The Boss has a point

STEVE SIMMONS,SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Bruce Springsteen isn't the only one unhappy with Ticketmaster and its sister company, TicketsNow.

You should be unhappy too.

By charging lavish service and shipping charges to the already overpriced Maple Leafs and Raptors tickets, Ticketmaster, and Tickets-Now essentially have gone into the scalping business -- and while guilty of nothing here, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. is party to the overt surcharges by its agreed participation.

And I wonder: If I can book a cruise online, buy an airline ticket, or rent a car without a service charge, why can't I buy a Leafs ticket without one?

Isn't today's technology set up to make this easy?

The relationship between Ticketmaster and TicketsNow came to some nasty prominence recently when a Springsteen concert went on sale in New Jersey and Ticketmaster claimed the event was sold out, but advised consumers to go to TicketsNow to see what was available: In essence, Ticketmaster was scalping Springsteen tickets through its affiliate website.

It's really no different when it comes to trying to locate Leafs or Raptors tickets.

I went online yesterday and tried to buy a pair of tickets for the Leafs' game against Washington on Tuesday -- but found none available.

But there were 318 Leafs tickets for sale on TicketsNow, available in U.S. dollars, with high service and shipping charges. For example, a pair of Leafs tickets in Section 312, way up there in the Air Canada Centre, which normally sells for $110, was available for $185.15 US -- or approximately $231 Canadian.

In this case, there would be nothing cheap about sitting in the cheap seats at the ACC.

Trying to buy Raptors tickets was equally frustrating, if not eye-opening. Early in the day, there were no Raptors tickets available on Ticketmaster, but later in the day, after some questions were asked, there were seats available. But not without getting socked -- and that's even with the reasonable priced tickets.

A very affordable pair of $27 Raptors tickets should sell for $54. Right? But on Ticketmaster, after your service charge and pickup charge are added to the price, the total is $71.50. That's a whopping 32% service charge by Ticketmaster.

Some might call that thievery.

A pair of $43 seats, which by all rights should sell for $86, were available for $103.50 on Ticketmaster. Again, a service charge of 20%. Who do these people think they are -- the government?

And over at TicketsNow, the lowest-priced Raptors seats were sold for $15 US but included $44.95 US in service and shipping costs Instead of $60 US for the four seats, you're paying $104.95 -- or almost 75% in additional costs.

Tom Anselmi, the chief operating officer, of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., has no problem doing business with Ticketmaster. But he does wonder about the connection with TicketsNow.

"Ticket scalping is illegal in Ontario," Anselmi said. "The internet has allowed it to go online. It used to Harry or Joe standing on the corner. We can't control it any better than we could 25 years ago."

When asked about one of his business partners operating a ticket scalping website, Anselmi said: "I'm not comfortable with that. We'll have to address that the next time we do a contract (with Ticketmaster). From our perspective, it's not anything we're participating in."

Anselmi did say MLSEL does business with Ticketmaster because it can dispense more tickets, in a quicker fashion, and invest heavily in its operation to make certain it is functional. He claims the additional charges, while high with low-end seats, are relatively low for the high-priced tickets.

To their credit, the Blue Jays do not deal with Ticketmaster. They handle their tickets in-house and their online tickets are sold through a Major League Baseball affiliate company called MLB Advanced Media. There is a per ticket service charge of $5.25, which is reasonable by today's marketplace.

And the only bargain I could find on Ticketmaster was Argos season tickets. A pair of tickets for $950 came with a surcharge of $3. That you can't argue about.

STEVE.SIMMONS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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