St. Louis, Mo., Feb. 21, 2012 – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning sports fans to be extremely cautious when doing business with Ex Sport Group, a St. Louis County ticket broker that apparently took $5,200 from a Rhode Island man but never delivered promised tickets to this year’s Super Bowl.
“I was destroyed,” said the retired businessman, a New England Patriots fan. He said he has tried to contact the company’s owner, Wendell Southerland, without success. He said dozens of phone calls, emails and text messages were unanswered. “Words cannot describe the anger and frustration,” he said.
The case is among several across the country in which football fans say they were duped by Craigslist ads for Super Bowl tickets. Two friends from Boston said they paid a broker $2,800 for two tickets after seeing an ad on the website. The tickets turned out to be counterfeit. An Indianapolis woman told police she was cheated out of $2,000 when four tickets advertised on Craigslist were never delivered.
Last fall, the BBB warned consumers about World Series ticket scams involving Craigslist and other websites. And earlier this month, an Ohio couple was sentenced to prison for using Craigslist to steal more than $200,000 from hundreds of victims for nonexistent tickets to the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and numerous concerts.
In the St. Louis area case, the Rhode Island businessman said he sent payment for the tickets via FedEx and arranged to meet Southerland in an Indianapolis hotel lobby on the Friday before the Feb. 5 Super Bowl, but Southerland never appeared. The fan, who had flown to Indianapolis with his son, said he spent thousands more for replacement tickets to the game.
The man said he had seen Southerland’s ad for Super Bowl ticket and hotel packages on Craigslist and was suspicious of the offer at first. But Southerland convinced him through emails and phone calls that the ticket packages were legitimate. Southerland pointed out that Ex Sport Group was registered with the Missouri secretary of state.
The BBB tried several times to contact Southerland, with no success. Recently, BBB representatives visited Southerland’s home on Jackson Street in Vinita Park, Mo. A resident of the house acknowledged that Southerland worked as a sports ticket seller, but said he was not at home. Southerland did not respond to a BBB request for information left at the home.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that consumers who pay unfamiliar, third-party brokers for tickets may end up with nothing. “If you don’t know them and haven’t heard of them, you probably shouldn’t trust them,” she said.
The Patriots fan said the experience ruined what should have been a once-in-a-lifetime event. He said a text message he sent to Southerland summed up his frustration: “How can you do this to my son and me?”
The Missouri secretary of state shows that Ex Sport Group was registered in June 2008. Southerland is listed as the business’ sole owner.
The BBB found several recent Ex Sport Group promotions on the Internet, including one that advertised “BOOKING SERVICE ALL BIG EVENTS,” including the Super Bowl, the Ryder Cup and the upcoming NBA All Star game.
The BBB offers the following tips for consumers looking to buy tickets for sporting events, concerts and theater performances:
- Only buy from businesses or individuals you can trust. Look for businesses with a strong history of customer satisfaction.
- Ask for references and contact them about their experiences with the broker.
- Beware of counterfeit tickets.
- Pay by credit card in the event you need to challenge the charge. If you purchase tickets online, deal only with secure sites.
- Be cautious of anyone who wants upfront payments with the promise that he will deliver your ticket or tickets later.
- Check the BBB for Business Reviews at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-584-6800, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743 or 314-681-4719 (cell), email@example.com; or Bill Smith, Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org