CHICAGO (CBS) — The Better Business Bureau has pulled its “A-plus” rating for a popular Chicago ticket broker because of repeated problems exposed by the CBS 2 Investigators.
CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman on Monday exposed how the company is costing consumers big.
Take the case of Christine and Gary Waller.
They contacted CBS 2 after their frustrating and failed attempt to get a refund for Cubs tickets they say they paid for but never received.
It was supposed to be for a “fun family outing” at Wrigley Field, said Gary Waller. But it turned into “a disaster,” he said, when they went online to buy tickets to a Cubs vs. Cardinals game last summer.
Christine said the family is “big Cubs fans win or lose,” and this was to be a special game to introduce the newest member of their family to the game – their granddaughter Harper.
They bought their tickets to see the Cubs play the Cardinals in September.
Gary used his phone to order the tickets electronically. He thought he was getting them through Major League Baseball.
But he wound up doing business with a secondary ticket reseller called Vivid Seats based in Chicago.
Vivid Seats sent Gary a confirmation thru his phone after he paid the $445 required for the 4 tickets. He kept checking for the actual tickets to be sent electronically, but says they never arrived. So he assumed the confirmation of payment that he received would be accepted as their tickets.
No deal. The group was denied entry at the gate.
The box office tried to help them find the tickets through Gary’s cell phone, following instructions from a Vivid customer service representative. Still no deal.
So they drove home.
“It was heartbreaking, because we were just so psyched to take her to her first game,” said Christine Waller.
They had even purchased a Cubs onesie for their granddaughter to wear to the game.
When they tried to get a refund, Vivid refused – insisting they were sent the tickets to the ball game.
“My husband called Vivid Seats and couldn’t get anywhere.” Christine said.
And it got worse. Their bank initially refunded Gary’s money, then changed their mind because of Vivid’s objections – causing the Wallers to bounce some checks.
Late fees on their bills piled up to $800, just before Christmas.
“Very upsetting,” said Christine Waller. “We are still not caught up.”
Vivid Seats is a Chicago-based company located in the West Loop. It has racked up more than 900 complaints with the Better Business Bureau for everything from billing problems to ticket delivery issues over the past three years, but had an A-Plus rating with the BBB until we started asking questions.
“We have taken the grade away from them,” Bernas said. “We have currently put them on ‘No Rating’ while they investigate the complaints and Vivid Seats response to them.
“We’re making certain that there are no types of patterns of complaints or issues that we’re aware of,” Bernas said.
The Wallers’ issue seemed simple to Christine Waller.
“For us to not go to the game and still not get our money back,” she said. “That’s disheartening…. It’s just so cruel.”
After we inquired about the Wallers’ complaint, the company refunded their money and gave them a gift card for Cubs tickets this summer. A company spokesman said there was a “technology issue” that lead to the Wallers’ problems involving the transfer of the tickets.
As for the hundreds of other complaints filed with the BBB, a Vivid spokesman said it’s a small percentage compared to the millions of tickets the company sells each year.
Generally speaking, when you are purchasing tickets for an event, the BBB recommends that if possible buy them directly from the box office. If you can’t, be careful that you don’t get tricked into thinking you are dealing with the venue when you are not. Secondary brokers may mislead you into thinking they are the venue or directly connected to the venue.
“Ticketmakers” is one of the names they use, consumers have alleged to the BBB.
“That’s pretty similar to Ticketmaster and they thought they were dealing with them (Ticketmaster) and they actually weren’t,” said Bernas.
He also warned the consumers should know that prices on the secondary market are typically much higher than at the box office because of service fees and other add-ons. And “guarantees” that you’ll get your seats promised in bold print may be undermined in the fine print of an agreement that discloses there are “no refunds” except for a concert cancellation.
“A lot of times with these ticket brokers is that the big print giveth and the little print taketh away,” Bernas said, “and consumers are not reading fully what they’re getting themselves into.”
When you are dealing with a secondary broker or reseller, they may be selling you tickets “on spec” meaning they don’t actually have the tickets. When they get them, the tickets may not be for the seats you thought you were getting.
If you have complaints about ticket brokers, you can contact the following agencies or organizations:
The Federal Trade Commission is available at 1-877-FTC HELP (382-4357). Or you can file a complaint on line at FTC.gov/complaint.
Also the Better Business Bureau 312-832-0500 or BBB.org to file a complaint on line.