Sep 27, 2022 - News

Frustrating service fees running rampant

Graphic with a ticket with dollar signs printed on it

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Bill Linden was close to booking tickets last month to the Museum of Ice Cream on Michigan Avenue, a treat for his 75th birthday.

  • Linden tells us he was looking forward to going despite the expensive base tickets ($36-$44), but his patience ended when he got to the final payment screen and saw $18 in taxes and service fees.
  • "Service for what????!," Linden wrote in an online complaint. "I did all the work! I will never ever visit."

Why it matters: Expensive "service fees" have infuriated ticket buyers and some bands for decades, but better technology — that leaves more work to the consumer — seems to have only raised those fees.

  • And at places like the Museum of Ice Cream, where service fees are $9.50 to $11.37 per person, ticket buyers can't even go straight to the box office anymore to avoid the fees.

What they're saying: "It's ridiculous," Linden says. "It feels like a total racket."

A screenshot of a receipt.
A screenshot of a recent purchase of tickets for the Museum of Ice Cream. Screenshot: Monica Eng/Axios

The other side: Museum of Ice Cream officials attribute the fees to Peek, the company they hire to "manage scheduling, customer service, in-depth reporting, and communications."

Yes, but: Tickets we checked through Peek for other local attractions — including architecture tours, kayak tours and crime tours — list smaller fees.

A screenshot of a receipt showing charges.
A screenshot of other receipts. Screenshot: Monica Eng/Axios

What's more: Justin ran into annoying service fees when booking tickets for the Color Factory, which uses Peek.

  • And when he tried to buy Cubs tickets at Wrigley this summer, the box office clerk told him to hand her his phone so that she could buy the ticket for him — with service fees — online.
  • Cubs officials say the policy started in 2019.

What's next: Despite the complaints, Museum of Ice Cream officials say they are not currently seeking a different ticketing service.

  • They are, however, touting a 20% discount on kids' tickets by using a BACKTOSCHOOL code this month.
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