Five Pounds and Twenty Pence

[New readers should probably read the background before proceeding]

The figure of £5.20 has come up in some of the discussion of this issue. It’s the difference between what I paid for the tickets and what See Tickets want to refund me. It’s come up in two ways.

Firstly a couple of people have said to me “It’s £5.20, why bother?” Actually it’s not £5.20, remember they want me to pay to send the ticket back to them by recorded delivery too. That’s going to cost another £1.50. But, yes, there’s a point here. The amount of time I’ve spend on this is completely disproportionate to the amount of money involved. I can afford to lose a fiver. Why do I bother?

I bother for two reasons. Firstly, it might only be a fiver, but it’s about 25% of the money I paid out. That’s a large chunk. If that happened whenever I got refunded for stuff, I’d soon start to notice the impact. And secondly, I bother because (as far as I can see) no-one else has. These people get away with it because people say “oh well, it’s only a fiver” and don’t do anything about it. I don’t think that’s right. It’s become a matter of principle.

Then people have said “I hope See Tickets think that £5.20 was worth all this bad publicity”. Of course, the numbers aren’t right there either. The Union Chapel seats about 500 people. If 10% of them can’t get to the postponed show and need a refund then See Tickets pocket £250. And how many gigs get postponed every week? Some in far larger venues. This is quite a nice little earner for See Tickets. When they resell the ticket they’ve made the booking fees twice over.

Let’s be clear here. I’m not saying for a second that ticket agencies shouldn’t make money. I like the convenience of being able to buy tickets online and I’m happy to pay for that service. I just think that when shows are rearranged, the fans shouldn’t end up out of pocket. The ticket agencies would say that they have printed and posted the tickets therefore they are entitled to be paid for that service. But when fans end up paying because they aren’t able to go to a show then something is wrong with the system.

Someone took the choice to rearrange the dates and they should be the people who pay the ticket agents costs. The ticket agencies should be chasing the promoters for this money, not taking it from the fans. I suspect they’re just taking the path of least resistance here – they’ve already got the money from the fans, it’s easier to just keep that rather than trying to get it from the promoters.

Unfortunately it seems that See Tickets business practices are endemic in the industry and even supported by the industry’s major organisation. See Tickets are a member of STAR (the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers) so I contacted them this morning to see if they would like to censure See Tickets in any way. I was told that as See Tickets were acting in accordance with both their own terms and conditions and the society’s code of conduct then they would be taking no action. I pointed out the unfairness in this system and the reply told me in no uncertain terms that they considered the matter closed.

I’m still considering applying for a chargeback from Visa for the amount. In fact that looks like my best chance of actually getting my money back. But I’m starting to see this as a wider issue. The whole ticketing industry needs a shake-up. It can’t be right that fans can potentially be left out of pocket as I have been. Perhaps we need a change in the law to force ticket agencies to treat fans fairly. Perhaps we need an organised campaign.

p.s. See Tickets customer support have been trying to get in touch with me today. I picked up a voice mail where a customer service manager wanted to apologise for the way I was treated yesterday. Which is a start.

[The story continues in the next post]

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