(Updated 22 Dec 11 — see footnote*)
Consumer Alert — for whatever good it will do, which may not be much.
About three weeks ago I decided to order tickets for a Christmas concert by Chanticleer — a 12-member, all male, a capella, choral group — at Walt Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles. I
went* to the LA Philharmonic at Walt Disney Hall website, found the concert date, reviewed available ticket prices, and selected two $75 tickets, in a section on one side of the stage (the hall has seating on all sides, including behind the stage). I clicked purchase, was advised that the total with taxes etc. would be $191, and clicked accept.
A few days later I got an email from Song Ticketing [firstname.lastname@example.org] advising me that their databases had not been updated, and the section where I’d ordered tickets was sold out. They could provide alternate seating for the same price in another section. OK… I replied that I would accept the alternative.
I received, by Federal Express, two paper tickets. (You’d think they could have sent electronic documents that I could have printed out, but no, I had to sign a FedEx note to have the two pieces of paper delivered to a neighbor, since I’m not at home during the workday.)
It turned out the tickets they supplied were two $30 tickets in a section behind the stage.
I confirmed, when we attended the concert on the 15th, that the tickets were worth $30 each.
We were behind the stage — in only the 3rd row back, but looking at the backs the performers, for most of the concert. (It was nice that a few of the singers thought to turn around and look behind them, to acknowledge the applause from back there.)
After which, I replied to ‘Song Ticketing’ that I thought some refund was due.
They replied that they are a broker, of some sort, and have the right to sell any ticket at any price, above or below the nominal price, depending on consumer demand, and this is explained in the fine print on their website.
Now, I had ordered the tickets from the LA Philharmonic website, which does indicate an affiliation with Ticketmaster. And in fact, the paper tickets I received by FedEx said ‘Ticketmaster’ at the top. But no connection with ‘Song Ticketing’ was suggested. I never had reason to go to the Song Ticketing website, much less examine their fine print.
I did quick Google search and discovered Song Ticketing @ Pissed Consumer, which has many stories similar to mine.
Point of fact, the hall was not full. If it was sold out, there must have been 20% no-shows, in the orchestra section in front of the stage, and on the sides, where I’d tried to order tickets. Song Ticketing’s response might have been plausible had those sections actually been full.
So it strikes me as unethical, if not fraud, for Song Ticketing to supply cheap tickets in response to an order for expensive tickets, and claim this is OK because of fine print on some website I never had any reason to visit. I doubt any Song Ticketing employee would be happy if, say, they arranged a car loan for an expensive car and got delivered a cheaper car, with an email pointing out some excuse in the fine print on some website.
I replied to Song Ticketing and told them so, and Happy Holidays for your dicey ethics.
Bottom line: I was charged $191, and got two $30 tickets.
Not sure how I could prevent this in the future. I sent a complaint to the LA Philharmonic website, and they responded that they had no affiliation with Song Ticketing.
I suppose I will never order tickets this way again. I suppose if I did try to order individual tickets like this again, I would be very aware – beware – of any contact with Song Ticketing, and try to divert their interference with a response to the original order.
* Upon investigation, trying to reproduce the Google search I used when I bought tickets in the first place (I’d set the browser to keep only 7 days of history), it seems I did *not* land on the actual LA Phil website. The Google search results showed “disneyhall.boxofficelosangeles.com” at the very top — but it’s a paid ad, which I hadn’t noticed, and I must have used that to order tickets. It’s “powered by SecureBoxOffice.com”, who sent me an email receipt when I did the initial purchase. Oddly, that result appeared at the top of my search results on one PC, but at the bottom on another, though I don’t recall ever editing Google search options in any fashion on either PC.
Anyway, LA Phil is not implicated.
***Further update 22 Dec 11 evening*** — I noticed this evening that the tickets I received — delivered, inconveniently, as two pieces of paper, by FedEx (I had to sign to have them delivered to a neighbor, since I’m at work during the FedEx delivery day) — do in fact say “ticketmaster” across the top. This confirmed my earlier conviction that I’d ordered through LA Phil/Ticketmaster. Reconsidering, it seems that I must have ordered through disneyhall.boxofficelosangeles.com, which was a front for SecureBoxOffice.com, which in turn must have ordered tickets — two $30 tickets — through Ticketmaster, and passed them off to me in exchange for my $191 credit card charge. The tickets even say “purchased by AILEEN CAMPBELL”. Who would she be, I wonder? I will follow up with them tomorrow…