My Scammy Online Ticket Purchase Experience – What to Watch For

by Darwin on January 21, 2010

So my kid likes weird stuff.  He proclaimed that he’s “so over fiction” and he only likes science.  He’s 5.  A bit odd for his age, but I’ll go with it.  So, I decided I’d take him to a Body Worlds exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  As usual, they coerce you into buying tickets online up front since there may be no tickets available when you get there.  The ticket ordering process is administered by Ticketmaster.

My logic: By making an advance ticket purchase through an automated internet connection, the net cost to process the transaction should be less – or maybe even – compared to buying at a ticket window…perhaps a nominal fee to Ticketmaster for facilitating the transaction.  After all, they’re getting guaranteed cash flow upfront for patrons that may not even show up, they’re not staffing as many people to handle the transactions the day of (perhaps they only need 2 ticket window people each day instead of 4 for instance since so many purchases are done online), plus they get the float on the upfront cash (as marginal as it is over such a short time period with near-zero interest rates).

Their Logic: For the “convenience” of making such advance ticket purchase (which they recommend), they will hit you with a multitude of fees, come-ons and gimmicks throughout the ticket ordering process to the point that my total is unrecognizable in the context of what I actually signed up for.

The Breakdown: I’ve copied some of the ridiculous steps and charges involved and everything directly from the site/transaction is in gray below.  My commentary is in red.

Full Price Adult
Ticket Price
US $27.00 x 1
Price Details
Convenience Charge
US $3.95 x 1

Children Ages 4-11
Ticket Price
US $19.80 x 1
Convenience Charge
US $3.50 x 1
US $54.25

*OK, so not only is there a “convenience charge on the overall transaction”, but there’s a “convenience charge” for each damned ticket!  What if I bought 8 tickets?  There would be 30 bucks in “convenience charges”?

US $54.25
Order Processing Fee
US $4.05

*Great! Another charge.  An “Order Processing Fee”.  What the hell is this above and beyond these convenience charges?  They couldn’t recoup/gouge or whatever they’re doing with the fees above?  Now, there’s an additional $4.05?

Will Call
No Charge

*I chose will call meaning I have to show up and pick up my tickets at the window (probably while waiting in a huge line there, somewhat negating the benefit of ordering in advance).  Why?  Well, Will-Call was at the bottom.  Guess what’s at the top?  $17 and up quick-delivery options.  For the “convenience” of being lazy and ordering your tickets 3 days before, they’ll send the tickets 2 day mail or whatever (probably at a cost of $1) for $17 or thereabouts depending on which option you choose.  Talk about profit margins!

US $58.30

*$58.50 doesn’t look much like the $46.80 I saw on the opening page for ticket prices for a Dad and his Kid.

YES, Protect My Ticket Purchase (Recommended)
Get Event Ticket Insurance for an additional $7.00 per ticket

*It doesn’t stop there though! Now, there’s “Ticket insurance”.  WTF?  I’ve never heard of such a thing.  And it’s prominently displayed as “recommended”.  I’ve heard of vacation insurance for exorbitant fees, but now they’re pitching this for $47 in tickets?  For $7?  Basically, you’re insuring 15% of the purchase price in the event you don’t show up due to some sort of emergency (which of course, must fall within the guidelines [fine print below]).  In order for this to make sense on a routine basis, you must miss about 1 out of every 6 events you ever sign up for in life, all other things being equal.  Can you think of a single event you’ve ever missed due to some crazy mishap like the ones cited below – car accident, etc?  Maybe 1 in your life, right?  Are you that bad a driver that you crash 1 in 6 times?  Who actually buys this stuff? Who are these people?  Probably the same ones who buy the extended warranty at Best Buy – but that’s another story.  Anyway, they try and get you on each page.  But that’s not it!

If you can’t attend this event for any number of covered reasons, including illness, airline delays, traffic accidents and more, you’ll be reimbursed for this purchase.

Then I had to “verify” my visa card.  This is another rather annoying process that they claim helps deter identify theft or fraud or whatever, but nothing they ever do seems to actually stem the scammers.  I don’t do this for other purchases either.  I don’t know why I have to do this when I buy a ticket, yet I can buy something from an online retailer without this nonsense.  Anyway, there is more…

“Special Offer” to claim $20 off your next purchase

Once you’ve finalized your payment, there’s another wonderful opportunity.  I didn’t sign up for this “special offer” as I already felt special enough from this experience, but I’d wager that it’s not a “win-win” for the lowly costumer.  You probably end up on some sort of scammy mailing list or worse.

So, now that I have that off my chest,

Am I Off-Base Here?

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1 Mrs. Micah January 21, 2010 at 8:59 am

Quite on-base, I’m afraid. Ticket Master is pretty thoroughly disliked in the concert-going community as well as by a number of artists. They’re also fairly monopolistic (and I believe they’re supposed to be combining with another ticket service) so arenas and such don’t have as many options for online ticket sales. I suggest you send a copy of this post to the venue, at least they can note it.

2 20smoney January 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

Yeah, those fees really drive me nuts. Often times it makes tickets I want unaffordable. Good tips and information!

3 Mark Wolfinger January 21, 2010 at 10:18 am

“You probably end up on some sort of scammy mailing list or worse.

You end up getting some e-mail – for which you pay a monthly fee – quietly included in your credit card bill.

4 Mike Piper January 21, 2010 at 10:56 am

One of my favorite Onion headlines of all time was something to the effect of:
“Live Nation to Buy Ticketmaster for $400 Million in Stock and $200 Million in Convenience Charges.”

5 Paul Kamp January 21, 2010 at 11:12 am

Yes, you’re definitely on base. Did you find it more ‘convenient’ when you bought the $27.00 adult’s ticket with the $3.95 convenience charge or the $19.80 children’s ticket with the $3.50 charge?


6 Dirac January 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

It does seem funny that when you are doing everything, no human interaction, it costs more. What if find very odd with TicketMonster is that if you choose to print at home, FEE, but if you have them mail the tix, no fee???

Honestly, I almost prefer buying tickets from the secondary market now because at least the fees as represented by demand-created over-pricing, are honest. They usually hit the seller for their income.

7 Jim January 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm

The fees when buying tickets are silly. When I buy 2x $22 basketball tickets I pay a $4.50 fee, a $1.5 delivery fee and a $5 order charge. The fees are 25% of the purchase. And worse yet the delivery fee is for printing the tickets at home. I actually have to pay them to print tickets at home! How does that make any sense? THis is not from Ticketmaster by the way.

8 Melissa January 21, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Nah, you’re on base. My fiance and I mused over the same charges when we bought tickets to the same exhibit you’re going to a little over a month ago. It’s a neat exhibit, though. Well worth the money (maybe not the charges).

9 Pedro January 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Based upon personal experience a number of years ago (1980s) my wife and I refuse to do business with Ticketmaster.

If we can’t find tickets from an alternative source for a desirable event, we just don’t go.

10 Steve September 16, 2010 at 10:49 am

I know I’m late to the party here, but I hate having to use Ticketmaster. Last year I went to my first big concert and paid $105.50 for two tickets with face values of $37.50 each. Each ticket had a $9.95 convenience charge and a few other things attached… and this was 3 months in advance when I was able to opt to have the tickets mailed for “only” $4.95.

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