Ticketmaster on hidden fees: “We get it” — is the travel industry next?


To get an idea where this nonsense with hidden fees is headed, consider what just happened at Ticketmaster.

The ticket broker, which has been harshly criticized for not featuring an “all-in” price for its tickets, announced to the world yesterday that it would rebundle its prices.

“We get it,” wrote Ticketmaster’s CEO, Nathan Hubbard. “You don’t like service fees.”

He continues,

You don’t like them mostly because you don’t understand what the heck they are for.

All of the research we’ve done, and all of our conversations with fans like you tell us that the way we present these fees in the check out process is a huge frustration for you and hurts ticket sales. You just want to know UP FRONT in the buying process how much of your hard earned money you are being asked to pay for a given seat.

If we are as transparent as possible with you sooner in the purchase process, you can make the decision about how much you want to pay to go to an event.

The problem is that historically we haven’t told you how much you have to pay for a given seat until very late in the buying process. And our data tells us this angers many of you to the point that you abandon your purchase once you see the total cost, and that you don’t come back.


The data also says (and this is the important piece) that if we had told you up front what the total cost was, you would have bought the ticket! So by perpetuating this antiquated fee presentation, fans are getting upset, while we and our clients are losing ticket sales.

This is interesting one a few levels.

First, it suggests Ticketmaster has long known that service fees were making its customers crazy. Just as the travel industry, from airlines to resorts, surely must know that their fees are driving travelers nuts.

Why didn’t Ticketmaster act sooner?

Second, its research says people wouldn’t abandon a purchase and might, in fact, go through with it, if they had an all-inclusive price. I believe this applies to travelers, too. Look companies like Southwest Airlines and Homewood Suites and Four Points, where almost everything is included. They’re doing fine, aren’t they?

Third, and most interestingly, is that Ticketmaster calls the practice “antiquated.” Ouch. A la carte pricing is outdated. True, certainly, for concert tickets. True for travel, too? I think so.

What is the travel industry waiting for? Ancillary fees may work in the short term, but long-term, they will drive your customers away. Ticketmaster knows. Some of the most successful companies in the travel space already do, too.

What part of antiquated don’t they understand?

PS: Speaking of fees, you can still take the Consumer Travel Alliance poll on airline fees. Your feedback is important.

(Photo: Rick/Flickr Creative Commons)


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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