Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com (June 1, 2008) – Getting to this summer's Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium requires patience, persistence and determination - and that's just for the fans.
Like other hot events, tickets sell out fast, forcing fans to camp out, call in favors or turn to secondary sellers and auction sites, which could mean getting hit with high prices for lousy seats.
Pay $900 for nosebleeds? No thanks. But there are ways to score big in the must-have ticket game, according to Consumer Reports.
Getting in on the game
For starters, Consumer Reports recommends looking out for presales, which allow fans to buy tickets before they are offered to the general public. Usually notice is sent in an e-mail by the venue, artist, team, or promoter, or by Ticketmaster, if you have an account. You can also get in on presales by joining an artist's fan club or by paying a fee to PresalePassword.net or Presalenow.com.
Credit card promotions are another good way to get first dibs. American Express (AXP, Fortune 500), Visa (V), and MasterCard (MA) occasionally offer advanced tickets to cardholders, not to mention discounts and preferred seats. This summer, AmEx once again offered its cardmembers tickets to the U.S. Open tennis tournament a week before they went on sale to the general public.
Once tickets go on sale, head straight to the box office. It may sound old-fashioned, but by purchasing tickets directly from the venue or official site, you can avoid some fees, not to mention markups.
If you're shopping on Ticketmaster.com, keep in mind that the event might seem immediately sold out while other customers are mulling over seats. Since Ticketmaster gives shoppers a few minutes to decide whether to buy the tickets they've clicked on, during that time those tickets look locked up. But if the shoppers decide not to buy, those seats are available again to other fans.
Of course, once an event is sold out - which could happen in mere minutes - the prices for sought-after seats skyrocket. But that doesn't mean your plans must crash and burn.
Scoring sold out tickets
Tickets are almost always still available in the secondary market, and there are deals out there, for those willing to play the field.
Ticket reselling sounds like scalping, but changes in legislation have allowed for big companies such as StubHub, TicketsNow, RazorGator, TicketLiquidator and TicketExchange to get in the game, and you should too.
Resellers don't buy or own tickets or set the prices. Rather, they provide a marketplace for fans seeking to sell unneeded tickets and professional brokers looking to make a killing on tickets bought on speculation.
And as the marketplace grows - it is now a $2.6 billion online business that is projected to nearly double by 2012, according to Forrester Research - the chance of getting gouged diminishes.
"Sellers have to compete with one another so there's incentive to make prices attractive," explained Sean Pate, a spokesman for StubHub.
"If you know how the system works, buying through a reseller can get you access to seats that are otherwise unavailable, but it can be a tricky game," said Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports.. "If you don't know what to expect it can leave you feeling ripped off."
For example, upper deck seats to July 15's sold-out All-Star Game in New York were going for over $500 on StubHub, a far cry from face value.
Sounds like a raw deal, but savvy shoppers willing to wait might be able to score the same seats on StubHub right before the game for much less - even below face value - as sellers become more eager to unload the tickets before they become worthless.
"The very best time to buy is four days before an event because that's the deadline for buyers' listings to expire," Pate said. "There will still be deals after that, but not the same supply," he added.
Those who hold out until the day of - as long as e-ticketing or on-site pickup are options - have been known to score a touchdown or two. Last year, some tickets to Super Bowl XLII dropped to $1,000 on game day, according to Consumer Reports.
Scooping up sweet deals
Generally, you're more likely to get a better deal on regular-season sporting events than on a hit Broadway show, because of the larger quantity of seats and dates to choose from. And, in turn, cheap tickets to one-of-a-kind events, such as Billy Joel's tour this summer, are the hardest deals to find.
Also, ticket prices generally resell for less for shows outside of major cities. In May, a ticket to see country music artist Kenny Chesney perform in Grand Rapids, Mich., sold for just $20 on StubHub.
In sports, it's not just where, but against who and when that matter too. If you're a diehard Yankee fan, you'll save a bundle if you opt to watch them play against the Texas Rangers instead of the arch-rival Boston Red Sox. While not as nail biting, football fans can scoop up preseason tickets for just a few bucks - and still tailgate with their buddies.
You're also likely to get a better deal on concerts or other events in the afternoon or on a weekday. Another good time to buy tickets is just after a performer has added extra tour dates, according to Consumer Reports.
But like all shopping online, comparative pricing is key. Prices can fluctuate so always keep an eye out for the best deal.
And then you'll be ready to catch that fly ball when it comes to you.