Business

Sean Murphy | The Fine Print

A ‘Hamilton’ ticket mixup, and a $675 StubHub charge

Bo Abrams and daughter, Rebecca Dowd, blamed StubHub for trying to extract extra money out of them for tickets to Hamilton.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Bo Abrams and daughter, Rebecca Dowd, blamed StubHub for trying to extract extra money out of them for tickets to Hamilton.

Rebecca Dowd, 17, came home from “Hamilton” last month glowing with excitement, giddy with gratitude to her parents for letting her see the show for a second time.

It was a perfect evening, she gushed to her mother. Except that she almost missed it.

She and her friend were settled in their seats at the Boston Opera House minutes before the curtain was to go up when an usher tapped them on the shoulder and led them to the lobby.

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They were told that someone else had tickets to their seats, which her mother had bought on StubHub.

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Dowd, a Gloucester High School thespian, and her friend were allowed to return to their seats nonetheless.

But the next day, StubHub told Dowd’s mother, Bo Abrams, it was charging her $675 for taking two seats that weren’t hers.

“But we paid for those tickets,” Abrams protested.

“No, those tickets belonged to someone else,” StubHub said.

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It gradually became apparent what had happened. Back in June, Abrams had purchased two pairs of tickets, stretching the family budget to pay more than $2,000 for four tickets to an evening performance on Oct. 3.

Then her husband, Jim, was diagnosed with brain cancer. An evening performance that would keep him out late was out of the question. So she bought four tickets for an afternoon performance instead, planning to sell the evening tickets on StubHub, the world’s largest online ticket exchange.

Abrams was able to sell one pair of tickets for the Oct. 3 evening performance, at a loss, but couldn’t get the price she wanted for the second. So just hours before that night’s performance, she told her daughter she could use the second set of tickets.

Dowd immediately jumped on her mother’s StubHub account and clicked on the first set of tickets that came up. She downloaded the QR-coded tickets to her phone. All she had to do was flash her phone at the theater.

Here’s the problem: Dowd downloaded the wrong tickets — the ones her mother had sold two weeks earlier.

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“Well, that’s not our fault,” Abrams told a StubHub representative on the phone. “Why didn’t your computer software stop us from downloading tickets we already sold?”

Obviously, it was an honest mistake. If anyone is at fault it’s StubHub, which controls its website. Why hadn’t StubHub deactivated the sold tickets?

But a StubHub representative was unyielding on the phone. Abrams burst into tears.

“I lost it,” she told me. “I was saying, ‘Please don’t do this. We can’t afford it. My family is already in a terrible situation.’ ”

“She was completely unsympathetic,” Abrams said.

In an e-mail to Abrams, StubHub explained its decision to make her pay $675 for the mix-up this way: “We certainly understand your frustration regarding the situation,” but “regretfully, we cannot waive” the charge.

My question is this: Why does StubHub think it was entitled to an additional $675? The seats that Dowd and her friend sat in had been paid for, albeit by someone else. And the seats they should have been in — a row away — had been paid for as well, by Dowd’s mom.

Presumably, the people who had purchased the tickets from Abrams sat there.

I asked Dowd if she noticed any empty seats near her. She said no.

It bothers me that StubHub, in possession of Abrams’s credit card information from earlier transactions, went ahead and charged her $675, even while she was disputing the charge.

Within 24 hours of hearing from me, StubHub changed its tune. It contacted Abrams and said she would get a full refund. A company spokeswoman told me during our first conversation that StubHub had decided to refund the money even before I got involved.

“We do not make decisions based on the news media,” said Alison Salcedo. “We do what’s right for the customer.”

That didn’t ring true to me. And Salcedo later told me the refund was triggered by my telling StubHub about the family’s health crisis. Huh? Abrams had done that in her first go-around with StubHub.

StubHub has also shifted its explanation for why the sold tickets were downloadable. At first, Salcedo said it was necessary for StubHub to transfer tickets. But that didn’t make sense. Salcedo later told me the company, in some instances, lacks the technology to deactivate tickets.

Salcedo declined to say how often this happens, and the Boston Opera House declined to respond to questions about who (if anyone) sat in the seats Dowd and her friend should have been in, or why she and her friend were returned to the disputed seats after the lobby conference.

I think StubHub treated Abrams and her family shabbily, by trying to stick them with the cost of their own technology failure.

C’mon, StubHub, show how sorry you are by furnishing four tickets to a show of their choice to this family of theatergoers.

An update on AirbnbThe two Boston-based doctors who had a terrifying experience while staying in an Airbnb guesthouse in Los Angeles in June have reached a settlement with the popular short-term rental company.

The plight of Jaleesa Jackson and Chiedozie Uwandu was detailed in a Globe column last month. Airbnb then publicly apologized to the couple and promised to compensate them for the shock of their “super host” crashing through a large window in their darkened bedroom as they slept.

Before the column appeared, Airbnb had brushed off Jackson’s demand for $5,000 (including $2,300 in extra expenses the couple incurred because of the incident).

But the column brought them together. How much did Airbnb pay the couple?

“We can’t disclose,” Jackson said.

Hooray for Airbnb doing the right thing, belatedly.

But why the silence on the amount? After the nightmare this couple endured, Airbnb should have been upfront about how they made things right.

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at smurphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.