By Jim McCarthy Jun 23, 2011 0 comments

Deception and Obscurity as Business Plan?

I saw this today on Ticketnews, and it’s worth a mention.  (BTW, you know what else is worth a mention if you’re in the live entertainment biz? Ticketnews itself.  It’s a great resource that gets bashed a little because, well, I don’t know why exactly, but it deserves more credit than it gets for covering a lot of ground.)

Anyway, it’s a piece about the practice that many ticket brokers have of building dummy websites that look like the websites (kinda, if you’ve never used the internet) of the venue for the tickets you’re looking for.  For example (and I could go find examples, but I’m off to a meeting in a few minutes and need to prep), a website themed in blue and white with some old-timey baseball script fonts in there saying “Los Angeles Baseball Tickets.”  Well, at a glance, it may resemble the Dodgers website, and some people get caught up in that.

It happens that in Denver, this took place at the Denver Center for the Performing, who don’t play that.  Here’s the key piece:

“The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which operates the Buell Theatre, has received complaints from some fans who were allegedly duped into buying resold tickets at a premium from Web sites they thought were part of the official box office. As a result, the center has posted signs at the theatre drawing attention to its real Web site, according to KMGH-TV.

Please be advised that The Denver Center for the Performing Arts – – is the ONLY authorized online seller of tickets for Denver Center Attractions (the Broadway touring productions) and the Denver Center Theatre Company (the resident theatre company productions),” the sign states. “Currently there are scalpers, also known as ‘second party vendors,’ selling tickets online at a rate more than double the standard price – and up. Tickets bought through these vendors MAY NOT BE VALID. You could not only be refused admission, but also lose your entire investment.”

It’s a tough time to be a secondary seller, no doubt.  People in that biz thought 2007 was just the way things were from now on, but they were very, very wrong.  Markets do correct themselves and that’s what happened. Now, they have to be extremely hard-nosed and break out those green eye-shades to look at the numbers and make some money.  Part of this, yes, can be grey to black hat shenanigans like this.

As a primary seller, my perspective is pretty liberal.  I think there’s a place for the secondary market, and not everyone in the primary side agrees with me.  Why not let someone else take the risk with your tickets?  It’s part of a free market economy, and I’m definitely in favor of that, all in all.

But, I’ve said this in many different contexts, if your business plan involves deceiving customers, even the ones in the gullible part of the market, you’re on the wrong track.  Hiding, shifting, concealing or even just making things unclear are varying degrees of working against the long-term megatrend in our society where the customer has more information and more power than ever.  If your strategy is to obscure and deceive, be prepared to move further and further out of the mainstream and into the dimwitted fringes of the market.  I’m not saying there’s no business to be done there.  After all, there’s still a business in timeshares and extended warranties.

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