Human Interest


Those words uttered by circus entrepreneur and “showman,” P.T. Barnum, were true in his day and are still true today! There are suckers born all the time, and you know it because every arena, stadium, and concert hall is full of them. Why do I say that? Because I’ve been one of them, and I know almost every person attending the same event as I fell prey to the same scam. 

In January, 2010, while visiting Phoenix, AZ, I decided Sandy and I would go the the Fiesta Bowl game at the AZ Cardinals’ stadium in Glendale. The game was just a few days away so I looked for 2 tickets online. I can’t recall if I called the box office first, but if I did, I was referred to a ticket broker/seller called Stub Hub. To my surprise, my online search showed several tickets remaining so I began to look for the best seats available. To my further surprise, I learned the seats I wanted were selling for $150 each. Now, this is 14 years ago when gasoline was $2.50/gallon so $150 per ticket seemed pricey. Well, I ignored common sense and frugality and blew $300.00 for the two seats. Of course there was at least another $10+ per ticket in obscure fees added to the $300 so I’m out almost $400. 

Three days before the game, Sandy tripped and fell dislocating her left elbow, and was thus in no shape to go to the game, so I went alone. I tried to scalp her ticket outside the stadium, but comments made to me by “professional scalpers” told me I was out of my league and better not enter their territory. I literally was warned that I could get hurt! I heeded their warning, so I’m down $150 plus fees!

When I finally got to my seat, as advertised, I was on the 30-yd line, but in the next-to-last row from the top. Holy Cow! I was way up there. And I was at a game in which I had no skin—I had no allegiance, or ties, to Boise State or TCU. How boring is it to sit in row 1000 by yourself, watching two teams you know little or nothing about. I left at halftime. 

Well, that’s my sucker story. I wanted to go to that game so badly, I left my injured wife at home alone while I went to a meaningless game. I was enough of a sucker to pay an inflated price for two tickets located in the nosebleed section. I was bored to death and angry with myself for not having more restraint and common sense. 

In this scenario, I don’t think I’m the only sucker. State Farm stadium seats 63,400 people. I would bet more than 75% of them bought their tickets online from Stub Hub, or some other  ticket broker, as I did, and the fact that there exist at least nine companies that do the same thing as Stub Hub tells me the world is full of suckers. No longer do people buy tickets by standing in line, or calling the box office, and actually paying the price printed on the ticket. Modern day buyers use the Internet to search for and purchase tickets at inflated prices. Suckers abound.

The nine ticket broker/sellers that I identified from my research are Ticketmaster, Seat Geek, Stub Hub, Vivid Seats, Gametime, TEVO, Tick Pick, Ticket Network, and Lysted. The largest of these is Ticketmaster. There are more than 2000 ticket websites and apps currently in operation. They all cater to people who want something so badly they don’t care how much they have to pay to get it!

A number of folks have told me they had a bad experience with Seat Geek so I decided to look for some info about this website. There was plenty! I assume ratings for one site would be similar to those for others, so Seat Geek will become the standard from which to compare. 

Seat Geek began business in 2009. They described themselves as a “mobile ticketing marketplace,” and having “the best consumer technology on the market.” Their aim was “to be a force for good in live entertainment.” What I don’t know, and couldn’t find out for sure, was exactly how Seat Geek gets tickets to re-sell? Google says it’s from individual sellers or licensed brokers. Wikipedia says Seat Geek has “instituted a platform that allows artists, sports teams, and others to sell tickets directly through the site.” I’ve wondered if a percentage of tickets for a concert are sold by the venue to Seat Geek at face value and then re-sold to consumers by Seat Geek at twice the price. Do ticket brokers have a deal with a stadium to get a certain number of tickets to sell themselves? It’s all vague to me, but I was able to learn Seat Geek had revenues of $125 Million in 2022 and anticipate $500 Million this year. The company is valued at $1.35 Billion. HOLY COW!

When you go to the Better Business Bureau website, a completely different impression of Seat Geek emerges. Customer ratings are given between 1 to 5 stars, 5 being the best. Twenty-five percent of Seat Geek customer reviews gave them only 1 star, the lowest rating, and another 5% gave only two stars. Five stars were awarded by only 24% of customers. Most compelling, however, is the BBB’s rating of “F.” “F” means failure, flunked, as low as one can go. In fact, the Better Business Bureau says Seat Geek is “not an accredited business.”

When one looks at customer reviews, numerous problems come to light. In the last three years, Seat Geek had 1791 complaints. In the past 12 months there were 674. On the BBB website these numbers were highlighted in red to indicate customer beware! Reading just the first page of customer reviews I came upon the following problems:

  1. “Refundable tickets” were not refundable. Instead, a credit voucher called a promotion code was given to use at a future event. One customer given credit was unable to use it.
  2. A customer selling his ticket through Seat Geek asked $290 for the ticket. Seat Geek sold it for $29 and refused to correct their error.
  3. False advertising. Seats with “partially obstructed view” were worse than advertised. My seats were at a higher row than I expected. Some seats are supposed to be in one section but are really in another with a poorer view.
  4. Bait and switch. Seat location was incorrect or misrepresented.
  5. Customer accidentally paid twice for same ticket. Seat Geek would not refund the duplicate payment.
  6. Complaints fall on deaf ears. Calls are not returned by supervisors. Customers got the runaround.
  7. Tickets purchased were not honored at the venue. Customer was told he bought “invalid” tickets. Refund denied.
  8. Seats purchased by customer were occupied by people with the same tickets. The customer had no seats and was denied refund or apology. Problem not made right.
  9. The event was cancelled. Customer could not attend on the new date. Seat Geek refused to refund money.
  10. Tickets purchased for arena “A” were actually seats at a different arena. Yes. That really happened. Seat Geek refused a refund.

Other customer comments I saw were:

       “Far from reliable”  “Very weak operation” “ A true scam” “Seat Geek sucks”

       “You’re a fake company” “Don’t use this site” “I gave 1 star because you can’t give zero”

       “Links don’t work” “Stay away at all cost” “Not reputable”

       “They engage in dishonest, shady, and non-transparent business practices”

Of course, I’ve focused solely on the negative, but there was a lot of it! These companies are in business to make money as are most businesses. BUT these guys take something priced by the “primary seller” at $75 and sell it for $150. It’s like an auto dealer saying this car is $40,000, but because there is a big demand for it, we’re asking $50,000. I think that’s dishonest. But as long as there are “suckers born every minute,” there will always be someone who will pay the higher price. 

Like me and the Fiesta Bowl; emotion replaces good judgement and you end up wasting/blowing/losing $300.

“Caveat Emptor”— Let the buyer beware! No better recommendation was ever given.


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