Bargaining for Tickets on the Street

Bargaining for Tickets on the Street

Yesterday, I was on a flight from Chicago to Boston reading the paper when I was reminded that Game 7 of the NBA Playoffs between the Celtics and Orlando Magic was tipping-off at 8pm. Having been out of town for three weeks, I had the sudden urge to use my knowledge of ticket prices to get a pair of tickets for what could be a big victory OR the last game of the year. These are the cliff notes on how I found good tickets at 40% below face value.

My flight landed in Boston at 7:10, a friend picked me up at the airport and we arrived at TD Banknorth at 7:45pm – 15 minutes before tip-off. This seems last minute, but it is important to know that tip-off time is an artificial deadline that ticket scalpers use to persuade the average person into paying high premiums for a resold ticket. At 7:50, I staged myself a block from the venue where a lot of buying, selling, and offering was taking place. You know you are in the right spot when a few people are asking strangers “have tickets – need tickets?” while others are huddled in groups comparing tickets with one another.

The lay of ticket prices at this point was:
AceTickets.com had one pair of Loge, 15th row for $600
Loge (really good): $250-300 ($100-150 above face)
Upper Loge (good) $200-250
Balcony (fair) $100-150 (face $30-40)

Whether you arrive 30 minutes before the game or 10 minutes, it is important not to be rushed. Yes, the game starts at 8pm, but if you want a deal, you need to be patient. Scalpers are hard sellers, they will tell you prices are high and no one has tickets, but that is often not the case. Whenever I am on the market for tickets last minute, I will tell a scalper or two I am looking just to see what they will offer. When I decline, I say ‘too high’ or ‘not the right seats’. I don’t say “rip-off” – it is important to be polite to scalpers, even if they are rude to you. You never know when you will need their help.

At 8pm, chaos ensued as scalpers and buyers alike made last minute deals – deals where prices are often still too high. This is where you have to step back and watch the rally without being compelled to rush in and buy. I stood calmly with my friend watching all the trading going on and as the rush died down, I flew in like a vulture, seeking out the scraps. Five minutes after game time is a good time to go for scraps. People with extra tickets want to get in and scalpers know their product is diminishing in value with every passing minute.

While strolling around the front of the venue listening to the last minute deals taking place, I focused my interest on a pair of Suite tickets someone had offered me earlier for $600. I had offered $200 for the pair and the guy walked, as he should have. But I knew he would not get what he wanted so I let him sweat it out. It was now 8:10 and I was ready to buy. With the help of a scalper, I located the guy with the tickets I wanted and paid $300 cash for the pair with a combined face of $540 (including fee’s). I paid the scalper $10 for helping my find the guy again. Scalpers can sometimes be like real estate brokers it is considered courteous to give them some love for helping out.

By 8:15 I was in the suite, watching the game and happy knowing that, win or lose, I paid below face for the tickets I wanted. As an aside for those who would have been happy with a pair of balcony seats, those were selling for face value by the time I went inside the venue. It is amazing what 15 minutes will do to a ticket price.