Radiohead’s Thom Yorke: attempts to stop touts profiteering from the band’s concerts have rebounded on fans. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty
Radiohead and Ticketmaster have been accused of introducing an unfair ticket system that punishes fans who can no longer make it to the band’s sell-out concerts.
In an attempt to stop touts buying vast numbers of tickets and selling them on at a profit, Radiohead decided to use a “paperless ticketing” policy for their shows at Manchester Arena on 6 October and London’s O2 Arena on 8-9 October.
Tickets for the gigs went on sale via Ticketmaster in March, and can only be collected at the venue on the day of the show by the person who bought them. The credit or debit card used to buy them must be presented on the day, as well as additional ID.
However, since shelling out for tickets, many Radiohead fans have found they are unable to go because of unexpected work or other commitments, and are unable to sell the tickets back to Ticketmaster, or give them to friends or family members. Others have had tickets bought for them by well-meaning parents and are unable to collect them because they are not in their name.
Some people who bought several tickets say that because they now can’t make it, their friends won’t be able to go either, because they have to arrive at the venue with the card-holder.
Richa Manwani, a doctor, bought two tickets for the band’s 8 October concert in London. “I have found out that I am on call that day and am unable to make the event,” she said. “Only I can redeem the tickets on the night of the event with my credit card and photo ID. This means I have no way of selling them on for face value. Ticketmaster offers a no-refunds policy, which means I have lost my money.”
- She added: “I understand entirely the reason for offering paperless tickets to prevent touting and unreasonable inflation of ticket prices, but I think it is unfair and illogical to punish Radiohead fans and Ticketmaster customers who are unlucky enough not to be able to make the event.”
Paul Chambers wrote to Guardian Money after spending £288 on four tickets for the band’s Manchester show. “I can’t go due to being away at work,” he said. “The tickets are in my name and I can’t pick them up. My wife isn’t keen on going to the concert without me but couldn’t anyway due to my name and bank card being on the bill. I would gladly sell the Radiohead tickets to fans for face value but I can’t due to the restrictions.”
Paul McCarren had tickets for the London show on 9 October, which were bought for him by his mother using her credit card. “According to Ticketmaster, she must now be present at the concert in order [for me] to use the tickets,” he told us. “I live in Northern Ireland and would be flying over for the show; needless to say, she will not be coming over with me.”
Guardian Money first highlighted the problems that some people were experiencing back in July, when our back-page Bachelor & Brignall column featured a letter from “LC” from Aberdeen, who couldn’t make one of the London concerts because he was being sent overseas for work. In his case, Ticketmaster agreed to refund him and sell the tickets on, but its approach to other customers appears to vary widely, depending on which of its agents deals with them.
McCarren has now been able to get the tickets transferred into his name – but not without some effort. “With some luck and a great deal of time spent on the phone, I was able to resolve the issue. Ticketmaster cancelled my previous order and then held the tickets for me, so I could purchase them with my own card. A great result, but not without a lot of hassle and money spent on the phone.”
Another fan, Victoria Spooner, was told by Ticketmaster that there was nothing it could do when she asked if she could pass her tickets on to a friend after she discovered her employer was sending her to Vancouver during the week of the concert. Yet another reader, Stephen Smith, says he was also turned down for an exchange or refund when he attempted to return his tickets for the Manchester concert.
Jon Wiffen, a spokesman for Ticketmaster, told us the company was considering customers on a case by case basis. “Terms and conditions relating to the purchase of paperless tickets are clearly outlined to customers at multiple stages during the purchase process, including the initial purchase page, the shipping page and the billing page. Information relating to their purchase of paperless tickets is also conveyed on the confirmation email they receive.”
He added: “Paperless tickets aren’t transferable because this prevents those tickets being offered in the resale market. However, our dedicated customer services team are happy to work with both customers and our clients, be that the venues or promoters, if a customer’s circumstances change.”
The inflexibility of paperless tickets is likely to become more of a problem as more bands and promoters start to use them to tackle the problem of touts. At present, Ticketmaster’s UK arm is only offering paperless tickets for the Radiohead gigs and some of Michael McIntyre’s shows, but it has used them for several other events during the past three years.
In America, paperless ticketing is much more common. Fans there have set up the Fan Freedom Project, which is lobbying venues, sports teams and, in particular, Ticketmaster, about paperless ticketing. “Paperless tickets sound convenient. But in truth, they’re a nightmare for fans,” its founders say on its website. “As fans, restrictive paperless tickets mean less control, more hassles, no price competition and more fees paid to paperless ticketing companies like Ticketmaster.”