Did this man make a $10,000 mistake, or is he a victim of an online scam?

When Kenneth Copeland uses the web browser on his phone to purchase concert tickets, he is pleased when he receives an email confirming his desired seats. However, the shock comes when he scrolls down to the price he just paid — over $10,000 for four tickets. Is this an online scam or did Copeland simply make an expensive mistake?

This case is an astonishing tale that should serve as a warning to anyone using the internet to make purchases: Always be sure of the total cost before you click “confirm.” Because, as this story highlights, the transaction may be irreversible no matter how ridiculously high the price may turn out to be.

An expensive mistake? 

Copeland’s problem began when he searched on his phone for tickets to see Phish at Madison Square Garden.

“I was on my phone, and thought I was on the TicketMaster website,” he recalled. “Tickets-Center’s site looked identical to TicketMaster’s site. I believe Tickets-Center phished us into their site. I believed I was paying $110 per ticket, which was face value. This company did not reveal the $10,446 price for four tickets until after my credit card info was taken and processed.”

Copeland went on to say that in his rush to try to secure seats for this concert, which he thought was going to sell out within the hour, he did not read the terms of the website he was using.

A $10,000 mistake or an online scam?

This was an expensive mistake. A $10,446 mistake, to be exact.

When Copeland took a close look at the confirmation and discovered the actual cost, he immediately contacted American Express and initiated a chargeback.

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Throughout Copeland’s complaint to our team and to American Express, he uses the words “scammed,” “baited” and “fraudulently charged.” His assertion was that he had been caught in an online scam.

A failed chargeback

His chargeback pursuit failed because American Express took a look at the transaction and could find no evidence that Tickets-Center used any trickery during the purchase.

Because the tickets did seem to be quite expensive for a Phish concert, our advocacy team contacted Tickets-Center to get an explanation.

Response from Tickets-Center

Tickets-Center responded promptly with a detailed rebuttal of Copeland’s assertions.

In response to Copeland’s claim that he had been “phished” into buying Phish tickets — I know, this would be funny if we weren’t discussing a $10,000 dispute — the company points out that they never engage in this practice and that their website is transparent.

They provided screenshots of every page that a customer would encounter when purchasing tickets. The name Tickets-Center is predominant at the top of each page. Additionally, it lists the words “Secure, independent marketplace” above all concerts.

Since this evidence appeared to be screenshots from a desktop, I decided to use my phone to discover what a customer would see if they were using a small-screen device.

Unfortunately for Copeland, what I saw further suggested that in his haste to secure his seats for the possibly sold-out show, he ignored many indicators that he was not visiting TicketMaster.

Above face value tickets

I went through the reservation steps for the same Phish concert, and I found similarly priced tickets.  Underneath the  name, Tickets-Center it reads:

Not affiliated with venue. Prices may be above face value.

No kidding. When I went to TicketMaster and checked prices for the same concert, I found that the face value of these tickets is between $65 and $75.

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In fact, it was impossible to find a ticket that cost more than $75 for this concert on TicketMaster for similar seats. And there were plenty of tickets available days before the show. It never sold out.

So why did Copeland buy tickets priced at around $2,600 each?

Terms and conditions of resale tickets 

We can only assume it was due to inattention. But does that entitle him to a refund?

In a word, no.

Not according to the terms of the Tickets-Center website. This lengthy document makes it clear that when you use Tickets-Center and agree to purchase tickets, “which may be at a higher price than face value,” you agree to a legally binding contract with the seller and “No refunds, cancellations or exchanges are permitted.”

Not an online scam

Tickets-Center points out that they do not set the price of any of the tickets offered for resale on its website. The resellers determine their price point. The buyers decide if the price is acceptable. Tickets-Center is only a platform for these transactions — or, as they call it, a marketplace for reselling tickets.

Ticket reselling is currently big business in the United States. No federal law prohibits the resale of tickets by individuals, and there are no regulations that would prevent a reseller from inflating the cost of their ticket in this marketplace.

Buyer beware

Let the buyer, who chooses to use any ticket resale site, beware.

Copeland has been unable to produce any evidence that Tickets-Center tricked him into this purchase. And we have no policy that we can point to that will save him from this expensive mistake. His credit card company has already sided with Tickets-Center, and unfortunately, we must as well.

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Never let an urgent need to buy something — a concert ticket or any other item — override the critical importance of reading the terms of your purchase. Copeland appears to have neglected to check the price that he was about to be charged. And, as much as we would like to help, this is an expensive mistake that we couldn’t correct.

The surprising update

In the end, however, there appears to be good news for Copeland. He emailed us several weeks after his case closed and told us that Tickets-Center offered to refund the $10,000.

Should Kenneth Copeland have been on the hook for his ticket purchase?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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