Last Friday I wrote about how StubHub’s most recent app update was missing a lot of my favorite features like the “best value” filter. Additionally, the update seemed to have eliminated information like seat numbers. That information is critically important to making an informed decision about where to sit in Wrigley Field due to the poles in the grandstand and well-known sightline issues at the aisles.
However, by far the most troubling thing I uncovered before that piece went live last Friday was StubHub’s decision to pause MLB sales for June 6-9 due to site maintenance, which left a lot of fans unable to use the app to sell or buy tickets from last Monday to Thursday. StubHub is the official fan-to-fan resale marketplace of MLB, so halting all ticket sales for four days was a red flag that something was seriously wrong. This went well beyond aesthetics and filter preferences. There were 46 games played during that window, that is thousands, and likely tens of thousands, of tickets that were hastily pulled from the market late on June 5. So I kept digging to see if I could find out what could have possibly gone so wrong.
After the story posted I received dozens of replies and direct messages on social media from frustrated fans all over the league. Today I’m going to share some of the issues they experienced with you all. However, before I share a small sampling of those stories, Bleed Cubbie Blue also received a statement from a StubHub spokesperson acknowledging some of these issues. You can read that statement in its entirety below:
StubHub’s site and app recently underwent maintenance to improve our platform and capabilities. With these changes, we have unfortunately experienced a range of issues that have created a less than ideal experience for both buyers and sellers in the short term. We are working rapidly to resolve these and are seeing improvements every day. When we restore and enhance features important to users, we believe the end result will be a far better app experience for everyone.
We apologize to anyone who has experienced these issues, as we know this is not an ideal experience. We stand by our FanProtect Guarantee and will make this right for each of our customers.
I was pretty frustrated by the lack of specifics in this statement. “Rapidly” is not a timeframe. Daily non-specific improvements don’t indicate when fans can expect to use the app reliably again. To put it mildly, this statement only led me to more questions, which to their credit, StubHub answered, but first let’s establish the problems to date.
Season ticket holders
Season ticket holders in particular seem to be having issues listing their tickets. A White Sox weekend plan holder messaged me to say he couldn’t list tickets for last Friday or Saturday at all. Keep in mind this was fully 48 hours after the four-day outage from June 6-9 last week. His listing for Sunday was eventually accepted, but was pulled 24 hours before first pitch, rather than the usual hour before game time. His tickets didn’t sell.
As a frequent StubHub user, I know how important that last 24-hour window is for sellers. I rarely purchase tickets more than 24 hours in advance. Ticket prices tend to drop more as the game gets closer and ticket sellers just hope to sell their seat for anything at all. Weather can impact whether people want to be outside all day or not. While it’s not certain his tickets would have sold in the next 24 hours, I understood why he was miffed that potential buyers didn’t even see his inventory. This season ticket holder told me he also has NFL tickets for the upcoming season that disappeared in a similar fashion, so the issue appears to go beyond MLB tickets. He was told to wait 24-hours, and while that is fine for a Bears game that won’t be played until September, it’s pretty problematic for baseball fans who have now dealt with over a week of outages with no clear end in sight.
The White Sox fan I mentioned above was annoyed, but sanguine. He noted that they weren’t high demand games. He was just trying to get some money back. He wasn’t really planning on pursuing anything further.
A distinct lack of clear communication
Scott Mackie listed his tickets, uploaded the barcodes, sold his tickets and then was stunned to learn the transaction was void. But that didn’t prepare him for what happened next.
Someone at StubHub accidentally sent him the form email that was supposed to go to the ticket buyer blaming him for a mistake he did not make:
Even better,@StubHub showed me what they’re sending buyers, which makes the problem sound like *my* fault. Yeah, thanks for that. Not only did you manage to cost me in non-delivery of tickets but you’re implying to buyers that the sellers are messing you about? pic.twitter.com/sqyOCQHDaR— Scott Mackie (@scottmack1e) June 13, 2022
As of this writing the statements Bleed Cubbie Blue has received from StubHub are the clearest statements I’ve been able to find about what is going on with their site maintenance. They are not adequate for an app that is generally the direct line from MLB season ticket holders to the broader fan resale market. But they aren’t false. Scott received an email intended for the person he’d tried to deliver a ticket to that claimed he never delivered the ticket. That is shameful, and I’m not really sure how to use this app again in good conscience.
Scott was adamant that I know how great the Giants had been for their season ticket holders, which was a running theme throughout my conversations for this piece: Everyone said their MLB team was great. But Scott was also clearly more than a little annoyed. How had he wound up with an email meant for the person he’d tried to sell tickets to, and why did that email blame him for the lack of tickets rather than the underlying issues with StubHub’s site maintenance?
Kimberley Kasper is a San Francisco Giants season ticket holder who reached out because she estimates she’s out $3,300 or more after her seats were not listed for a week. She has four season tickets behind the Giants dugout and last weekend was a June home series against the Dodgers. When she was informed about the three-day outage during the previous Giants series against the Rockies, she wasn’t all that worried about it. She’d already sold two games’ worth of tickets and decided to just give away the third game that hadn’t sold. However, when the issue still wasn’t resolved for the Giants three-game weekend series against the Dodgers, a minor annoyance turned into a more substantial financial hit.
Dodgers vs. Giants is one of the three biggest rivalries in baseball. It is our Cubs vs. Cardinals games. It is the NL West’s version of the Yankees vs. Red Sox. I’m honestly unsure there are any additional rivalries in baseball that compare to those three. Kasper had premier seats for a June weekend rivalry series — those are the types of tickets that season ticket holders bank on using or reselling.
So Kasper was surprised when Thursday rolled around and her Dodgers vs. Giants tickets hadn’t sold. She logged into the backend and lowered the price — they sold within three minutes. But then she realized it wasn’t just the seats for Friday’s game that weren’t selling. The Saturday tickets hadn’t sold. Neither had the tickets for Sunday’s game. Kasper began researching and realized her tickets were not appearing in the app at all.
Amount of inventory
This confirms what Danny Rockett and I noticed immediately after the app upgrade last Tuesday: Large amounts of inventory that had previously shown up in StubHub searches were not visible on the app. When Danny and I talked about this last week, he indicated that thousands of tickets vanished overnight for the Cubs’ current homestand. I logged in last week and saw the same thing — weekday games that would normally have a couple thousand seats available had hundreds of seats available. There was a lot of missing inventory.
Kasper reached out to StubHub and was initially told she’d be compensated for inventory that didn’t appear on the app, but that offer for compensation was retracted hours later by another customer service representative who said StubHub wasn’t responsible for tickets that weren’t listed due to “site maintenance.”
And for anyone looking to be compensated due to the recent @StubHub and @MLB mess 4 lost ticket sales, think again I was just told I'm out of luck because the outage was due to ‘site maintenance’ and they bear no responsibility for lost sales. Way to keep your customers happy— kimberleykasper (@kimberleykasper) June 13, 2022
Selling the same ticket many times
When Kasper finally did get her tickets to appear and sell, they were double sold. She reached out to StubHub to alert them to the fact that she had tickets that had been sold multiple times to different people so StubHub could resolve the problem. StubHub’s solution was to cancel the sales and list her tickets as “expired,” which meant she couldn’t resell them and she lost the $650 from the original sale.
Kasper is not the only fan who encountered the mysterious issue of the same tickets being sold multiple times, as this response to my original article indicates:
It’s all down. Thousands of people got screwed over. There were hundreds of people with tix for today thinking they had tix for yesterday, showing up at the game to find out 10+ people were sold the same seats. You also cannot list @MLB games on the site.— C. E. Panoff III (@cepanoff3) June 11, 2022
In fact, it seems like MLB teams and banks have had to step in to help fans where StubHub has been unable to deliver on their promised inventory. Lisa reached out on Twitter after commenting on the unlikelihood of Cubs and Cardinals fans uniting, but it seems this StubHub mess has, indeed, made the impossible possible:
Hell may freeze - I'm RT a Cubs fan! ❤️ Sara is the only person I can find who is writing abt this issue. It's unbelievable to me that ticket agents at Busch knew nothing abt it. I'm very disappointed & angry w/ @StubHub & @MLB for not publicly acknowledging this colossal fail! https://t.co/8uaJneN5GX— lisa (@llockness) June 11, 2022
And to be clear, the Cardinals and staff at Busch Stadium took care of Lisa and ensured she got a great seat, but really, this should not be on the generosity and/or additional seating capacity of individual teams.
It’s great that MLB teams are stepping up where they can. Almost every fan who reached out to me volunteered that the Mets, Giants, Cardinals, Cubs and other teams had taken their ticket dilemma seriously and worked to find a solution. Kudos to MLB franchises and their customer service for that. That said, it’s also completely unacceptable that days later StubHub’s solution for Lisa was that they hoped she was able to buy additional tickets to enjoy the game:
I was able to purchase other tix so I was still able to enjoy the event!! Just the most ignorant and callous customer service experience ever. Also, @StubHub you have the most annoying hold music - fix that after you fix your app! Though you've already lost my business.— lisa (@llockness) June 13, 2022
These stories are all over Twitter, like this one from Jason who found no relief from StubHub so he took the matter to his bank instead:
Update. BOA refunded all my money instantly. No pending time on claim as even BOA knows it’s a huge issue and has thousands of claims already. Still nothing from @StubHub Find other ways to get your tickets folks. #stubhub https://t.co/Wpll0zntWj— Jason (@jbstevens1983) June 13, 2022
Clear as mud
I reached out to a StubHub spokesperson for some clarification on season ticket holders’ missing listings and how they were going to compensate ticket holders who trusted the official fan-to-fan marketplace of MLB to list their tickets for sale. Regarding season ticket holders, a StubHub spokesperson responded:
We regret the issues that these loyal season-ticket-holding-users have experienced as a result of the technology upgrade and understand their frustrations. StubHub does not guarantee that any tickets will sell on our website, but we can confirm that this issue has been fixed and will be getting back to servicing these customers to a higher standard than before.
I would have preferred more clarity on which issue StubHub can confirm is resolved, because there are a couple of different ones at stake in this question. I specifically mentioned listings disappearing, duplicate sales and compensation for listings not appearing. I suppose it would be awesome if all of those issues were resolved, but I’m skeptical. Additionally, I feel like it’s worth being explicit that while it’s obviously true that StubHub doesn’t guarantee tickets will sell, I think it’s pretty egregious that a business that exists solely to facilitate these ticket sales believes they should bear no responsibility for site maintenance that eliminated and made useless large amounts of inventory from their users. Furthermore, it begs this excellent question Kevin O’Mara asked last week:
We'd all like to hear why you took tickets you had no intention of selling. https://t.co/HVLJiAo4GW— Kevin O'Mara (@achskomara) June 8, 2022
I also wanted to get a more specific timeline on when StubHub thought these issues would be reconciled:
We have anticipated that no more than a few weeks following the initial technology upgrade, which took place on June 6th, would be spent re-stabilizing the platform and responding to unfortunate breakage and site errors. We still expect that to be the realistic timeline to resolve functionality issues to the core product. Once the core product is stabilized, we will start quickly enhancing, scaling and adding features to improve the buyer and seller experience.
“A few weeks” from June 6th runs through the heart of baseball season, the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals. It runs through countless local concerts and music festivals. Core product stability and re-stabilizing the platform sound critically important to me. After reading about the number of buyers and sellers who’ve been impacted by fundamental product changes, I’m not entirely sure there is any number of additional features StubHub could develop that would give me confidence in the platform. If you’re buying tickets to take your dad to a game on Father’s Day, consider alternative resale platforms.