Minneapolis, Minnesota Updated 12:55am CDT, Sept. 20, 2012

Applause is in order for the Cowles Center for Dance and its decision to roll its ticketing fees “into the price of the ticket when we advertise events.” The venue announced the decision in an email to its performing artists from Andrea Tonsfeldt, marketing communications manager.

“We will make note that the price includes all fees,” Tonsfeldt wrote. “We feel this will cause less confusion and frustration by customers and allow for a more streamlined and positive experience.”

Currently, the ticketing fees are explained on the Cowles Center website this way:

In an effort to be as transparent about pricing as possible, The Cowles Center separates it’s [sic] ticketing fees from the cost of each ticket. Ticket prices for each performance are set by the presenting company. The $4 per ticket fee covers two things: $2 paid to the Vendini ticketing system and $2 for the maintenance of The Goodale Theater.

Tonsfeldt noted in her message that it will take a bit of transition time to change the website and get all of the advertising on the same page.

According to her email, the change is based on feedback from a survey and from comments received over the past weekend, which featured performances by Vocaldente, an a capella ensemble from Germany.

Customers should welcome the change.

When one buys groceries, there is no “convenience fee” tacked on to the bill of sale either to cover the cost of the cashier or the maintenance of the store. Nor, when purchasing tickets for live events, are there itemized charges for “performers,” “light bulbs,” etc. So, what elevates ticketing costs to such high status?

For reasons lost in the mists of time, it has become standard procedure to list ticket charges as add-ons, separate from and over-and-above the list price printed on a ticket. One suspects the practice originated either as an Orwellian way to raise prices and cover a cost center without seeming to raise them, or because producers and presenters of events recognized the ticketing charges as the highway robbery that they are and sought to diffuse their responsibility for them. Either way, consumers are rarely stupid about pricing.

Rather than put up a fight in the marketplace against the purveyors of ticketing services themselves, venues outsourced their frustration and assumed helplessness onto their customers. That works until the customers fight back. Apparently, the Cowles Center experienced enough of that last weekend to prompt the change.

Having one price for admission is the ultimate transparency. I don’t care what it includes. If the ticket is $30, I will pay. If I get a discount for being young, old, a frequent purchaser, or any other reason, that’s great. Just don’t tell me that “Oh, by the way, you need to pay us for the convenience of selling you a ticket – and, at some venues (not the Cowles), for taking your order.”

And please don’t tell me you need a “facility fee” for the rainy day fund when your roof goes bad. Hit me up with a reasoned request for a free-will donation and I will take it into consideration.

The Cowles Center had the chance to get this right when it opened a year ago, but for reasons lost in the mists of time did not. As Tonsfeldt noted, “We tried to be transparent last year with customers by NOT including the fees but we have found it didn’t work that way.”

Better late than never. Other venues?

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