In June of 2016, ticket sale madness ensued when popular Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip announced what would possibly be their last ever tour alongside the grim news that lead singer Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Due to these dire circumstances, fans were left particularly disheartened when the tour sold out in minutes; the backlash even incited an investigation into ticket sale reform in Ontario. One such complaint to the New York State Attorney General Office, uncovered by Ticket News, outlines the frustrations that many fans felt.
Last June, an anonymous complainant from Charleston, West Virginia reached out to NYSAG to express their concerns over an unsuccessful customer service experience with Ticketmaster. The customer had visited the website with intent to purchase tickets to The Tragically Hip: Man Machine Poem Tour and was “astonished” at the prices of the very few tickets left available. However, desperate to catch the musical group on what would likely be their last run, the customer purchased the pricey seats right away for shows in Toronto and Kingston.
The customer says they reached out to Ticketmaster with questions about the purchase, only to be informed that their tickets were “platinum” level and had they wanted lesser priced seats, they could have gone to StubHub. Upon hearing this, the customer asked for a refund, which Ticketmaster denied because of the ticket’s platinum status. The customer then contacted StubHub to inquire about their resale policy, who told them that the “non-refundable, non-transferable, non-saleable” tickets could in fact be resold as long as the customer could receive a PDF version from the primary seller.
“I did not want to sell these seats, I wanted a refund for these seats”, the customer reiterated. “I am not looking to get rich off of a band that is ending it’s career due to the lead singer being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer”. Still, Ticketmaster was unforgiving about the platinum versus standard seat mix-up, and refused to issue the refund.
The customer also blamed “bot” software as the reason behind the quick sell-out and the “artificially inflated” prices- a common scapegoat in these situations in the ticketing world. So common in this case, in fact, that one year later, Canadian politicians got involved. Ontario AG Yasir Naqvi and Premier Kathleen Wynne proposed a number of new rules on ticket resale regulation, including a markup cap of 50% above face value cap, a “ban on scalper bots”, and greater transparency from both the primary and secondary ticket sellers.
A Toronto-based financial analyst was quick to point out the ineffectiveness of such attempts in the past. The Ticket Speculation Act in 1990 resulted in “[driving] a large percentage of secondary transactions to illegal markets where sellers could obtain market prices” and “[causing] an increase in the number of counterfeit tickets being sold to unwary fans”. It is the opinion of this finance expert that Canadian politicians “retreat from this tried-and-untrue legislation, and let market forces prevail”.
After all, when even a Ticketmaster customer representative allegedly directs a fan to resale sites, they’ve got to be doing something right.
Below is the full complaint filed to the New York State Attorney General in June 2016.
I purchased tickets to two shows for the band, The Tragically Hip: Man Machine Poem Tour, in Toronto, ON, and Kingston, ON, Canada.
I believe the price of the tickets was artificially overpriced due to artificial demand created by “bot” software that purchases tickets to events in large volumes in a very short time frame.
When I called Ticketmaster to ask for a refund I was told that they would not issue me a refund as these were “platinum” seats. I explained that we did not fully understand the nature of these seats, and were astonished to find the price of these tickets to be so high. We purchased these tickets because we assumed the show was sold out and this way the only way. However, after speaking to Ticketmaster, I now know that there are other seats available, in fact, similar seats to the ones that I purchased can be found on resale sites, such as StubHub, even though Ticketmaster explained these are credit entry only tickets. Basically, the only way to enter the event is to present your unique credit card used to purchase the tickets along with your photo ID. Which confuses me, as I was told these seats were non-refundable, non-transferable, and non-saleable.
I contacted StubHub to inquire about selling my tickets on their site, not that I wanted to, but because I wanted to know how it was possible for others to do so. They stated: “IF YOU CAN GET TICKETMASTER TO GIVE YOU A PDF VERSION OF YOUR TICKETS, WE CAN SELL THEM ON OUR SITE, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE RESERVED “PLATINUM SEATS.” No class at all; these people are profiting from a rigged system. That is not Capitalism, that is manipulating markets.
I did not want to sell these seats, I wanted a refund for these seats. I am not looking to get rich off of a band that is ending it’s career due to the lead singer being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I have more class than that, and I know the Attorney General does as well. He fights the good fight, and I appreciate him for that.
Finally, I would like to be refunded for these seats, as I feel I was the victim of price gouging, as proven by the fact that a representative of Ticketmaster stated: “THE PRICES FOR THOSE SEATS (PLATINUM) ARE ARTIFICIALLY INFLATED TO REDUCE DEMAND. Please tell me the Attorney General can step in here and make this right. All I want is a refund for the seats, they can sell them to someone else who can afford them and appreciate them.