See Your Favorite Team for 60% Off
Kelli B. Grant and AnnaMaria Andriotis,
May 14, 2009
IT'S KNOWN AS "SCALPING" for a reason: Usually when you buy a ticket from a reseller you can expect to pay a hefty markup. But in a bright spot created by the down economy, those markups are turning into giant discounts for many prime sporting events â€” if you know the right way to shop.
Want to catch the Los Angeles Lakers in their NBA playoff game against Houston this weekend? Tickets priced at $155 can be snagged for the bargain price of $94. Discounts have been even steeper at the New York Mets' brand-new ballpark: For a recent game against division rival Philadelphia, $150 box seats near third base were being resold for a paltry $54. And for a real cut-rate sports experience, you can watch the Milwaukee Brewers host the San Francisco Giants next month â€” paying just $3 for $18 seats.
All around the sports world, there are plenty of similar examples â€” and discounts of 60% or more off face value can be found (see chart). The reason? Simple recession economics. The supply of tickets is essentially the same â€” but with so many people reining in their spending even as the economy shows glimmers of improvement, demand is down.
In fact, demand for general seating tickets at professional sports games started declining in October 2008 as consumers began cutting back on spending, says Bill Dorsey, executive director at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors, which tracks data and trends on stadium and arena seat markets. Ticket sales are down about 5%, he says. â€œIn October of last year a lot of sports teams started telling me the phone stopped ringing,â€ he says.
In the secondary market, where tickets are resold on sites like StubHub.com, RazorGator.com andTicketsNow.com, prices have taken an even bigger hit. Sports ticket prices at resale are down roughly 15% to 20% compared with last year, says Mike James, CEO of ticket search engine FanSnap.com.
â€œSupply has exploded,â€ he says. â€œThe number of ticket-holder selling has increased exponentially, while, because of the economy, the number of buyers is reduced.â€ Rather than recoup none of their money, sellers are letting tickets go at bargain prices, he says.
Cubs fan Ashley Richardson of Schaumberg, Ill., routinely resells her upper-deck box tickets on Craigslist when she and her husband Nick canâ€™t attend games. â€œWrigley Field is such an experience in itself, they almost always sell,â€ she says. But this year, itâ€™s been tough to get much more than the $50 face value. Richardson has even given away tickets that just werenâ€™t selling.
It's not just regular season games that are going for less. Tickets to playoffs and other big events are getting slashed as well. Passes to the Masters Golf Tournament in April averaged $1,268 (19% less than the average resale value last year), while Kentucky Derby tickets were $722 (down 23% from the average resale value last year), according to ticket marketplace RazorGator.com. Seats at the NCAA Final Four basketball games dropped 40%, to an average $850, reports RazorGator.com.
Even when resale prices are marked up, the premiums aren't as dramatic as resale ticket buyers have come to expect. Executive-level tickets to the May 14 NHL playoff game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Detroit Redwings that normally cost $165 range from $180 to $285 on the secondary market.
To help you snag the best deal on tickets to see your favorite team, here's what you need to know:
Ticket resellers assess different commissions, shipping costs and other fees that can impact the final cost of your ticket. RazorGator and StubHub charge 10% commission, for example, while TicketsNow charges a 15% commission.
Wait until the last minute
With so many tickets available, sellers are dropping prices swiftly as the event approaches to make their seats look more desirable, says Joellen Ferrer, a spokeswoman for ticket marketplace StubHub.com. As a result, you could grab seats for a fraction of face value if youâ€™re willing to wait it out and take the risk. And since you can often print the tickets out at home or pick them up at a booth near the venue on game day instead of waiting for them to arrive by mail, you can hold out even longer.
Make sure they're legit
Not all ticket resellers are on the up-and-up. There are unscrupulous sellers offering fakes, as well as sites that donâ€™t guarantee the legitimacy of the tickets being sold. Check the siteâ€™s buyer protection policy to ensure youâ€™ll get better seats or your money back in the event of a problem. For more tips on how to avoid getting ripped off on a ticket reseller site, read our guide.
Check back repeatedly
Inventory changes rapidly, and so do prices, says Scott Roback, a spokesman for RazorGator. Team rivalries, weather, injuries and playoff implications can all affect seat options and prices for a given game. If you donâ€™t see something you like on your first search, try again later.