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Rolling Stones fan calls out Ticketmaster for 'bait and switch' after mid-sale price jump

A fan of the Rolling Stones is accusing Ticketmaster of pulling a "bait and switch" while he was buying tickets for the band's Canada Day weekend concert north of Toronto, raising the price by $60 within seconds. He says Ticketmaster is now refunding the extra costs.

Customer wins lower price after shooting video showing $60 jump without warning

Edward Mair buys tickets for more than 50 events per year, and says he's never witnessed such a sneaky price jump. (Chris Glover/CBC)

A fan of the Rolling Stones is accusing Ticketmaster of pulling a "bait and switch" while he was buying tickets for the band's Canada Day weekend concert north of Toronto.

Edward Mair went online shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday hoping to land four tickets during the show's presale period for members of the Rolling Stones mailing list.

But after adding the tickets to his cart, he noticed the price jumped from $119.50 to $179.50 per ticket, without any warning during the checkout process.

Mair then tried to buy the tickets again while filming the screen.

"They said, 'Congratulations, you got the seats.' [They] just didn't make any mention that the price had changed," Mair told CBC Toronto.

The Toronto man, who buys tickets for more than 50 events every year, said he'd never seen ticket prices change so surreptitiously.

"When that happens, they notify you that they've put you to different tickets and the price has changed," he said. "That's not what happened here. They just changed the price in the lower corner."

Mair bought the tickets, which totaled $801.50, but later contacted Ticketmaster for an explanation about why the price appeared to jump during the transaction.

After contacting Ticketmaster and sending video of the transaction, he says the company has agreed to honour the $119.50 tickets he originally tried to buy.

The offer came after more than a day of back-and-forth communications, in which he said the company initially balked at the request and suggested that he incorrectly added the tickets to the cart.

Customers 'automatically redirected'

In a statement, a spokesperson for live-concert company Republic Live said presale tickets were limited and divided into different price tiers. The spokesperson said customers were being "automatically redirected" to the next price tier when cheaper tickets sold out.

However, the company did not explain why Mair was able to add the $119.50 tickets to his shopping cart if they were no longer available.

"We are aware of the issue and are encouraging purchasers to contact Ticketmaster.ca directly to discuss any inquiries related to their purchase," the statement continued.

Ticketmaster has not responded to multiple inquiries from CBC Toronto. 

'Drip pricing' a problem

"This isn't going to help," said Alan Cross, a Toronto music journalist who has covered ticketing issues. "What this does is it adds to the confusion of buying tickets online."

After watching Mair's video, Cross wondered if the price jump was a case of "drip pricing," in which an advertised price increases after a slew of added fees are added to the bill.

He said Ticketmaster has done a poor job of making it clear to customers why extra fees are added and what they cover.

"Things aren't itemized as clearly as they could be in the ticketing process," Cross said.

"This will not endear people to Ticketmaster any further."

The Rolling Stones, left to right Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts, will play an outdoor concert in Oro-Medonte, Ont., over the Canada Day long weekend. (Michel Euler/Associated Press)

As general sale tickets for the concert go on sale Friday, he's advising customers to monitor their screen "very carefully" during the checkout process.

The Stones are scheduled to play June 29 at the outdoor Burl's Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ont., a sprawling space about 130 kilometres northeast of Toronto.

It is the final date and only Canadian stop on the band's North American tour.

'Fighting bots' adds stress

While Mair spotted the price jump, he said the stress of buying tickets online makes it likely that other customers will go through the process without noticing the change.

During the rush to buy presale tickets in the moments after they go on sale, Mair said the goal of simply obtaining the tickets can make it hard to pay attention to details.

"As everybody knows, you're fighting bots, you're trying to get through these tickets as fast as you can, competing with everybody," he said. "It's a nightmare to try to get tickets as a regular person."

About the Author

Nick Boisvert

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nick Boisvert is a reporter and one-man band video journalist based in Toronto, covering general news, local politics and social justice. Outside work, Nick enjoys cooking, following the NBA and listing things in threes.

With files from Chris Glover

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