The recent arrest of Georgia ticket broker Jeff Cook – operator of All Sports Tickets – following his failure to fulfill a number of orders taken for the red-hot Georgia-Notre Dame game at the beginning of September has one very important takeaway: Know who you are buying from.
Yes, naturally, follow the advice of every consumer-facing blog and media talking head out there – buy from the primary market if you have the chance to. You’ll more often than not get a better price (though you never know), and purchase often comes with a guarantee that your seats will be valid (though occasionally some fraud sneaks in through the cracks).
But, lets face it – we live in a world where the live experience is highly sought after – and demand for top events far exceeds supply. That is the entire reason for the secondary market existing, and no matter what happens, as long as somebody has a ticket and somebody else wants it, it will always be around in some form or another. The best advice we can offer is simple: Deal with people that have an established track record of professionalism and customer satisfaction, whether they be in the primary or secondary marketplace.
We have never met or dealt with Mr. Cook, but by all appearances, his story is not one of willfully-done fraud, but one of a supply-chain breakdown. He bit off more than he could chew, promised more orders than he had in stock at the time of order, and then had potential tickets he would have purchased from Notre Dame-area fans sold out from under him, as tends to happen in a hot market. We don’t condone his behavior, and we absolutely don’t diminish his culpability in this matter. We also recognize (and can sympathize with) the inconvenience and anguish felt by his would-be buyers, particularly those who sunk hundreds or even thousands of dollars into travel, only to see their tickets fall through.
But, predictably, certain voices in the media – Dave Brooks of Amplify Media being primary among them and a well-established critic of all things secondary – have used this as an opportunity to once again paint with the proverbial broad brush. Brooks singled out the National Association of Ticket Brokers in his coverage of the arrest, deriding the organization for its failure to police its membership, taking a dig at their annual convention in Las Vegas for good measure.
That attitude plays well with folks who are used to the steady diet of distrust and anger at the role the secondary market plays in the event world. But in this instance it’s more than a little misdirected.
Jeff Cook, as it happens, isn’t a member of the NATB. He wasn’t before this headline-grabbing PR nightmare for his business either.
“When fans buy tickets, they should always have the confidence that their purchase will be fulfilled and guaranteed,” says NATB General Council Gary Adler. “This is why we, the Better Business Bureau, and many state departments of consumer affairs recommend consumers who are shopping for tickets on the secondary market do their research and buy through a NATB member resale company, where tickets come with 200% purchase protection.”
Purportedly, a local NATB member in Georgia who saw of the pending disaster for Cook’s customers (it had been receiving coverage in the local media for fan complaints they didn’t have tickets in hand by the date promised even before the game) went so far as to reach out to individuals waiting on tickets from Cook to offer to fulfill their orders from his own in-hand stock for the game – backed by the guarantee.
“Many of [the NATB’s member businesses] got into this industry out of their love for live events,” Adler says. “They are fans just as much as their customers are. There is nothing worse for any fan than buying tickets and being scammed. Mr. Cook should be held liable for his wrongdoings.”
From the NATB membership to established marketplaces like TicketNetwork, Ticket Club, StubHub and Vivid Seats, there are a number of organizations that back up their tickets with money back offers should they not get to the purchaser in time or get you into the contest or show. Mr. Cook, whatever his intentions, was not among them. That doesn’t mean the entirety of the multi-billion dollar secondary industry can’t be trusted – far from it. Consumers just need to know how to find organizations and brokers that have earned that trust through years of operation in the space.