The Washington Post

No listed ticket price is ever the real price any more

Ticketmaster tickets and gift cards are shown at a box office in San Jose, Calif. The Department of Justice has imposed major concessions upon Live Nation and Ticketmaster Monday, Jan. 25, 2010, in approving the companies' merger. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

ntentro riblos

This is not the greeting from the alien in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (though his “klaatu barada nikto” would be perfect for it).

No, these are some randomly generated words you have to type in order to buy tickets at the Ticketmaster site.

It’s one of those captcha tests that are supposed to allow humans (with good eyesight) to order tickets but to stop any automated attempts by scalpers to obtain the tickets.

The method serves mostly to slow people down by having to retype the barely legible wavy words, while it allows scalpers to buy up every ticket to, say, a Bruce Springsteen show at Verizon Center on April 1 that sold out in one minute according to my computer.

Can’t figure out why I got shut out while the local scalper Web site lists literally hundreds of tickets available at prices up to $1,000 each.

Prices for tickets are already expensive, but the “convenience charge” (that is to say the convenience of retyping wavy nonsense words) can add nearly $20 per ticket. And if you want them sent to you by three-day mail, it’s almost $20 more.

No listed ticket price for an event is actually ever the real price any more.

The ticket range for tap dancer Savion Glover at the Warner Theatre on March 30 and 31 is listed at $29 to $59. But you’ll actually have to pay $41 to $73.50. And that $12 jolt from $29 to $41 is more than a 41 percent increase. It adds up: $24 in fees for a pair of lower-priced tickets; $96 if you’re buying for a family of four — even though they all go into one envelope in the single transaction.

It’s the same for fine arts offerings as well. If you choose to buy your $10 admission to the Corcoran Gallery of Art through Ticketmaster, it will cost you $12.75. And even if you’re getting a free ticket to a chamber music concert at the Library of Congress — free, I’m saying — Ticketmaster adds $2.75 per seat.

If you’re enough of a fan to pay $358 for a top ticket to see Madonna at Verizon Center in the fall, you might not even notice the $32 fee tacked on. What would have been $716 for a Monday night out for two on Sept. 24 is suddenly $780. Presumably you could have bought a couple of T-shirts or a few round of drinks for that $64.

I’m not sure why higher-priced tickets necessitate higher convenience charges. Do the tickets get heavier at each price level and, thus, make them more expensive to mail? No, scratch that — you pay extra for postage. That is, if you get them mailed to you at all.

In Ticketmaster’s loopiest add-on fee, you get to pay $3.50 so you can print out your own tickets “at your own convenience!” On your own printer. Using your own ink. This is, after all, their “recommended” method for you to get your ticket, according to the Web site.

And why not? It’s the perfect ruse: an additional $3.50 for nothing.

It’s enough to make you yell ntentro riblos

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