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The modern system of buying events tickets

By Todd Franko (Contact)


Published January 11, 2009

I was blessed to be a person who went to the first NHL Classic outdoor hockey game last New Year's Day between Buffalo and Pittsburgh in Buffalo, N.Y.

Me and 80,000 of my closest friends.

But it was a miracle I got there.

Tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. By fluke that day, I looked at my clock and saw 9:57 a.m. and called Ticketmaster. I pushed info into the phone pad for four minutes.

The event. The state. The city. The arena. My mother's maiden name. My dog's name. (not really on the last two)

At 10:02 a.m., I was talking to a human and ready to order my 6 tickets.

"Sir, I cannot get you 6 tickets in a row. All that are left are three in a row."

I began to quiz the lady. Tickets had been on sale for two minutes.

Two minutes. I could not get 6 together? I asked the lady how was that possible?

In that 30 seconds, tickets got even more limited.

"Sir, now all I have left are pairs. I can get you three pairs."

Her voice grew tense. I got the hint. I got the three pairs.

But I also got a lesson in modern ticket buying.

As a teen, I slept out for Ozzy Osbourne tickets. I think my second sleep-out was for Rush or Springsteen. We bonded in those lines. Our parents had sleepless nights, driving downtown every two hours to ensure we were still alive. When tickets went on sale on a weekday, the "cool" kids skipped school.

Those days are gone. Modern events are bought via the lines connected to your computer. Many folks got a front row seat to the new way on Saturday when they went to the Chevy to buy tickets to the Pavlik boxing match.

In two minutes, the cheap $50 tickets were gone.

In a few more minutes, the next cheapest $100 seats were gone.

People were stunned. But people in the event business were not.

I talked with Eric Ryan, Chevy Center executive director, on Friday night. He was dreading Saturday morning's ticket sales. Not so much the end result, which he expected to be good. He dreaded that people would come, stand in line, and not get a chance at tickets. He dreaded the morning his security team was to have.

He knows the business, but it’s rather politically incorrect to manage a ticket-selling venture, but tell your customers to go elsewhere — to Ticketmaster.

Who's to blame?

Us -- I guess, ultimately. Consumers.

Consumers wanted more ticket access to farther away locales. Up stepped Ticketmaster.

Consumers were willing to pay $500 for Rolling Stones tickets. In stepped ticket scalpers who became legitimately known as ticket brokers.

Blame Ticketmaster. Blame Top Rank. Blame ticket brokers. By 2:30 Saturday afternoon, about 100 Pavlik entries were on Ebay, each entry auctioning up to six tickets well above face value.

When we rise from the winter blitz on Monday, there'll no doubt be an attempt to blame the city/Chevy Centre or Team Pavlik -- either for the quick sales of tickets or the lack of cheap tickets.

The price, the quantity and the quick sale have nothing to do with them.

That we have a fight here at all is a credit to Team Pavlik.

And it looks like the Chevy Centre will have a Super Bowl-like event to put on for all of us to enjoy -- even if you were not lucky enough to get a ticket.


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