Words & Deeds

Buying concert tickets online? Be smart. Don't get hosed

It’s two days before tickets to a Tool concert go on sale, and Greg Marchant is Googling for tickets.

A website keeps popping up. Not the website of the venue, the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa, which is fordidahocenter.com. A different site. It has a similar web address that includes “idaho” and “centernampa” in the URL.

Remember, the Tool show hasn’t gone on sale yet. But this website is selling tickets. Some for sky-high prices.

“I’ll take eight floor tickets for $929 apiece, please,” Marchant quips.

He isn’t laughing. As COO for national concert promoter Knitting Factory Entertainment, Marchant is bothered by his search-engine sleuthing.

The majority of entertainment ticketing occurs online, and the potential for buyers to be misled has never been higher, he says.

The top of the website selling Tool tickets clearly indicates that it is a resale marketplace, not the Idaho Center.

No matter.

“I guarantee people will buy here,” Marchant says. “Also, how many people will go to this site and, believing that this is the real price, not even try to buy tickets when they go on sale at the real outlet? How many will go to this site 10 minutes before the show goes on sale and madly click whatever price is in front of them for fear that the event will sell out?

“It just shouldn’t be this confusing for the fan.”

More and more, reseller sites are creating challenges, promoters say. Fans sometimes wind up paying exorbitant prices. Others buy tickets that don’t arrive in time. Or at all.

A secondary-ticketing, or reseller, site most often doesn’t have physical tickets. It facilitates a transaction between a buyer and a third-party seller. Many fans don’t understand that.

“I think the problem’s always existed,” Marchant says. “However, clearly, there are so many players in the game right now that it’s confusing to the concert fan.”

Part of the challenge is the way concert fans use the Internet.

“They’re in such a rush, they’re so excited,” says Kristine Simoni, marketing director for promoter Live Nation - Mountain Region. “They just go to the first thing and grab the first tickets they can get.

“Usually, when you’re Googling something, you go to the first thing that comes up.”

In the concert universe, that’s probably going to be a reseller.

Reseller sites serve legitimate purposes. Surf over to StubHub and you can find tickets to a sold-out event (although you’ll often pay dearly for them). Sometimes, you can even find tickets below face value.

But not all reseller sites strive to be transparent. It’s not just deceptive web addresses. Some grab the logo of a venue or its seating chart and place it on their own site, Simoni says, further muddling things.

Knitting Factory has taken legal action against resellers in the form of cease-and-desist letters, Marchant says.

“We have gone after several people who are putting things online that we can demonstrate are clearly confusing our customers, which we feel is illegal,” he says. “But it becomes a whack-a-mole game.

“I’m a free-market guy. People should be allowed to try and make a buck. But I think that people are being tricked into believing the tickets they are buying are official and the only way to get them. And unfortunately, I think a lot of people wait until the last minute to purchase a ticket. And that doesn’t give them a lot of time to research the options.”

When fans mistakenly pay more than face value for tickets, it isn’t good public relations.

“It makes us look bad as promoters that people think Tool tickets are $900,” Simoni says. “Oh, those greedy promoters! Well, no, they’re not $900. They’re $89.”

Buying through a reseller and not receiving tickets at all? That’s even worse. That’s the customer dilemma Simoni encounters more often when facilitating shows at the 2,200-capacity Revolution Concert House in Garden City.

“There’s people that sometimes realize they overpaid for tickets,” she says. “But it’s the handful of ticket scalpers out there that are blatantly pulling a scam, and they say, ‘Oh, your tickets will be at will call,’ or ‘I’ll email them to you’ — and you never get them.”

Buyer beware, Simoni says.

“If you purchase tickets from a reseller site, and you don’t have your tickets within a couple of days of the show, you need to reach out to who you purchased them from. Don’t show up at will call assuming the tickets will be there. They won’t be. Because the person who originally bought the tickets who is reselling them, they are in possession of those tickets. We are not.”

“You feel bad,” she adds, “because people make plans, they come to the show, they want to see the band — and they have to buy tickets again. Or if a show is sold out, you can’t help them.”

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds

How to find official sellers

1. Be prepared. Most concerts are announced months in advance. Don’t jump online 2 minutes before an event goes on sale and start scrambling for the official place to buy tickets. You’re setting yourself up to be scalper bait.

2. Find the venue’s official website. It will guide you to the official spot to buy tickets. While you’re at it, consider signing up for your favorite venue’s email blasts. Those include official ticket links.

3. Use articles and ads from trusted sources. Hometown media — newspapers and their websites, radio, TV — will provide official sites to buy tickets.

4. Avoid Googling your way to tickets. The top search results tend to be secondary-ticketing sites. Some resellers even include the venue’s name as part of their web address. Any search result that has a tiny “Ad” symbol to the left is exactly that — an ad, probably for a reseller.

5. If you must Google, start small. Only search for the venue’s website. Don’t search for a specific concert. Once you’re comfortable that you’ve found the venue’s official website, you can find a specific concert or event without fear you’ve stumbled onto a reseller site.

6. Don’t buy tickets before events go on sale. Unless it’s an official presale from the promoter, venue or artist — and you are 100-percent sure the presale is legit — it’s possibly someone selling you a ticket they don’t have.

7. Know the ticket prices. If you are paying twice face value, um, it’s likely you’re purchasing from an unofficial seller.

8. Buy tickets at the box office. Yo, the Internet is a scary world. It’s OK to buy tickets face to face from a human being. But if you follow the tips above, you shouldn’t need to.