I Hate Ticketmaster

I realized today that TicketMaster will never bother fixing its rampant problems with human users getting locked out in favor of bots that scrape tickets for scalpers, and this is why:

Denied regular tickets? Get them from one of our authorized scalpers instead!
Denied regular tickets? Get them from one of our authorized scalpers instead! (Click to enlarge.)

Yes, right there next to the news that there are no tickets left is a link to TicketsNow — clearly labeled as “A TicketMaster Company” with tickets for 2-3 times their face value.  I started seeing this message at 10:03 a.m. today — a mere 180 seconds after the Bruce Springsteen show here in DC went on sale.  Scalpers had purchased and re-posted tickets that quickly.  Guess they’ve figured out how to read those “CAPTCHA” image files that are supposed to block non-human purchasers. Or maybe they’re just not that hard to decode, now that Ticketmaster has an official online stake in scalping. Outrageous.

I am, incidentally, particularly irritated because my officemate (who was helping out because my computer was refusing to boot up) had actually gotten me four club-level seats, but TM booted us out when we went to pay for them. This happened to two other people I know of as well. So, not only is TM not protecting customers from automated scalper bots, but they also weren’t living up to their stated rule of allowing a two minute window to log in and purchase. We were booted in about 15 seconds.


On the bright side, Brian did get tickets for Charlottesville, so at least we’ll get to see the ESB once this year.

12 thoughts on “I Hate Ticketmaster

  1. Chris February 2, 2009 / 6:48 pm

    Bruce is playing Houston again in April.

    One of the local sports call-in shows thought Bruce should have played “Born in the USA.” They obviously have no idea what that song is about and that it is no longer appropriate to play since America is now reborn and hopeful.

  2. Joanne February 2, 2009 / 8:34 pm

    People really need to start complaining to the consumer protection people en masse. And possibly Congress. We have no other recourse.

  3. Rudi February 2, 2009 / 9:46 pm

    @Joanne: the issue with this is that there was already an antitrust suit in the mid-1990s that made it up to SCOTUS, who agreed with the District Court’s ruling that Ticketmaster isn’t at fault because, according to the DOJ, they don’t sell directly to consumers.

    The meat of the DOJ’s opinion is here:

    It is the Plaintiffs[‘] own allegations in the Complaint which show that they are not best suited to bring this claim against Ticketmaster. If a violation has occurred, the appropriate party is a venue or class of venues and promoters who are the ones who “consume” Ticketmaster’s product; they are the ones who would suffer any direct loss if there is [s]upracompetitive pricing in the fee contracts due to Ticketmaster’s alleged monopoly power.

    So basically: pity the poor venues, sod all to the consumer.

    Read this article for an analysis of this lame-brained decision. The key passages include the following:

    On first glance, it seems strained to say that a consumer who buys a concert ticket from Ticketmaster is only an indirect purchaser of the ticket. After all, the transaction is between the consumer and Ticketmaster and Ticketmaster directly charges the consumer a separately stated service and convenience fee that can be as high as twenty dollars per ticket.

    No, says the Government in its brief opposing Supreme Court review, Ticketmaster sells its ticket distribution services directly to venues (e.g., an arena), and only indirectly to ticket buyers. In other words, Ticketmaster is only an agent, and its service and convenience fees are set by contract with the principal, with a percentage of these fees going to the principal.

    And the scary part? This was done during the Clinton-era DOJ and SCOTUS. And while I think the Obama version of the DOJ might be more sympathetic (especially given Ticketmaster’s recent acquisition of TicketsNow and other primary and secondary sellers), the post-Bush SCOTUS would likely be even more likely to side with Ticketmaster.

    It’s truly scary that monopolistic rackets like Ticketmaster and Tickets.com are in cahoots with the venues, marking up prices, skimming prime tickets for their own legalized scalping companies, and otherwise screwing over the fans. Then again, the artists could choose to work outside of the system, play smaller venues and clubs, and keep the fan front-and-center. Sometimes, though, I think that excessive fame blinds the artists to the plight of the fans – a very sad thing, indeed.

  4. Joanne February 2, 2009 / 10:10 pm

    Rudy, that is so depressing to read. What a twisted piece of legal logic. I just may never buy a concert ticket again.

  5. common loon February 3, 2009 / 4:07 pm

    This is why we can’t afford more than 1 hockey game / year. Rudi, thanks for all the info! The prevalence of greed around our country is very, very depressing.

  6. Tiffany Hsu February 4, 2009 / 1:20 pm

    Hey Sarah,

    Just read this post, and was hoping to chat with you about a story I’m working on today about a possible merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation. I heard about the Bruce debacle, and wanted to talk to some ticket buyers about their feelings re: Ticketmaster and concert-going in general. If you’re willing to chat, please shoot me an email or call me at [xxx-xxx-xxxx].


    • John Lomax May 14, 2009 / 11:53 am

      Hello, I’m a reporter with the Houston Press. I want to talk to people who were screwed over in the Springsteen ticketing fiasco — I am working on a story about TM’s pending merger with Live Nation. Please email me back with a callback number.

Comments are closed.