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Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Some time ago, I wrote about the “processing fee” you get dinged for when you mail in payment for a traffic ticket to General District Courts in Virginia. In some cases the fee is more than the fine for the infraction.
The chief question then was, “what is the process?” And the answer was that a clerk opened the envelope, recorded your payment then deposited your check.
Today we have some new fees, brought to you by yet another government entity — the Roanoke Civic Center. I discovered them last week while buying tickets online to see comedian Lewis Black this past Saturday night. (His show was hilarious, by the way. He even had a joke about the Texas Tavern’s chile.)
Because I’m a cheapskate, I opted for the least costly tickets, $35 each. But by the time I finished that purchase the cost had swollen to $99.50 for two tickets. That’s a 42 percent markup.
While not as obscene as the traffic ticket processing fees, it’s still in highway-robbery territory. No offense to Lewis Black, but had I realized from the get-go that the cheapest online seats to his show were $49.75 each, I probably would have opted to stay home and watch clips of him on YouTube for free.
It’s not just one fee. When you buy any civic center tickets online, they nick you for a bunch of different fees. What follows is a breakdown, as well as some tips you can use to avoid getting dinged like I did.
The first charge is a $2 “facility fee.” That’s what a ticket holder pays above and beyond the cost of admission for “use of the facility.” To be fair to Global Spectrum, the private outfit that manages the civic center, this is lumped in with the published price of tickets in newspaper and television ads.
“There’s a facility fee on all tickets,” online or not, said Viki Arias, the civic center’s new marketing director.
On top of that, I paid a $10 convenience fee for each $35 ticket. This would actually have been higher had I opted for more expensive seats because it’s applied on a sliding scale. For example, comedian Jeff Dunham is appearing at the civic center coliseum Nov. 9. All those tickets are $43.50, not including the facility fee. The “convenience” fee for online or phone orders for that show is $11.25 per ticket.
“What’s the convenience fee?” I asked Arias.
“That’s for the convenience of not having to come to the box office,” she replied.
That seemed odd because it’s exactly the opposite of the way certain banks handle it. Some of them charge fees to customers who transact business in person rather than online.
“Isn’t it a convenience for you if I don’t show up in person and bother your box office workers?” I asked.
“Not necessarily,” Arias said. “We have a box office, and the workers are going to be there anyway whether you come here or not.”
Next was the “delivery charge.” When you order tickets online, you have four options. The civic center will mail them to you for $4 (per order, not per ticket). It costs $20 to have them express-mailed. You may pick them up at the Will Call window for $3.
The option I chose was to print them on my own printer, using my own paper and my own ink. It’s the cheapest one, and for that privilege, you pay a mere $2.50. Did I mention the separate “order charge?” That is $3. It’s also applied per order, not per ticket.
So the cost of the Lewis Black tickets was $35 plus $2 (the facility fee) plus $10 (the convenience fee) times two (the number of tickets), which came to $94. Plus another $3 to order them online (or by phone), plus another $2.50 to print them on my own printer.
In one way I was fortunate. Civic center parking was free that night. On busy nights they charge $5 per car (you must buy the parking passes in advance). If you order that $5 pass online or by phone, there’s a separate $1.75 convenience fee, plus a separate $1.15 mail delivery charge ($20 if you need it express mailed).
Parking at the civic center is not free for the Jeff Dunham concert. But patrons can always park for free in the Williamson Road garage and take a free shuttle bus, Arias noted.
The bottom line is, if you order two Jeff Dunham tickets and a parking pass online, you’re going to end up paying at least $126.90, rather than $96 if you showed up at the box office and bought them there.
The $31 you’ll save will come in handy when you get in line at the concession stand for an $8.50 beer.
Just thought you’d like to know.
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