No Venue Is Too Small To Be Sale Spoofed

I never really thought of my venue and the shows it presents as a target for ticket resellers and secondary market brokers, but a recent incident provides a cautionary tale.

I had a woman make an appointment to see me to complain about the excessive services charges assessed by our ticket office. Now, our charges are rolled into the price so I thought she had ordered her tickets via Ticketmaster even though she swore she called our number.

When she brought her paperwork in, it was apparent the answer was much more complicated. The receipt showed that the order was placed during the week our ticket office was closed for Christmas holidays. Not only that, the charges for the tickets were twice the face value of the show (a renter presenting an Elvis impersonator).

We don’t know what number she called to order the tickets, but what we ended up piecing together was that a guy in Washington state basically took her request, went online to Ticketmaster and ordered the tickets, chose print at home and then FEDEXed the tickets to her, tacking all sorts of service charges on to the already over priced tickets. When we went in to the system to check if the tickets were actually valid, his name and address were associated with the seats and matched the address on the sales receipt.

In the end, the woman ended up paying over $120 for two tickets that would have cost her about $43 had she reached our ticket office.

In retrospect, I realized I had seen similar offers for our tickets on Facebook and Twitter. One posting was offering tickets to one of our shows, but had linked to a similarly named venue about two hours away. At the time, I thought they put our date on a concert being performed by the same group at another time and the prices were for those seats.

It was only later that I realized the concert in that city was being held at an entirely different venue. Our date was right, whoever was selling just linked to the seating map at the wrong venue.

Since then, I have paid closer attention and have seen people offering tickets on Twitter and Facebook to some of our events at jacked up prices. This isn’t secondary market selling, the seats they offer are in rows where no tickets have been sold and at a time when the event isn’t really in any danger of selling out.

This isn’t technically web or email spoofing since no one has tried to directly impersonate us. This just takes advantage of someone’s lack of knowledge or attention when they are ordering.

This sort of scam is difficult to warn people about. Those who are subscribers or have a close enough relationship with your organization that they read any correspondence they receive from you warning about this situation probably know enough to discern when they are not talking to an authentic representative.

The woman who complained to me actually had her call forwarded a couple times and then was instructed to go online to another site in order to buy the tickets. The inconvenience of this process alone probably would have tipped our regular customers off.

So in addition to watching social media for any positive or negative comments about your organization, you should keep an eye out for people pretending to be one of your ticket outlets as well.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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