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Money Tech

Print-It-Yourself Feature Could Be Just the Ticket

November 16, 2000|JON HEALEY | jon.healey@latimes.com

Ticketmaster charges sports fans and concert-goers handsomely for the convenience of buying tickets in advance. But now the company's online arm has found a way to deliver a little more convenience for the money.

No, it's not cutting its service and handling charges, which add $6 or more to the price of a seat. Instead, it's starting to let consumers print their own tickets.

This is a bit like the Federal Reserve letting people print their own currency. In other words, it's a totally great thing. And the best part about it is that http://www.ticketmaster.com doesn't tack on another charge for the privilege of using your own ink cartridge.

Not that the company is driven by altruism. It's good for customers, yes, but it also cuts Ticketmaster.com's costs and provides a new source of revenue.

Tom Stockham, president of Ticketmaster.com, said the company asked consumers a while back what caused them the most anxiety when buying tickets. The answer: waiting for their tickets to arrive.

"The No. 1 reason they went to the outlets was so they knew they had the tickets for that game or that show in their hand," he said, adding, "The No. 1 question for our customer-service agents is 'Where's my tickets?' "

For now, the print-it-yourself feature is available in Los Angeles only for pro basketball and hockey games at Staples Center. The plan is to extend the option to all major Ticketmaster-supplied arenas, stadiums and concert halls once they have the necessary equipment.

Buyers have the option of printing the tickets immediately after buying them online or having Ticketmaster e-mail them the files. Either way, buyers have at least one electronic backup in case they lose their printouts.

The tickets take up about a third of a standard sheet of paper. That leaves room for Ticketmaster.com to include maps and promotional material on the printout, such as coupons for parking lots or restaurants.

At the arena, ticket-takers scan the bar code on the printed tickets to ensure that they're authentic and that only one ticket with that bar code goes through the turnstiles. "If you thought you were going to be cute and copy them and give them to your friends, you better be faster than your friends," Stockham said.

Norman Carter of Diamond Bar tried the print-it-yourself service a week before the recent Laker-Clipper game because he didn't trust the U.S. Postal Service to deliver his tickets in time. Nor did he want to stand in a long line to claim tickets at the "Will Call" window, or pay $10 or more for express shipping.

"Everything worked perfectly," Carter said. The only glitch was when his 13-year-old son left his seat to get a soda, only to be stopped by an usher who didn't recognize the new style of ticket. The kid had to summon a manager to get back to his seat.

"The technology is so new, not everyone is trained," Carter observed. In the future, he said, he'll probably just cut out the portion of the printout that looks like a conventional ticket.

*

Times staff writer Jon Healey covers the digital living room.

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