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As you may already know from reading my other ops I went to London last summer, and when we were there we wanted to see a West End show. I checked many of the sites that were openly selling tickets to find that either their range of seats available were poor or they charged the Earth in booking and admin fees. I finally came to settle on Ticketmaster.
When you visit the Ticketmaster site, you come across what looks a pretty basic outfit - no snazzy graphics, dominated by a white background and very little actual branding by them to state that this is their website that you have visited.
Down the left hand side, you have a small box that holds a search facility, a latest news box (which basically gives the three newest events that they have tickets for and the chance to sign up for their email alert) and 5 or 6 adverts which strangely are for their own site. Funnily enough, the only part of the website that contains adverts for external companies is a bar at the very top of the page - even this doesn't intrude into the site.
Down the right-hand side, there is a box which contains a link to their special promotions of the week, competitions and the page from where you can buy gift vouchers which I will come to in more depth later. There is then a box which contains what they describe as the 2 hot events of the week - whether this is true and tickets are hot or whether this is a marketing ploy depends on how cynical your mind is!! They then have a further 4 category boxes which don't split events into genre, but are what they call 'In The Spotlight'. For example, at the moment, they have ad for a new West End show called The Producers, which is by Mel Brooks, a focus on the star of the Jerry Springer Opera, a banner to be able to go straight to London stage performances, and a regional guide which will sort out events according for the region in which you want to see them.
The central piece of the page is the most useful, and contains the 5 categories that Ticketmaster break their ticket subjects into - music, theatre, sport, attractions and performing arts. For each of these there are several sub-categories and the top 5 events have a direct link to the information page.
Generally the site is basic, but simple to use and does the job well - there are no major distractions like there are on other sites, and it's relatively easy to find what you need.
---Searching for Tickets---
There are 2 main ways to search for the tickets that you want. You can use the categories in the centre of the homepage and then 'chunk' downwards into the sub-categories until you find the event that you want tickets for. This way is best if you don't have a specific idea of what you want tickets for and are just browsing to see what is available.
Alternatively, you can use the search box which always stays on the left-hand side of the page. This allows you to search either by event or by venue, and is better to use for specific queries about certain artists, performances or venues.
Using either method you come to the events page, which lists all the events which match your search criteria (this could be your sub-category). This is where searching becomes slightly cumbersome. This page only holds 15 results and shows them in alphabetical order - not very useful if you are searching using relatively broad terms which bring up more than one possible match. The other problem with this is that it treats each event at a venue as separate from the rest - it's easier to explain if I use an example. Say you were looking for Madonna tickets and you knew that she was doing a 20 venue UK tour. Madonna would be listed 20 times, once for each venue. This is the only information that it gives you at this stage - the event and the venue.
Clicking on the venue then takes you to a page which gives you information about that venue, NOT to the actual event which was a mistake that I made several times the first time I bought tickets from this site. You have to click on the event name or artist. You are then taken to an identical page which lists all of the dates that you can see that event at that particular venue, so in the case of the Madonna example, this is where it would be narrowed down for you to just the one show. The problem arises when you want to book tickets for an event that runs at a venue for quite a while such as a West End show as you are given the list of events in date order starting with the earliest. On one of the occasions that I have used Ticketmaster, I bought a pair of tickets for Grease at the Victoria Palace and had to scroll through about 20 pages of matinee and evening performances before I got to the date that I wanted to book for.
What I didn't realise is that at the end of the set of 15 results is a very small button which says 'view all results' - this, as the name suggests, shows them all on one long page. Excellent, except for one thing - it is that small that it is almost invisible to the naked eye!! Anyone with poor eyesight who needs to wear glasses may have problems dealing with the site as this is a theme that carries through the whole thing. This would have saved me so much time had a seen it earlier.
When you actually reach the page that lists dates and times, there is a pale blue button which says either 'on sale now' or 'currently not available'. Obviously, the latter of these would normally mean that there are no tickets left on sale for that event on that date, but what it actually means is that Ticketmaster have sold their allocation. It can actually pay off to look at other ticket agents to see if they have any left.
For events where there are some on sale, clicking on the blue button takes you to the first page of the booking process. Here you enter how many tickets you want, if you want them mailed or saved for box office collection, and in what part of the venue you would like your tickets. The default for the latter box is on 'best available' so I originally chose that the first time I booked tickets. When you have entered this information, you are taken to a second page which confirms how many tickets you wanted, the face value price of the tickets plus any charges and gives you details of the seats that it is offering you. It also then prompts you to complete your address details and you credit card details. You have 5 minutes from this page to complete the information otherwise you have to resubmit your details - this isn't actually long enough and it has elapsed several times when I have been given information.
However, let me give a note of caution about this. For events such as West End theatres where although seats may be in the top priced section, there may be a restricted view of the stage - Ticketmaster aren't consistent in their reference to this. I was offered a pair of tickets with a restricted view due to a safety bar in the middle tier, but declined them and opted to use the reselect seats button. I was then offered a pair of tickets at the rear of the stalls which had no mention of a restricted view, but a check at www.theatremonkey.com (a site which reviews West End theatres and shows and is to be the subject of a future review on Ciao) told me that you couldn't see the top of the stage from those seats. Ticketmaster gave no warning about this. As it turns out I actually saw the same seats on sale on a bargain site for half price 2 weeks later, so it is worth taking note that Ticketmaster is one of many ticketing sites and you should shop around and do your research before you buy.
When you have entered your purchase information, you are taken to a third page which invites you to finally confirm the details of the purchase, and when you have done that you are given a page which needs to be printed out as a receipt, or the reference number noted for future contact
As with most ticket agencies and internet shopping, you are subjected to service charges and postal charges. I can't give you a definitive figure as these have been different for each of the 4 purchases that I have made from them. The tickets for Grease had only a £1.50 charge on it (at least 75% off what other sites were charging), but tickets that I bought for my Dad to see Def Leppard at Doncaster Dome had a whopping £13.50 charge on top for just 2 tickets whose face value amounted to £52. Again, I can't emphasise enough that it is a good idea to use Ticketmaster in conjunction with other ticketing sites to find the best prices as they will all vary. Charges do include recorded delivery posting which has been the case for all 4 of my sets of tickets.
There isn't much to the after booking service to be truthful. You are sent an email within 20 minutes confirming your order and informing you that tickets may not be sent until at least 3 weeks prior to the date of the event. What they do is they say that if you haven't received your tickets a week before the events to phone the special number in the email with your reference number and they will sort it out. The your tickets just arrive out of the blue one morning by recorded delivery - mine have arrived ranging from 4 to 8 weeks before the event and I haven't had any cause to use their customer services. Another cautionary note is that you are automatically enlisted to their newsletter as a result of purchasing from them, so don't be surprised when it arrives in your inbox.
--Range of Products---
Their range of products is very good, but as I mentioned earlier if they claim to have sold out then that doesn't mean that the event itself is a sellout. I have bought West End Theatre tickets, 2 lots of music concert tickets and a pair of tickets for a football match so the diversity of events is there. Everything that I have wanted to buy has been listed at least.
As I mentioned earlier, Ticketmaster sells gift vouchers, which might be handy for some people if they have relatives / friends who would like that sort of thing. For an online site though these are a poor option. They are available in denominations of £5, £10, £15, and £25, but are subject to a £2 recorded delivery charge per purchase as they come in a hard form rather than electronic. This is because strangely enough although vouchers can be bought online or over the phone, they can only be redeemed on purchases made over telephone. Other features about the gift vouchers are that they are valid for just one year from purchase and only for events that take place in mainland Britain meaning that possible uses are restricted slightly.
The competition that they run changes relatively frequently and is usually for a pair of tickets for one of the events that are in the offer of the week areas of the site meaning that they aren't usually for a top event.
The newsletter and ticket alerts that you get are useful, telling you mainly about the deals that they have on, but by far the most useful part of it is telling you which tickets are about to come on sale within the next week - this is invaluable information for the events that sell very quickly. They are currently running a promotion whereby everyone who signs up for the ticket alert newsletter will receive a £20 voucher for Virgin Wines which might be the only reason some people sign up for this free newsletter.
What did it do for me?
Overall, I have very little complaint about any of the tickets that I have bought. I think that sometimes the charges that appear on top of the face value of the tickets are quite excessive, but I have now learned that the best use for Ticketmaster is as part of some research for comparison to try to find the best deals for any tickets that I want. It has a few useful facilities, but they need to sort something out with regards to the look and layout of the site as it really doesn't have that professional and modern look that it really needs. They also need to make searching for events much simpler as it can become tiresome and long-winded at times. I would definitely recommend the use of www.theatre-monkey.com to find out about seats for West End shows as they give you much more information about how good a seat is and if you are getting value for money. One final thing to keep in mind - be aware that Ticketmaster don't always give information about the view from the seat.
I tend not to use Ticketmaster as i've not heard great things in the past (give me Seetickets anyday), and T'master tend to be slow off the mark when it comes to actually getting tickets to you from what i've experienced. Alex
n13roy 24.09.2005 21:19
I've used these in the past, and had no problems at first, but they have certainly gone downhill in my opinion, I never use them now. Great Review Too.........Roy
matties_bitch 02.03.2005 12:20
I recently used Ticketmaster and had no problems - I would have been better off ordering them from the arena though because of the booking and admin fees! Sue xx