Q&A: Best Time to Buy on the Street

Q&A: Best Time to Buy on the Street

This post is in reply to a message from my email bag. Elie asks the question, “How late may I show up after the face-off of an NHL game and be able to grab cheap tickets?” This question was asked in follow up to my article titled “Buying from a Scalper”.

This question is a bit tricky. The best time to buy a ticket from a scalper at any event – regardless of the kind of event – is dependent of a few variables. Each variable has some unique advantages and challenges.

1. Event location: if one is in Boston, you have the likelihood of more resold ticket availability and therefore the opportunity for more leftovers after the event begins. If you are in a smaller city like Tulsa or Reno there may be a lower quantity of resold tickets to choose from. If I am in Boston looking for tickets to a Bruins or Celtics game, I can be sure there will be some tickets to choose from after game time and that the scalpers will want to sell tickets at enticing prices. In Tulsa the demand for resold tickets could be lower and therefore the number of tickets available for a game post-start are going to be less. What this really comes down to is scalpers are in business and they like to have a product to sell for every event they can. In Boston, there are more scalpers and therefore the potential for more inventory. Tulsa, less so.

2. Team rank: team ranking effects both price and availability. If the Sharks play Dallas in San Jose, expect more options after face-off. Visa-versa, less options. Of course, there may be a lot of devoted sports fans in Dallas, that could drive availability.

Other variables to consider are weather, early in season, and late in season games. Sometimes the masses decide to go to a game because it is a great day for a game and sometimes the wild card is at stake.

I could not profess to know the dynamics of every market – I don’t. What I do know is if you try to buy for a game that is less important to you, you will gain an understanding of how to buy when it matters. I once bought tickets for a Cubs game on the street; there were plenty of seats options during the first inning at fair prices below face value. I then went to a White Sox game and found a small quantity of grandstand tickets for $15 and a few really good tickets for $80 in the second inning. $80 is not a good deal for White Sox tickets!

Elie – your specific question was about Toronto. Canada loves its hockey teams. If you are shopping in Toronto, I would suppose the best values are ten minutes before to ten minutes after because scalpers snap up those tickets in droves. If they play away, take into account who they are playing.

Now that fansnap.com and seatgeek.com are in full swing, I would advise buyers to check both of these sites to check availability and price 24 hours before the game. The more tickets and price options you see, the better chances you have of getting a deal after face-off/tip-off, etc. The less options… well, you get the idea.