Booking fees should make an exit

When booking tickets for a concert or the theatre, there is often a “booking fee” to pay on top of the advertised ticket price. This can add 10% or more to the cost of the ticket. Now, I’m not referring to the fees charged by ticket agents here, but to tickets bought direct from the venue – in the former case, I expect the fees are even worse.

In many cases, the booking fees can be avoided by buying tickets in person at the box office. The problem with this is that a lot of the venues are in London (or other big cities) while the people who go to see the shows or concerts come from far and wide. It simply isn’t possible for those people to pop in to buy a ticket. Travelling to actually see the show is already a costly business for people who live outside London, with many people having to stay overnight too. So an extra ticket-buying trip is out of the question. Booking fees are therefore particularly unfair for people living outside London.

It seems illogical for there to be an extra fee payable for booking by telephone. Whether booking by phone or in person, there still needs to be an agent there to deal with the customer (in fact, in many venues it is the same people). The same computer systems are used to book the ticket, and the ticket is printed on the same paper. It’s rare for the telephone number to be a free number: indeed, in many cases, it’ll inevitably be an expensive 087 number that generates additional profit for the venue. The only extra cost is the cost of postage. I’m sure no-one would object to paying 50 pence or so for a stamp and envelope. Yet the booking fees are much higher than that, and are applied even if the tickets are kept at the box office to be collected before the performance, in which case there is no excuse for an additional charge.

Internet transactions also attract booking fees. This is even more unbelievable when you consider that retail prices are usually lower online than in the high street because of reduced costs. It should cost the venue less to accept an internet booking as no-one needs to speak to the customer. Yet they still charge extra.

One strategy a regular concert-goer can adopt is to buy the ticket for the following concert while already at the hall for a performance. This often works, although here I have to name and shame Cadogan Hall, who recently refused to sell me a ticket for a different event on the night of a concert as they claimed they were too busy giving out tickets for that night’s event. That effectively closes off the only opportunity for people travelling from outside London to avoid the booking fee. (Incidentally, there is no mention of this policy on their website.) Cadogan Hall is just one venue of which I have experience. I’m sure there are others, so if you know of one, or know a venue that charges a “booking fee” even if you are there in person, feel free to add a comment.

I can’t find a reference now, but I seem to remember Andrew Lloyd Webber saying that booking fees were essential for many West End theatres to be viable. If this is the case, it would be much fairer to increase the cost of all tickets slightly, rather than to penalise those people who live outside London (or whichever large city). And as with budget airlines and their “fuel surcharges”, the price of the ticket should be all-inclusive. As the booking fee is unavoidable, there’s no reason for it to be added on afterwards as a hidden extra. It’s time for the booking fee to take a bow and make its exit.

2 responses to “Booking fees should make an exit”

  1. Bluedog

    Completely agree with all of this.

    Ticket prices should be all-inclusive. We don’t go to the supermarket and expect to be charged for extra for processing at the check-out. Theatre and concert tickets should be no different.

  2. LiveSpot

    I think that it is unfair that booking fees have to be paid online. If anything the internet should dramatically reduce the cost of processing a ticket. I think that not lowering the internet booking fees is online is some sort of price agreement between the London concert venues to maintain the absorbent cost of tickets. Phone booking fees are also unnecessary. I always thought it was the job of the ticket taker to take orders for tickets. This unfair and perhaps is the reasons many live theater venues struggle to get patrons into the door.

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