Beware Of Expensive Venue-Specific Add-Ons When Buying Tickets Online

Ticketmaster and Bank of America Theatre don't include this mandatory $35 add-on in the face price of the ticket.

Ticketmaster and Bank of America Theatre don’t include this mandatory $35 add-on in the face price of the ticket.

Consumerist reader Ben recently went on Ticketmaster to buy six tickets to catch the Book of Mormon at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago. The tickets alone were pricey enough (around $90/each) and of course there were more than $10/ticket in fees. But when he looked at the receipt, he saw he’d been hit with another $245.10 above what he’d expected to pay.

All that extra money, he discovered, was for something called “Broadway In Chicago Suite Service,” which Ben remembered seeing as a possible add-on during checkout, but which he was sure he had not opted into, much like he hadn’t purchased the add-on soundtrack CD or any of the other up-sells offered before submitting his credit card info.

And so he contacted Ticketmaster and was eventually told that he had purchased seats for which this vague, oddly named service were required. Ticketmaster explained that it was the venue, and not Ticketmaster, that decided which seats would include this mandatory additional charge.

Ben went back online and looked around at seats next to the ones he’d purchased and didn’t see any mandatory charges, so none of this was making much sense. So he contacted Consumerist to see if we could figure out what exactly had happened.

We went through the ticket-ordering process for a Book of Mormon show (though we didn’t actually buy, because none of us live in Chicago and none of us have money to spend on $92 theater tickets) and saw where customers could be confused about these add-on fees.

This screengrab shows that when you hover over certain seats, it shows you the per-seat price but also says “Suite Service Package.” Given that all the taxes and fees are spelled out right there, it would seem to indicate that the total price of this seat is $107.60 (youch!). But notice it also says “Click the ‘?’ next to this offer on the left to learn more.”

hoverover2

Now, when we read “click to learn more” about an offer, we usually expect that this will just spell out the specifics of what on Earth “Broadway In Chicago Suite Service” might actually be.

But when you click on the specifics of that service, you find that it not only includes open bar, some snacks, private restrooms and coat check, but that it will cost you an
additional $35 (plus applicable fees) and that the “Total Package price will be shown at the end of the transaction.”
hoverover1

So that $107.60/ticket detailed in the first screengrab does not include all the costs associated with that seat.

Even on the next screen, where you choose your delivery options for the tickets you’ve selected, the price of the seats is still not combined with the price of the mandatory suite service package:
suiteservice

It’s not until you get to the very end of the purchasing process that you actually see the full price of your purchase. And if you’re not careful and assume your subtotal hasn’t changed between screens (which it most definitely has in this case), you could click your way into spending a lot more than you’d planned for a service you never intended to request.

So while we do think that both the venue and Ticketmaster could be more transparent about these seats and put the $35 in the actual price of the seat, instead of hiding it off to the side until the point where the customer submits his payment information, it’s also a reminder to never take your eyes off the price so that you don’t get stuck paying for some add-on you don’t want.

In the end, Ticketmaster allowed Ben to get a refund on his purchase and helped him book tickets for another night that don’t include a tacked-on $35 service.