The meltdown of ticket bidding platform ScoreBig, and the subsequent reality check for fans, is no doubt gladdening quite a few hearts. Elton John, Adele, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Church, Mumford & Sons, and many other music stars have all spoken out about ticket resellers and the secondary ticket market—which they feel gouge their fans.
Last December, Elton John called the practice of ticket re-selling “disgraceful” and begged his fans not to pay the prices being asked by unauthorized ticket reseller sites.
“I’d rather have empty seats,” Sir Elton told the BBC. “The fact they’re willing to pay that is fantastic. But I’d rather they’d save their money and not come.”
ScoreBig’s Priceline-like bidding system and partnerships with authorized sellers trying to quietly fill up empty seats meant that consumers could actually have spent less.
But the would-be concert-goers who contacted PeopleClaim recently were facing the same worries that any ticket-buyer faces after buying on the unauthorized secondary market: would their tickets be honored? Should they spend time and money travelling to the venue? What recourse did they have if the tickets were never delivered or cancelled, many months after purchase?
PeopleClaim.com gets quite a few complaints about ticket resellers and “online scalpers.” Here’s what you need to know.
Is ticket reselling/scalping illegal? Is it illegal to sell concert tickets for more than face value?
Here in the US there’s currently no federal law against secondary ticket markets or “scalping,” but some states and municipalities ban it outright and others regulate it—for instance, the re-seller may need to be licensed and maintain a toll-free number for complaints. Or s/he may not be allowed to sell any ticket within a certain distance from the venue. Other states with outdated or non-existent laws presumably see ticket reselling as ordinary commerce: buying something at one price and selling it to a willing buyer at a higher price.
But scrutiny of ticket-brokering is ramping up in some states. New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, for instance, has been cracking down on illegal practices such as using bot buyers, and is looking hard at ways to protect ordinary fans who can’t get a fair chance at buying tickets at face value.
We could debate the ethics of the practice until the cows come home—there are good arguments on both sides—but we’d rather help you make an informed choice in the real world.
Problem: The concert was cancelled, or my tickets were cancelled. I want a refund!
If you want to know about the risks, ask the ScoreBig customers who turned up for a Beyoncé concert in New Orleans only to find out that angry unpaid ticket brokers had cancelled their tickets.
Will the resellers—who presumably then sold the tickets through a different market—give refunds? Tricky question. Since ScoreBig’s platform hides the identity of the seller, buyers won’t know until the dust settles. And their financial institution might not be able to help under some circumstances.
If a concert is cancelled or rescheduled, most venues and authorized sellers will only give refunds or replacement tickets to the ticket holder of record. If you buy via an unauthorized secondary market, the risk is all yours.
Say you bought vastly expensive seats for a concert that was rescheduled due to the singer’s illness. You’ll be at a conference in Australia on the new date. You don’t get to choose whether you get a refund or a new ticket; the ‘ticket holder of record’ does. And guess which they’re going to choose?
Solution: If you’re risk-averse, just don’t ever buy from an unauthorized seller.
Problem: “I thought I was on the box-office website and I paid way too much.”
OK, this one’s easy. You searched (on Google, Chrome, Foxfire, whatever) for “Swan Lake at XYZ arena,” and then you clicked blindly on the first search result without checking a thing. Um … what were you thinking? You don’t walk into Burger King, order and consume a burger, and then ask for your money back because you thought it was McDonalds.
Solution: Read the ‘sign’—AKA the website URL and name on the site. Search the name of the venue and make sure that you’re on the venue’s site. Then link from there to the official ticket sales site…which might be the venue’s own box office or a well-known site like TicketMaster.
Problem: The ticket resale site advertised that it was selling event tickets for a lower price. It wasn’t.
Solution: Check the verified box office for ticket face values first. One of Elton John’s complaints was that tickets weren’t even sold out on the official sites, but gullible people were buying from third party resellers at hugely inflated prices. Never assume that tickets to see a well-known performer will be sold out. Once you know the face value, quickly check the re-seller sites. Sometimes you CAN get a lower price.
Problem: Your ticket turns out to be counterfeit and you can’t get into the venue.
Solution: Buy only from reputable sellers and resellers with verified mailing addresses (see here for some tips on detecting scams). If you buy from a scalper outside the venue or from a CraigsList ad – well, good luck, buddy.
Problem: You can’t attend the concert (or maybe you found cheaper tickets) and now you want to return the tickets for the price you paid.
Solution: Read the Terms and Conditions (also called Terms of Service, or just Terms) and know exactly what your rights and responsibilities are, BEFORE you click ‘buy.’ In most cases, even legitimate sellers won’t take returns. So now YOU need to use one of the reselling platforms. The blurred lines between professional ticket brokers and genuine fans are one of the reasons ticket reselling sites may never become illegal.
Problem: Wait—I paid HOW MUCH?
Solution: There will be a service charge, and maybe delivery/shipping fees, and some of those fees are astronomical. (Some ‘no service charge’ sites will simply mark up the cost of the tickets to cover those costs, so you should also be alert for that.) In the excitement of scoring that Super Bowl ticket, you may not notice until after you’ve hit that big green BUY NOW button. Know what you’re going to have to pay before you’ve paid it.
Even if you do everything right, sometimes you’ll have a legitimate complaint. Fraud, false advertising, lack of transparency and unethical practices can trip up even the most well-informed consumer. That’s when you file a complaint.
PeopleClaim.com is here to help with all your common consumer complaints, including complaints about ticket re-sellers and scalpers.