At five minutes past noon on Tuesday, Ticketmaster sent Joe Holmes and many others in Britain an email: “Congratulations, you have been successful in the ballot” for two tickets to King Charles’s coronation concert.
Mr. Holmes, a student in his final year at the University of Essex, saw it immediately while checking his email and rushed to click the link to claim his tickets to the concert, an official coronation event that will take place a day after King Charles III is crowned — only to be met with a message saying that none were available.
He was one of dozens of people who believed they had secured entry to the concert before being quickly let down once they tried to collect tickets. Many Twitter users posted screenshots of the same “congratulations” email Mr. Holmes received this week and expressed frustration about the confusing messaging; one user called the email “disgraceful” and said Ticketmaster had a “total shambles of a system.”
It was “immediate excitement and then immediate disappointment,” Mr. Holmes said on Friday. He had already sent a screenshot of the email to his sister in celebration and believed his next step would be to book a train to the event.
Ticketmaster was tasked with issuing 10,000 free tickets to the concert being held on May 7 through balloting, a process that fans are saying the site has made a mess of. It comes a few months after the company canceled the public sale of tickets to Taylor Swift’s latest tour because of high demand, which spurred public outrage, a lawsuit from fans and a Senate hearing.
Ticketmaster said in an emailed statement on Friday that people who had been selected in earlier rounds of balloting had three weeks to claim their tickets to the coronation concert. On Tuesday, after that time had expired, “unclaimed tickets were released on a first-come, first-served basis to those who had previously applied and were unsuccessful,” the company said. “These inevitably went very quickly.”
A tweet from the company’s U.K. page on Tuesday announced the tickets had “sold out.” Replies to the tweet included stories of experiences similar to that of Mr. Holmes.
The application to be included in the balloting was open from Feb. 10 through Feb. 28. Tickets were to be allocated “based on the geographical spread of the U.K. population,” according to the British royal family’s website.
Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Take That will headline the concert, which is being organized and broadcast by the BBC. It is the first to be held on the grounds of Windsor Castle, the royal family said. Mr. Holmes, who said his mother traveled to London for the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981, wanted to attend the concert to be present for “a part of history.”
The email from Ticketmaster said Mr. Holmes was one of a “randomly selected group of ballot winners” offered tickets in a “supplementary round” that would be on “a first-come, first-served basis.” It urged him to “act quickly.” But farther down, it said he would have until noon on April 27 to claim the tickets, after which “they will be re-allocated.”
Even so, Mr. Holmes said he acted within minutes to no avail. It was unclear how many tickets were actually available, or how many people received the same email about them.
He searched Twitter and found many others who said they had a similar experience.
Janine Barclay, 58, who received the same email on Tuesday, declined a lunch invitation for May 7 because she thought she was headed to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I was telling everybody about this,” she said on Friday, “and then I’ve got egg on my face.”
She received the email while she was out of the house and put off claiming the tickets, thinking she had a couple of days. Ms. Barclay said she was grateful that she lived close enough to Windsor Castle that her instinct was not to book a hotel or travel.
“They misled people,” Mr. Holmes said, but he added that he knew to expect disappointment in these situations. “We know how it goes with concerts these days,” he said. “It’s so hard to get tickets, it’s an event itself.” He plans to watch the concert on television at a family barbecue.
Beyond bad blood with Swifties, Ticketmaster was criticized in March when fans tried to attend the final round of the Eurovision Song Contest and some complained that glitches left them ticketless. The Cure said last month that Ticketmaster agreed to issue refunds to some fans after they complained of high ticket fees.
“It is a fiasco,” said Ms. Barclay, a swim coach and teacher in Pinner, England, who was excited to take her husband to the coronation concert. “For a big company like this,” she said, “you would have thought that they would have handled it better.”