Cybercritique: Backup is needed if system breaks

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MARKETER: Ticketmaster


CRITIQUE: E-commerce is not for every company. This revelation is going to take some by surprise, but it's true nonetheless. Some companies have no business relying on the Internet to conduct business. Ticketmaster will tell you quite clearly that it is one of those companies, which flies in the face of all of its marketing efforts, many of which promote the ease of buying online. (Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch in November agreed to buy USA Networks' Ticketmaster, reuniting the offline and online arms of the company.)

Here's the problem: When a major concert or sporting event is going on sale, the system overloads. In other words, the site is most likely to break when people need it most. This is not a good way to do business.

Case in point: The CyberCritique staff was planning a little outing to the Prince show in Chicago. We tried using the Web site, like Ticketmaster tells us to, the moment the tickets went on sale. We got through on the site and had our order placed and were waiting for our confirmation number. Instead we got a message telling that the system was too busy, our order had probably gone through fine, but we should call the customer service number (which is the same number as the circuit-busy ticket-buying number). We definitely, the site said, should not place our order again.

Four hours later we got through to an operator who told us that the order hadn't gone through, the show was sold out, and, no, there was nothing it could do about it. Sorry. Her supervisor said the same thing. The kicker was that Ticketmaster's customer service solution was to paraphrase the disclaimer from the site to us. The representatives told us, "It's the Internet. It doesn't work very well." We followed the instructions on the site and got burned. This would seem to be Ticketmaster's problem, but it insists on making the problem the customer's instead.

Again, this is not a way to run a business. If you're providing a service that people rely on, especially for a scarce commodity like tickets, it seems imperative that you have some sort of backup in place for when that system breaks down.

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