It's always amazing to look at the purchase of concert tickets these days. I'm old enough to remember a time when if a ticket cost $10, you walked up to the box office with $10, and walked away with a ticket. (Actually, for Springsteen in Dec. of 1980, it was only $8.50. And Billy Joel was a little less than that a year earlier.)
Just for fun, let's look at what happens when one goes on line for a ticket to see Joel and Elton John now. They are playing in Buffalo on Tuesday. The listed ticket prices are $177, $97 and $47.
Now being a cheapskate, I'll go with two of the $47 seats. But they aren't $47.
We start with a $2.50 ticket facility charge each. In other words, I guess that $2.50 goes to HSBC Arena. I'm not sure why that isn't initially included in the cost of the ticket, since you gotta hold the show somewhere. It might be cold to have it where the Aud is now.
Then there's the matter of something called a "convenience fee." This is $11.65 per ticket. If I go to my friendly neighborhood tickets.com outlet, which I'm willing to do, I'll probably pay something similar. Where exactly, then, is the convenience? I have to buy them somewhere.
We're not done yet. It's $3 for "order processing" (you'd think that would be part of the "convenience fee"). And say I don't want to get in the will call line, and prefer to print the tickets at my own computer. That's an extra $2.50 for "shipping and handling." What was handled, anyway? Amazon.com gives free shipping for an order this size, and it actually mails me stuff.
The not-so-grand total is $61.40 each for a total of $122.80. An extra 30 percent is going out of my wallet. Somebody made an extra $28.80 on my order.
If I had ordered the $177 tickets, my bill for two would have been $397.50. That's $43.50 extra on that order. Multiply that by 15,000 or so, and we're talking six figures easy.
Let's say the concert gets cancelled. The standard story heard is that the concert fee is refundable, but that many of the extra fees aren't. Just as a coincidence, this particular concert has been postponed twice before -- so it can happen. It may cost me almost $30 if Elton comes down with a cold tonight.
Is there any other business in the world that acts like this in its pricing? I have visions of buying Cherrios at Wegmans. The price on the box says $3, but Wegmans charges 25 cents for carrying the product, the cereal company adds a dollar for getting the product to the store. And, oh, do you want it in some sort of cardboard package? That's another 75 cents. Five dollars, please, for that $3 box of cereal.
This has been going on for quite a while, of course, and you really have no choice but to pay it if you want to see a particular show badly enough.
But that doesn't mean I have to like it. And that does mean I understand why ticket merchants seem to be getting sued all the time. The possibility for mischief seems endless.