It's 5:45PM. 15 minutes to go before tickets for the Arctic Monkey's tour go on sale. You've already missed out on the pre-release tickets because of a problem with Worldpay, so you're pretty keen to get your hands on them from a 'specialist' -
seetickets.com. Not too keen on buying of eBay, you head over to the site. 10 minutes to go, site down. Looks like bad news- but hey- you're optimistic. They'll get it sorted by six. The clock ticks on. Still down. Might have to phone the premium number instead. It's gone six. Still down, premium number busy. Damn. You keep redialling, only to get the same message - lines busy - yadda yadda. Half an hour later, after many refreshes, and with all the tickets sold out, the website miraculously returns.
Isolated incident? We wish. The state of online ticket services is
appalling. Dominated by a few companies with a stranglehold on the market, consumers are forced to pay fees for any number of 'services' - inflated postal costs, service charges, you name it. Service is often sloppy, with issues like double payments not un-common. The convenience of e-buying, so readily found with many online vendors, is killed in this market. Why on earth do we tolerate it?
A lack of any other choice is probably the best answer. With little competition from other companies (due to the very close links ticket vendors have with event promoters), vendors have little to fear in terms of losing customers. Ironically, the closest competitors they face are probably touts on eBay, which, depressingly, often offer much better service - albeit at inflated prices. At the time of writing, two tickets retailing for just 28 pounds in total were being sold for
185 pounds on eBay - 6 1/2 times the retail price.
The main gripe most would raise with these companies is that whilst they do offer online booking, the services are often down at the most popular times. How, you might ask, is it possible for a company to provide such a poor service? When one considers other e-services - eBay, Amazon, Google, - all managing many millions of users daily, the weak performance these companies offer is well and truly exposed. Even Neowin (according to Alexa, a web traffic service) appears to maintain a higher level of traffic than seetickets.com.
Why, asides from complacency, do online ticket companies do this?
The best answer we can think of is profit. Ticket companies make
relatively little in terms of commission on each ticket sold, and make
up revenue in other ways. Were companies to move completely online,
they'd loose a very lucrative revenue stream - namely the dreaded and
premium rate number that you
call to book tickets over the phone. Companies using these numbers take
a cut of the money your phone company charges you to make the call.
Indeed, it wouldn't be hard to argue that by offering a poor internet
service ticket vendors actually increase their revenue from premium
lines. Frustrated customers, thwarted by dire online service, but
desperate to see their band, dial repeatedly, raking up costs to their
phone bill and profits for the ticket vendor.
This is obviously only speculation, but when considered in light of the facts and many many experiences, seems highly plausible.
If these companies wanted to offer a resilient service, they could. If
they wanted to provide service to everyone who visited their website,
even at times of high demand,
they could. Specialists like Akamai
exist to help firms manage online traffic. Sadly, and like many other
'pre-internet' industries, they've not fully recognised the trends in
their market, or accepted them. Indeed, if they had understood how to
successfully adapt their business to the internet, they'd realise the
significant efficiency savings available to their business. But they do
We think it's un-acceptable. Whilst we've singled out our most recent
bad experience with Seetickets.com, they are not alone. Why should
people be forced to purchase tickets on the black market simply because
ticket agencies are unable to embrace the internet and offer an
acceptable service? Consumers pay steep costs to support and see their
favourite bands, yet regularly get abused in the process.
Its not on, and it needs to stop. We'll be forwarding our experiences to Seetickets.com customer service; if you've had a bad experience, we'd urge you to do the same.
Please note that this column
does not reflect the views of Neowin.