You’ve decided on your price level and found your seats, and when you go to check out — surprise! —fees increase the cost of a ticket by 10 percent. My fellow concertgoers, there is only one way to end this: Stop buying tickets online and over the phone.
Anyone who has purchased a concert ticket online in recent years has probably had a moment of sticker shock.
You’ve decided on your price level and found your seats, and when you go to check out — surprise! —fees increase the cost of a ticket by 10 percent.
My fellow concertgoers, there is only one way to end this: Stop buying tickets online and over the phone. If you have a car and are buying from a venue in town, it will almost always be worth your while to visit the box office in person.
The problem goes by different names: convenience fees, online fees, processing fees, etc. In almost every case, they’re more expensive than a gallon of gasoline. It’s true at every major concert venue.
Bob Vaughn, the director of Sangamon Auditorium in Springfield, Ill., said he was able to negotiate the convenience fees down when Tickets.com’s contract was recently up for renewal.
“I think it’s the convenience to the purchaser,” Vaughn said. “Making a phone call is one heck of a lot easier than getting in your car and driving out here to do that.”
I suppose that depends on the value of one’s time and a few miles’ worth of gas as compared with the value of the ticket.
Ticket fees have been a source of irritation for years, and they just keep growing. So I was intrigued when I saw a state notice seeking bids for a ticketing system at the Illinois State Fair, which has used Ticketmaster for as long as I’ve been buying tickets.
Ticketmaster is the 8,000-pound gorilla of the industry. I was curious to see if anyone could — or would even try — to unseat the company. And would the state consider the fees imposed on ticket buyers?
I went looking for answers last Friday afternoon in a windowless conference room on the fairgrounds. It was the legally designated time and place when the bids were to be unsealed.
Four state officials, the spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Jeff Squibb, and I around sat around a conference table that easily could have accommodated 20 more.
The state’s bid-opening process is remarkably low-tech: Ag official Laurie Leuenberger opened the bids and read the responses to a series of questions. Seated next to her, state fair box office manager Carol Faires transcribed the responses onto a document by hand.
There were three submissions: one came in a small, soft-sided envelope, another was in a slightly larger box and the third was in a cardboard box big enough to hold a small television set.
Working from smallest to largest, WizTix was up first. At least I think that’s the name of the company.
“I’d like to note that they use two different names in here,” Leuenberger said. “That’s why I’m getting confused, because they say WizTix and WixTix. So I’ll just read what they say.”
WizTix — or WixTix — dutifully answered every question, cataloguing the cost of equipment to the state –– $6,000 for box office terminals plus $600 per ticket printer, $1,500 for set-up, $800 to train staff. It was all so earnest, but the likely futility of the smaller player became apparent when the bids of the bigger companies — eTix and Ticketmaster — answered the same list of costs with zero, zero, zero, zero.
The big companies would only charge the state for tickets printed –– .06 cents each for eTix and .02 cents each for Ticketmaster –– and credit card fees.
As a taxpayer, that sounds like a pretty good deal for Illinois. But someone is making ticket sales a profitable business: You. And me. Buying over the phone and online.
There was only one mention of convenience fees on each proposal: WizTix/WixTix would charge $5 per order plus a $1.50 per ticket online fee. ETix would charge 10 percent of the ticket price capped at $3.75. Ticketmaster referred the state to “Appendix B.”
“They’ve added their own contract,” Neuenberger said. She looked long and hard. “This is going to take awhile.”
I got lost in the figures and percentages of what came next. But I’d wager it was not good for Joe Ticket-buyer.
If we keep paying into the system, things are not likely to change. Every time you pay a so-called convenience fee, you’re voting in favor of the status quo.
All we can do is buy in person.
Brian Mackey can be reached at 217-747-9587.