25 Investigates: Online ticket seller Brown Paper Tickets accused of leaving hundreds ‘holding the bag’

25 Investigates: Online ticket seller Brown Paper Tickets accused of leaving hundreds ‘holding the bag’

BOSTON — Seattle-based Brown Paper Tickets markets itself as the “first and only fair trade ticketing company,” but two local event organizers told 25 Investigates there’s nothing fair about how they’ve been treated by the online ticket seller.

25 Investigates was contacted by the Medfield Music Association, a nonprofit that supports music education in Medfield schools. The organization held an “A Cappella Night” in late February and hired Brown Paper Tickets to sell online tickets to the event. Brown Paper Tickets provides a virtual box office for producers, performers, and community groups in exchange for a service fee of $0.99 plus 5% of each ticket sold.

“It was an exciting event that involved other towns. It was a really special event,” said Medfield Music Association Co-President Lynne Clifford. “Online ticketing was really convenient, especially if you were coming from another town. You could be sure you had your tickets and buy them online.”

Content Continues Below

Clifford said Brown Paper Tickets collected $2,232.00 on behalf of her organization. The company’s stated policy is payment will be made in 10 business days after the end of an event for the full face value of tickets sold. Clifford told 25 Investigates reporter Ted Daniel a check arrived in the mail, but within hours of receiving it, she got an email telling her not to cash the check because the funds were not available.

“We extended some good faith and waited awhile and it was when they stopped returning emails or answering their phones that we started to get concerned,” Clifford said.

Brown Paper Tickets owes a Foxborough-based community theatre group nearly $13,000 for tickets it sold to a “Mamma Mia” production in early March, according to LRC Stage Productions Director Laura Canfield.

“The ripple effect of not receiving what I’m owed means that I couldn’t pay the theater,” Canfield said. “I took out a loan to pay back the theater, and now at least the theater has the money that I owe them.”

25 Investigates found these are not isolated cases. The Washington State Attorney General’s Office says they have received 524 complaints about Brown Paper Tickets since March.

“We take this very seriously, as we always do when we receive a large volume of complaints about a particular company, especially when that company is located in Washington State,” said Dan Jackson, a spokesman for Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

25 Investigates contacted Brown Paper Tickets. William Scott Jordan, President of Brown Paper Tickets provided this statement:

Brown Paper Tickets is continuing to work through the backlog of refund requests. With more than $1.5 million having been paid to event organizers and ticket buyers since April, the company is continuing to process requests and issue refunds and payments daily.

Representatives from Brown Paper Tickets have been working directly with the Medfield Music Association, and were able to successfully complete the review process and issue payment to the event organizer this week. The LRC Stage Productions account is currently queued for review, but no timeline is available at present. With thousands of events being cancelled, postponed, or abandoned due to COVID-19, the process of reviewing accounts for settlement has been frustratingly slow for everyone, but the company is working through the backlog and is actively making progress.

We apologize for the continued impact that our situation is having on payments for the artists and event organizers we built our business to serve. Like many businesses, we were unprepared for a crisis of the scale of COVID-19. We understand the frustration that our community is feeling, and we are working to find solutions that better protect and support our customers and clients moving forward."

Can a small island in the Charles River rescue its water quality?