We Need A Royal Ticketek Commission

Image: iStock

Looking to purchase tickets any time soon? Well, here's something to remember: Ticketek charges a pretty high price for you to print your tickets using your own printer, in your own home. This is insane.

You don't think it's being too hyperbolic to say we need a royal commission, right?

Ticketek sell over 23 million tickets yearly to some of the biggest events in Australia - be it sport , concerts, theatre or arts. If you've ever bought a ticket to, well, anything you know they don't come cheap.

Most of the time, it involves painful refreshing of web pages and a lot of crossed fingers. When you finally get through and select the tickets you want, you feel like you're safe, you're home free and you've got tickets to that Justin Bieber concert of your dreams.

Then you get slapped with a fee for printing the tickets.

At home.

Why?

A photo popped up on Reddit yesterday, showing that Ticketek charge $7.20 for customers to receive a PDF and print their ticket at home. The cost of the event, the Dollop, that this particular customer is attending is $41, so the price to get a PDF is 17.6% of the actual ticket price?

That's before factoring in the cost of paper and ink that you, yourself, have to provide to actually print the ticket. It's something I've experienced in the past too, especially when it comes to AFL games throughout the season. I never understood. I never took a stand.

But the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

And we cannot accept this.

This is daylight robbery.

Digging into the legalities of this on the ACCC website demonstrates that what Ticketek is doing here may actually not be legal. At the very least, it's a legal grey area. From the website:

Drip pricing is where a headline price is advertised at the beginning of an online purchasing process and additional fees and charges which may be unavoidable are then incrementally disclosed (or 'dripped'). This can result in paying a higher price than the advertised price or spending more than you realise.

I went to purchase a ticket to The Dollop through the Ticketek website and was greeted with this landing page:

Note that the price is $41. It doesn't say "From $41" or "$41 plus applicable fees". The $41 itself doesn't have any superscript that leads to an explanation. Of course, that superscript comes in the form of a small cross next to the 'Price Per Ticket/Item'. Following that cross leads to an expandable box that states:

For this event, a one-off service & handling fee of $7.20 per transaction applies on all purchases. The actual service and handling fee may vary depending on the venue and method of delivery selected, or where you add other items to your basket. All ticket/item prices displayed for this event are subject to change at any time without notice.

It's only when you click through and select a ticket category that the page expands to demonstrate the extra charges.

We could be lenient and say that, yes, $7.20 is a reasonable price for Ticketek to charge to print and send the tickets to your mailing address. It's a little harder to justify the $7.20 for merely printing the ticket at the box office and making me come and collect it, but, okay, I kind of get it. But to print the ticket at home? Why are we paying $7.20?

I contacted Ticketek and received this response (free of charge!) from a Ticketek spokesperson:

The fee reflects the end-to-end cost of Ticketek providing customer services related to the fulfilling the event ticket. This includes the not inconsiderable cost of providing staff and infrastructure at venues to ensure a smooth customer experience at the event.

Other significant costs are related to operating and continually upgrading complex e-commerce platforms, communications platforms, agencies and call centres.

The fees are a legitimate cost recovery in providing these services. This is a normal feature in the consumer economy whenever a customer does banking, buys an airline ticket or uses a thousand other services. When you pay $10 for a bank cheque, you don’t assume it is a charge for the ink in the printer and the small piece of paper. It is for the total service behind the issuing of the bank cheque.

This response sheds some light on the fees associated with purchasing tickets through Ticketek. The fee isn't attributed to the method in which you receive your tickets at all, rather, it's a service fee that is tacked on to the price as a 'cost recovery' method.

The major problem then is transparency.

Putting the service and handling fee in the very first price the customer sees would seem like an appropriate step to take. At the very least, it would be nice to see these fees explicitly stated as such on the website rather than putting them under a header that suggests they are part of ticket collection. This would prevent the confusion around ticket prices, such as what was seen on Reddit yesterday.

We need a royal commission.

[Reddit]


Comments

    Those fees are the reason I always choose for them to mail me tickets they have printed, just out of principle. If I'm going to pay a $7 fee, I should at least get officially printed and mailed tickets; make them cover the cost of *something* with that fee.

    Having said that, more often than not now with them printing and mailing, I fret for weeks on end for them to actually arrive; case in point an order nearly a month ago still hasn't arrived. Their site says to allow 15 business days for arrival, so I'm going to give it one more week's grace before contacting them.

    It's a huge joke - how does an email of a print-at-home ticket cost the same as having them print a physical ticket and mail it to you?

    This seems like a boneheaded bit of UI design combined with a clearly customer unfriendly attitude that mirrors airlines and banking, which every good business should avoid.

    Simply call the $7.20 a 'service fee' or 'booking commission' and separate it from the ticket delivery method, put it up front at the start of the purchase funnel.

    Don't even attach a fee to the delivery method, then the problem is completely solved and this fee become entirely transparent.

    Other organisations charge similar fees no matter how crappy their websites and physical infrastructure are (or poorly-trained their staff are). Hoyts charges you simply to book tickets electronically rather than at their venues. You still have to wait in line for some crappy tickets to be printed that will be scanned ten seconds later and discarded.

    Some venues like Sydney Opera House and Angel Place City Recital Hall sell from different seat allocations depending on whether you book online or trek into the city simply to buy the paper tickets. I can't think of any other city than Sydney "the no-fun after dark city" that makes it so unattractive to go out for entertainment.

      You're wrong about Hoyt's. I go to the movies all the time and they will just scan it off your phone, no need line up or get tickets printed

        I guess it depends on the cinema. The one I go to requires tickets ... and no apostrophes.

        But still the booking fee is ridiculous if its not only doing them the service of locking in seats in advance ( a la gift cards ), theoretically reducing queues and thus the need for floor staff, but also tying it to purchaser buying habits and giving them a mailing list.

    If only the ACCC did something for consumers instead of just bending over backwards to pander big Telcos. Cinemas, Ticketing, Airlines, etc. they all drip feed these prices, there is absolutely no reason, at all, why a total price can't be advertised. But the ACCC are too interested in talking in the media, instead of taking action. If they think it's so bad, they need to fix it, not talk about it!

    Village Cinemas is also shit, they charge a $1 booking fee if you book online. I guess running a website costs more than paying a bunch of people to service the counter. Also I wish they still used the box office so I could buy a ticket quickly, not wait for every person to also buy popcorn and drinks.

      They want to "supersize" all ticket sales to tickets+popcorn+sugar water

      Hoyts charge $3 booking fee

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