Rant: Arts Ticket Fee Policies Are Pretty Stupid

OK, I don’t often rant, but here we

I went to buy tickets today for a
concert at Carnegie Hall. I went to the Web site, (my preferred method) and navigated
to the event I wanted. The site said, "these are the pricing categories we have
available." And, it
showed all areas with tickets to be purchased, except for one section. I clicked
to buy 2 seats and then the "find me the best available seats" button. The
resulting page said,
"I’m sorry we cannot find you seats in the quantity you requested, please try

So, I then tried each available
section for two tickets, and then again for one ticket. Nothing worked. That
took about 10 minutes, and resulted in nothing but

So, I called the box office. After
only 10 seconds I got a person! So far so good.

I told her what happened. She said that
was strange since indeed there were tickets available. She processed my order
and then, when she
came to the end, she said, "there will be a $6.00 per ticket processing
fee added to your charge."  Considering I had just invested 12 minutes of my OWN processing time, I
figured a penalty of a buck a minute was a lot of dough. I asked if there was
the same ticket processing fee if I had gone to the box office. "No, there’s no
charge if you come to the box office." 

Why, I ask, does this make any
sense at all?  After all, JetBlue (see my March 20 post ) charges a $25 processing fee
if you call their reservation line, and NO FEE if you use their site.

Why in this business do we insist on
creating financial disincentives to using our Web sites, when it COSTS US LESS
money to process a ticket that way than any other other?

One way to ramp up your Web ticket sales would be to charge no fee at all for Web sales, and assess a fee for phone and
walk-up. I think every organization should do this. Radical thinking? Maybe. But, aren’t we the ones that are trying to run
our organizations as efficiently as possible?

And, one more thought about customer
service. Seems to me if a customer calls and complains that your site isn’t
working – and indeed it’s true, then the box office should be empowered
(read: trained) to do something nice for the customer. How about "Oh, Mr. Carr, I’m
sorry you had trouble on our site today, I’ll look into that immediately. In the
meantime, I’ll waive the ticket-processing fee for you."

I love Carnegie Hall. I’ve produced
tons of concerts there and attended hundreds of times. But, as a result of this little incident, my
Carnegie Hall opinion has gone down just a notch. In a world in which we’re
courting every single arts-loving ticket buyer, can any of us afford to damage
our organizations’ reputations like this?

OK, rant over.

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3 responses to “Rant: Arts Ticket Fee Policies Are Pretty Stupid

  1. Your rant is very funny; I was laughing out loud. I agree with you, $6 per ticket is a lot…and all ticketing fees are usually high. The problem is we (smaller producing companies) have to use ticketing services when we do a show, and they have those ridiculous fees for online and phone sales… I wish we could sell our own tickets, but we can’t. If we could, we would not charge people $6 per ticket, we wouldn’t charge them at all. But I agree with you on everything you said, and enjoyed your sense of humor too.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. You know these presenting orgs are doing something wrong when I’m willing to walk 10+ blocks down to an off-broadway theater’s box office so that I can avoid those ridiculous service charges. And I’m in the “I do everything online” demographic, no less.

  3. I agree, but often the presenters are in a no-win situation. In many cases, the ticket system assesses — and keeps — the fee for internet purchases. So people pay the ridiculous fee, and the presenting organization doesn’t see a penny of it. It’s a big frustration in our world these days.

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