Hundreds Paid for Mix-Up With Tickets for Springsteen Show at Verizon Center

TicketsNow reps cite the glut of orders for the Verizon Center show mishap.
TicketsNow reps cite the glut of orders for the Verizon Center show mishap. (Chris Young - AP)
By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Just more than 300 fans who bought tickets for the Bruce Springsteen concert at Verizon Center on Monday night discovered yesterday they had purchased nonexistent seats from TicketsNow, an online company that sets up transactions for ticket-holders to resell their seats, often at highly inflated prices.

The ticket company, based in Illinois and owned by Ticketmaster, was part of a larger Springsteen ticketing fiasco earlier this year. The company rushed to make amends throughout the day, offering slighted customers doubled refunds or tickets and travel money to different Springsteen shows.

"We've talked to every customer and are down to 24 situations that we haven't yet worked out some measure" of compensation, said Julia Vander Ploeg, TicketsNow's senior vice president of marketing.

The reimbursement packages consisted of either a 100 percent refund and a gift card of equal value for future purchases through the company, or tickets to other Springsteen shows plus $150 for a hotel and $75 in gasoline expenses.

Springsteen's camp was clearly unhappy about this latest incident with TicketsNow.

"There are what now appear to be chronic problems with how Ticketmaster uses its secondary market ticket reseller TicketsNow," said Springsteen manager Jon Landau in an e-mail. "We would like our audience to know that this is a problem concerning Ticketmaster and its wholly owned subsidiary TicketsNow. Neither Bruce nor his management have any control whatsoever over these two troubled entities."

Media reports yesterday said that "thousands" of "premium" tickets could not be delivered by sellers, but Ploeg said those reports were inaccurate. She said the seats were spread out over the 18,000-seat arena, and were not the handiwork of dishonest sellers.

"There is no fraud involved," she said.

Rather, Ploeg said, the problem stemmed from the crush of ticket orders the minute the seats went on sale. She said "the confirmation of ticket orders with sellers is a manual process" and that, with so many tickets being bought so quickly, mistakes were made in the confirmation process.

Verizon Center spokeswoman Sheila Francis confirmed yesterday that the arena sold out "in about 20 minutes" through Ticketmaster when they went on sale Feb. 2.

Tickets for sports, concerts and other entertainment outings are sold by Ticketmaster, the nation's largest ticketing agency, at face value. But it has become a routine -- and, by some, despised -- occurrence for people to buy up blocks of tickets at regular prices and then resell them at inflated prices at virtual marketplace sites such as TicketsNow.

That is what happened in February when tickets for Springsteen's Working on a Dream Tour first went on sale. Thousands of fans reported they were unable to buy tickets at face value from Ticketmaster but were instead offered seats at inflated prices on TicketsNow. Attorneys general in at least two states launched investigations, and Springsteen and his manager said they were "furious" about the "abuse" of fans.

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