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Hiccup in online ticket sales to see Dalai Lama creates outrage

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Posted at 10:09 PM, Jul 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-15 00:09:16-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- When the Dalai Lama visited Utah in 2001, he brought his teachings of kindness and patience with him. His upcoming visit in October, however, has evoked different feelings from those who will miss his talk in person.

There were nearly 8,000 tickets available to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center. But within minutes, they all sold out Monday morning, sparking a slew of criticism on social media from unlucky customers.

On Twitter, one user said he was “livid” with the U, while another hoped those reselling tickets at a higher price would “rot in hell.”

“We’re sorry that it was frustrating for people. We’re sorry for those who weren’t able to get tickets,” said U spokeswoman, Maria O’Mara.

As soon as the tickets went on sale, the U logged about 30,000 hits per minute on the website for the Office of Global Engagement, which helped organize the Dalai Lama’s visit to campus.  While there was a second site selling the tickets, many using the office’s system ran into issues due to an overload of customers.

“The button on that website crashed several times Monday morning,” explained O’Mara. “Frustrating, we’re sure frustrating people who were trying to get tickets.”

Online, tickets to the event are now being resold for $200, a significant hike from the initial price of $35. The U has also received reports that students and faculty were unable to access the discount they are typically given for campus events.

“I can feel them. I would be devastated. I would be upset, too,” said Pema Chagzoetsang, project manager for Salt Lake City’s Tibetan Community Center.

As a Tibetan who resettled in Utah, Chagzoetsang is grateful for any opportunity to see the Dalai Lama speak, something not afforded to many in her home.

“We have all the freedom and the luxury and the access to hear him, even if not be in his present,” she said. “And in Tibet, people are just dying to hear his voice.”

While the U regrets many will not be able to see the talk in person, they are preparing to stream the event live online.  Details will be released as the date approaches.

The Dalai Lama is expected to deliver the keynote address at the Parliament of the World’s Religions on Oct. 17. His appearance at the U is scheduled for Oct. 18.  The next day, he will visit the Tibetan Community Center for a private dedication.