When you’re buying $57 “Sound of Music” tickets at $425 “Hamilton” prices, there’s something drastically wrong.
That happened at Artis—Naples in December. Ashley Mirakian, vice president of marketing and patron engagement, recalled the horror story for the Naples venue’s ticket office during the December holidays, when the older Rodgers & Hammerstein musical was onstage.
A couple showed up at the box office with a receipt for two tickets at a cost of $800; tickets actually were selling for as low as $57. (For comparison, current hit musicals such as “Hamilton” are asking $425 for rear mezzanine matinee seats.)
“They looked at the actual price on their tickets and were, understandably, upset,” she said.
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The couple had strayed into the wrong end of the growing field of ticket resellers.
“We have 300,000 people coming onto our campus each year. We’re seeing this once or twice a week now,” Mirakian said.
Entertainment, but at what cost?
And there’s a fear that as the dates approach for the immensely popular “Hamilton” in January 2020, it will get worse. Both Artis—Naples and the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers have scheduled runs of the musical.
Southwest Florida, as a leisure mecca, has great demand for entertainment, and first-time ticket buyers who want to see a show or a sports event here are vulnerable.
Once people have attended an event, they’re much more likely to visit the correct website or call the right phone number for tickets because they have venue awareness, said Scott Saxon, general manger of the Barbara B. Mann in Fort Myers.
“We and Artis—Naples are actually fairly lucky in that regard because we have unique names,” he said.
However, entertainment seekers will rarely see the official websites of the venues they’ll be visiting listed first on Internet search engines. A check of coming attractions’ names showed the official website of the venues where they’re appearing listed anywhere from third to fifth on the list of search results.
The first sites that pop up invariably are ticket resellers with names such as “naples-theater” or “performingartshallfortmyers.”
That’s not illegal, said Saxon. It just may not be your most economical resource for tickets because a third party is taking a cut.
“For us the majority of the time it’s legitimate,” Saxon said. “It’s more about how it’s being represented. Very seldom do we get someone who was completely defrauded.”
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Barbara B. Mann, the senior venue in Southwest Florida in size and age — it opened in 1986 and seats 1,874 — doesn’t have many problems with tickets, Saxon said. But he warned that ticket re-sellers are becoming bolder. One of his complaints this season came from a woman who responded to a re-seller’s advertisement in the Naples Daily News and overpaid for her tickets.
New venue names cause confusion
For Hertz Arena in Estero, which just received its third name change from what opened as TECO Arena 20 years ago, name viability isn’t a given yet. It does have issues, according to Randy Klinck, director of events and operations.
“We get complaints from people on a regular basis who buy tickets from a third-party website. A majority of these complaints happen at our sold-out concerts,” said Klinck, responding by email to questions.
“Almost all of these complaints are from people who bought tickets from someone who fraudulently resold the same ticket multiple times. The first person to have their ticket scanned will be allowed entry, while everyone else is left holding a ticket that has already been used and is no longer valid.”
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New jobs have sprung up among concert venues: scanning for computer bots that put in purchase orders for tickets.
“We now ask for identification for out-of-state sales,” said Mirakian, at Artis—Naples. That gets to be sensitive because Artis—Naples receives a good number of orders from out of state, with Naples’ high concentration of seasonal visitors.
Even ticket resellers are vigilant. Alison Salcedo, head of corporate communications for San Francisco-based Stub Hub, says her organization is constantly weeding out high-volume ticket sellers who may be using their site strictly as a brokerage.
“Anyone can list a ticket for sale. Sometimes it’s an average person like you or me bought a ticket and now we can’t use it. Sometimes it’s a season ticket holder who is selling the games they can’t attend,” she said.
“There are some season ticket holders who just sell their tickets to the high-demand games for a good price and that pays for their entire season ticket.”
Resellers have their own issues
StubHub, which services 47 countries, reins in sales of fraudulent tickets by requiring the seller’s credit card as well as the buyer’s. It offers a guarantee of ticket replacement or refund if tickets are found to be fraudulent, Salcedo emphasized.
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Even Ticketmaster, ticketing agent for many venues around the country, has a reselling segment, but it has run into criticism that its Tradesdesk software favors bulk resellers who charge fees into which a Ticketmaster fee is incorporated, giving Ticketmaster the chance to double-dip.
A class action suit has been filed in California over Ticketmasters’ resale software. A complaint over its software in Canada to its Competition Bureau, an independent law enforcement agency, was dismissed Thursday, although another complaint alleging deceptive practice with fees has not been addressed yet, according to Pollstar, a trade publication covering the live-event industry.
Ticketmaster did not respond directly to questions, but offered a list of general aids to keep ticket buyers from being burned.
Ticket fraud affects the venue as well as the ticket buyer, said Mirakian, at Artis—Naples. She recalled a couple who had bought tickets for a “Nutcracker” performance at highly inflated prices.
“The seats they bought didn’t even exist,” she said. The couple had to repurchase tickets.
“We had to deal with the result. That was really hard to watch. For this to be their first-time experience with us was truly heartbreaking.”
Avoiding ticket scams
Here’s help from three venues and two ticket re-sellers on how to make sure you aren’t left holding worthless paper.
1. If you like entertainment, get yourself on the email list of venues near you; when a star concert is announced, you’ll hear it early, in time to buy tickets from Artis—Naples
2. Look for the words “official site” on the website you’re buying from and make sure you have the exact website venue, according to Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall general manager Scott Saxon. Any ticket seller that does not carry the announcement that it is the official site is a reseller, he said. The acknowledgment that it is not affiliated with the venue is also required to be on the site.
3. If you’re elated about the tickets you scored, don’t show their code to the world in your selfie proclaiming it, warned an email from Ticketmaster. On your paper or mobile ticket there is a one-of-a-kind code; anyone who acquires it can duplicate tickets to use or sell that render yours worthless.
4. Make sure you have an iron-clad money-back guarantee, says Alison Salcedo, head of corporate communications for Stub Hub. If something goes wrong with any reseller, you need protection.