StubHub won’t snub my family -- I hope

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 7, 2011 

Looks like we’re about to find out how good StubHub’s FanProtect Guarantee is.

I’m going to Glendale, Ariz., where Auburn and Oregon are playing Monday night for the national championship.

I have a plane ticket. I have a hotel room. I have a rental car. I even have dinner reservations.

I’ve got everything but a ticket -- two of the tickets I bought on StubHub on Dec. 6 have not been delivered.

I am not alone.

On Thursday morning a StubHub spokesperson confirmed that the popular ticket brokerage website owned by eBay did not have enough tickets to fill orders already paid for. The company was scrambling to find tickets, even offering buyers more than double what they paid for tickets already received from StubHub.

For example, if a fan paid $1,000 for a ticket, StubHub offered to refund the $1,000, as well as an additional $2,000 for the ticket.

By Thursday night, the company’s spokeswoman, Joellen Ferrer, said the problem was under control, though they did suspend sales of tickets to the title game.

“We think we have enough tickets to meet the demand,” she said.

Ferrer said the company will bill the seller for extra costs.

Family trip

And I am not going as a reporter. This is a family trip, instigated two months ago by my 74-year-old dad, Horace Williams.

I thought he was joking the week before the Auburn-Georgia game when he said if the Tigers ran the table, we were going to the title game.

And when Auburn was routing South Carolina in the SEC championship on Dec. 4, I called him during the final minutes.

“We’re going,” he said. “Start looking for tickets.”

I do as I am told.

I went to StubHub, arguably the most respected and trusted ticket brokerage site. When Auburn’s invitation became official, I knew it wasn’t going to be a cheap ticket.

I called my dad back and told him the face value of each ticket started at $300.

The following Monday, he gave me a credit card number and told me to get serious about finding tickets.

“We’ll get the tickets first and then we’ll worry about airlines and hotels,” he said.

I was looking for seven seats inside University of Phoenix Stadium. It was obvious that finding them together wasn’t going to be easy.

I found five for $700 each a ticket and another pair for $719 each.

Counting StubHub surcharges, it was more than $5,400. For someone who’s spent three decades attending games on press passes, I thought that was an insane amount of money.

But my dad is a proud 1959 Auburn grad who was on campus playing baseball when the Tigers won their last national title in 1957.

“It only happens every 53 years and I might not be around next time,” he joked.

He said buy them.

And I did. And since I pushed that button I have been looking forward to spending a few days with my dad and the rest of the family. As the credit card commercial says, priceless.

Making the purchase

The rest of the story is a good-news, bad-news tale.

There was a little angst when the credit card charges hit and the confirmation e-mail from StubHub explained the seller did not have possession of the tickets.

A call to StubHub, which has a good customer service system that takes calls in a timely manner, came with StubHub’s FanProtect Guarantee assuring the buyer that if the seller balks, StubHub will fulfill the order with equal or better tickets.

The order of five tickets shipped perfectly, even arriving ahead of the promised time. I felt great relief -- and even did a happy dance on the front porch -- when the FedEx man delivered a week before Christmas.

The other two tickets are a different story.

They are not here and the seller has balked, according to StubHub representatives I have talked to over the last 12 days.

You could see this train wreck coming.

After I paid $719 a ticket, the prices steadily climbed to more than $4,000 per ticket on Stub Hub for comparable upper-deck seats in the corner of the end zone.

At one point, I called StubHub and asked what would prevent the seller from backing out and getting more from someone else. The answer was he was responsible for the difference in cost for my replacement tickets.

Monday, StubHub sent me an e-mail with a FedEx tracking number for my tickets. The seller had generated the package, but it never shipped and by Wednesday morning I was turned over to a “case manager.” At that time, StubHub said my tickets would be sent to me at my Phoenix hotel and I should have them at least 24 hours before kickoff. Thursday morning, I was informed that the tickets could be picked up on game day at a location “around the corner from the stadium.”

I believe them.

Serious problem

About two hours later, my faith was challenged when I saw a CNBC story in which StubHub admitted it couldn’t fill every order because one of its primary suppliers could not deliver.

One reason I bought from StubHub and not some lesser online ticket broker is its dependability since 2000 when it started hooking up buyers with willing sellers.

StubHub charges a surcharge and guarantees the seat.

Three days from kickoff, we have five tickets in hand. If we get stiffed, I’ll take one for the team and watch the game on a big-screen TV in the stadium parking lot.

Thursday afternoon StubHub offered us $2,500 per ticket and the original purchase price if we returned the five tickets we had in hand.

We didn’t take them up on it.

But obviously some people have.

This all comes as a number of Auburn people are making the trip West without tickets.

One of those is Justin Cazana, a WTVM sports guy from 1996-2004. A 1996 Auburn grad, Cazana now lives in Knoxville, Tenn., and sells commercial real estate.

He has watched the secondary ticket market closely.

“I saw one for $1,800 on eBay today,” he said Wednesday. “That is the best I have seen.”

He has even asked himself, “Why am I considering doing this?”

As prices soared beyond $4,000, Cazana and his wife had a serious discussion.

“You put that in perspective and for both of us to go, that is a year’s worth of house payments,” he said.

He’s wonders how much he would be willing to spend if he finds a ticket when he gets to Arizona.

“We talked about $1,500 a ticket,” he said. “My wife said, ‘If we do that you can spend $1,500 on your ticket, give me $1,500 and I will go shopping in Scottsdale.’”

I am willing to bet there has never been a tougher Auburn ticket. I was at the Rose Bowl last year for Alabama’s win over Texas in the national championship game, and the ticket demand was nothing like this.

Jana Tarleton, a 1991 Auburn grad and president of the Columbus-Phenix City Auburn Club, will first visit Las Vegas with her husband, Mike, before reaching Glendale on game day.

She got her tickets through Auburn’s athletic department but knows plenty of people who are making the trip without tickets.

On New Year’s Eve, a member of the local Auburn club asked her to help him sell two tickets. Asking price?

“He wanted $1,200 per ticket,” she said.

She sent out an e-mail and posted the availability of the tickets on a Facebook site for Auburn fans going to Glendale.

“He sold them within an hour,” she said.

She’s still getting e-mails and calls today wanting to know if the tickets are still available.

“I have not heard a single person say, ‘I don’t have airline tickets’ or ‘I don’t have a hotel room,’” Tarleton said. “But I have heard a lot of folks say, ‘I don’t have game tickets.’”

Over the next four days you will hear stories of others in the same situation, I promise you that.

I will be in Glendale.

And hopefully, I will be in the stadium.

Right now, that is up to StubHub.

Chuck Williams can be reached at 706-320-4485 and chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com.

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