Spending Smart

Market for ticket resales booming

Where you buy has a lot to do with how much you’ll pay - and how confident you can be in your purchase

By Dave Copeland
Globe Correspondent / November 8, 2009

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Looking to buy tickets to a Boston Celtics game, WEE Monday Night Raw event, or Jay-Z concert? Get ready to stand in line - virtually, that is.

The market for secondary sales of concert, sports, and other event tickets is expected to grow 12 percent to $4.5 billion nationally by 2012, according to Forrester Research. That growth has largely been driven by the Internet, which offers a wide range of ways fans can buy tickets from season-ticket holders, ticket brokers, and fans who may have purchased single-game seats. But where you choose to buy and sell tickets online can be important in determining how much you’ll pay or make.

Ticket brokers like Ace Tickets and Ticketmaster now have massive online presences, while sites like StubHub and TicketsNow connect fans looking to sell tickets and make money by charging a fee. Tickets can also be found on more general retail sites like eBay and Craigslist. But buyers need to be extra careful in making sure they’re getting authentic tickets, since unlike StubHub and ticket brokers, Craigslist and auction sites don’t offer money-back guarantees on ticket purchases.

“The cheapest tickets can typically be found on Craigslist, where you’re usually purchasing from a seat holder and not an agency,’’ said Christian Galvin, a Red Sox and Celtics season ticket holder who has used most of the major platforms to sell his unwanted tickets. Galvin has spent so much time studying the secondary ticket market that he recently left his full-time job to start, a free daily e-mail which lists where the best deals on tickets can be found.

The problem with Craigslist, Galvin said, is it’s often filled with people selling fake tickets, and deciphering through the “noise’’ to find legitimate ads, as well as negotiating prices and arranging the pickup and drop-off of tickets can be time consuming. “Quite frankly, [Craigslist is] filled with too much noise, which can turn a simple task like buying or selling tickets into a six-hour workday,’’ he said.

Craigslist did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

Sites like StubHub mimic the act of purchasing tickets direct from the venue, complete with seat maps on their websites and mail delivery of tickets, as well as will-call-like pickup locations. StubHub charges sellers a fee to list their tickets and guarantees the authenticity of tickets sold on the site, giving buyers more security. The same goes for more traditional ticket brokers like Ace Tickets of Boston.

“Agencies offer security, plain and simple. You’ll never buy a fake ticket off a reputable agency, like Ace. You’ll also never get a ‘steal’ from someone like Ace,’’ Galvin said. “Those ads on TV? Not free. The sponsorship with the Sox and Bruins? Not free. But you have the security of knowing the tickets you’re buying are the real thing.’’

Most important, Galvin said that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Pros: Most sellers are individual seat holders, meaning buyers are more likely to find a bargain.
Cons: Buyers are more likely to get scammed, and the website warns them as much on each page offering tickets for sale with a list of steps to take to avoid being duped. Also, negotiating price and ticket delivery can be more burdensome.
Final word: Search Craigslist first and last to get a feel for what tickets are available and what price ranges are. Insist on hard tickets as opposed to print-at-home tickets.

Pros: Often a good place to buy tickets for out-of-town events because you can find tickets weeks ahead of the event and they can be shipped to you before you travel to the destination of the event. Also useful in gauging prices and availability of tickets for specific events.
Cons: Like Craigslist, it’s a buyer-beware market. For sellers, eBay often caps the maximum price on ticket sales to comply with laws in the seller’s home state.
Final word: Most seasoned ticket buyers and sellers say eBay’s usefulness has diminished in recent years with the emergence of sites like StubHub.

Pros: Guarantees authenticity of tickets purchased on its site. Also offers delivery services, which make it easier to get tickets in hand.
Cons: Sellers have an accurate picture of what tickets are selling at what price, meaning pricing is competitive and there may be fewer bargains for buyers.
Final word: Watch StubHub in the days leading up to an event. As the event draws closer, sellers often drop prices to move unwanted tickets.

Pros: Wide selection of tickets to most events. Guarantee authenticity of tickets.
Cons: Usually, ticket brokers are the most expensive means of acquiring tickets.
Final word: Ticket brokers are the best place to go when money isn’t an issue and getting tickets to a certain event is a necessity.