Ticketmaster's Non-Solution to Its Service-Fee Problem

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Today Ticketmaster announced through its new blog Ticketology that the company is revamping its approach to service fees in an attempt to give customers a better idea what they should expect to pay. The downside is that Ticketmaster has no real plans to stop screwing you with those fees, and that it hasn't even stopped adding fees during the final step of online ordering. The upside, I guess, is that a blog post on the subject from CEO Nathan Hubbard pretty much perfectly encapsulates everything hateable about the company.

Some excerpts (with my commentary) after the jump.

Hubbard's post starts off blazingly strong with some presumably unintentional comedy:

We get it—you don't like service fees. You don't like them mostly because you don't understand what the heck they are for.

An excellent opening. Either Hubbard believes that statement, proving that the guy running one of the most widely reviled corporations in the country has no idea why so many people hate it, or else it is complete bullshit. Actually it's complete bullshit even if he does believe it.

People don't dislike service fees because they don't understand what the heck they're for. They hate them because service fees feel like a sneaky way to make tickets way more expensive. Hubbard boasts that Ticketmaster is making service fees more transparent, but the pricing breakdown for the example that Irving Azoff (chairman of Ticketmaster's parent company, Live Nation) gives to illustrate the "new" Ticketmaster method still includes a $13.45 add-on opaquely described as a "convenience charge." And they're still tacking on fees at the end of the transaction. No one's going to believe that Ticketmaster is serious about improving its relationship with customers until it stops charging them $2.50 to print out tickets at home on their own printers using paper and toner that they bought themselves.

[T]he reality of the live entertainment business is that service fees have become an extension of the ticket price. Most of the parties in the live event value chain participate in these service fees either directly or indirectly—promoters, venues, teams, artists, and yes, ticketing companies—and service fee rebates are our largest annual expense at Ticketmaster.

Translation: "We came up with this slimy innovation in an industry built on sneakiness and wheel greasing, but since other people figured out how to get in on the action you can't blame us." Fuck off, Ticketmaster. Do not try to come off like an innocent bystander or, even worse, a victim in this situation. It's not a good look.

Also note the subtext of this statement, which is, "Overblown fees are now an integral part of the concert industry so do not ever expect them to go away."

[A]t the new Ticketmaster we wake up every day obsessing over the fan experience.

I'm trying to come up with an example of someone gullible enough to take that statement at face value and I'm at a loss. Even people stuck unwittingly in the middle of multilevel marketing schemes read it and are like, "I don't know if I believe that." Church secretaries who've invested the funds for this year's Christmas pageant in a Nigerian 419 scam raise a skeptical eyebrow. I might believe Hubbard if he said that the "new" Ticketmaster had taken down the banner from its boardroom that reads FUCK CONSEQUENCES, MAKE MONEY, but a company that seems to have been founded on the very concept of squeezing customers dry with a disregard bordering on contempt—and that's now owned by another company of a similar bent—isn't likely to change.

If Ticketmaster really gave a shit about the fan experience it would dissolve itself.

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