I come to you today with a tale about how annoying it is to deal with customer service and how disorganized the NCAA tournament ticket-buying process is. Let me start from the beginning.
I love March Madness. I have gone to two 1st and 2nd round sites, including Tampa last year, where all the upsets happened on the same weekend. When I heard that Philly would be hosting a 1st and 2nd round set of games in this year's tournament last May, I got excited. I figured this would be a good way to get to see some tournament basketball without having to pay for travel or take vacation. When I got the information in the mail, though, I realized that I had to put a deposit down almost a year in advance. Then there would be a lottery to determine who got tickets and where the each lottery winner's seats are. The problem is that everyone pays the same price. So one person could pay the $220 and get courtside seats, while someone else could pay the $220 and get Section 222, Row 15 (last row in the arena). The games are being held at the Wachovia Center and I know how bad the upper level is for basketball. I didn't want to take the chance. I wasn't going to shell out $900 a year in advance for the possibility of ending up with upper level seats. When I went before, my brother got the tickets (he works for a certain large sports entertainment network and has connections), so he was always able to get good seats. So the Wachovia Center had their little lottery and distributed the tickets in June or July of last year. I just kind of forgot about it until last Friday.
On Friday, I got my weekly Ticketmaster newsletter email with the latest events on sale in Philly. In the email, one of the events was "NCAA Tournament 1st and 2nd Round Men's Basketball". As you can imagine, I was a bit confused. I was under the impression that there was a lottery and that all tickets were distributed. I clicked on the link and the website said that the tickets went on sale Thursday, 3/12 at 2:45 pm. Strange date and time considering that the tournament starts on Thursday, 3/19. Anyway, I selected 4 tickets and clicked submit to search for tickets. The site basically said that the tickets are given out randomly. I would have to buy a package and go to the arena on Tuesday (tomorrow) and pick them up. The part I still wasn't sure about was how there were still tickets available. I wanted to get to the bottom of this so I called the Wachovia Center box office. They should know about this, right? They are the ones hosting the event and distributing the tickets. I talked to a very rude customer service rep that sounded like she had some place to get to quick and didn't have time to talk. She told me that they distributed all their tickets last June. I told her that Ticketmaster is selling tickets to this event on their website. She said that the Wachovia Complex has nothing to do with that and told me to call Ticketmaster. She hung up without saying "goodbye".
So I called Ticketmaster. After navigating through endless automated prompts, I finally got to speak to an actual person. I asked him about the tickets being sold on the Ticketmaster website for the event. He said that the tickets would be assigned randomly. I told him that I had concerns over whether or not there actually were tickets available, since the Wachovia Center did their lottery already. He told me I should call the Wachovia Center box office. When I informed him that I already had, he asked me to hold and checked with another rep. When he came back, he told me that the tickets were "first come, first served" but if I bought a package, that I would have tickets to the games. I thanked him and hung up. I thought about this for a while and all I can come up with is this: the Wachovia Complex had their lottery and didn't get enough people to bite. They had extra seats left after the lottery process and those tickets went to Ticketmaster to sell online. The other possibility is that the NCAA only released a certain number of tickets to the Wachovia Center and gave the rest to Ticketmaster. That doesn't make much sense to me, though, unless the NCAA is in bed with Ticketmaster, but I guess that wouldn't surprise me. But why now? Why didn't the tickets go on sale sooner? Even if they had gone on sale two weeks ago, it still would have been better than 6 days before the first game. And why can't you pick your freakin' seats yourself? I hate this lottery bullshit. The problem still was, I had no idea where my potential seats would be if I bought a package.
So I had an idea. I called the Wachovia Center box office again and asked the (much nicer) rep if they had any tickets left for the 1st and 2nd round games. Her answer? "No, we distributed them all through the lottery." Ok... So I told her that Ticketmaster is selling them online. She said that I should buy them then. She went on to explain that the box office distributed all the tickets they had last June. I asked her if they gave out all the tickets available for the whole arena and she said she didn't know. They don't tell the reps how many tickets are sold, they just process the applications and send out the tickets. This is a little disconcerting to me. The box office reps at a major sports complex don't know how many seats they have left for a major event. They don't know what seats are already taken, and which ones are still available. I mean, I'm sure somebody knows, but the reps don't and I didn't have the energy or remaining brain power to ask for a manager.
In conclusion, I did not buy tickets. This is a horrible job by the NCAA, the Wachovia Center box office, and Ticketmaster. First off, the lottery process is awful. It's so dated and it turns people like me off to the idea of buying tickets for these events. There are some locations that didn't sell out this year and I'm sure that this is one of the factors for that. Nobody wants to sit a half mile away to watch a basketball game and nobody wants to shell out over $200 per ticket to take that chance. If the NCAA was smart, they would let the box offices and Ticketmaster handle this the right way, which is first come, first serve just like every other event. It works great for concerts and other sporting events, so why not this? I can see having a lottery for Final Four tickets, maybe, but for the 1st and 2nd rounds? Come on, you can all do better than this.
8 years ago