Why music lovers hate Ticketmaster, part 4,981

February 10, 2011

UPDATED THURSDAY AFTERNOON

Among American companies in the business of serving the public, Ticketmaster is both uniquely disdainful of its customers and uniquely powerful: Many openly despise it and think they radically overpay for its services, but they have nowhere else to turn—either they buy tickets for many of the shows they want to see from the company, or they don’t go—and no one to complain to when they feel mistreated. (Just try to talk to a human being at Ticketmaster or attempt to find a local address for its offices.)

The giant monopolistic ticket brokers always are trying to remake their image—to the point of subsuming the name “Ticketmaster” under the new moniker “Live Nation Entertainment” following their merger with the giant monopolistic concert promoters, a subterfuge this blog declines to accommodate—but in the wake of revelations that the company’s two top executives are among the donors to mayoral frontrunner Rahm Emanuel, it’s as good a time as any for a refresher course in how infuriating it is to deal with this corporation.

This one comes courtesy of music lover Elizabeth Lindau, a member of the fine local orchestral pop band Canasta, and a major fan of the Flaming Lips, to the point where she and hubby Jeff Dunlap asked the Oklahoma group’s leader to announce their engagement onstage at the Aragon a few years back, and Wayne Coyne complied. When local concert promoters Jam Productions announced that tickets for the Lips performing their classic album “The Soft Bulletin” at the Aragon Ballroom on July 7 would go on sale through Ticketmaster—an arrangement that, incidentally, Jam is trying to end via a lawsuit against the company—Lindau jumped at the chance to buy them online. She spent less than a minute purchasing two tickets with the face price of $35 each. A short time later, she received this email:

From: Notification <Notification@ticketmaster.com>

Date: Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 4:56 PM

Subject: Ticketmaster Alert - Event Update - Flaming Lips

Dear Flaming Lips fan,

We goofed and charged you too much for your tickets for this event, but don’t worry, we’ve already refunded your credit card the difference of $XX per ticket.

Flaming Lips
Aragon Ballroom
Thursday, July 7 at 7:30PM

What do I need to do? You’re all set – just keep your original tickets and enjoy the show! You should see the refund posted to your account within 7 – 10 business days. If you need anything else, we’re always here for you – just hit reply and ask us or visit Ticketmaster.com.

Thanks for being a fan!

Ticketmaster Fan Support

"Gee, thanks for the ‘$XX,’ Ticketmaster!” Lindau wrote when she shared the email with me. She didn’t know how much she’d been overcharged because the refund had not yet appeared on her credit card statement.

How much did you pay in service charges above the face price of the tickets, I asked? Lindau had to go back to her records to check. She got back to me a short time later.

“HAHAHAAH! Well... they HIDE it now,” Lindau wrote. “They just show you the total price so your stomach doesn’t churn when you see how much you are paying.  I just looked on to my account and I was charged $83.56 for ‘Tickets/Items’”—$13.56 more than you’d think two $35 tickets would cost—“and a $3.55 Order Processing Fee.  No break out of the ticket vs. ‘items’ charges.”

Now that she knew how much “extra” she’d paid for “services” that included being overcharged, Lindau wasn’t happy and wrote to customer_support@ticketmaster.com. Here is the company’s response:

Hello Elizabeth,

Thanks for asking about our fees, really! Unfortunately they’re frequently misunderstood, so we welcome the chance to explain what they’re for and how they help us provide a secure and state-of-the-art way to buy tickets.

Face Value - Is this the price of the ticket without fees. On your order the face value of the tickets are $32.25 each.

Convenience charge - We call it a “convenience” charge because it helps cover the enormous cost of all the critical behind-the-scenes effort and technology that go into bringing you the most convenient (and safest!) ticket delivery options out there, including Ticketmaster.com, Charge-by-Phone, and hundreds of in-person retail locations. This is a per ticket charge. Your were billed $6.45 per ticket.

Order processing fee - When you’re done placing an order online or over the phone , our work has just begun! This fee covers the costs of taking orders, arranging shipping, coordinating with will call at the venue if necessary, and more. This is a per order charge. You were billed $3.55 for this order.

Facilities fees -This fee is set by individual venues to help cover costs associated with running the facility. Often times the fee helps pay for general maintenance, upkeep or renovation to a venue. It’s not a Ticketmaster fee, but we are responsible for making sure it gets collected and paid to the venue where the event is taking place. You were charged $2.75 per ticket.

If you need anything else, we’re always here for you - just hit reply and ask us or visit Ticketmaster.com.

Thanks for being a fan!

Sincerely,

Naomi

Ticketmaster Fan Support

“Poor Ticketmaster, so misunderstood!” Lindau wrote me when forwarding that message. Any word yet on the overcharge, I asked? “Nope, never heard anything further on the overcharge. Just ‘$XX.’ It makes me laugh just typing it!”

Finally, five days after Ticketmaster first informed Lindau of its error, she learned the cost of the company’s mistake.

“Just checked my credit card account,” she wrote. “I was credited $1. Ooh, a dollar!!!”

Who says Ticketmaster doesn’t care about its customers?

Oh, and for what it’s worth, this reporter still is waiting for Rahm Emanuel’s campaign to respond to questions about the contributions he took from the top two executives at Ticketmaster/Live Nation (three days and counting).

UPDATE: Lindau emailed me again a short time ago with a coda to this sad song:

love the article :)

Btw - I still can't get the numbers to add up.  I was originally charged $88.11, minus the dollar, gets me to $87.11.  2*($32.25 + $2.75 + 6.45) + 3.55 = $86.45.  Still seems like I was overcharged 66 cents.

Oh and - I just got the tickets in the mail today - they say $35 per ticket, including a $2 fac fee.  Versus what I was told by Ticketmaster -  $32.25 ticket / $2.75 for facility fee.

Off to Columbus / Cincinnati to rock Ohio - Elizabeth