Washington residents made 133 complaints for Super Bowl ticket ‘short sales’ through the state’s Attorney General’s Office as of Friday.
More than $820,000 worth of claims have been made by Washington residents against Super Bowl ticket brokers nationwide in complaints to the state Attorney General’s Office.
The Seattle Times obtained a full list of the complaints after making a public-records request on “short sales” made by brokers before last month’s Super Bowl. As of last Friday, 133 complaints had been logged against about three-dozen brokers in New York, Texas, Illinois, California, Missouri and in Seattle. Investigations are ongoing.
The Attorney General’s office can investigate complaints on behalf of consumers and act as a go-between in correspondence between them and brokers to reach resolutions. The office can also file lawsuits to recover compensation for tickets and other expenses sought by consumers and seek up to $2,000 per violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
Most of the money sought is for tickets not delivered, plus added travel expenses like flights and hotels for those who went to Arizona but never got seats. Topping the list at 32 complaints — totaling $205,000 in claims — was SB Tickets of Melville, N.Y., which this month was sued separately by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the Seattle law firm Keller Rohrback for “short selling” seats after telling customers in writing tickets were guaranteed.
“This trip was specifically made to take my mom, who is 88 years old and an avid Seahawks fan, to see her team play in the Super Bowl,” Patty Godslave of Silverdale wrote in her Feb. 9 complaint. “She will never have this opportunity again and because of this company’s actions, she missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Needless to say, she was devastated that she didn’t get to go to the game.”
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Godslave was seeking $11,525 to cover $6,015 spent on three tickets, plus additional money for travel and time off work. She later received the ticket money but nothing for added expenses.
John Chen, who runs a Seattle corporate team-building company, wrote in his complaint that he’d helped a group of acquaintances buy 10 seats to the game via SB Tickets and is still seeking $18,750 for travel costs.
“Nothing will describe being told at the last minute that there are no tickets for these people, and I have been doing everything I can to help them,’’ Chen said in an interview.
Most of the claims against SB Tickets involve unpaid travel costs. Chen and Godslave have joined the private class-action suit brought by Keller Rohrback.
Many brokers engaged in “short selling” ahead of the Super Bowl, selling tickets they didn’t have. Instead, they waited until the week before the game to buy their ticket inventory — when street prices typically drop — hoping to profit by using cheaper seats to fill the higher-priced orders.
But street prices this year soared beyond $10,000 and never fell. Brokers either reneged on orders, or lost thousands of dollars per ticket trying to honor their deals.
Among the brokers who didn’t cover their deals was Vivid Seats, one of the nation’s largest online ticket marketplaces and second on the list with 19 complaints. Documents show Vivid Seats has reached settlements for more than $87,000 on $71,950 in claims being sought, indicating refunds were made for ticket costs plus added expenses.
Other than SB Tickets, the only broker facing six figures’ worth of claims was DEM Ticketing of Pennsylvania, with more than $120,000 being sought. That fledgling broker firm was mentioned in a front page Seattle Times story this month, detailing the plight of Grandview residents Heidi and Steve Van Boven, who were denied their four seats purchased for $12,600.
The Van Bovens later spent more than $50,000 on seats from two other brokers. Their DEM Ticketing complaint is for $12,600.
A total of nine complaints — tied for fourth most on the AG’s lost — were logged statewide against DEM Ticketing, which this week was also hit by a $294,000 breach-of-contract lawsuit filed in Connecticut that was related to its Super Bowl short-selling. Ticket Network, a major online company in South Windsor, Conn., that links brokers to prospective buyers — and had connected them to the Van Bovens — is suing DEM Ticketing for failing to deliver Super Bowl seats to clients.
“DEM Ticketing did not fulfill orders for at least 21 customers,” the lawsuit states, “…forcing TicketNetwork to provide refunds and, in some instances, remit additional payments to the customers to address their complaints that they would be unable to attend the Super Bowl.’’
Third-highest on the AG’s list in terms of consumer complaints was the 10 filed against The Ticket Guys in East St. Louis, Ill., a company run by 16-year broker Steve Sigel. On Super Bowl Sunday, a Times story detailed how The Ticket Guys broke a ticket order for the family of former Puyallup resident Tricia Grannis, who now lives in Leesburg, Va.
She said Wednesday she has been reimbursed all $12,000 for ticket costs, but is still seeking a refund for additional travel expenses. Grannis said she has been offered an additional lump sum of $3,000 or $200 per month for five years, but the company’s guarantee is for a 200 percent refund.
In some cases, multiple companies have been named in complaints involving a single broker. That’s what happened with Texas-based Ludus Tours, which ran a Super Bowl “options” market by licensing software from Chicago-based TeamTix.
A total of five complaints for $28,000 have been filed against Ludus Tours, its parent company or TeamTix. A recent Times story detailed how Ludus Tours owner Brian Peters had sold TeamTix options, allowing fans to hedge bets throughout the season on whether their favorite team would make the big game.
Come Super Bowl time, Peters claimed a supplier had not provided tickets to give to fans holding options for the Seahawks and New England Patriots. Peters was arrested in Brazil for ticket scalping at last summer’s World Cup, and though cleared of all charges, he spent five months in that country dealing with legal issues.
In an interview last month, he said he was to sell off company assets and leave the resale ticket business for good. Peters said he’d refunded ticket costs plus some expense money to option-holders who never got promised seats.
No big Seattle brokers are on the list, though one locally registered company, Tickets2Move, was hit by one claim for $11,600. Documents from the AG’s office state the case is now closed.
The company’s owner, Danielle Hatwell, said in an interview she’d paid the complainant back his ticket money plus expenses.