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Unless proven otherwise, this will be another blog that I’ll fail to update after a week or so.

Tickets for Less?

Ok, time to take a quick break from the iPhone jibber-jabber. Another thing I did this summer was investigate the secondary ticket market. In Chicago, we are fortunate to have a plethora of events come our way. From sports to concerts to theater, there is not a single day of the year where one can honestly say, “There’s nothing to do in this city.” Now, if you were to say, “I can’t go because I don’t have a ticket”, now there is a more realistic problem. For the past 3 months, I have bought and sold tickets to several major events, and I’ve made some interesting findings about the market. If you’re pretty web savvy or have bought/sold tickets before, these findings may be no-brainers. However, I’ve found that there are many people out there who are unaware of how they can get better deals for their tickets. Sellers, don’t fear. There will always be buyers as long as the demand is there. That’s the beauty of free markets, and that’s what keeps StubHub in business. All I’m doing is pointing out a few tips to help the individual buyer do just a little bit better.

Here are my do’s and don’t’s of ticket buying:

Do: Find out when tickets go on sale.

This seems obvious, but the best time to buy tickets (for face value) is when they go on sale. I’m not talking simply on the day they go on sale, but rather the second they go on sale. Better yet, have your computer ready to go a few minutes before, and starting clicking “refresh.” If the show has meager demand, you’ll end up with some pretty good seats. If there is a huge demand, you’ll then be subject to the “luck of the click.”

Do: Research presale passwords and/or join fan clubs for access to presale tickets.

Preseales are the going trend nowadays. Several major credit cards (Amex, Citibank) offer presale opportunities to their cardmembers. Chances are, you’ll have the card already. You just need to find out when to use it. The seats are usually better, but if you get in late, you might be better off waiting for the regular sale. With regards to fan clubs, I’m a member of the Cubs Club and the Dave Matthews Band club, paying $20 and $35 a year respectively. In exchange for those dues, I’ve received several opportunities to buy Cubs tickets to sold-out games and preferred seating for DMB shows. That, and a shiny Cubs Club membership card. Ooooooh. If you’re not a fan of the team/band, it’s probably not worth it to shell out the fee, but for me, it paid for itself after one game or concert.

Do: Wait as close to the event as possible to purchase secondary market tickets.

This is a biggie, and this is what drives those high prices on StubHub and Craigslist. People want their tickets in advance. You want to give the tickets as a gift to your hubby. Your parents really want to see The Eagles live. Your brother is coming to town, and he has to go to the Cubs-Cardinals game. You’re going to have to pay the big bucks. If you can wait, as the event gets closer and closer, you’ll witness those prices magically decrease. Let the law of supply of demand finally work for you.

Don’t: Buy on stubhub unless it’s under face value.

At the risk of alienating some of my own potential buyers, I’ve found that StubHub prices are generally the highest on the secondary market. It’s too easy for sellers to name their price, though I have seen instances where the free market system does kick in. This is mostly when the event gets closer, and sellers get into a minor bidding war to be the lowest price in order to sell their tickets. However, since shipping is usually required, you won’t be able to find as many last-minute tickets here than on Craigslist. If the event is a high demand one, sellers are able to test the upper price limits on Stubhub. On the flip side, for a low demand event, I have encountered a nice selection of tickets for prices below face value. This is a situation where the buyer is in complete control of the market.

Don’t: Buy tickets right after they’ve gone on sale.

This is when sellers begin to test their upper price limits. They just bought the tickets, know how much they paid, and want to make as much money as possible. You just got shut out of that Madonna concert. You really want to go. You check out prices on Stubhub, see a pair of tickets you like, and think that you’ll need to buy them now or else someone else will get them. Wrong. You’ll have plenty of options if you’ll just wait. But, then again, if your sister is coming into town that weekend, is a huge Madge fan, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime concert…

Don’t: Buy tickets over 1 month prior to the event on Stubhub or Craigslist.

This is when ticket sellers are drooling the most. As I mentioned above, the prices will almost always go down as you get closer to the event. One month out, and sellers have a good idea of what’s been selling and for how much. They are monitoring the prices, and are starting to get a bit eager to sell, but in a few weeks, they will be more than eager. Instead of SH or CL, check out eBay. You’ll have complete control of how much you want to spend, and on eBay, I’ve seen auctions get lost or poorly advertised. This leads to fewer bidders, and a lower price for you.

Conclusion:

So, there you have it. Again, some of these tips are probably a matter of simple Economics 101. And I’ve experienced a few events where the demand is so high (Cubs and Bears tickets), that prices don’t seem to come down at all. Even with the Cubs, though, I’ve been able to find tickets for face or only a few bucks above. That required a lot of time and patience on Craigslist. In the end, that’s what you’re paying for when you buy for above face. You won’t have to sit in front of the computer for hours, clicking refresh, and hoping that a good deal will somehow fall into your lap.

Agree? Disagree? Additional tips? Leave a comment.

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