Ticket brokerage Preferred Seating Inc. (preferredseat.com) is celebrating 25 years in business with zero complaints from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
A zero complaint record is quite a feat. But, as noted in the press release announcing the news, this does not mean that Preferred Seating has been mistake-free throughout its history. Instead, it takes pride in a quick and thorough response to consumer complaints.
In fact, customer complaints were the very thing that led the Sacramento-based company to its current policy of no added fees at the time of sale.
Greg Cullen, co–owner of Preferred Seating alongside his wife Yolanda since 1987, recently explained the development of this policy to TicketNews: “About five years ago we tested the method used by many ticket brokers to add a service charge after the customer selects the seats, but we found the complaints were not worth the extra sales we received. After about 2 months we gave it up and both our employees and customers appreciated it.”
This “no hidden fees” policy has at times made business more challenging, as the owners have found it difficult to compete with other seller’s websites claiming lower prices and then adding fees at the time of sale. However, Cullen believes in the ethics of his company’s model, as well as its potential to cultivate a loyal customer base.
“When a customer has a complaint,” Cullen told TicketNews, “we take the time to listen to their side and help them understand the situation better. They may have missed something and assumed the tickets were being sold at face value, or if we made a mistake we make sure they are more than happy with the correction we offer.”
Cullen identifies his company’s perspective on responding to complaints as largely responsible for its zero–complaint record: “We have found you can’t satisfy everyone, but by not giving them the standard answer about company policy and taking the time to answer their questions, that has worked for us to avoid complaints with the BBB.”
Customer complaints can occur frequently in the secondary market — a 2009 article in Smart Money Magazine noted a 149 percent increase in BBB complaints regarding ticket brokers in the first half of the decade.
And complaints can occur for any number of reasons. Customers new to ticket resale may mistake a broker’s website for a primary seller or venue box office, ending up confused and frustrated when fees are added at the time of sale.
Sometimes tickets arrive with the wrong date or venue, or do not arrive in time at all. The varying customer service policies, including how easy it is to contact a broker for complaint, can make the ticket buying experience a difficult one.
And, as in every business, there are unscrupulous resellers who take advantage of fan ignorance of the market, leaving them hesitant to buy again from another ticket broker.
For instance, a recent article in Knoxville, Tennessee’s Knoxnews.com noted that counterfeiting of tickets remains simple to achieve, despite industry safeguards.
The National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) holds members to a code of ethics, which includes full disclosure of seat location, no misrepresentation of the seat or the brokerage, and adherence to ethical and honest practice. However, not all brokers are NATB members.
For his part, Greg Cullen is looking forward to a future of continued exceptional customer service from Preferred Seating, and working to further enhance the company’s reputation. Plans are also in the works to grow business by incorporating new technologies, such as paperless and email ticketing, and greater use of social media.
In addition, Cullen is hoping for some industry-wide changes in policy affecting ticket resale in order to create a more level playing field.
“We would like to see a standard adapted by the ticket industry to have all fees other than shipping fees included in the prices posted online.”
“If a customer calls and places and order by phone, they are told the total price of the ticket up front. It should be the same on the website, so fans can compare ticket prices easier and there is less confusion and complaint in the industry.”