees, hmm?

Funny that the posting option is the one that costs money, when for us it's the only free option most times.

I just checked on an upcoming concert — one I haven't yet decided whether to attend — and for a $30 ticket, the added fees, not including delivery, bump the cost to $46. The extra fees are probably somewhat less if purchased in person, but past experience has been that they're not significantly less (a couple bucks at most).

I can remember a time when Ticketmaster's fees were a small fraction of the cost of a ticket, yet I can't see that they've added any additional value to their service in the intervening years. It's possible they didn't have a monopoly back then (I seem to recall there being at least one other large ticket company, though the name escapes me at the moment) so they couldn't get away with tacking on a 50% surcharge.

I'm baffled by their $2.50 charge for me to print the tickets on my own printer. I also have the option of paying $1 to pick the tickets up in person, or having them send the tickets via mail for free. Thus, the most expensive means of delivery for them is the cheapest for me while the cheapest — practically zero cost — means of delivery for them is the most expensive for me (excluding the UPS delivery options).

Very simple: don't go. Downside of very simple plan: even if you don't go, there are throngs of idiots out there paying that premium to go. That's the weird thing about us North Americans: we are so addicted to our entertainments that pretty much any outrageous price will be paid, and there will always be more than enough people to do it. We are willing to walk away from pretty much all other types of purchases if the price becomes extortionate, but not our entertainment, especially if there is a brand loyalty involved.

Lindsay Beyerstein breaks the news that Ticketmaster is a ripoff.

This just in: According to a story highlighted by Matt Drudge, the Pope may be an adherent of the Catholic faith.

Meanwhile, hygiene experts condemn the behavior of bears in the woods.

Back in the proverbial "day", before internet ticket sales were the norm, you could always avoid Ticketmaster fees by buying directly at the venue. That may still be technically true, but now that Ticketmaster allows thousands of people to buy tickets at once, your only chance to get good tickets is to be absolutely first in line at the box office (and hope that the guy at the window is quick) or to buy online.

The "convenience charge" kind of made sense in the day when it was a convenience over the norm, but now that they are the norm it's just insulting.

Of course, it's not just Ticketmaster; the price of tickets to big shows has easily tripled since my early-to-mid-90s big-concert-going heyday. Like many of society's ills, that can be blamed almost entirely on the Eagles.

--Ticketmaster tried to introduce the heinous parctice of auctioning off the best seats --

I don't think that that is a heinous practice.

The general public NEVER got those seats anyway. The tendency was always for them to go directly to scalpers, aided and abetted by corrupt employees in the venue's ticket office who would buy them the second sales began, and sell them to the scalpers.

Even if tickets went to those who stood on line, scalpers still got the best tickets, as they would pay agents to stand on line for them.

If the best tickets are to go to the highest bidder - which again, they always have -- I love the auction system as it takes 100% of the profit away from the scalpers and their friends. I'd like that profit to go to the musicians/acts, but even if hte venue gets a lot of it, better that it go to them than to the scalpers.


Good post, Lindsay. I HATE TicketBastards. I'm not a huge concert-goer, but when I do I make every effort to buy at the box office to avoid them.

Tyro - my point, if you missed it, is " Don't like/Never have."

What? Do you want me to fight 'em with my eyes closed, and my hands tied behind my back? What's your point, other than being ornery?

--What is the barrier to entry for competing ticketing companies? If a venue would get more sales by using a more friendly ticket vendor, what prevents them from doing so?--

Ticketmaster isn't about getting more customers into the venue. I don't think that they even see you and me as the customer, at all.

I think that they see the venue as the customer. And they do their most effective, and nefarious, work by more effectively fleecing those customers that do come in.

If the Rolling Stones comes to your town, they're going to sell out the stadium no matter who does the ticketing.

Ticketmaster I presume tells the arena that they're fools to sell the tickets at the gate, or to go to a vendor that will charge a moderate fee, as Ticketmaster knows how to charge fees that shock the conscience and will get away with it as they are so national and respectable. The arena spends less on labor, and collects a fat charge that is presumably "off the books" as respects the "arena rental charge" that is charged to the performers, so everyone wins.

Except for the audience.

The only "competition" that would work in this environment would be for some other criminal outfit to establish themselves by fleecing the audience even more.

As respects you/me, there is no competition for our business here. This is the opposite of capitalism--it is a kind of oligopoly that winds up as price fixing.

For example, there will hopefully be a new sports arena in Brooklyn. Who do you think will do their ticketing?

A hockey arena recently opened in Newark NJ--who do you think does their ticketing?

Its a very bad situation.

Don't forget -- Phantom is a big "fuck them Ragheads" "Islam is a religion of thugs" type. Just a friendly reminder.

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