Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

A new CBC investigation has revealed disturbing details regarding a secret scalping program run by box-office giant Ticketmaster, after investigative journalists went undercover as scalpers at a ticketing and live entertainment convention in Las Vegas.

The accusations are harsh: Ticketmaster is allegedly recruiting professional scalpers to cheat its own system and expand its hold on the resale business, ripping fans off in the process.

This summer, CBC and the Toronto Star had investigative reporters pose as scalpers equipped with hidden cameras at Ticket Summit 2018, the top trade show for ticketing and live entertainment executives. Before long, they were invited to join Ticketmaster’s professional reseller program.

According to CBC, Ticketmaster representatives let the reporters in on the scam: Ticketmaster’s resale division turns a blind eye to scalpers using ticket-buying bots and fake identities. Resale tickets are then sold on the site for inflated prices, including tidy extra fees for Ticketmaster.

“We don’t share reports, we don’t share names, we don’t share account information with the primary site. Period,” said one conference presenter when asked if he cares whether scalpers use bots to buy their tickets.

Public outcry following the report has been widespread. “As a frequent, avid concert goer, I am appalled by what you uncovered in your latest investigation,” writes one reader of the Star, “I find it reprehensible that the practice of selling tickets multiple times enables [Ticketmaster] to double up on profits, while adding zero value, at the expense of their customer base.”

Indeed, it’s this customer base — not the scalpers themselves — that Ticketmaster stands to lose over the unfolding scandal. “How many millions of us have been taken to the cleaners by this near monopoly,” wrote another respondent to the report, “Time to bring down the curtain on this charade.”

Making matters worse was Ticketmaster’s response to the ordeal, choosing to deny accusations of collusion with scalpers despite employees captured on camera clearly assuring undercover reporters that the firm’s “buyer abuse” team looks the other way when forbidden practices are undertaken.

“It is categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets at the expense of consumers,” read Ticketmaster’s latest statement, “our policy also prohibits the creation of fictitious user accounts for the purpose of circumventing ticket limit detection in order to amass tickets intended for resale.”

This is exactly the kind of goalpost shifting that serves to undermine a firm’s PR response in the long-run. References to company policy are, at their core, a distraction: the scandal revolves around Ticketmaster practices, not company policies. Worse still, Ticketmaster insists it was already investigating the possibility of abuse- in the same breath as denying its occurrence.

“The company had already begun an internal review of our professional reseller accounts and employee practices to ensure that our policies are being upheld by all stakeholders,” continued the firm’s statement.

To any seasoned cynic, this reads like a child caught in a lie, denying wrongdoing and pointing fingers at the same time.

Public trust can’t be bought, and it certainly isn’t up for resale. Ticketmaster has fallen at the first hurdle of this crisis; refusing to deal with the issue with transparency could irreparably damage the company’s image in the long-term.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR Agency.