A foam finger. A T-shirt. A CD. For that sports fanatic, theater snob or music junkie in your life, these mere stocking stuffers just can't compare to the real experience. Tickets to shows and sporting events often are the perfect gifts and can create opportunities to spend more time with these family members and friends. However, if it's a big show, the game is nearly sold out or the concert is soon after Christmas, it's time to turn to the web for help. But with so many ticket sites out there, how can you know which are safe and which offer the best deals?
The first fork in the road to a cheap ticket relates to sourcing: Where does this ticket come from? Most of the larger websites, detailed below, act as intermediaries between ticket sellers and ticket buyers. One example is StubHub. This online ticket marketplace redefined online ticket distribution/resale in 2000 by offering the first regulated and protected online center for seller-to-buyer interactions. By imposing a stronger presence between these two parties, StubHub is able to limit the potential for scams. It also provides a guarantee called FanProtect, which assures sellers of full payment and promises buyers that they will receive their tickets in time for the event. A strong benefit of operating through large sites such as StubHub is that seller-buyer communication is impossible, with the online user interface handling the entire transaction. For those who are new to online ticket deals or don't easily spot scams, this assurance is worth the average 15 percent commission you'll pay for using the services. Here is a breakdown of several prominent online ticket sale websites:
--Groupon. Although not specifically designed for sporting events or concerts, cheap deals on tickets can often be found in the "Things to Do" section of this wildly popular deal site.
--Vivid Seats. Similar to StubHub, this service describes and differentiates itself as having the most rigorous screening process for ticket sales and providing the most hands-on customer support.
--CheapTickets. This Expedia brand isn't only for travel. It's an offshoot website that provides ticket deals to sporting events and shows and also the flights to get there. It also has deals on hotels. Although you might find better deals on ticket-only sites, this one-stop shop is enticing for many.
Beyond purchasing tickets through an intermediary site, there are other ways to get even cheaper deals by buying directly from the seller. The most popular avenue for these sales is Craigslist. Founded in 1995 by a man actually named Craig, this website has offered the infrastructure for direct seller-buyer interaction. This means you can cut out the commission that sites such as StubHub impose to get better deals, but they come with risk.
In 2013, U.S. News & World Report writer Kimberly Palmer published a guide for avoiding online ticket scams. She proposes several methods to bypass fraud on websites such as Craigslist. Beyond meeting in person and questioning unrealistic prices, Palmer advises dealing only with local contacts whom you can meet in person. This, she says, will eliminate the majority of scams and the possibility for unsent or fake tickets. Paying through protected money transfer systems, such as PayPal, is also a must. An online guide by Ticketmaster elaborates on the importance of payment methods and stresses that buyers should avoid any untraceable payments, such as wire transfers, money orders or gift cards.
In addition to protecting your payment, Fraud Guides, an online leader in consumer protection, published an article that recommends requesting pictures of the original ticket invoice from Craigslist sellers. This can help verify that they are selling a legitimate ticket.
Although it all may seem daunting, there is a spectrum of online resources available to Christmas shoppers and last-minute experience-seekers who want to "see it in person." Your best deals will probably come from riskier sites, but there is always the option to pay a little extra to ensure you actually make it to the event.