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By Herb Weisbaum ConsumerMan
msnbc.com
updated 9/12/2008 8:06:46 AM ET 2008-09-12T12:06:46

Mike Harrison of Norwood, N.J., is a big fan of the Allman Brothers Band. He planned to see the Southern rock icons in August at the amphitheater in Bethel, N.Y., site of the 1969 Woodstock concert.

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Tickets sold out within minutes, so Harrison went looking online and came across TicketsMyWay.com. The site promises reasonable prices for “quality seating” at all major concert, theater and sporting events.

“They had a couple of great seats, eighth row right in front of Gregg Allman,” he says. “And I thought it would be a great surprise for my girlfriend who has never seen them.”

Harrison bought the tickets for $400 and got a confirmation e-mail with the shipping information. They would be sent about two weeks before the concert. But the shipping date came and went and not a word from the company. So Harrison called. He says no one ever answered and there was no way to leave a message.

The day of the concert Harrison received an e-mail that said, “We are unable to fulfill your order.” Frustrated and disappointed, he went online to see if he could find out more about TicketsMyWay. “There were dozens and dozens of postings about this company ripping people off,” he says. “From what I could find out just by poking around on the Internet, they’ve been operating like this for a long, long time.”

TicketsMyWay.com promises “outstanding customer service,” but during the last three years, the Better Business Bureau has received 265 complaints about the company.

The BBB’s Steve Cox tells me there are three main problems. “People are not receiving their tickets, they’re receiving their tickets too late, or the seats they wanted are not the seats they got.” Cox says the company rarely responds to unhappy customers.

Because of the volume of complaints and the lack of response to them, the BBB gives TicketsMyWay.com an "unsatisfactory" rating. The bureau went public last week, warning online ticket buyers “they might get burned” if they shop at this site.

TicketsMyWay.com is run by a Las Vegas company, Events Marketing, LLC. It isn’t easy to reach them. Their site does not give an e-mail address and when I called (during normal business hours) no one answered the phone and there was no option for leaving a message. So I sent a fax and got a call from service representative Andrew Sims.

Sims says it’s “pretty unfair” for the Better Business Bureau to give his company an unsatisfactory rating. He blames most of the complaints on canceled shows and delivery problems. And he says if someone doesn’t receive their order they get a refund or tickets from another company.

Sims claims more than 90 percent of the complaints filed with the BBB have already been resolved. The bureau’s reliability report tells a different story. It shows that in 194 of the 256 cases, the company did not respond to the BBB or to the consumer to resolve the issues.

Earlier this year, Jeanne Schmitz of Chicago shopped at TicketsMyWay.com and had what she describes as a “nightmare experience.”

Schmitz wanted to see her all-time favorite band, The Cure, at Allstate Arena. Her e-mail confirmation said the tickets would ship a few weeks before the event. But they never came.

She disputed the charge with American Express and got the $364 credited to her account. Normally, that would be the end of the story, but not with this company.

This summer Schmitz received what appeared to be legal papers from Event Tickets. They wanted her to pay $364 for the tickets she never received, a $125 termination fee, plus a penalty fee of $72.

An e-mail from Andrew Sims said: “Your account is set to be sent to court. Once pursued, you will be required to appear in court here in Clark County, Nevada. Prior to taking this action, we are offering you a final chance to settle this matter for $125.”

The e-mail “just freaked me out,” Schmitz recalled. So she agreed to pay the $125. “I really got screwed here,” she said.

And she’s not the only one. The BBB says it has numerous complaints from people who disputed a charge with their credit card company and Event Tickets threatened to take them to court or send them to collection.

Like many online ticket brokers, TicketsMyWay.com does not make exchanges or accept cancellations, and it rarely offers refunds. But its policy on disputed credit card charges – spelled out in paragraph 19 on the terms and conditions page – is highly unusual.

“If you dispute the charge with your credit card company any time after you place your order, you agree to pay a litigation fee of a minimum of $125 and may be responsible for the entire amount of your order plus any interest and penalty fees associated with the servicing of the account.”

Sims tells me the company does this to protect itself from customers who try to scam them. “We’ve had quite a few cases where people have received tickets, gone to their show, and have tried to get those tickets for free,” he says.

Visa tells me this policy violates its rules that “prohibit the use of language that conveys any limitation of cardholders' rights to dispute a transaction through their card issuers.” Visa says it is investigating this matter and it will take "the appropriate action to ensure the merchant follows Visa rules.”

My two cents
Is this policy legal? I’m not a lawyer. But it’s certainly questionable. It eliminates the entire reason for using a credit card for online purchases – fraud protection and dispute resolution

I am not aware of any other merchant who has such an outrageous policy. The people I spoke to at the major credit card companies were shocked when I told them about this. The bottom line: I would never shop at a company that has this policy.

Finally, I would encourage anyone who believes they’ve been ripped off by TicketsMyWay.com to file a complaint with the Nevada Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission. Do this even if you filed a complaint with the BBB.

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