Prez Inauguration Ticketmaster Fiasco Reminds Us The Private Sector Screws Up, Too

Those waiting patiently to buy a ticket for President Obama’s final inaugural ball will be disappointed to know that they were accidently all sold out last Sunday. “A technical error” from Ticketmaster’s system sent an email a day early and led to a flood of premature sales that sold out the entire stock of public tickets. For all the grumbles about government incompetence, the fumble is noteworthy since this was a private company taking over the responsibilities of a state function. It’s a helpful reminder: the private sector screws up, too.

“We understand the disappointment people feel if they were unable to obtain tickets, but like all other popular events, demand was much greater than supply,” read a statement from Ticketmaster.

During an epic fail of the 2009 inauguration that left crowds stranded in tunnels, some detractors were quick to blame the government, ” I think the blame must lie with the [Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies] deficiency in planning and organization,” wrote a blogger for the Examiner. There was even a report issued on the inter-agency communication problems that caused the blunder.

I doubt I will see a similar critique of the private sector’s failings, even though it has a habit of manufacturing cars that don’t stop or drugs that kill people. This isn’t to say that the government is any better; former Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra once called the federal procurement process an “IT cartel,” and the White House employment roles are a graveyard of optimistic young innovators that later leave in frustration.

The TicketMaster screwup is just an example that we should be mindful that the private sector is no panacea.