This rip-off business of some theater ticket sites selling “resale tickets” at outrageous prices by “bots” is now illegal; but the resale of tickets purchased by individuals at posted box offices prices to sites for enormous mark-ups, appears to be legal. Both practices are highway robbery. Interestingly, though this moneymaking scheme creates a great loss for producers, they have done nothing to stop sites from individual ticket reselling. It appears to be covered by the Constitution – an inalienable right.
After purchase, these tickets are offered at three, four, and five times face value. It’s nothing more than consumer rip-off, but it’s what some consumers are willing to do for seats to blockbuster shows. There needs to be a rebellion! Avoid the price-gouging.
In a measure to stop the “bots” rapid purchase of tickets, legislation was passed late last year by voice vote in the Senate and House of Representatives that would crack down on computer software used by some ticket brokers to snap up tickets. This sells out performances to, say, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, or Hello Dolly! and, months before its March 2018 opening at the renovated St. James Theatre and before the box office even opens, Frozen in minutes according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Then, tickets are resold at upwards of $1,000 or more.
An Associated Press report cited third-party brokers that resale tickets on sites such as TicketMaster, StubHub, and TicketsNow average margins of 49% above face value and sometimes more than 10 times the price. The bill would make using the software an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act and allow the FTC to pursue those cases.
Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League [of producers], announced their support for NY’s Senator Chuck Schumer‘s sponsorship of legislation that would impose a $16,000 fine on those who use automated ticket purchasing software to purchase tickets online. Miranda is proud of the 40 plus tickets per show Hamilton makes available for $10 via digital lottery. Other shows either have lotteries or heavily-discounted day-of rush offers.
However, “bots” rapid purchase is different from consumers buying up what they can at posted box office prices and selling the tickets to sites for resale.
An executive with the Shubert Organization informed that “what these sites are doing is legal – even if greedy and unethical.” However, the executive added that what theatre owners and producers are attempting to do “is shut down sites which sell the same seat(s) twice or more; and also those issuing bogus tickets.” According to several theatre house managers, this is happening more frequently and buyers get turned away when they arrive. A new scheme is to attempt to buy as many wheelchair seats as possible and then pass them off as regular seats. But theatres know how many wheelchair seats per show have been sold and remove specific seats to be prepared. You have to be the ultimate con artist to arrive in a wheelchair when you don’t need one.
A solution, which is something that won’t work for everyone – especially those trying to plan an outing months In advance, is to go to the box office. Treasurers are eager to help you secure the best seats for a price you can afford. And if you go as a couple but don’t mind seeing a show in separate seats, you’d be surprised what you can get into. Sadly, when the bots attack a hit show, they don’t leave many desirable seats for the box office to sale.
Another safe option is Shubert Organization-owned TeleCharge, where service fees will apply but where you won’t be gorged in the wallet.
Since you have to pay rent or monthly fees and also eat, you might consider the numerous promotions for shows in previews. The Broadway League has the Kid’s Night promotions; NYC & Company, the bi-annual Broadway Week [usually two weeks] 2-for 1 ticket offers [www.nycgo.com]. Take advantage of the fact that 90% of shows are available for 40-50% off [plus $4.50 service fee] at the TDF booths.
Keep in mind when a show sells out, the box office offers standing room. Prices vary, but around $50.00 is a good bet. Just wear comfortable shoes. Now, you can find bargains. For instance, just this week someone found second row orchestra seats for the farce The Play That Goes Wrong on www.theatermania.com and www.playbill.com for under $115.00, including service fee. Both sites have theater clubs that are free to join. FYI: Tony and Drama Desk winner Donna Murphy will play the title role in Hello, Dolly! on Tuesday evenings and September 6-10, October 15 evening performance, October 30, November 1-5, November 24 matinee, and January 7 evening. Check the Hello, Dolly! site for updates.
The posted box office price for Hello, Dolly! orchestra seats is $189.00-$229.00; Dear Evan Hansen, $189.00. Frozen tickets just opened its online sell and shows are sold out for months but ticket resale schemes are huge. Since almost every young girl will want to see this show, imagine what it will cost to have a matinee or evening theater outing.
Here are recent examples of how people desperate to see the blockbuster hits are being taken to the cleaners by individual reselling tickets. Over the weekend, a young patron reported her boyfriend paid $1,000.00 for two orchestra seats for Dear Evan Hansen on one of the ticket sites. When asked why, she replied, “It was last minute, and we really wanted to see it.” She added that both will go without lunch several days. Maybe even dinner! Tickets were popping up on resale sites: $187.50 tickets were $429.00 to over a thousand dollars – not including fees. Event wheelchair seats were gone.
TicketMaster, where a recent purchase of a Hamilton ticket, rear Mezz, Row E, right, with a posted base price of $179.00 – $229.00 (front) was resold for $587.00 plus service fee of $93.92, for a total of $680.92. Where is the service in reselling a ticket at more than twice its value?
At www.VividSeats.com, resale prices for Hamilton ranged from a $79.00 ticket for Balcony, Row F, left, resold for $275.00 plus $90.00 service fee; $422.00 for Mezz, Row D, side; to $552.00 for side Orch, Row V or, get this, $2,760.00 for side Orch, Row W (second to last row). The site recently sent an e-mail blast: Save $50 On Hamilton tickets! Well, okay, then; but make it $100!
www.StubHub.com is offering Hello, Dolly! for $180.00-$420.00 [sides, Balcony] – $990.00 [center Orch]; Dear, Evan Hansen, $285.00 [sides, Mezz]-$800.00 [center Orch] in the intimate Music Box Theatre. www.BroadwayBox.com, usually the site for bargains, has offered weeknight tickets [prior to Donna Murphy performances] for Hello, Dolly! for $326.00 [Balcony]- $490.00 [Orch/partial view]. There seems to be no shame. Box office prices [which also average $145.00 for plays] can be daunting. Then, add another $2 facility fee. Seniors on walkers and in wheelchairs should keep in mind that the Shubert Theatre has not succeeded in finding a way to install a handicap-accessible bathroom.