The ins and outs of online ticket trading

You’d think that in today’s world, with the Internet and smart phones, it’d be pretty easy to trade last-minute tickets for sporting events. As an avid buyer and seller, I’ve learned that this process is expensive and stressful.

The problem itself is simple: We buy tickets to events months in advance, when that calendar looks clear. But as the days roll on, things start to fill up those white spaces, and pretty soon, we realize that some tickets need to be dumped.

Now most people out there are honest, and just want to sell their tickets for face value, turn a small profit, or get a cheap deal on seats at an in-demand game. Unfortunately, there are only several venues where fans can buy and sell tickets, and all of them have defects that make you wonder if it was worth it in the end. These “middle-man” or broker websites rake in inordinate amounts of cash to your inconvenience, and many of them don’t provide quality service, either.

Let’s start with Craigslist. Simple enough to use, Craigslist lets users search through listings without having to make an account or adhere to any rules. It has no “final-value fees,” no time limits on listings, and comes with no spam mail. But as the most bare-bones version of an online marketplace, Craigslist is littered with listings that, as George Carlin, Blessed be He, would say, “you don’t want, and you don’t need.”

Some sellers flood the site with the same listing, and there is no guarantee that you’ll get any sort of response after inquiring about a set of tickets. Even worse, as I experienced when purchasing tickets for last week’s Devils-Blackhawks game, you can easily get scammed. While PayPal is returning my money and tracking down the scammer who took the cash and never sent the tickets, after I realized it was a scam, I had to scramble to locate last-minute tickets on eBay.

Let’s talk for a minute about our favorite online auction house. The website certainly has its benefits, such as the auction feature, which allows you to gain more money for tickets while your buyers duke it out. It also lets users list tickets on the day of the game. But the website pushes a cumbersome communication system on its users, causing confusion and delay in making the actual exchange after an item is purchased.

Worse, for sellers, eBay charges fees for listing items and takes a final-value fee out of every sale. But the real scam comes when you, as a seller, get paid through PayPal, the online payment system that we’ve all come to use. PayPal also takes a cut out of the transaction, which is a problem because they are owned by eBay! Double taxation anyone?

The site is also littered with listings from sketchy and confusing sellers forcing the prospective buyer to read each listing carefully. We’ve all had our formative eBay experience where we received something different from what we had hoped to purchase.

Time is money, as they say, and the eBay buyer looking for a deal definitely has to spend some time searching. Even so, eBay prices tend to be lower than they are at StubHub, the giant in the sports-ticketing world.

Ah, yes, StubHub—self-described as “Heaven for Sports Fans” looking to trade tickets. StubHub is by far the most professional of the websites. They have the best customer service (which you’ll notice I didn’t even describe for the other two because, well…) and the site is guaranteed to get you into the stadium (no scams possible).

The website has built partnerships with most teams around the country, who apparently realized that scalping tickets wasn’t such a sin after all—as long as they get a cut of the profits while putting more butts in seats to buy concessions and otherwise.

The best part of the website is that all of the games and seat locations are well organized. No need to sift through confusing listings. And if you buy the tickets, they’re yours—there’s no waiting involved for auction’s to end. StubHub can email you your tickets and send them to you through FedEx. It is heaven indeed.

But good service comes with a price tag, and it’s a hefty one. For sellers, StubHub takes 15 percent out of your sale. Yeah, enough said. They also hit buyers with the shipping costs and additional fees that are, of course, not included in the ticket price—so you always end up paying more then you thought you would.

StubHub also stops all listings hours before the game starts, which prevents last-minute sales. In my opinion, this is when some of the best work gets done. And let’s not forget that the prices tend to start way higher on StubHub than on any of the other sites.

The last place to look for tickets for an upcoming game is on the team’s individual “season ticket holder exchange” page, where those with season tickets can list their seats. These pages are run through Ticketmaster, the absolute king of the ticketing world.

For sellers, Ticketmaster will snag 10 percent of your sale, but for buyers, the story is even worse. Upon selecting tickets to purchase, the site gives you a limited number of minutes to make a decision before the tickets are released. You also need to make an account for the team that you are buying tickets for.

When trying this last week, by the time I tried to make a New Jersey Devils account, the seats I wanted were gone. Nobody will ever quite know how the Ticketmaster system works, but I am constantly hearing how time always seems to run out for people trying to buy tickets.

The websites all have their positives and negatives, and my advice is to use different sites depending on the goal and time frame of your purchase or sale. But the fact remains that the process is arduous. Your best bet is to buy your tickets from a friend.

Jacob Shapiro is a List College senior majoring in history and Talmud.


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