I recently starting researching some sports event tickets for an upcoming trip to New York. I didn’t like the prices I found on the physical team websites so I decided to try the 3rd party market. The fees for major sporting event tickets are becoming more and more ridiculous especially with the overall cost of the tickets going up. When I started browsing two major event ticket sites I was alarmed at the ticketing practices that I found. Today’s post focuses on the deceptive marketing language being used by two individual event ticket providers and what kind of fees you can anticipate paying by using a 3rd party site.
I first stated looking at the site Venue Kings because, at the time of my research, I was partnered with them. They were offering a coupon code for $8 off an order of $40 or more and when I tried to check out I was startled to see no only did my coupon code not work, but the amount of fees I was being hit with:
Yes, that’s $7.99 in delivery fees on top of a $22.26 service fee making a total of $30.25 or an extra 30% added onto the total cost of the cost of the tickets. Essentially, had the promo code worked, it would have covered the cost for delivery for the e-ticket. I didn’t realize it was so costly to have a ticket emailed to you? So I decided to reach out to Venue Kings with the following message:
I would love to write a blog post promoting your company and the promotion you currently have running, but I can’t accurately do that when the promotion code you’re featuring 15SPRINGVK is invalid.
It’s also challenging to talk about the industry and how people are getting gouged by service fees, but then an extra 22% is added on as a service fee on top of the $7.99 for shipping. The coupon code makes it so the shipping is free, but I’m having a hard time justifying that your service is going to save my readers both time and money.
I currently have you as an affiliate partner, but after checking Stubhub, they’re not better than you. They state ‘no surprise fees’ but that’s just because they roll the fees into the price of the ticket. The fees are just as much as you, but they offer instant download.
I’m wondering how I can sell this to my readers?
So I decided to turn my attention to Stub Hub to see if their service was any better.
When I visited Stub Hub, I instantly felt better about the experience. Right on the home page they showcase ‘No surprise fees, only good surprises’. I felt as though Venue Kings were definitely going to cost more than Stub Hub based on this language and marketing on their own website.
Then, further down the page they talked about their All-In pricing, re-emphasizing that there were no surprise fees at checkout, which I experienced with Venue Kings, and I could rely on the price I saw was the price I was going to pay. This was certainly more comforting and helped build in the trust that Stub Hub was not trying to hide anything.
When I visited their All-In Pricing page, everything was laid out quite clearly and I could expected there’d be no additional fees or delivery charges.
Which is exactly why, after all of this language stating there were no surprise fees, even in the checkout cart, that I felt even MORE duped by Stub Hub than I did by Venue Kings. Below is the experience I had when I decided to click on the [see details] link in my shopping cart before placing the order. $23.20 in fees including all applicable service, delivery and transnational fees. Now hold on a minute. Did you just say I wasn’t going to be charged any delivery charges or additional fees?
When I spoke with a customer service representative inquiring about the confusion they stated, “We understand how that can be confusing, but it’s not meant to deceive you… The fee you see on Stub Hub will include all charges and buyers fees; so the price you see is the price you will pay for the tickets… The delivery charge is included in the price of the ticket and the break down is there in case buyers want to know the details of the price of the ticket.”
When I inquired about why they charge a delivery fee when they say they don’t I was directed to voice my feed back to their feedback email address. When I asked if they have received any feedback on their language coming across as deceptive and misleading they stated they had not. So I decided to reach out to their feedback address and write them the following email:
I have a real problem with the language you’re using stating that there’s no surprise fees when very clearly, your user experience is there are fees included, but I can only see how much they are if I click [see details] in very small print on the checkout page.
It’s semantics, I realize, and you’re trying to have a marketing tactic that shows that other ticketing companies are deceptive because your tickets include the fees upfront. All-In Pricing makes more sense, but every time you state there’s ‘no additional fees’ in conjunction with this, again you’re walking a very grey line.
There are additional fees involved and as your customer service representative explained to me they’re dynamic and vary depending on a multitude of variables. The semantics of that ‘they’re not added to the price at checkout’ is again, a murky ploy to positive yourselves above your competitors in attempt to prove you’re more trustworthy than other ticketing outlets.
Personally, as a marketing professional this doesn’t help build trust, it showcases that you will use deceitful language and murky copy writing with the tactic of attempting to build trust through the positioning of three words ‘added at checkout’. This actually causes me to trust you less instead of simply coming clean and saying, there are additional fees and we include them in the total cost of the ticket. This ‘surprise, still no surprise fees’ actually made me think more about what the details were then simply showing the total order price.
When you bring additional attention to the fact you consider your fees not a surprise, it’s actually a surprise when you click see the details and see you have $23.20 in fees that are a part of the tickets you’re purchasing regardless of the fact they were added into the original price.
I’d be curious if other people have pointed out these tactics to you and if you’ve lost business as a result of it? Perhaps you’re running an A/B test to determine the reaction on your conversion rates as a result of the copy used? Maybe this is just a full all-out branding campaign you’re using. I realize most customers don’t take the time to write in, let alone they just bitch if they ever have an issue. I thought, because I deal with it every day myself, that instead of just bitching about what I thought was deceptive marketing tactics I would point out the specific language that makes me feel like a potential distrusted customer.
I have my own personal blogging project that I do on the side called mrmessageman.com where I try to find companies and products that help you look smart, eat smart, spend smart and I was tackling the ticketing industry today. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can write about ANY company let alone Stubhub or Venue Kings because of the % of fees that are included in the ticketing cost. I realize you’re probably more secure than a Craigslist, but it’s hard to overlook that market when you have to pay an extra 25-40% in fees varying upon a dynamic algorithm your developers created. Maybe you know of some content, either you’ve created or an independent party created, that shows why online ticketing sources are the best route to take?
Hopefully this email comes as a welcome Monday morning read rather than an, “Oh great, another marketing dickhead that thinks he knows what we should do.” I’d really love to be more supportive of your brand, you obviously spend millions on advertising, I just struggle with the language being used to help build trust in your customer base.
Where Can You Turn For Tickets?
The question I find myself asking is, “Where can I buy tickets if the 3rd party vendors all charge you fees and they’re more than buying through the stadium or Ticketmaster?” At this point, it’s probably either Craigslist, family, friends or if you have an insider within the ticketing office itself. I simply have no idea where to turn to or who you can trust. I just know that the Ticket Oak and the Venue King are not going to help you spend smart and you’ll have to be on the lookout for a different source than these two sites. The saga will continue, but if anyone has any suggestions for another site or source for finding event tickets feel free to leave a comment or send us a message through our contact page.
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