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Broncos fans frustrated by poor playoff ticket-buying experience

Officially, Broncos playoff tickets sold out in under 30 minutes. Unofficially, many fans thought they were sold out in under three minutes, given their interaction with Ticketmaster.

Doug Pensinger

If you were fortunate enough to land Denver Broncos playoff tickets when they went on sale Tuesday morning, consider yourself very lucky. And very rare.

Broncos tickets for the January 12th divisional game were in hot demand at when they went on sale Tuesday morning, and the single-game allotment officially sold out in under 30 minutes, according to the Broncos. Unofficially, many fans described a different experience - some claim they received messages saying the tickets were sold out within three minutes of the 10:00 a.m. opening, and many are bemoaning the Broncos' Ticketmaster ticket-purchasing process following another half-hour rush that saw would-be attendees staring at unresponsive computer monitors. Fans were presented with "Working..." screens that never progressed, and tickets sold out before many fans even saw what tickets were for sale.

Users on Twitter and reddit described a system that was unavailable, acting inconsistently, and ultimately unusable. "Had three computers, and 3 or 4 incognito browser windows open on each," one redditer wrote. "Of all of those, I got 2 to actually get me to the ticket page, and both of them, by the time I went to buy, were gone."

Another described, "I was on it the second they became available and all I got was a "Working..." screen that reloads every 3 seconds."

"I tried right at 10am," one fan tweeted MHR. "It told me it may take 13 mins, then after the wait none available."

There are countless stories like this being expressed in other Broncos forums and in the comments section of MHR itself, and it has been going on for three straight years (every year the Broncos have earned a home playoff game of late). Part of the problem is simple supply and demand; there were only approximately 4,000 tickets available, according to the Broncos, and even with a four-ticket-per-household limit that meant some people would be left out. (Ticketmaster could certainly improve its user experience so customers are given something more meaningful than "Working...", but maybe that's the software engineer in me being critical.)

The other part of the problem is the unfortunate reality that scalpers are dedicating more resources than fans can - several computers, phones, and tablets, all hitting up Ticketmaster at once - and scooping up these tickets solely to make them available on resale sites like TicketsNow (Ticketmaster's ticket exchange program) and StubHub with a huge markup. Over 7,500 tickets were available on these sites Wednesday, with prices ranging from the mid $100's to as high as $3,000.

Single game club tickets were sold for no more than $425 apiece Tuesday.

"Every NFL team hosting a playoff game this year uses Ticketmaster for its sales, and it's the same arrangement we have utilized for the last three seasons," Broncos spokesman Patrick Smyth told MHR. "Numerous procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the sales, including a limit of four tickets per household. Orders are reviewed, and duplicate transactions are canceled."

So until Ticketmaster works to improve its fan experience, fans' best bet is strength in numbers. Have everyone in your party hitting Ticketmaster at the same time, with every device at his or her disposal. Then cross your fingers. That's how the scalpers do it; the fans that get "lucky" are usually the ones fighting fire with fire.

It's possible more tickets may become available if the allotment for Denver's opponent does not sell out; Broncos fans would have the opportunity to try again at that point, the Broncos said. Otherwise they can try their luck again if the Broncos advance to the AFC Championship Game, since they have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

In the meantime, fans are left with whatever the second-hand ticket sites are selling - at grossly inflated prices, of course. As one redditer said, "Well, I do respect the free market forces at work here. Buy low and sell high is a fundamental economic concept in a capitalist system.

"With that said, f%&# those f$@#ing a*$%*%#."