Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are Add-on Ticket Fees the Dark Side of the Force of "Star Wars in Concert" -- Or the myth of frictionless eCommerce

One of the aspects of e-commerce that we all accept on faith is that it is "frictionless," that the Internet removes or reduces barriers to doing business that otherwise increase what consumers pay.

The result: low prices from online retailers.

But that's not always the case.

Take, for example, purchasing event tickets online. There are often additional charges, not fewer, when buying event tickets.

My kids love Star Wars, so I looked into tickets for the Stars Wars in Concert tour.

Turns out the tickets show the Dark Side of the Star Wars in Concert -- at least in Boston.

Prices for the tickets are $72.50.

But wait. There's more.

You also have to pay a "Facility Charge," though there's no explanation for that. The Facility Charge is $2.50 per ticket.

You also have to pay a pretty stiff "Convenience Charge."There's no explanation for the "Convenience Charge," especially since I believe you can't buy these tickets at the TD Garden, where the tour plays in Boston. But that convenience will cost you $11.65 per ticket.

So far, you're paying $86.65 for your $72.50 tickets. Talking about arbitrage. I'd love to invest in the ability to buy tickets for $72.50 and make $14.15 with no real effort.

But what, there's one thing I left out.

There's also a charge to print up the tickets on your own computer -- $2.50 per order. That's not a lot of money, but they're charging you for your ink and paper -- when they have no cost involved in letting you print the tickets yourself. You're actually saving them money. (That's why the airlines prefer you print your tickets yourself.) If you don't want to print them up yourself, you can order them by standard mail, which is free -- even though they have to print it up, put it in the envelope (which they also have to purchase) and mail it with a stamp.

Seems to me that should be reversed: they should charge you for sending tickets by regular mail, and let you print them up for free.

Perhaps that's a problem in Boston.

In Providence, Star Wars in Concert costs $73.00 (or $0.50 more than in Boston) while the Facility Charge is $2.00 (or $0.50 less than in Boston. While the Convenience Charge is $9.85 (or $1.80 less than Boston). Meanwhile, in Bridgeport, CT, concert tickets cost $85.25, with no additional charges.

I guess it works out in the end since the price is about the same in those three markets. Yet I hate to pay a Convenience Charge when there's really no convenience or when it helps the vendor as much as it help the consumer.

And I don't like to pay to download tickets when, again, this is something that saves them money and work.

In the end, though my children are big Star Wars fans, I decided not to purchase the tickets as a bit of a protest. Don't charge me for convenience that actually helps you make more money.


Anonymous said...

My strategy for arena show tickets --

Get a friend to bring his friends and I bring mine -- we go to the group sales person -- we buy the tickets and get a group discount so tickets are less than face value -- then I go to the box office and pick them up.

Result more tickets for less -- this is always the way to go -- if necessary find people on craig's list or at the office to join your group buy. Never order tickets over the internet -- always buy from the box office.

Norman Birnbach said...

That clearly makes sense when you can get enough people together. But it also proves my point: that the Internet or e-commerce is not more efficient when it comes to ticket purchases. It should be easier, more efficient and cheaper, but isn't. C'mon charging $2.50 to print up tickets which saves the ticket vendor money on printing and postage -- yet charging nothing to mail the tickets? Makes no sense!

Unknown said...

Hi Norman,
The secondary ticket sellers have clearly developed an interesting model, where they charge whatever they want, hiding additional profit in their "service fees". There was an interesting Forrester study done which examined this in detail. To help consumers address this, we recently launched, which at least will force resellers to be competitive if they want to sell tickets. Http:// shows you all the available tickets to a show on one page, evening out the market, and help you find the best deal without searching the internet on your own. I hope this helps.