Ticketmaster fail.

I turned on the computer this morning to order Radiohead tickets. Stacey and I were excited to hear about their upcoming U.S. tour, especially since they’ll be playing Atlanta, GA, which is driving distance for us.

I opened the Ticketmaster.com website and quickly found the Radiohead tour page. And I immediately noticed a problem. The page informed me that Atlanta tickets were going on sale at 10 a.m. It did not mention a time zone. I guess I was supposed to assume Eastern Time Zone, since Atlanta is on EST.

As I had a few minutes to kill, I started reading some of the fine print and came across this message: “SELECT LOCATIONS are electronic Ticketmaster Paperless Tickets ONLY.” I read some more and found that Ticketmaster Paperless Tickets can’t be re-sold or given away. If you buy two paperless tickets, you must arrive at the show with proper ID and the credit card you used to buy the tickets. But there is no physical ticket–you’ve just paid for admission and a “plus one.” So whoever that person is must enter the venue at the same time as you.

This paperless thing would obviously cut down on scalping. But, wait a minute, what’s this “SELECT LOCATIONS” thing? Is the Atlanta show paperless? If I didn’t get tickets today, would I be able to buy them from a scalper later? The fact that this isn’t specified is a big problem.

I read a little further and found another problem. The ticket price is $69. That might sound like a lot, but, for a large arena concert by a popular band like Radiohead, $69 is quite reasonable. But the total ticket price is $80.65, because Ticketmaster adds $11.65 in “fees.” What exactly are these “fees?” Does they include sales tax or something? I don’t know, as I couldn’t find any additional info. Anyways…

I clicked through to the next page and noticed yet another problem. I was seeing a message that no tickets were available. Understandable, since it was a bit before 9 a.m. (10 a.m. EST). But, as it was almost 9, a more useful message would seem appropriate. Something like “You may purchase tickets for this event in 12 minutes, 53 seconds (click to refresh).”

As it was, I could only assume that Ticketmaster’s server clock was on the same time as my iPhone. So I waited till my iPhone showed 9 a.m. and hit the refresh button on my web browser and… got the same “no tickets” message. Hm. Maybe the Ticketmaster clock was a little slow. So I hit refresh again. And again. Waited. Another refresh. It was 9:02, and I was still getting the same message.

Then I noticed a detail of the message: “Tickets may not be on sale yet.” And I started getting angry. Were the tickets on sale or not? A company with a name like “Ticketmaster” should be able to, at the very least, tell me whether or not tickets are on sale for a particular event.

I called a friend who was also trying to get tickets. He’d gotten through and bought two tickets. And, he informed me, the tickets for the Atlanta show were not paperless. So I had to call somebody unaffiliated with Ticketmaster to find out two pieces of information–tickets are now on sale, the tickets are not paperless–that should have been front and center on the Ticketmaster website.

But, wait, had the show already sold out? At this point, was that what the vague “no tickets available” message meant?

A few more page refreshes later, and I finally got to a “search for tickets” page. All right! I chose three tickets from the little selector box and clicked the “find tickets” button. Then I had to fill out a CAPTCHA to prove that I was a real human being. Then I received this message: “Sorry, no exact matches were found, but other tickets may still be available.”

Wait a minute… the Ticketmaster.com website made me waste time deciphering a CAPTCHA only to tell me “no tickets?” And, then, the “no tickets” message includes the following vague information:

Try the following:

  • Select “Best Available” or “Any Price”.
  • Change the quantity of tickets requested.
  • Double check your promotional code or password, if you used one.
  • At the time of your search, another customer may have been viewing the tickets you want and then decided not to buy them.

Okay. The site knows I had already done the “best available, any price” option, so why bother suggesting that? The site also knows that I didn’t enter a promotional code, so that’s another pointless suggestion. After a few more tries, I deduced that three tickets together were not available.

So why did I have to choose “three tickets” and fill out a CAPTCHA to (sort of) find that out? If three tickets are not available together, why was that option even offered to me?

After more trial and error, CAPTCHAs, and unhelpful messages, I figured out that only single tickets were available. And not particularly good single tickets. I guess Stacey and I will just buy tickets from a scalper. Good thing they weren’t selling those paperless tickets for the Atlanta show.

I’d like to think that somebody from Ticketmaster will read this and make some changes to improve the Ticketmaster website. But that’s not going to happen, because Ticketmaster is a monopoly. If you want to buy a ticket to the Radiohead show in Atlanta, or any event (as far as I know) at Atlanta’s Philips Arena, you have to go through Ticketmaster. With no competition, they don’t have any incentive to offer customers a good web user experience or to explain (or reduce) their fees.

Next time I want tickets to a big show, I think I will save myself the headache and just go straight to the scalpers.

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3 Comments on “Ticketmaster fail.”

  1. jeremy c says:

    I agree man. What a load of crap.

    A few years ago my wife wanted to go see a Kerri Underwood show that was not only going to be at Redstone Arsenal – 10 minutes from our house – but also on my wife’s birthday. “Easy birthday present,” I thought, and hopped on ticketmaster the day they went in sale, which was about 4 months prior to show.

    I was forced by the site to buy paperless tickets, charged something around $80 for the pair of general admission $34 each tickets (dubious fees again) and given a confirmation number to use when arriving at the event so we could get in. “sweet, we’re set!”

    The day of the event: Left our house way early to make the usually 10 minute trip. 1.5 hours later we arrived, halfway back in the pack. Stood in line for an hour waiting to get in. As we stood there talking with random strangers, I discovered that most had paper tickets. Many had bought them the week before and just barely received them in time. “glad I ordered early.” I told one guy. The show was sold out as well and none were available at gate.

    20 minutes later. We finally were almost to the gate. Suddenly someone working the show walked by yelling, “if you pre-ordered paperless tickets you need to go to this gate to pick up your passes.” Pointing somewhere besides what we were in line for. Odd, but ok. I left my wife holding our place and went to see if that was correct. Turns out it was.

    I was 3rd in line. Gave the guy my name and confirmation number. Waited. “can’t find you.”

    “what?” I gave him info again. Showed him my printout of the confirmation screen. “nope.”

    We were NOT on the list. They would NOT or said COULD NOT give us any passes, because this was the list given them by ticketmaster, and if you weren’t on the list, you didn’t have tickets. And because it’s sold out, can’t get any at gate. We weren’t getting in.

    Furious, I stormed back over to my wife, ranting loudly about the bullshit along the way. I found out shortly that I was not the first or last person that happened to at that show. Rumored in huntsville the next day that over 100 people were in the same boat.

    Drove back home, called ticketmaster. After 30 minutes on hold, I got a refund of the money they had in fact charged my card. Got a single, “sorry” from the csr, and hung up. Still livid. We were missing a great outdoor concert on my wife’s birthday, that I had been planning for 4 months. Then I went outside to have a smoke. Thunder. It was raining. Sweet justice. Kinda.

  2. Drew says:

    As I’m not really much of a live show guy, I’ve only used Ticketmaster once, but it was still a butt ache. And, those “fees” are absurd. Nearly 20% tacked on and with no explanation. Wallet rape. Would be awesome to see Radiohead, though.

  3. Chance says:

    Wow, Jeremy. That is criminal. So sorry to hear about that–makes my story sound not so bad.

    And, Andrew, you should definitely check out Radiohead live if you can. Brilliant musicianship with a heck of a light show–you’d love it.


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