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Michael Jackson ticketholders to get souvenir tickets

BY Boon Koh
Published 2 July 2009

Michael Jackson I still remember where I was when I first heard the news that he was dead. I was almost sound asleep in bed, in that moment between consciousness and dreamland, just before one truly falls asleep and enters another world spiritually. It was then that my Nokia E71 beeped-beeped on my bedside table, dragging me back into reality. It was a friend who had sent me a message. Apparently, Michael Jackson was dead.

I put the phone down, and wondered why my friend would fall for such silly tabloid rumours.

Next morning, the BBC reassured me that my friend was not crazy, that MJ had indeed died. Although I was never a big fan, the man stil fascinated me. That whole day, the talk around the coffee machine at work was predictable, as we poured over the details of his death. Michael Jackson was meant to play 50 shows at the o2 Arena in London, starting from the beginning of July right until early 2010. However, many industry experts had stated before he died that it was near impossible for a star of such poor health to complete so many shows. Indeed, most of the speculation about the cause of his death appear to center on the stress from the impending tour.

A colleague, who had bought tickets off eBay a month ago, was now unsure if she would get her money back. And that got me thinking about the murky world of ticketing touting and the ramifications in a situation like this.

The refund situation is very clear. Those who bought tickets through the official channels (Ticketmaster, etc) are entitled to full refunds. However, those why bought on eBay, Gumtree, or from third parties might not be so lucky, as there is no legal right from the buyer’s point of view. The only thing one can hope for in this case is that the seller would be kind enough to offer a refund of the tickets, and then get a refund from Ticketmaster or AEG (The organizers) him/herself. However, tickets were changing hands for £200-£500, much more than the original £50 price, so there is no incentive for the seller to refund.

The only second-hand resold tickets that buyers will get a refund for are those bought through the semi-legitimate Seatwave and Viagogo, both of which have policies in place to refund buyers in case of cancellations.

AEG, the organizers, are themselves in a rut because they now have to offer full refunds even though they have spent millions of pounds organizing, marketing, and booking the venues. However, they have creatively come up with a way of limiting their liability; they are offering ticketholders the chance to exchange their tickets for a “limited edition souvenir ticket” instead of getting a refund, playing on fans’ vulnerability for memorabilia. Ironically, I think this might actually turn out to be better for touts, as the souvenir tickets might be worth alot more than the £50 they paid for the tickets, and will only increase in value over time.

Anyways, the lesson learnt here is that when you buy a second hand ticket, you run the risk of being stuck with a piece of worthless paper if the show is cancelled. The best option, if you really need to get tickets, is to go through Seatwave or Viagogo, or get a form of guarantee from the seller that he or she will agree a refund.

In any case, if you are reminiscing for MJ tunes, most of his songs are readily available for listening or download on iTunes here!

Edit 07 Jul 09: The latest news is that 40-50% of ticketholders have opted to receive the souvenir ticket instead of a refund. That probably means there will be tons of souvenir tickets floating around on eBay, and in my opinion it will not be worth as much as a refund. Also there is no guarantee that the organizers, AEG, will NOT sell the leftover souvenir tickets later on, creating a glut of them on auction sites like eBay.