Buyer Beware: It’s Scalper Season

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How to guarantee you are getting the best prices when you buy tickets for a family outing this holiday season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: twinkly lights are on the trees, your favorite peppermint and eggnog beverages are on sale at all the coffee shops, family and friends are coming to visit and there is a multitude of festive events to choose from to put you all in the spirit. It’s always exciting to plan a trip to downtown Seattle with the family—an afternoon of shopping, a ride on the Westlake carousel, a fancy dinner at one of the stellar area restaurants, and tickets to a spectacular show like Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn at The 5th Avenue Theatre.

This is also an exciting time for ticket re-sellers to prey on families trying to plan special occasions just like this. These brokers (also called scalpers) buy tickets to entertainment events all around the city and then sell them to unsuspecting consumers at more than 100% markup. This practice is legal in the state of Washington, but can be very hard on the wallet!

Here are some tips to make sure you are getting the best deal on tickets to shows like Holiday Inn this winter!

        1. Start with the right website: When you’re looking for tickets to a show, always start with the organization’s website. If you Google “Holiday Inn tickets Seattle,” The 5th Avenue Theatre (as of this posting) is actually the THIRD result you’ll get. That’s because scalpers have large budgets for Google ads, guaranteeing that they will get top billing in search results. Non-profits like The 5th frequently cannot compete with that kind of money. So start by looking for the official website of the company producing the show you want to see. We guarantee you that a company’s official website will tell you how to buy tickets!

          Official Website
          Make sure to look past the first blocks with the box reading “Ad” before the url.
        2. Be price conscious: Tickets can definitely be pricey, particularly if you want to sit in aisle seats close to the stage! But performing arts organizations want to be accessible to the whole community, and while we think our productions are pretty spectacular, we know we’re not selling tickets to Adele or Beyoncé. The 5th Avenue Theatre has tickets starting as low as $29, with top dollar tickets around $175. Scalpers have been known to re-sell those $29 tickets for $200-$300 a piece! So use your best judgment: if the prices seem absurdly high, there’s a good chance you’re right.

          Broker Prices
          A screenshot from a broker page shows top level tickets for Holiday Inn as high as nearly $650. Our top price is less than $200.
        3. Select your seats: If the site doesn’t quote you exact seat locations when you purchase, there is a good chance you are buying from a broker site, and that’s because the broker doesn’t have the ticket yet. In most cases, you choose the area of the theater you want to sit in, and they turn around and buy tickets from the theater directly based on your general preference. The 5th Avenue Theatre (and most other large performing arts organizations) will allow you to chose exactly where you plan to sit when you come to the show.

          Broker Prices
          All of these colored dots indicate an available seat. Just click on one to learn the price.
        4. Look closely at your tickets: When you buy a ticket from The 5th, you can choose to receive your tickets via email. Scalpers alter these tickets, removing key information so the unsuspecting consumer won’t know they’ve been tricked. The 5th puts the price paid for the ticket on the ticket itself—info a scalper doesn’t want you to know! We also put the name of the purchaser on the ticket as another means to verify its authenticity.
          Top half of Ticket
          You should find the cost of the ticket on the top portion of your e-ticket.


          Bottom of Ticket
          You should find the name of the purchaser toward the bottom of your e-ticket.


        5. Ask for help: Sometimes guests don’t know that they’ve bought tickets from a re-seller until they arrive at the theater. Imagine going to Will Call and picking up tickets you spent $200 apiece on, only to find a $29 price printed on the ticket once it’s in your hand. Or maybe you have an e-ticket, and you walk into the theater only to find someone is in your seats—some brokers will sell the same pair seats two or three times to turn an extra profit! At most theaters, including The 5th, the Box Office and Guest Services staff will do their utmost to help fix the problem. While we cannot refund money that you paid to a re-seller, we can supply you with any necessary info to cancel charges on your credit card and do our utmost to get you in affordable seats so that you and your family can still have a wonderful time at the show.

          Our Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong doesn’t always work in the box office. But you can always expect the highest levels of customer service. That’s our promise to you.

Theaters like The 5th are doing everything we can to prevent brokers from buying and re-selling tickets. Brokers have no investment in your satisfaction with your experience at the theater, but we care very deeply. Families have been making holiday memories at The 5th Avenue Theatre for generations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We want to do everything in our power to make sure that the magic of a fantastic story performed brilliantly is the biggest part of what you and your loved ones take away from a night at The 5th.

To get tickets for your family to see Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, click here.

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