The e-mail left a Lakers fan feeling more varying emotions than when he will witness Kobe Bryant’s final game in person.
Jesse Sandler, a 32-year-old clinical social worker from Santa Monica, bought four tickets for $925 tickets for the Lakers’ season finale on April 13 versus Utah at Staples Center eight days before Bryant’s retirement announcement. But shortly after purchasing those tickets through Stubhub, the ticket resell website told Sandler that the seller “incorrectly” listed the tickets for sale. Stubhub added that tickets in a similar location near the basket by Utah’s bench would cost $6,000.
“I was shocked. Then I went to angry,” Sandler said in an interview with Los Angeles News Group as part of a larger story regarding Bryant’s internal pressure to play because of his high-paying customers. “Then I called them and had to jump through a bunch of hoops. During that process, I was exasperated.”
But now? Sandler reported feeling “elated.” After sharing his story on The Lead Sports website, Tickets for Less offered four tickets in a similar location. Although Stubhub offered both a refund and two credits worth $100 and $1,000 for other purchases, Sandler declined “out of principle” and chose Tickets for Less’ proposal. Since then, Sandler donated those tickets to After School All-Stars, while Budweiser will grant Sandler and his friends access to the game.
“Stubhubs’ offer to me at first was, ‘We handled your case wrong. We want to make sure you get to the game,'” Sandler said. “I’m not sure I completely believe they handled it wrong. I talked to them 10 times with 10 different people. They had an opportunity to make it right. They had plenty of opportunities.”
Los Angeles News Group also granted Stubhub an opportunity to explain what happened on their end. Below is a Q&A with Stubhub spokesman Cameron Papp about an incident that prompted the ticket resell website to tweet, “”We shot an airball.”
Why did the incident with Jesse Sandler get to the point to where it did?
Papp: “Frankly it was a mistake and it shouldn’t have happened that way. As a marketplace, Stubhub takes pride on how we handle these situations. This is frankly a mistake. We hold our sellers to a much higher standard than this. Frankly, it was market manipulation by this certain seller. The thing is that it’s not something that we weren’t prepared for or something we had seen in the past. There was a similar situation with Derek Jeter where he announced his retirement. There were tickets going around for $25-$30 normally. Then after Jeter announced, they shot up to $300 or $400 per ticket for a baseball. There wasn’t just one seller. There were a few sellers that tried to manipulate the market and cancel the order and sell the tickets for a higher price. We penalized every single seller and we fulfilled the original buyer’s word. That’s what should’ve happened this time. It was a failure of communication on our part to be more prepared for this type of situation and be ready to fulfill any orders and penalize any sellers for market manipulation.”
But the way Sandler explained it, he had gone back and forth a plenty of times with Stubhub to try to correct it. He also took away from it that he made the purchase at his own risk and that sellers have the authority to back out of their initial selling price
Papp: “That’s not the case. We have a user agreement that explicitly says you cannot list the ticket, cancel an order and then relist that ticket for a higher price. Now we do handle these situations on a case-by-case basis. We are a market place and have thousands of transactions a day. There are times sellers really do make errors and list ticket amounts wrongfully and we do our best to fulfill each order for the buyer. Most of the time, if it’s an honest mistake we’ll eat the cost of replacing those tickets. But there are times when sellers will still try and manipulate the market like this. We have our user agreement in place where we reserve the right to penalize the seller and blackball them from Stubhub. It’s not the way situation should’ve been handled. It’s not how we handle those situations. But they are handled on a case-by-case basis.”
Has this situation prompted Stubhub to revise its user agreement so that employees are more aware on how to handle these kind of situations?
Papp: “Yeah, absolutely. Obviously it was a large topic and crisis around our company. Right now we’re working on our user agreement and we’re going to be updating it and making it clearer on how we handle these type of situations. In the past, it’s been honest mistakes. We’re not always going to take away sellers’ money from a mislisted ticket. But where there is an occurrence where clearly, as this seller was, in manipulating the market and it wasn’t a mistake, we’re fixing our policy and user agreement to make sure it’s extremely clear. That’s prohibited.”
How has this incident affected sales at Stubhub?
Papp: “As the largest marketplace, our sales are still doing fine. But I will say that as a brand, it was not a great look for Stubhub. People will start looking at this Lakers situation in a more cautious manner. People are really upset over this situation. Frankly, they have every right to be upset. But we’re taking this as a learning situation and we’ve come through in the past in situations like this. We really pride on ourselves on being a safe and secure market place. That’s really why Stubhub was founded to avoid situations like these where there’s risky behavior in buying a ticket right before a game. We lost a little bit of trust there and we have to build that back.”
I understand that you initially offered Sandler a refund and $100 credit for another Lakers game. Then he was offered another $1,000 credit for another game, though he declined after already taking an offer with Tickets For Less for Kobe’s finale. Is that accurate?
Papp: “We did. We followed up with him and tried to make the situation right and we apologized a lot. Plenty of times, we had our customer service try to handle it. We tried to hook him up with sweet tickets for the game and make it better for him. But unfortunately, we weren’t able to get connected with him. Someone else stepped in and bought the tickets for the game. What gets a little lost in the situation, and this is by no means making any type of excuse or anything, I think what’s not always noted is we did refund the entire purchase and added another $1,000 on top of that for him to buy other Lakers tickets on the site while we were handling the situation. But that being said, it should’ve been way more than that. He bought tickets for the Lakers-Jazz game and we should’ve gotten him Lakers-Jazz tickets. It shouldn’t have been a situation where we were getting him other tickets. That’s not how the situation should’ve occurred. But I wanted to make that clear it wasn’t something where we left him off alone afterwards.”