Hey, those aren’t the seats I bought on Ticketmaster – are they?

Randy Miramontez / Shutterstock.com
Randy Miramontez / Shutterstock.com
Michael Seldin’s concert tickets were not what he expected. Is Ticketmaster to blame?

Question: I recently bought tickets for a Brad Paisley concert at the Amway Center in Orlando through Ticketmaster.

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When I arrived at the concert and saw just how far from the stage my seats actually were, I attempted to exchange them at the customer service desk. An Amway Center customer service supervisor was very helpful and said she could make a trade if better seats were available.

She accompanied me to the box office but, since it was pretty much a sold-out show, better seats were not available, so I kept the tickets I had and my wife and I stewed in our seats for the entire performance.

Looking back, I’m still very unhappy with the way the ticket sale was handled by Ticketmaster. I feel I could have obtained better seats if the correct seating chart had been displayed online. As it was, I jumped at the first seats displayed since they appeared to be close to the center stage.

I sent a polite email to Ticketmaster, explaining my problem, but they sent a form response in which they apologized “for any inconvenience” but said that there was nothing they could do. Can you help? — Michael Seldin, Orlando

Answer: You shouldn’t have been surprised when you were shown to your seats at the Amway Center. You should have known exactly how far you’d be from the stage; no surprises.

Ticketmaster’s terms and conditions don’t really address your problem. But the Amway Center does display a fairly detailed seating chart that you could have cross-referenced with the map on Ticketmaster before you purchased your tickets.

Why didn’t you do that? Well, in reviewing your account, it looks as if you were led to believe that these were the last two good seats for the concert. I hate it when they do that.

You’re talking to someone who has walked out of performances because the seats weren’t as advertised. I didn’t even bother asking for my money back — I just walked out. (That was before a radioactive spider bit me, turning me into the consumer advocate I am today.)

And please, don’t even get me started on Ticketmaster. My blogging colleagues over at Daily Kos pretty much summed up the public’s dissatisfaction with Ticketmaster’s practices in a recent post. I won’t go there.

Here’s what I can tell you: Ticketmaster bore some responsibility for the seating chart or any additional information it offered that led to your unfortunate purchasing decision. It shouldn’t have given you the electronic brush-off.

Before I got involved, I recommended that you push back a little. Reply to the form letter, politely indicating that you didn’t get the response you expected. It’s a step consumers forget too often; their next step is frequently (and incorrectly) an angry letter to the CEO.

By the way, I list all of Ticketmaster’s executives on my customer service directory — just in case.

Your reply to Ticketmaster did the trick.

“I hate to hear that you were given misinformation in regards to the seating chart layout,” a representative replied. “It is our goal to always provide world class customer service from the onset of the purchase to when the event takes place.”

Ticketmaster agreed that you were “misled” by some of the information it provided and offered you a $25 Ticketmaster gift card towards a future purchase. You were happy with that solution.

Who was responsible for the ticket mix-up?

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40 thoughts on “Hey, those aren’t the seats I bought on Ticketmaster – are they?

  1. Translation:

    The guy is getting a $25 break the next time he buys crappy tickets from Ticketmaster.

    What a bargain.

  2. Back in 1997, Phil Collins was performing at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. As I was and am a big Phil Collins fan, I decided to it would be a great opportunity and purchased tickets to the show. Though there were a few seats open in the $45 range, I decided to go middle of the road and got two $32.50 tickets, thinking they aren’t front row, but they aren’t nose bleed seats either. At the time of purchase, I couldn’t pick my seats, they were assigned randomly, I could only pick the price.

    To my dismay (and that of my date’s), when we go to Kemper, I found that we were not just in the nose bleed section, we were in the upper nose bleed section and could barely see the stage and I remember Phil Collins as just a speck. To say the least, I was pissed and didn’t enjoy the show at all. I got the same seats I would have if I had spent only $17.50 per seat, all because of Ticketmaster’s system.

    1. Back then, weren’t most TicketMaster purchases done at physical locations like records stores? That was a time when people still lined up in front of such places and often at the venue (which typically doesn’t have the service charge).

      1. At that time, I purchased the tickets at the TicketMaster location in Hallmark’s Crown Center and not at Kemper Arena. I will still charged a “convenience fee” of $5 per ticket as well.

        1. I’ve bought a lot of tickets at event sites and haven’t been charged a service fee. My kid wanted to see Disney on Ice in San Jose and I bought the tickets at the box office there to avoid the service fee. There was still an “arena fee” but buying it online would have been an extra $7 per ticket. The tickets were printed on standard TM ticket stock.

          1. Kansas City owns Kemper Arena and has a “franchise” deal with Ticketmaster to provide ticket services for all city owned entertainment venues, of which, a percentage of the “convenience fee” is paid to the city as a franchise “tax”. So it didn’t matter that I bought the tickets at Hallmark’s Crown Center, the tickets were for a city owned entertainment venue.

  3. For the service fees those guys charge, they need to get their information right. They’re a scam but there isn’t much people can do about it unfortunately.

  4. As usual, the only way to fight back is to not buy. But, to not buy, means we don’t get to see a favorite artist perform. Then, the artist has to decide not to sell tickets through ticketmaster. But, to not sell through ticketmaster, means to not perform. I will not buy from ticketmaster; I, instead, use that money to buy the album or the DVD of a concert. I know its not the same but its the only way I know to make a stand against the outrageous fees charged by ticketmaster or the fact that so few good seats are even available for purchase by a simple fan.

    And, why in the world would a $25 ticketmaster gift card be seen as a satisfactory resolution? That’s the most absurd part of this whole article!

    1. Agreed — I try not to purchase through ticketmaster. (Side note: When you purchase online, you can get added to a mailing list that is damned difficult to get off.) But the problem is some venues are contractually tied to them.

      Plus, it is effectively a monopoly, created through the merger of Ticketmaster and Ticketron, and then various new companies that entered the market.

      I remember reading about a government organization that used to prevent these monopolies by acquisition, something called the SEC, but when I tried to look it up, they’re now a sports league in the south.

      1. Ticketron? That was over 20 years ago. They’re not really a monopoly per se, but they have exclusive rights to sell at certain events. TicketMaster’s merger with Live Nation is what really gave them huge market share.

        Tickets.com is pretty much TicketMaster’s only real competition in the US.

        And if you buy at the venue’s box office, there’s typically no ticket fee added although it’s usually printed on TicketMaster ticket stock.

  5. While Ticketmaster pretty much has a monopoly on ticket sales, your best bet when possible is to buy directly at the box office. Again, not always possible, but you would make sure the seating chart is more likely to be accurate and may avoid some fees, plus get a better handle on all available seats at the various price levels.

  6. It’s been a while since I’ve used TicketMaster. I recall them pre-selecting seats that were supposedly the best available (however they conclude that) but do I understand it correctly that in this case they also had an incorrect seating chart that made it look like the seats were closer than they were? That’s pretty lousy. But wouldn’t that problem have resulted in a huge percentage of the crowd having the same issue as the OP?

    1. He was probably on their “pre sale” list. My suspicion is he probably bought tickets a day or so before the general public, and before the public sale started, TicketMaster changed the seating layout for the event.

    1. Hah! I never heard that one, but it certainly fits.

      I hate evil TM and Live Nation too, but what are you gonna do when those are the vendors most venues contract with. Here’s my I Hate Ticketmaster story. A couple of years ago, I bought tickets to Lady GaGa for me and my niece. Primo seats. Then I find out my nephew was going to be home by then and wanted to go too. Good aunt that I am, I bought an additional ticket so that they could sit together and I would take the other one. I don’t remember for sure whether it was the exact same price but I think it was, even though it was higher up. Well. If you’ve ever seen her live show, you will recall that it has a very elaborate stage setup and lots of video screens. My seat was positioned so that it was exactly perpendicular to the video screens and the stage action was obscured by scaffolding. I could only see the show when LG was on the extension of the stage out into the audience. The ticket was not designated “obscured view”. Not only should they not have charged full price for that ticket, but really they shouldn’t have sold it or any seat to my left, to anyone. I should have complained, but I did not. Because I’m a wimp. I suppose it could be more the venue’s fault, but still. The kids had a great time though.

  7. To those voting that the customer should have done more research. Ticketmaster only gives you five minutes to decide if you want the seats offered. That’s no where near the time that it takes to do research. When it appears that your only option to get “the last two good seats left” is to purchase them immediately, I can understand why the decision was made. Ticketmaster was responsible and they acknowledged it by offering the customer a $25 gift card.

    1. That’s why I always open up a separate tab or window with the seating chart showing before I log on to Ticketmaster or any online ticketing site. I try to see what the layout is and then get an idea in my head (or I print it out, if my brain is fuzzy that day) and then go buy tickets. I know from experience that online ticketing sites such as Ticketmaster do the hard sell on their “best seats available” with that timer going in the corner. I also know from experience that “best available” isn’t anything like “best available” and choose the option to “choose my own seats”.

      So yes, I voted that the customer should have done more research, because any one previous experience with Ticketmaster scars you for life thereafter.

    2. When I do the presales, I have another tab open also with the seating chart so I know what I’m getting. (I’ve been lucky that the seating chart has only changed once – the venue shoved more seats in front of me, so my Row A seats were actually 6th or 7th row.)

      I don’t take the first ones that come up in the presale if I don’t like the seats. I throw them back and try again and again and again. I usually end up getting much better seats than the first ones TM tries to foist on me.

  8. I’m no fan of Ticketmaster, given their exorbitant “convenience” charges. But I think that most venues now have an interactive seat map on the web site. This is good, because you can see exactly which seats are open, and their exact location. You run your mouse over the seat, and it displays the price. I like this because my wife and I prefer seats next to the aisle, to avoid crawling over dozens of people just to get out to get a drink.

  9. Ticketmaster maintains their near monopoly because people still buy from them! Don’t do it, and let the artists you care about know why. This is one of the (few) things Facebook is good for.

  10. Louis C.K. is an amazing talent and refuses to let TM take their cut. Problem is the venue; they have the contract with TM and often can NOT sell tickets wtihout TM being involved. It isn’t, as is often the case, as clear cut as we’d want it to be. So you will likely never see Louis C.K. in a larger venue as he travels as they cannot book him because he won’t let TM sell his tickets. The artists and the venues drive this, sadly not the consumer. As long as venues contract wtih TM and the artists don’t stand up for their fans, nothing will change.

  11. I have been to events where I spent the money for first row, and then they added folding seats in front of us. Not only did it take our view, but all the people in front of us stood up the entire concert, as their view wasn’t so hot either. We ended up paying
    $225 each to look at the back of someone’s head. Needless to say, we left early. Sometimes the middle seats have better sound, and the front row is just too loud, But Ticketmaster is always terrible.

  12. This article is missing the most basic fact: was there a significant difference between the location of the real seat and the apparent one on the map? All it says is the customer “jumped at the first seats displayed” and then was surprised at their location.

    1. The line right before the one you quote says Ticketmaster displayed the wrong seating chart. (Or possibly they changed the seating after the OP made the purchase.) The seat may have been in the exact same place, but the stage and other seats may not have been.

      1. Perhaps I’m parsing hairs, but the complaint says “I feel I could have obtained better seats if the correct seating chart had been displayed online”. It doesn’t say what was incorrect about the seating chart. You can’t expect an online seating chart to be perfect. Was the seat much farther from the stage than shown, or just a little farther? Or was it the completely wrong chart? The complaint just says he jumped at his purchase and then was surprised, which isn’t exactly persuasive.

  13. If you don’t use Ticketmaster, then where do you get your tickets besides the venue’s box office? We use to have a Ticketmaster location at a local store. I would go to the store and get tickets, saving quite a bit from buying them online on their website. We don’t have the option any more and unless you drive to the location of the show and buy them directly, there aren’t many options. The George Strait, The Cowboy Walks Away Tour, was sold on Ticketmaster. Those tickets got bought out immediately to be resold on Stubhub for a lot more than the face value of the ticket. The only other way to get any remaining, single seating tickets was to drive 2 1/2 hours in each direction to the box office. Sadly didn’t attend. Many performers are now pulling their tickets from resellers and only selling them through their own website, based on these type of issues.

    1. I know about one place (customer service desk at a local mall) that has a TicketMaster outlet. That’s about it these days. Almost all of their business is online now.

      1. In our area, there is no longer a physical place to go to for Ticketmaster, so it is only online. We have been lucky to have two venues that are local which have brought in big name entertainment and they sell their tickets from their box office only. I haven’t had to use Ticketmaster for years and it was last year when I wanted to see about going to the George Strait concert in Sacramento. Most of the tickets were bought up immediately and were being resold on Stubhub for 1 1/2 to double the actual ticket cost. So wrong and from this I have read about other entertainers who are pulling their ticket sales away and handling them themselves so fans don’t get screwed by selfish resellers.

  14. It has been may years, make that decades since I went to live concert(anyone in Chicago area remember Poplar Creek?). Even then Ticketmaster had high fess for phone purchases (we are talking pre internet). We decided to drive to the box office and buy direct. When we get there we were charged a walk up convience fee, the same as if we ordered by phone.

  15. Whether it’s for travel, merchandise, or tickets it seems suppliers default to “future” purchases. The fairer solution, I think, would be an immediate refund of the difference in price, or an entire refund if the buyer would not have otherwise purchased the item/fare. And travel expenses may be appropriate to ask for as well.

    I realize that this may be difficult to “prove”, but some , like this one, are clear. When buyers pay for FAR better seating than they receive, it’s a near certainty that they would not have purchased at all. And the OP does not say that he asked to be compensated for travel to/from the event.

    That said, the OP lost all leverage for a refund when they stayed for the entire performance. Similar to not getting the food you ordered but eating what they offered then complaining afterwards …

  16. One thing that seems to be getting missed here. When you go to the venue’s box office, it’s still TM. Even for university sports. The university I went to even said at one time they had limited ability to select seats because they had to use TMs system. TM is a monopoly and the FTC should stop them (Not SEC which is for stock/bond markets). Big difference between Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission.

  17. When I buy tickets, I go to the venue’s site and look at their seating chart. In fact, I usually buy them from the venue. Almost always I get sent to ticketmaster to pay for them (there’s no choice, that’s how you have to buy them, and pay their fees, which are a real rip off when I print the tickets at home, using my computer, my paper and my ink!), but I do get the seats I want.

  18. What I’m unclear about is: was the floor plan of the arena incorrect? Or did they not understand how far away they were with the arena.

    If the floorplan was wrong, that’s totally different then not understanding how high up the nose bleed seats are. Other then those little pictures that show the view of a seat, ticketmaster can’t tell you how far is too far away.

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