The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on August 1, 1999 · 38
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · 38

Boston, Massachusetts
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 1, 1999
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-B2 THE BOSTON SUNDAY GLOBE REGION AUGUST 1, 1999 ConsumerBcat BRUCE MOHL and PATRICIA WEN Convenience of Internet ticket sales comes with hefty price BUCKETS Continued from Page Bl first three months of the year. But even as consumers are rushing to embrace the speed and convenience of the new technology, they are voicing concerns about the charges and fees associated with this convenience. Chris and Mindy Carmody of Arlington are a perfect example. Big Springsteen fans, they pursued tickets for the Boss's August concerts with military precision. To get a wristband, Mindy left for the Ticketmaster outlet in Belmont about 1V& hours before tickets went on sale in June. She received her two tickets about 11 a.m. Total time: about three hours. Chris went on line the day of the sale and within 25 minutes had placed two orders for a total of six tickets. Carmody acknowledges the convenience of his purchase in terms of time, effort, and reduced stress, but he nevertheless questions the cost. For on-line purchasers of Springsteen tickets, Ticketmaster assessed a convenience charge of $7.50 per $67.50 ticket, a $1.30 handling fee per order, and the cost of the customer's delivery option. With his two orders, Carmody ended up paying $45 in convenience charges and $2.60 in handling fees. Since he placed two orders, Ticketmaster assessed Carmody two $10 UPS delivery charges, even though all six tickets were delivered together. Carmody said he sent an e-mail complaint to Ticketmaster about the double delivery charges and tried to reach the firm by phone with no success. The company agreed to drop the second delivery charge after we called. Aside from the delivery issues, Carmody is puzzled why costs are so high for those who buy on line. He noted that online retailers generally charge less than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, who face higher overhead costs. "I would think the computer would be a cheaper option for them," said Carmody, a software designer for Parametric Technology Corp. in Waltham. For the Springsteen concert, the $7.50 m.i.. .nil ni gg i ' :'. :;:)!. GLOBE STAFF PHOTO DAVID L RYAN Chris Carmody shows off the Bruce Springsteen tickets he bought on-line from Ticketmaster. It was quicker but more expensive than waiting in line. on-line convenience charge was identical to the charge for orders taken by phone operators. The convenience charge at Ticket-master outlets was $2.05 less, according to company officials, and there was no convenience charge at the box office. Convenience charges vary by concert and venue. For example, a $40.50 ticket to see the Allman Brothers Aug. 20 at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield carries a $7.10 on-line convenience charge and a $3-per-order handling fee. Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch Inc., the Pasadena, Calif., company that handles on-line ticket sales for Ticketmaster, said its average convenience and handling charge was $6.68 per ticket in the second quarter. That represents revenues of about $17 million. Many consumers do not understand where the money goes. The convenience charges are determined by contract between Ticketmaster and the venue hosting the event Part of the fee is paid to the venue and part to the promoter. Charles Conn, chief executive officer of Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch, said there are enormous costs associated with on-line sales, including a customer service operation. There's just a whole lot more costs than anybody realizes," he said. Carmody remains unconvinced. He says there is no way he should pay more to buy on line than he pays at an outlet He thinks the charges have more to do with Ticketmaster's monopoly position in the marketplace than the company's actual costs. "They own the market. You can't get around them," he said. Conn and Carmody are probably both right Ticketmaster's dominance of the market allows it to charge what it does, but right now it has a product - on-line ticket sales - that consumers are willing to pay a premium for. Less Charmln to squeeze Mr. Whipple is back from retirement to promote a newer and better Charmin bathroom tissue, but consumer activist Edgar Dworsky tells us there is now less to squeeze. A single roll of old Charmin had 280 sheets; the same-size roll of new Charmin has just 200. That is a nearly 30 percent reduction even though the price charged by local supermarkets like Stop & Shop and Shaw's has not changed a cent This is one of the largest percentage-size reductions I can remember," said Dworsky, who has caught manufacturers disguising a price increase by reducing the size of the product they sell. Officials at Procter & Gamble Co. confirm the new Charmin has fewer sheets per roll but say it is stronger and more absorbent "If it's stronger and more absorbent and it performs better, you would be likely to use less," said Terry Loftus, a company spokesman. Loftus said company research shows consumers needed fewer sheets of the new Charmin, but he could not pinpoint the savings. Loftus also said Procter & Gamble is ' charging retailers 6.5 percent less for new Charmin than old Charmin, an indication that retailers may be using the product switch to pocket a little extra change. Odds & Ends Sales tax on sales. A Reading man asked us to clarify the Massachusetts sales tax law when it comes to sale-priced items. He complained about being charged tax on the original $37 price of a baby gate, even though he paid only $32 after a $5-off coupon was used. State revenue officials say that when a manufacturer's coupon is used, a store can charge tax on the original amount because it must wait for a manufacturer's reimbursement. But when in- i store coupons are used, stores can impose tax only on the sale price. Ryder Cup refunds. Several people contacted us recently saying they never received a refund of the $5 fee they paid to the Professional Golfers' Association to qualify for the Ryder Cup ticket lottery. As we reported, the PGA decided to refund what started out as a nonrefundable fee after the Florida attorney general said it was illegal. The money should have been credited to customer credit cards by the end of last year. Julius Mason, the PGA's spokesman, said the PGA stopped collecting the fee early on in the process and some people's credit cards may never have been charged. If they were charged and can prove it with a credit card bill, Mason says they should write to PGA Ticket Center, PO Box 30609, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, 33420-0609. We want your consumer ideas and tips. Please call (617) W-2510 or e-mail Mohl at or Wen at Their address is PO Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378. I " 111 s& The Home epof 7 I.BJ ""I. ' -bttmWWMW" w ' "' mmm i pk i w I Wm ' ' ft The Home Deoot Dmmimm n!fMlm Thick is comina to your town! rrj yr unvc me nti nuine Depot5- Winston Cup show car simulator Take part in hands on demonstrations of Ridgid power tools and Husky mechanic tools At the Natick, MA Home Depot: Located on Speen St. Between Cochituate Rd. (Rt 30) and Worcester St (Rt.9) South of Mass.Tpk., exit 13 (508) 647-9600 Tuesday, September 14 3pm to 7m Quarry search yields no victim Despite dangers, divers to continue recovery effort in Quincy By Thomas GrOlo GLOBE CORRESPONDENT After a $1.8 million effort and weeks of draining 160 million gallons of water, a search of Quincy's Rail Quarry has failed to uncover the body of a homicide victim. Instead of human remains, investigators recently found a mannequin where divers thought they first spotted a body 175 feet below the water's murky surface two years ago. "At this time, we're not drawing any conclusions. We don't believe the divers mistook the mannequin for a bodV," said Norfolk District Attorney William Keating. "We are continuing our search." State Police and trained dogs are hampered by the 240-foot granite quarry's sharp edges, deep crevices, and mountains of trash, Keating said. "The quarry is very dangerous," he said. "One of our divers was almost killed in a prior exploration, and one of our cadaver-sniffing dogs was injured just a few weeks ago. We must proceed with caution. I don't want to risk someone else's life in this recovery effort" "Thequanyisvery dangerous. One of our divers was almost killed in a prior exploration, and one of our cadaver-sniffing dogs was injured just a few weeks ago." WILLIAM KEATING Norfolk District attorney While the water has been drained, there are fears that portions of the quarry could collapse without warning, investigators said. "We're also dealing with refuse -35 feet in depth - of timber, cars, anything imaginable," Keating said. "It's very daunting." Keating is consulting with the Army Corps of Engineers and two private engineering companies on how to proceed with the search. "We know it will be a challenge," Keating said. "One of the engineering companies told me they won't send their employees into the quarry because of the dangers." The search began in 1997 when investigators received a tip from a jailed informant that the body of a female murder victim was in the quarry. During the search, State Police divers unexpectedly found the body of Patrick J. McDonagh, a 19-year-old student at University College in Galway, Ireland, when he disappeared on June 26, 1994. Police say he might have fallen into the quarry and drowned. When divers found McDonagh, they also spotted what they thought was a body. But the search was halted because of severe winter-weather conditions. The search resumed this year, but delays have been routine because of engineering concerns. Keating declined to say whose body they expect to find in the quarry. Karen Hammond, 21, a Dorchester resident, disappeared on Jan. 3, 1995. Her parents, Charles and Karen Hammond, have long believed that their daughter's body could be in the quarry. Suspect shoots man, Mils woman, self ASSOCIATED PRESS NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A 50-year-old Johnston man shot and killed a woman and wounded a man here before fatally shooting himself in his car yesterday in Connecticut. Police say the suspect, Stephen Marfeo, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at a hospital less than two hours after he was found unconscious, about 4:45 ajn. He was found by Connecticut State Police in a heavily wooded area northwest of Hartford. Police are still trying to determine why Marfeo shot Laura Vincent, 38, and SaK atore Puleo, 55, both of North Providence, on Friday night North Providence Police Major Albert DeCristofano would not say how Marfeo became an immediate suspect in the North Providence shootings. Police first responded to the scene about 10:15 p.m. on a report of a horn sounding. "It was just good police work, knocking on doors," he said, adding that Marfeo and the shooting victims knew one another. Vincent was pronounced dead in the passenger seat of a car in the driveway outside Puleo's Homewood Avenue residence. Puleo was found sitting on a nearby stonewall, bleeding from a gunshot wound. He was conscious but unresponsive when he was transported to Rhode Island Hospital. He was operated on and is expected to survive, officials said. DeCristofano said police found no evidence or witnesses at the scene Friday linking Marfeo to the shootings. But with help from police in surrounding communities, they quickly identified the suspect and got a description of his vehicle. State Police found Marfeo hours later. Police found several guns in Marfeo's Pontiac Firebird. They must test those weapons with shell casings found at the North Providence scene to identify conclusively the gun used in the shootings. DeCristofano said it could be several days before police are able to interview Puleo. Authorities said they are not aware of past criminal activity at Puleo's residence or in the neighborhood.

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