Tuesday, March 08, 2011

It's Time To Overthrow Our Ticketmaster

Tunisia, Egypt, Libya... the masses have finally risen up to overthrow their corrupt and heartless dictators. But there remains one brutal tyrant who continues to oppress millions of people, shattering their hopes and dreams, coddling the rich and powerful at the expense of the working class.

I'm talking, of course, about Ticketmaster.

I've written before about my frustrating experiences with Ticketmaster. If it was up to me, I'd never use the service ever again. But Ticketmaster holds, for all intents and purposes, a monopoly over the online retail of concert and event tickets. If you want to see the Yankees, Ticketmaster is the only place online where you can buy tickets at face value.

Ahem, I mean, try to buy tickets at face value. Because you won't be able to. Because Ticketmaster isn't designed to sell tickets. It's designed to force the majority of people to look elsewhere for tickets-- resellers TicketsNow (owned by Ticketmaster) and StubHub.

If that wasn't the case, why make it so difficult to see what tickets are available? Stubhub uses an easy system in which every ticket that's available is listed-- one can click on the section you want and presto-- a list of the tickets for sale in that section are presented.

Ticketmaster, however, uses a blind system. There's no way of telling how many tickets are left, or in what sections. You can be "waiting in line" for a few minutes, only to be told in the end that there are no seats available. And when that message "No Seats Available" pops up, you're not offered with great alternatives. You're given a choice of splitting your order (looking for one seat in one section, one in another section) or going back and restarting the (long) process over again.

How many times do I have to type in a complicated, non-English CAPTCHA before Ticketmaster accepts I'm a human being?

What benefit does hiding the available tickets provide? Nothing for fans. But for ticket resellers and powerful ticket brokers, the system is a boon. Let's say Ticketmaster wants to make a bigger profit. Will they make it by selling tickets at face value? Or will they make it by holding a bunch of tickets, then dumping them on their reselling site, TicketsNow, where they can charge scalper prices? If the system weren't blind, it would be obvious that Ticketmaster was withholding certain seats for resale or for powerful ticket brokers. The closed system helps Ticketmaster avoid scrutiny.

The ticket buying experience on Ticketmaster isn't anything like buying tickets at a normal ticket booth. If you wait in line at a ticket booth, when you reach the front, you're leaving with a ticket. This is not the case when you wait on the Ticketmaster website. You can spend all day on the site (which I can attest to) and even though nothing is listed as sold out, you still can't get anything.

The only way to easily get tickets is to put "Best Available" as your choice. You'll undoubtedly be offered the best seats in the house-- for tons of money. As such, the system rewards the rich, while those trying to be economical are madly scrambling to find the few available seats scattered in other sections.

I had this experience today, at 10:01 AM. Yankees tickets went on sale at 10:00. But everything except the worst of games (Toronto, 1:00, weekday) were already gone (though you wouldn't know it unless you tried, repeatedly).

Then I looked at the tickets available on StubHub and TicketsNow. Every section was available... for marked-up prices. Funny... I actually wanted to go to a game, not resell my tickets for profit. But I couldn't do it on Ticketmaster. I wonder how all these resellers got theirs? Did they snap up tickets seconds before me? Or did somebody give them a little help? I wonder???

As long as Ticketmaster keeps us blind, we'll never know.

1 comment:

Hot Mama said...

I think you should get an investigation going. You should be able to find some state senator or prosecutor who wants to make a name for himself. It can all start with a petition. If enough people share your experience, they might want to start a class action lawsuit.

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