By: Thuur Hutjens
U2 is going on the road again. Having the collective hate towards the iTunes-distribution-tactics of the band's latest album still fresh in our minds, the Irish rock band is preparing for an autumn 2015 tour.
The presales of the tickets are already well under way, but as an exclusive member of U2's website, you are allowed to pre-pre-order your tickets. The cost for this membership is fifty bucks. But oh well, at least you can rest assured you'll walk away with your favorite concert tickets, right?
The veterans in rock officially announced their tour dates a day before the presales for members kicked off. This means that if you've been off the grid for one day, you'd already have missed the train at the station. Bearing time-pressure in mind, I as well was tempted to subscribe to an online membership, which sent me off to customer queue number two. I, and a legion of fans, who are as loyal as dogs and books, are now granted a unique code to gain priority access to the tickets we desire most.
In contrary to other concert tours of the Irish band, this time you are only allowed to order two tickets through the extravagantly priced membership you just paid for. On top of that: the membership is only valid for a year. So the real diehards pay fifty euros, year after year, to gain the best access to tour tickets, but without any kind of warranty... On the first day of the 'especially for U2.com-members' presale, Ticketmaster was on the fritz. The band offered its apologies towards its members of U2.com, and asked them to remain patient. But with a fifty-buck deficit on my bank account, patience was growing thin. People on online boards are also starting to complain about the way things are working out.
If you pay money, you expect service. Just like Jorstin did when he wrote on the official U2-forum: I came up against a brick wall that I don’t know can be resolved unfortunately…The show I wanted to go to and had tickets reserved more than four times on a nonfunctioning site sold out where I was shooting for after Ticketmaster screwed up my order time and time again.
On Friday morning, the second day of the presale for members, tickets to the first night in Cologne and Amsterdam were 'no longer available' for members. Are they already sold out, or is Ticketmaster having problems again? It's all quite fuzzy and vague.
Despite paying fifty euros, there seems to be no specific customer service that might help solving any specific questions or complaints. The telephone customer service, a phone number of organizer Live Nation, is overloaded, and offers only an explanation about the membership. There's no short-time reply to e-mails. Canceling the membership is not an option anymore at this time. Even the European phone number of ticket agency Eventim can no long process the amount of callers and forces them to call back another time. Responses to e-mails are overdue and contain nothing more but a template text: If your concerns are still outstanding, please reply to this e-mail letting us know your issue has not been resolved and needs further attention.
If this scant amount of consideration would be enough to solve any kind of impediments, our world problems would be past tense with a minimal amount of concern towards them. But it turns out that that's not enough. What's even worse is that the e-mail templates feign to have offered enough concern and/or a solution to any possible questions and complaints while nothing could be further from the truth. In times of huge disappointment and intense crisis, mental coach Benno van Leeuwen can answer specific questions with clear answers: "We are no longer customer friendly. Apparently it's not about well-being in general, to which a gig might contribute, but about the well-being of a few: those who want to make a buck out of everything. If that's the level the bar has been lowered to, just hit me with a few shots. Because that's how U2 fans are feeling right now: I have been shot in the back, U2?!"
"We trust to have informed you sufficiently" and "Your phone call is very important to us" have turned in to lifeless echoes. This comes with the latest trend of the customer service branch to confront customers by repeating the question, just to make sure that the question is understood correctly. This prevents miscommunication and leads to direct problem solving. As a caller, this makes me feel highly valued, but after hanging up the phone I realize that the problem is still existent. Customer service employees don't seem to be able to give answers to actual questions, even though they actually want to solve my problems. They are, just like me, with their backs against the ropes and tied up to bureaucratization and protocols.
This is also what's going on with U2. For the presale among members there has only been made a limited number of tickets available. The number of members that subscribed to a membership has not been taken in to account. Digital communication is the only type of communication in existence. "Good stuff", you're almost starting to think, because upon calling U2 Live Nation you get referred to Ticketmaster and Eventim, while they in their turn refer to U2 Live Nation. You're being sent from pillar to post. Both the sales and the membership smack of a chic scam. On the U2 boards complaints are shown about members that re-use their personal code, against the rules, to buy more than two tickets. This leads to other members missing out on their tickets. Moderators are threatening to cancel the tickets of the fans who have made abuse of their code. It's nothing but a method for which every legal basis is currently missing, looking at the lousy technical conditions. Misusers are advised to inform the relevant organization to ensure the tickets won’t be canceled.
After an hour of complete chaos and hard labor I finally have the ticket I wanted to have, but during payment I receive an error message. "It's best you cancel your reservation and start a new order", says a Belgian employee on the phone. I'm reluctant. The tickets I want are sold out on the day I want to go in Amsterdam, Cologne and also in Antwerp. Ridiculous, according to the Belgian operator: the tickets I want are still available in plenty. But I don't want to take the risk. There's a possibility that my code does not work, or so I read on the U2 boards. There's no other solution. I still have got six hours left to complete my payment using a link that doesn't work. It's either that, or I start all over again. After a few hours of not willing to give up on the link, I reluctantly give in and start all over again. Luckily, this time everything works out and the payment is done within mere minutes. But because of the stress of the past few hours my life has been shortened by at least a few days. That much I'm certain of.
A few days later U2 blandly announces extra concerts, including two more shows in New York, Boston, Paris and Amsterdam: If you haven't used your unique code in the earlier presales, you'll be able to use it for the extra two concerts. If you have used your code already, it won't be valid for the extra concerts.
This selling method is a logical result of the earlier chaos, but is a pain in the ass for true U2 fans. Fans were not informed properly and were forced to buy a ticket they might not want in hindsight. The cheapest tickets are sold at 65 euro. The most expensive tickets are set at 280 euros and for lots of fans was the only option in the presale of the first confirmed concerts. The flow of information and communication is fallible and vague. A German employee gave me the best answer to my questions up to date: "I can't help you", she admitted in all honesty.
U2 was already bound to receive harsh criticism from discerning music lovers that no longer sympathize with the band. The feeling towards the band nowadays is that the band is only lining their own pockets, has become too mainstream, is only thinking about signing million-dollar-deals and doesn't care about the world in their direct environment anymore. U2 earlier diverted to the Netherlands for its tax benefits and signed deals with Live Nation and iTunes for 120 and 100 million euros.
This, combined with the terrible information service towards the band's most loyal fans, raises incomprehension and disappointment among the group of music lovers you should be antagonizing least.
Note for the fans: I am no hater, listened to U2s music for years and probably will do so in the future. I even listened to them non-stop while writing this article. It’s just that the selling methods do not match with the experience we have as fans when listening to U2s music or attending their concerts.
Written by: Thuur Hutjens
Translated by: Jan Dijsselbloem
Editors Note: Over the past few days we have been featuring some new writers for the U2TOURFANS team each writer could write their own story from their personal view, experience or thoughts. We found this story to be very interesting to share with you. However, please note that the views expressed within this story are those of Thuur Hutjen and not necessarily the views of U2TOURFANS or any member of the writing team.