/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Rain won’t spoil Glastonbury, but booking fees might

Jumping in a muddy puddle

Resale of Glastonbury tickets starts today. But how much do they cost? The answer is almost definitely ‘more than the advertised price’ thanks to extra booking fees. How can festival ticket sellers justify it?

I’m a big fan of summer festivals, even when it pours with rain. But the cost of going to the likes of Glastonbury, Reading or Bestival can all add up. Transport, programmes, food – and if you aren’t used to the outdoors life, you’ll probably have to fork out for a tent and some wellies too.

What’s more, the ticket fees are getting more and more bizarre each year. If you want the privilege of buying a ticket from one of the official sellers or resellers, ‘admin charges’ and ‘booking fees’ will be added to your ticket.

Festival ticket costs – I’ve done the maths

My £170 ticket for this year’s Latitude Festival actually cost £186.25 through Seetickets. That’s after factoring in a ‘booking fee’ of £7, a separate £5.25 ‘transaction fee’ and the not-quite-compulsory-but-automatically-added ‘refund protection’ for £4.

Glastonbury tickets will set you back £195, but the booking fees will take the total to £200, and postage and packaging is £4.95 per ticket. If you want to buy Bestival tickets, you need to budget a whopping £10 on top of the actual ticket price. And most vendors will charge double the booking fee for two tickets, triple for three, etc.

Surcharges vs booking fees

We’ve been exposing unfair card surcharges recently, and rightly so – we can see the discrepancy between how much a company charges and how much they actually pay to the banks for a card transaction. With your help we’ve been putting pressure on Consumer Minister, Ed Davey MP, to get unfair surcharges banned.

But a booking fee is a bit different, because it’s harder to work out whether it’s reasonable. Do they really do a fiver’s worth of work for each ticket they flog?

If I paid someone to sit in a room taking cheques from eager festival-goers and stuffing tickets into envelopes it’d cost me less in wages than £5 a ticket. So why does it cost more through a streamlined, automated online service?

It’s all part of the service

I’m not expecting a free service, but the ticket sellers aren’t really providing a service to me – they’re providing one to the organisers. They’re making them money by distributing their tickets. Surely it makes more sense for the costs to be passed on via the organisers (and a higher upfront ticket price) than for them to slap a £5 charge on the privilege of giving them £170?

It surprises me more as festival organisers are increasingly keen to appear ethical, green, open and honest – almost as if they’re not run by companies trying to make a profit! So here’s my two-step plan to make the whole transaction even more ethical:

  • Ticket sellers (and resellers) should stop charging excessive ‘booking’, ‘admin’ and ‘transaction’ fees.
  • Festival organisers should factor in the cost of ticket sales when setting their prices.

What do you think? Are booking fees an acceptable extra, or should ticket booking all be part of the service, and therefore the ticket price? Luckily for you, Which Conversation is an all-inclusive package, so it won’t cost you anything to leave a comment below.


Whats extra about a booking fee ? Can you get a ticket without it ?
What’s extra about a postage charge per ticket – can you collect them instead ?

If the answer is no then they are not extras but part of the ticket price and should be included in the headline price.

Its like going into a store, buying a washing machine and being charged for the packaging it comes in, a charge for getting it out of the storage area and into the shop and a charge fro processing your order.

Sam Tana says:
22 April 2011

Booking fees for tickets are only acceptable if:

1) There is a reasonable, alternative way of buying (face-to-face, using cash) which avoids the booking fee and delivery charge
2) The booking fee is charged per ticket, rather than per transaction
3) The fee is not excessive – a max of 2% of the ticket face value price.
4) The fee is charged by an agent, not the venue itself.

rarar is spot on.
id go even further, if the tickets cannot be purchased without the booking fee, then its clear misrepresentation at the point of sale and as such, can be prevented quickly and easily by trading standards using the law!

advertising a false price would also breach advertising standards.

i once had one **** of an argument with a high st company, who uses a “catalogue” in their store, over buying a tumble dryer (had to use them we got vouchers)
the price of the item did not include the compulsary delivery charge.
i asked where i could pick the item up myself and was told it was not possible. i asked where then could i purchase the item for the advertised price, the answer of course was nowhere.
after threatening to get trading standards involved for misrepresentation and false advertising, i was told a concession could be made and the item could be delivered on their stock van to my local branch, where i could now pick it up without paying the compulsary delivery charge.

if trading standards applies the law, there would be no need for quangos, regulators, watchdogs, etc.

Disgruntled Mcr says:
18 April 2011

For me, the most irritating example of this kind of practice is Ticketmaster who think it is acceptable to charge me a fee if I print my own ticket at home!!! I cannot believe is sort of practice is legal.

I agree Disgruntled, there seems to be a few big sellers that get away with charging lots of extra fees.

I just bought Lovebox tickets and they were £53 each, Ticketmaster broke down the price as £48.50 for the Ticket and £4.50 on Fees, but then the extra £2.25 I had to pay to have them delivered wasn’t included. I’d like to know what these ‘fees’ are and why they’re not included in the upfront cost nor cover all costs like postage too.

It doesn’t all seem to be so complicated though, buying tickets for Winterwell festival the payment fee was only £1.75 which although is a lot more than it really costs to process a debit card payment does seem more reasonable than the mandatory £4, £5 or now even £6 (Ryanair) that some companies charge.

Steve Kelly says:
18 April 2011

I Totally agree – and about time someone spoke out about this.
I’m sure no-one minds paying a good price to see a good performance as long as the bulk of the money goes to the Artist and Venue. But paying a large percentage in so called ‘fees’ to a global corporation put absolutely nothing into the industry is not on.
I will now never buy any ticket via Ticketmaster or SeeTickets and now go to smaller venues and pay a couple of quid in booking fees.
Best thing is … performances in small venues are ALWAYS better than seeing the big boys on a video screen!

Stephen Loughins says:
18 April 2011

Its time this was stopped. I recently bought 2 tickets for a concert in Glasgow. £55 each + 2 * £6.60 Card Handling Fee + £3.25 postage. Note this was NOT a booking fee but a card ‘handling’ fee. I wrote to them but they palmed me off and didn’t answer my query about the price of postage.

I know if they put the charges in the price you’ll end up paying the same – but at least you won’t feel ripped off.

Also strikes me as strange how the bigger venues charge the bigger prices

Richard says:
18 April 2011

I totally agree that these charges are annoying and in some cases a blatant way of making more profit. I recently used my mobile phone to pay for parking at the local station as I did not have enough change for the meter and they slapped on an extra charge for the privilege of me making a 2 minute phone call to an answering machine. Surely this method means they need less time for staff to empty the meters and replenish the tickets?

Everest says:
18 April 2011

Interesting debate and I agree with a lot of what has been said. It would be interesting to know what it costs to maintain the internet infrastructure to give enough bandwidth, processing and payment acceptance through these sites. I would imagine it’s fairly high – and it would terrible if the Glasto ticket line / website crashed. So there’s something about insurance in there and guaranteed service from a proven provider.

Rosalyn says:
19 April 2011

I wanted to buy Day tickets for Latitude. As the booking fee was £7.00 per ticket, 10% of the ticket cost I eventually found on their website a place I could buy the tickets for cash. When my friend went to buy the tickets she was told they don’t have Day tickets, just weekend ones. I queried this by email with Latitude and I was told Day tickets sold out too quickly for them to give them to all outlets to sell. Apparently the £7 paid for VAT – really? and various other things. As a token of goodwill I was offered tickets with no booking fee, but Saturday was almost sold out so not worth asking for. I won’t be going to Latitude after all – and if more people took a stand against booking fees companies wouldn’t get away with it. I have sent to details to OFT.

John E says:
21 April 2011

There are plenty of places you can buy tickets (in person, online, over the phone) without a booking fee. West Yorkshire Playhouse, Sheffield Crucible and Lawrence Batley theatre in Huddersfield are the 3 I use most. And their ticket prices are a **** sight cheaper than the crazy prices charged by big concert venues before the charges are added. Someone said the venue should pay the agent and make the ticket the inclusive price – which makes sense. But remember, the places I’ve mentioned manage to have reasonably cheap ticket prices, INCLUDING their admin costs from the box office or the onlne costs. So an average (highest) price for a production might be, say, £24, £20 or £12 respectively for the ones I mentioned. Bradford Alhambra adds a £1 charge if you book voer the phone – £2 if you book online but that’s a ripoff because the people they use have set up a system which means effectively that you can’t choose your seats or even what part of the theatre you sit in – so you’d be silly to use it. Apparently they’ll be changing to a proper provider in due course. but no-one’s been able to tell me why they don’t just add £1 to the ticket price instead of charging a booking fee. While the Palace Theatre in Manchester (not as good a theatre as any of the Leeds, Sheffiel d and Bradford ones, charge far more for the basic ticket than any of them and use Ticketmaster instead of doing it themselves, so add another unjustifiable lump on top.

Claire says:
25 April 2011

We were given an anniversary present of £100 pounds in Theatre Ticket Direct Vouchers. We added £25 so we got excellent seats at the Apollo Theatre (ie spend of £125) At NO time did Theatre Tickets Direct inform me that the face value of the vouchers did not equate to the face value of the seats.
We arrived at the theatre to discover the tickets had not been reserved in our name & then the tickets cost £99. So Theatre Tickets Direct made £26 out of us. That is a charge in excess of 26%! They claimed they could charge £25% & the 1% was for reserving the tickets (which they completely failed to do) No member of their management team was willing to discuss this with me. With the gift vouchers I was given I was forced to use this service rather than booking directly with the theatre so automatically devaluing the value of the gift. A concerted campaign is the only way to change this iniquitous system.

Jonny White says:
26 April 2011

Hi Nikki

We totally agree. At the moment it’s the default business model to pass the ticket service costs on to the customers but why hasn’t this model changed in the last decade with the benefits of the internet and e-tickets??

So we have set up Ticket Tailor (www.tickettailor.com) which provides all the tools for promoters to take ticketing in-house, avoid agencies, and avoid charging their customers costly booking fees. We allow promoters to set their own booking fees if they wish which they get to keep.

You can see some case studies of how we have helped people so far with their ticketing: http://www.tickettailor.com/blog/

Lesley L says:
28 April 2011

I recently purchased tickets for the FA Cup Final via the Club Wembley site. Once selected, the ticket price was increased by a 15% service charge (for Wembley admin) and £4.95 postage. Outrageous.

Robert says:
1 May 2011

I think an important factor is repeatedly overlooked in this debate; the insistence that promoters have on releasing tickets on a Friday morning at 10am (or similar).

Given that the majority of customers will be at work at this time, promoters are playing into the hands of touts; they can happily sit at their PC’s clicking “refresh” and nabbing the best seats. When I get home at 6pm, I’m left with either a paltry choice of the worst tickets or – more likely – to find that the event is sold out.

So, the admin fees issue rarely affects me; I never get the chance to buy a ticket in the first place. The added cost that usually faces me is that of the mark-up applied by touts. So, sell the tickets at a time when everyone has a fair chance… Saturday, perhaps?

Furthermore, there were two consultation exercises conducted by the government on the sale of tickets, neither of which have apparently generated any conclusions.

Richard Linford says:
2 May 2011

Why are agencies allowed to “buy up ” blocks of tickets for shows and events and then sell them on at inflated prices? Is this not just akin to ticket touts selling second hand tickets for whatever they can con people out of?
I just advised a friend there were tickets for the Edinburgh Tattoo available (on the official website which I foolishly did not point out). Not realising there was an official website he almost purchased 2 tickets via “ticket4tattoo” at £172.85 including £24.85 booking fee and £8.00 postage.(These were £35 standard price tickets).
Fortunately he was stopped and redirected to the official website where he got his tickets (Standard£25 tickets) for £50.00 and £4.00 fees.
Is doubling the price of tickets and then adding booking and postage fees just taking things several steps too far!

Jonny White says:
4 May 2011

Hi Nikki

We charge a simple subscription fee for the system based on the number of events being organised (www.tickettailor.com/pricing/).

It’s a different approach and is being received very well by our growing client base.

Laura Foster says:
17 June 2011

I work for ticketscript and we provide a self service plug-and-play online ticketshop solution for event organisers. The structure for our booking fees is very transparent, it is a set booking fee no matter what the ticket price and a small transaction charge for processing the payment. As our solution is self-service the event organiser is responsible for marketing their event themselves so the booking fee for tickets sold through the ticketscript system are cheaper than other ticketing agents who do promotion on behalf the event organiser. We also do everything online (e-tickets & m-tickets) so there are no additional costs for postage, etc.

I have always wondered why are the additional fees separate?
Just about any other area of business, you factor your costs into the price you present to the buyer. The buyer then decides who offers the price and service that bests suits them.

Due to the different options available, I believe P&P should be the only ‘extra’, everything else should be factored into the up-front cost. That way just as you can with most other services, you can directly compare competing outlets on a like for like basis.

The only grey area might be whether or not to force them to also give the face value of the ticket, so you can be more certain that a) you are not being overcharged b) you can be sure you are comparing similar seating etc.