Buyer Beware: It’s Scalper Season… Again…

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Check out our top 5 tips for ensuring that you are getting the best prices when you buy tickets for a family outing this holiday season.

It’s that time of year already! Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the entirety of the holiday season is barreling behind it.

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 the world premiere of the Broadway-bound musical comedy smash, Mrs. Doubtfire.

This is also an exciting time for ticket re-sellers to prey on families trying to plan special occasions just like this. These brokers (sometimes 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 Washington State, but can be very hard on the wallet.

We should point out that there are some brokers who work directly with theater companies to make tickets more accessible to a broader range of ticket buyers. These can include sites like Goldstar and Today Tix. Their services can be invaluable to the theaters they partner with.

These are our top 5 tips to make sure you’re getting the best deal on tickets to shows like Mrs. Doubtfire this winter!

Tip Number 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 “Mrs. Doubtfire tickets Seattle,” The 5th Avenue Theatre (as of this posting) is not even in the top three search results—it appears beneath the Google Events listing! Just take a look at the screenshot below.

Notice that none of these websites is The 5th Avenue Theatre’s official website.

Scalpers and brokers 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!

Tip Number 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 our whole community. We may think our productions are pretty spectacular, but 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 $179. 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. Take a look at this screenshot of pricing from a broker site!

We can’t imagine selling a single ticket for $346 dollars, let alone $524, particularly for a seat “somewhere” between rows A-T!

Tip Number 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 where you want to sit, 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.

A screen capture from our official website shows available seats and their price types.

Tip Number 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.

You should find the cost of the ticket on the top portion of your e-ticket.
The name of the person who made the purchase should be on the bottom of e-ticket. If this is not your name… you may have purchased from a broker.

Tip Number 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 arrive at the door only to learn your ticket has already been scanned—some brokers will sell the same pair of seats two or three times to turn an extra profit! (We should note that while this has happened, it happens rarely and is, in fact, illegal.) 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.

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 Mrs. Doubtfire, visit our official website.

2 comments on “Buyer Beware: It’s Scalper Season… Again…”

  1. This article is a little misleading by lumping Goldstar in with Scalpers. I won’t extole the virtues of Goldstar here, but I will just say I have attend many events in the Seattle area using them, and have never had an issue with my tickets. In fact, they got me into the theater scene here. I would attend events here using them, and eventually became a season subscriber since I enjoyed it so much. With Goldstar, tickets were always held at the box office.

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