Friendly Fraud And Other Ticketing Trends To Watch

Last week there was a post on the INTIX website listing 19 trends for 2023.  The list contains prognostications from people handling tickets for both arts and sports events so your mileage my vary on some of the thoughts, but I wouldn’t totally dismiss those that don’t align with your favorite industry.

At the top of the list is being able to identify all the ticket holders and potentially cultivate relationships with them rather than the ticket buyer. Because the ticket buyer will often distribute tickets electronically to family and friends, it will be possible to identify who those people are. You may view this news with with anticipation, dread or both.

Unsurprisingly, staffing issues were also near the top of the list due to the stress of dealing with customers and low pay don’t make customer service roles attractive. What also won’t be surprising to find on the list is an anticipated increase in fraudulent purchases, including what the article terms “friendly fraud” where customers initiate chargebacks on ticket purchases.

“I think that we will also see an increase in what’s called first-party [or friendly] fraud, where if a lot of ticket buyers do not get the refunds that they want, they will file a chargeback. I think that will start to happen as well because people were so used to refunds happening for so long during COVID. I think people still want to be able to get refunds, and especially, unfortunately, with inflation, people might be looking at how they can get their money back, and they might go that route of chargebacks.”

Related to this is the need to provide more flexible purchasing arrangements as people move away from subscription purchases. So not only flexible subscription packages, but targeted discounts. And flexible refund and exchange policies.

“We saw such movement during the pandemic of adapting away from ‘no refunds, no exchanges.’ It was such a hard line in the sand, and we had to blow that all away because we needed to change things … due to health concerns and restrictions,” Spektrix’s Nothstein says. “I think we are going to continue to see flexibility in that perspective.”

“We had to offer things that we would not have previously considered offering because of COVID and what it meant to the return to the venue,” Ticket Philadelphia’s Cooper says. “I don’t know that it’s practical or advisable for us to try and revert to what we were in the days before COVID happened … Ultimately, the goal is to retain the customer.”

The Director of Service and Retention for the Oakland Athletics, mentioned that people were buying on a very short horizon rather than season ticket packages or single tickets months before opening day. They structured a very targeted, short term ticket sale for the celebration of 50th anniversary of the A’s 1973 World Series title.

Ziegenbusch continues, “So, think shorter, getting your patrons to make these micro-decisions along the way. Present offers that are deeply discounted and value-rich but for a short period of time.”

I have seen Collen Dilenschneider offer similar advice to arts organizations on her website.

The article also raises the need for accessibility both to allow those with physical disabilities to participate in events, but also as accessibility relates to diversity, equity and inclusion. This is both in terms of programming/how an experience is structured and how it is priced.

Also listed were broadening the media and channels through which people can learn about your organization and make purchases, including facilitating transactions and empowering self-service.

I am obviously skimming over a lot so if the ticketing side of your operations is a central concern, give the article a deeper read.

Sharing Time With Family Is Valued Regardless Of Political Affiliation

Apropos to my post on Monday about how gift recipients value experiences over material gifts,  Pew Research Center recently released research finding showing that spending time with family and friends was considered meaningful and fulfilling regardless of political affiliation. So taking a marketing approach that emphasizes that aspect of arts and cultural participation can be compelling to people regardless of political affiliation.

Another article provides additional context to the chart, mentioning that:

More than eight-in-ten U.S. adults (83%) say spending time with family provides them a great deal or quite a bit of meaning and fulfillment…


Similar but smaller majorities of Republicans (64%) and Democrats (68%) say the same about spending time with friends.

The share of Republicans and Democrats who say they draw a great deal or quite a bit of meaning and fulfillment from being outdoors and experiencing nature is also nearly identical (72% and 70%, respectively).

Obviously, there are differences between political parties in other aspects of life that provide a feeling of fulfillment. Research results discussing that was released about a year ago in November 2021.

Who Is The Seat Choice Process Serving?

Here is a fun little conversation for performing arts venues because there is a fair chance you have a different point of view as a venue operator than as a consumer.

I saw this tweet last week. Apparently the venue set-up their online ticket sales criteria to make sure there weren’t any orphan single seats left open. It hit a minor nerve with others replying they had the same issue at other venues.

I swear to you that a couple hours later, we got a call at my venue box office from a guy complaining about the opposite problem. A nearly sold out show only had single tickets left and he felt it was our responsibility to shuffle people around so he and his girlfriend could sit next to each other.

I wondered how many venues out there had their ticketing system set up so that people couldn’t leave orphan seats? What sort of feedback do you get from that?

Honestly, unless you have been really good about making sure all your rows have an even number of seats, it is almost guaranteed that there will be orphaned seats unless you have a party of odd numbers insert themselves into the row somewhere.

This approach tends to value revenue generation over customer service. Note that you are only asked to leave at least two empty seats together. So if you leave three empty seats, the next purchaser of two tickets may not be able to complete their purchase. Likewise, it may not prevent four different purchasers from leaving an empty space between their parties if there are still a good number of seats left in the row.  I actually tested skipping a single seat on a Ticketmaster site and was able to do it, but wasn’t willing to get on multiple computers to try doing it in the same row a number of times.

I definitely understand the desire to maintain effective revenue generation. When we get close to selling out, I start to scrutinize what holds we might safely release for sale. When I go to performances at other venues and movie theaters where I can choose my seat, I actually scrutinize the map and pick seats with an eye to leaving even number of seats in the row because I am sympathetic to the need for optimum seat usage.

But I also don’t want to throw up barriers that disincentivizes patrons from choosing to attend a live performance. It is really the patron’s responsibility to work out how to make seating choices that are best for the venue?

What are other people’s thoughts?

I Started This Blog Post Today

Okay, a little bit of a rant today. I have wanted to get this off my chest for a couple years now.

Who decided that greeting customers with “What can I get started for you today?” was a good idea? To my mind it doesn’t build a relationship with the customer and in fact undermines the customer’s confidence that the interaction will end satisfactorily.

When I was first greeted with that phrase in a local, independently owned coffee shop, my first unconscious thought was, “Are you not going to finish my order?”  I had the same thought on every subsequent visit and it created a sense of unease in me. But I knew the guy who started the shop so I thought maybe he had read about using the phrase in some management text and while I thought it was something of a miscue, it didn’t really bother me too much. Except that there were times that they did indeed mess up my order and that of my colleagues and it caused me to pay closer attention to my transactions going forward. Moreso than other places I chose to eat.

Then I started hearing the “What can I get started…” in other food service encounters and it definitely undermined my faith that they would get my order correct. Especially in those places where your food is subjected to an assembly line process where the person who you communicate your order to is indeed only starting it, use of the phrase only draws additional attention to the likelihood that things may not be completed correctly. Not only do other people often substitute in for the person to whom you rattled off your request,  the person at the end of the line doesn’t even know what you ordered and has to ask you.

Now, in an environment where places have signs up begging your patience because the location is understaffed, the lack of confidence is compounded.

So I am just bewildered about how this phrase became so commonplace that corporate chains and independently owned shops think there is some benefit to using it.

When stores call their customers guests and the employees team members, it is pretty transparently a superficial effort that doesn’t fool anyone, but at least you understand that the attempt is to make customers and employees feel special. I don’t understand the point behind the “what can I get started…” phrase.

I wonder if it might be a matter of a slogan by committee or the highest paid person in the room flexing their influence.

I sort of wondered the same thing about slogans on the Amazon delivery vans.


They have messaging that promises low prices and fast delivery, but it evokes a bit of shared culture pre-dating the internet that has entered the collective consciousness. It utilizes slightly different wording each time, but gives you the option of cheap, fast, and quality, saying you can only pick two. So every time I see one of those vans, I feel like it is basically saying I can get it fast and cheap, but the product is going to be crappy quality.

I can only think that Amazon chose to evoke that meme idea due to marketing by committee or some boss thew their weight around.