How we could get rid of Ticket Service Fees.

Here’s a way to get rid of ticketing service fees.

Unless you’ve been buried under a rock under another rock used for the bottom of a rock foundation, then you know these two seemingly unrelated facts:

  1. There are more secondary market ticket brokers reaching more ticket buyers than ever before.
  2. All ticket buyers hate paying service fees.

True, right?  Especially that second one.  I don’t know what it is, but there’s something just so annoying about getting to the end of a purchase path and seeing another $12 or so tacked on after you’ve gotten yourself over the hurdle of paying the high price for the ticket in the first place.

Customers DO pay the fees, of course, but they just don’t like it.  Adding a service fee is what I call “nibbling,” a common trick in negotiating when a bunch of little things are added to a previously negotiated bigger salary (e.g. tickets, car service, make-up, massage, lunch between shows) because the agent knows if you’re paying a big amount, the little things will seem like diddly squat, and therefore you’re more likely to agree.

Nibbling, whether in a negotiation or in service fees, annoys me.

Another example of nibbling in e-commerce?  So-called “shipping and handling.”

Ugh.  You spend all that time shopping around to find the best price on a desk or a TV or new set of golf clubs and then you get through the five shopping cart screens (entering in your address what seems like 7 times) and you find a shipping and “handling” cost that you didn’t expect.

Makes you want to punch something.

And it makes you want to distrust the vendor.  And maybe think about going elsewhere next time.  Am I right?

So here’s why the ticket broker expansion and service fees I started this blog with are related:

We want more people coming to our official and primary ticketing sellers, right?  It’s how we guarantee that the most money goes to the Broadway Creatives and the Broadway Investors, and it’s also where the ticket buyers should get the most accurate seat location and info.

This desire for more traffic on one shopping site versus sending people elsewhere to get our product reminds me of another little shopping website’s desire to own the market for…well…everything.

They call it…

Amazon knew, I’m sure through research, that a major annoyance for online shoppers was that aforementioned shipping and BS “handling” fee…not to mention not knowing exactly when your purchase would show up.

They solved their customer frustration by introducing a service called Prime, a $99-a-year “club” that delivers your item in 2 days, for ZERO shipping and handling.  Nibbling turned into giving.

Prime has obviously been a monster success for Amazon, as people have flocked to the site, signed up for the service, and now exclusively shop at Amazon because of the “value” of the waived “service fees” (see where I’m going).  I know I do shop almost exclusively at Amazon.  Don’t you?  Shoot, I even got the credit card to save even more money, I shop there so much.

And, now Amazon has started holding a Christmas in July-like “Prime Day,” with special discounts for members (moving tons of products at a time when they otherwise probably wouldn’t move a lot).

So what if our primary ticket sellers had a version of Ticket Prime?  Pay $99 a year and get all your service fees for FREE.

You’d come back there, wouldn’t you?

And what if there were special deals just for Prime members, granting you early access to tickets before anyone else (including brokers) got in, or special prices for new shows?

Just like Amazon did, we’d not only improve our customer’s experience, but we’d also eliminate one of their greatest frustrations.

And that would lead to more ticket sales on the primary sites for sure.

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  • Iris says:

    Hmm, what annoys me most of all about service fees for ticket tickets (vs. shipping costs for example) is that I don’t know what I pay them for.
    If I go to the box office I have someone giving me advice where to sit, explaining sight lines, partial view, leg room and giving an educated opinion about best price for value. And they print me out a pretty ticket. For all this service I do not pay a single extra dollar.
    If I buy tickets online, I get no advice whatsoever, have to fight with sometimes crappy designed websites (looking at you, Telecharge) that are a hassle to navigate, have to print out a not so pretty e-ticket myself and for doing all the work myself I have to pay $12 and up for “service”. I haven’t gotten any service. So when I was in NY I gladly went out of my way to go to the BO, even paying 2 subway fares, and I still save money (esp. when buying more than 1 ticket) that would have otherwise gone to an annoying website that doesn’t help me one bit.

    The other factor is not knowing how much the fee is going to be. It would be more okay if the service fee is added to the ticket price right away, so you know what you have to spend. It’s nice that the ticket costs $70 at the BO, but if the Online price is $82 or $85 incl. fees it should say that. Because it might make a huge difference if what seats you can afford.

    The third factor is that the fees are ridiculously high on Ticketmaster esp., but Telecharge getting up there to. I’ve been asked to pay $12 fees on a $40 discount ticket. That’s almost 1/3 of the ticket price, come on! If I had $52 to spare, I would probably rather get a better seats than pay $12 for a non-service. Venues like Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall ect. all have much lower fees (to my knowledge) because they have their own online ticketing systems instead of using Telecharge or Ticketmaster. It’s like $3, which I’m (kinda) happy to pay. I wish more Broadway houses would find a way to do it that way.

  • Houston says:

    I agree that the service fees are annoying, but they aren’t sending customers to secondary vendors. Even there you pay a fee (Yes! After $400 for the HELLO, DOLLY! ticket Vivid Seats tacked on over $100 in service fees!) Customers go to other vendors for two reasons. 1) They can get discount tickets through services like BroadwayBox for shows that need help selling tickets. And more often 2) They have to use ticket brokers to get into your DOLLYS, HAMILTONS, EVAN HANSONS. If you want to reclaim your customers, find a way to stop brokers from snatching up all regular priced seats before your customer can get them. The average theatregoer will happily pay an extra $12 on a regular priced ticket. Your yearly membership fee only works if you can guarantee your customers they can get tickets to the shows they want to see.

  • Carl White says:

    The biggest flaw in your idea is that all ticket brokers that deal in theatre tickets would become Ticket Prime members. They would love it. Quit worrying about ticket brokers and take their business model to eliminate their profit angles.

    I do believe that all-in pricing works best for ALL primary ticket sellers, not just theatre.

    I guarantee you the person that pays $99 for a ticket after seeing the ticket costs $99 is happier than the person that pays $85 plus $14 in fees after seeing the ticket costs $85.

    The biggest flaw in my opinion when it comes to pricing tickets, regardless of the fees, is how primary sellers set prices. I would set prices just like the brokers, by supply and demand. I am sure you could find some mathematicians that could write the algorithms. They already work down the street on Wall Street.

    I do see some pricing discounts but they are usually not much. Lets say you have a 500 seat theatre. On Saturday night you always sell out, maybe 1500 people want those seats every Saturday night. On Tuesday night you usually sell 250 seats but prices are the same or maybe they are $10 cheaper, etc.

    I would price Saturday night so that only 500 people want those 500 seats at that price and on Tuesday price them so that 500 people want them at that price. That means Saturday night prices may start at $150 where as on Tuesday night they may start at $20 but you probably not only make more money, you probably put more fannies in the seats and probably make more long term theatre customers.

    The other pricing I would do would be more price points. Who says you can’t have 50 price points? Most people look at a seating chart and for many different reasons pretty much know where they want to sit. Dead center front row, half-way back on the aisle, front row balcony, last row of the orchestra near the exit so when it ends they can get a cab quickly, etc.

    Brokers have always understood that the front row is more valuable than the second row and the third row more than the fourth and so forth and so on. They know people will pay more for aisle seats, they know that at least half the buyers just want the cheapest ticket, etc. They get people exactly what they want, supply and demand. But you have the advantage over the brokers, you have all the historical data the geeks can crunch to set prices.

    I would do more meet and greets. People will pay so much extra money to get a picture and an autograph with the stars before the show. With a new revenue stream for the actors you probably get more and more stars on Broadway. Concerts promoters and managers have already figured this out.

    And, yes, I did a Google search and found Broadway Plus VIP Services advertising a Kinky Boots meet and greet experience so obviously Broadway is catching up.

    I would also offer more add-ons with tickets. Things people can buy when they make the ticket purchase such as autographed programs, merchandise such as t-shirts, all you can eat and drink concessions with separate lines, that kind of thing. Take advantage of the impulse buyer that might get cheap once they get in the theatre.

    And, yes, you can still do Ticket Prime but it will work best if you can get every Broadway Theatre and show on board. Give people true value with maximum options.

    Which makes me think of one last idea. I would invent BroadwayPass (feel free to give me a percentage when you start the company), something like MoviePass. I pay basically $50 a month for MoviePass and I can see one movie every day of the year, I can not see a movie more than once.

    Not sure at the moment what would be the ideal pricing but you let people see a Broadway show ever day of the year, you would have to let them see shows more than once as you just do not have as many shows as movies. Again, it only really works if you get all theatres and shows on board. The BroadwayPass customer can go to the box office one hour before any show starts and get a ticket if one is available. Sure, occasionally someone gets the last ticket that might have sold but usually they are getting a ticket that would have gone unsold anyway. In essence you have a new revenue stream for tickets that would otherwise go unsold and you make new customers that only use the service and go to shows because of the value. Who cares if super fan girl goes to see Kinky Boots 100 times thanks to her BroadwayPass as she probably becomes a marketing machine for you with her blog and on social media. Again, more fannies in seats, people go to see more shows, and you make more long-term customers. Plus, people take more chances on new shows they would not normally buy a ticket for and you get more word of mouth when they like them. I see movies all the time I never would go see if I had to pay $15. I like some of them and I tell people to go see them.

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