no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

The Ticketmaster e-Tickets/ticketFast Racket

January 16th, 2009

I bought concert tickets a few months ago. They were expensive (about $105 with all the fees), but they were good seats at a decent venue to see Metallica. I also got two copies of the new album (one of which I gifted) and two coupon codes for a download of the live performance. A conflict arose, during the past week or so, which requires me to be in California, the morning after the concert. Normally, I would fly out of Detroit on Tuesday night, stay in a hotel, and go to work the next day.

Because of the concert, I was going to have to take the 630 am flight, rent a car in LAX, drive two hours to work, and be there by lunch time. Didn’t sound like a good idea, after 3 hours in the mosh pit at Metallica. Would I drive all the way home (an hour north of Detroit) at 11pm, just to turn around and drive back south of Detroit at 3am to get on a cross-country flight?

Bad idea, meet worse idea. I decided I should just try to sell the tickets and get on a better flight. I’ve seen Metallica in concert two or three times, it’s unlikely that this show would be better than Metallica/Godsmack in 2004, I don’t even listen to the other two bands on the playbill.

When I bought the tickets, I wanted to save money. I had them delivered electronically, a method they refer to as ticketFast. This method cost $2.50 per ticket instead of $20 for FedEx. The tickets arrive in your emailbox as a .PDF. You print them, and go to the concert. Easy as pie, unless, of course, you’re trying to convey these tickets to a stranger.

It is hard to re-sell these tickets, because I could print 1000 copies of these tickets and sell them to anyone. That’s what strangers are understandably afraid of. I’m an honest person. I only wanted to sell the tickets that I had. Some people on eBay were listing comparable tickets at $200 a piece. All that I wanted to unload was the event tickets, and I wanted to do it now. I was asking Face-Value, but I was willing to take a small “loss”.

But there was no way for me to effectively guarantee these tickets would be valid, unless I wait until the day of the concert and physically walk the buyer in the door at Joe Louis Arena, which would greatly increase my exposure to risk — if the buyer doesn’t show, I’m completely SOL.

I tried to sell them on craigslist, there were a few inquiries, and one person who was serious, because she asked if I could convert them to paper tickets. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with “Customer Service” who informed me that they couldn’t, under any circumstances, (for this particular event) change the type of ticket. The odd thing is that they do this for some concerts, but not for others. The man with whom I spoke said he gets “hundreds” of calls like this. I found this interesting, because as a de facto monopoly, Ticketmaster isn’t in the business of satisfying their customers. Hundreds of ostensibly dissatisfied customers (like myself) are evidence to the contrary. I asked rhetorically, whether they were ever going to change the crappy system and start satisfying customers. He pretended to sympathize with me. I was not convinced.

Eventually, I was persuaded to list my tickets with which is a Tickemaster affiliate site. enforces the “guarantee” by debiting my account in the event that I fail to deliver on the sale. In order to do this, they charge 15% vig to the seller. The buyer pays for shipping. What they do not tell you, is that the buyer is also banged for an additional 15%. Like the “Social Security Ripoff”, pretending that I only pay 15% service charge is an outright lie. I paid the other 15% in potentially lost revenue.

They are charging a 30% markup on tickets they issued, which they can validate, and which they could revoke, cancel, and/or re-issue at practically zero cost, at any time prior to the event.

Because of the anonymity, craigslist was not a viable option. People were afraid of scams. eBay was a possibility, but even then you run the risk of people discounting or disregarding a PDF ticket as potential forgery. On, there was no place to indicate that they were not cardstock tickets, nor was there a means by which the buyer could inquire of the seller. So whoever bought them will probably be surprised when they open up the box from FedEx and see two 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper with black & white tickets printed on them.

I listed them at $116/per, which turned into about $134/ticket, with all the fees they charge. Of that $134, I take home $99 — not quite enough to cover my expenses (I’m about $20 in the red) but I keep the CDs and the downloads, so I’m OK with that. I would’ve been more OK with an extra $60 or $70, though.

Had I been able to confidently sell/guarantee the PDF version of the tickets on craigslist, I could’ve sold them for less, made the same amount of money, and the buyer would’ve been happier, too. Ticketmaster produced nothing of any real value in this transaction, ruined my afternoon in the process, and caused some poor fellow to pay far more than I would’ve accepted for the tickets. A lot of surplus value was pillaged by Ticketmaster, just on this one transaction, because there was no market in which I could offer a guarantee for the legitimacy of the PDF tickets.

I have no intention of defrauding the purchaser on, and I didn’t have any intention of defrauding anyone on craigslist or eBay, either. But I had no way of guaranteeing this to anyone.

It’s unfortunate that an alternative method of reputation marketing and/or insurance doesn’t exist.



  • Jeff Molby says on: January 16, 2009 at 5:48 pm


    Did you check out Stubhub? They guarantee the tickets too. Might have a more reasonable fee structure

  • U2 fan says on: October 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm


    I just brought PDF tickets from ebay, I guess I am screwed!

    • nothirdsolution says on: October 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm


      I wouldn't say you're necessarily "screwed", but because the tix are in PDF format, it's possible that their duplicates/copies so that might present a problem. OTOH, if the seller has a good reputation, you probably don't have anything to worry about. Most people are genuinely decent most of the time.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics