Fan's Tickets Were Just Wooden Nickels

The pop-bluegrass band Nickel Creek is playing Pier Six Pavilion on its farewell tour.
The pop-bluegrass band Nickel Creek is playing Pier Six Pavilion on its farewell tour. (By Danny Clinch)
By John Kelly
Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Katie Benson of Falls Church is a Nickel Creek fan.

Nickel Creek is a pop-bluegrass band from California. It's not to be confused with Nickelback, a rock band from Canada, or nickel cadmium, a type of rechargeable battery invented in Sweden.

When Katie, 23, heard that Nickel Creek's farewell tour would take it to Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore in August, she knew she had to be there. She had her fingers ready when tickets went on sale one morning last month and was delighted when she was able to purchase three seats from Ticketmaster online.

And what seats! Section 103, Row A. That's second row, baby, smack dab in the pavilion's middle section.

But a few days later Katie got a message on her answering machine. It was from Pier Six. "The message basically said, 'We weren't supposed to sell those tickets so we went ahead and voided them,' " she said.

They offered Katie seats in Section 110, Row J, instead. That's two sections back, far to the left of the stage.

That didn't seem very fair, given that Katie had gotten a bona fide confirmation when she'd purchased the tickets. Why was she now being given such crummy seats?

Many of the shows at Pier Six are booked by the Rams Head Tavern, a brewpub with several locations in Maryland and live music venues in Annapolis and Baltimore.

A Rams Head employee named Josh told me that Rams Head sells most of the tickets itself to shows at Pier Six but that it has an arrangement whereby Ticketmaster is allowed to sell a limited number of tickets. He explained: "What happened was Ticketmaster had some sort of problem where they accidentally sold the entire venue, not just certain tickets that we allow them to sell. So we had two separate ticket systems selling the same thing."

That's funny. When Katie's mom, Karen, called Ticketmaster, they told her the mix-up was the Rams Head's fault.

I don't know how many Nickel Creek fans are affected. Josh's boss wouldn't call me back, and neither would anyone from Ticketmaster.

Of course, ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster rank next to cable companies and phone companies in their embrace of the "customer is always wrong" philosophy. These are the people who coined the Orwellian expression "convenience fee" to describe that extra bit that's tacked on to the cost of the tickets.

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