That buying tickets through Ticketmaster is expensive isn't news, but having just had a Ticketmaster experience that surprised me, I thought I'd share.
Over the weekend, I took my daughters, 5 and 7, to see Disney On Ice. I had been contemplating taking them for about a month, but every time I went to Ticketmaster, and looked at the prices, I just chickened out.
I had considered buying some of the best seats in the house -- at $36 each. But with Ticketmaster's $4.95 "convenience charge," that added nearly $20 to the bill. Later, my wife decided she didn't want to go, which meant we were going to save money, but still, the idea of spending an extra $4.95 per ticket didn't sit well with me. Especially since that doesn't count the $3.35 order processing fee they were asking me to cough up.
It may sound like I'm cheap, and I am, but it does add up. Three tickets at $36, through Ticketmaster, was going to cost more than $125. So I decided to set my sights lower, to the $19 ticket. But even then, I started cringing. With the $4.95 extra per ticket, and the $3.35 order processing fee, I was basically going to shell out the face value of a fourth ticket.
A few weeks ago, I debated driving down to the box office to buy the tickets, but when I factored in the gas and the time involved, I started to think that I might as well just pay through Ticketmaster. And then a few days ago, I suddenly had the epiphany--Duh, just buy the tickets right before the show. This is Disney On Ice, not The Jonas Brothers On Ice (or if you like your pop culture references skewed a little older, the Rolling Stones On Ice). I can probably get tickets easily enough before the show.
So my daughters and I showed up about 90 minutes early -- hoping to avoid the mob. Well, there was no mob, as it turned out. in fact, I kept thinking of the recession during the show, since about half the arena was empty. The extra time beforehand turned out to be a good thing. We were able to walk near the Ohio River, which is just outside the arena, and my girls and I shared some pleasant quality time.
But what was particularly pleasant for my wallet wasn't just saving at least $18.20 by avoiding Ticketmaster, but that I wound up saving even more. Ticketmaster was going to charge me $19 per ticket, so I was prepared to spend $57 at the box office. Instead, they only charged me $43.
The box office charged me $19 for my ticket, but only $12 per ticket for my daughters. And so, yes, I saved an extra $14 by not going through Ticketmaster.
All in all, by bypassing Ticketmaster, I'm now $32.20 richer, which made me feel slightly better about paying $10 for parking and $7 (!) for a box of popcorn. The show itself, incidentally, was a bargain. The girls loved it, and as someone who couldn't skate if his life depended on it, I was impressed and entertained.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised by Ticketmaster. As I implied, they've taken a lot of criticism for their prices and how they do business. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed Ticketmaster for reselling tickets, and WalletPop regular Josh Smith, a few months ago, wrote about how the Illinois Attorney General fined Ticketmaster $50,000 for paying marked up prices for tickets.
I looked thoroughly at the Ticketmaster web pages before writing this post, trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, thinking that there might be somewhere where it says, "Kids' ticket prices." Other than one little note, saying, "You must purchase 1 adult ticket per every 4 kids tickets purchased," there was nothing. They were clearly going to charge me $19 for tickets available for $12.
If that's how they roll, it's their business; I guess they can do what they want. I for one am going to remember in the future that when it comes to buying tickets, I can do what I want.
Not that I'll never use Ticketmaster. I'm sure I will when I feel like I have no other great options. If there's ever a Huey Lewis & the News or Billy Joel On Ice, I'll probably have to relent. But I'm going to remember the value of just showing up and buying the tickets in person.
Geoff Williams is a regular presence on WalletPop and is stuck, musically speaking, in the 1970s and 1980s. He is also the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
OK, I knew Ticketmaster prices were excessive, but...