SANDY — Sarah and Jack* are the children of two wonderful parents who worked hard to raise them the best they could. As the 2019 Christmas season came to New York, Jack and Sarah were looking for the perfect gift to get their parents in Utah. Broadway shows up and down Times Square offer tickets that can range from $70 to $4,000, so they knew the price of quality theatre can be high.
Knowing their parents loved to see “A Christmas Carol,” they got online to find tickets to a nearby show. A few words into a search engine pulled up tickets to Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy. The price was not an issue for them considering all they had been given in their lifetime. They bought the tickets and had the perfect Christmas gift.
Cue Sally Dietlein, Co-Founder and Artistic Director for Hale Centre Theatre. Dietlein was there the night the parents came in with their Christmas gift. When they presented their tickets, something was a bit odd. Dietlein asked to see the tickets and was shocked to see the price.
$600 in total.
For two tickets.
To see a show where the highest ticket price would ever be $58.
Dietlein felt awful for the amount of money they had been conned out of. “Even though it was nothing we had done,” Dietlein said, “We [were] just feeling so upset for this family.” While discussing the situation, she described how the whole purpose of Hale Centre Theatre is to provide art for everyone, so they aim to keep ticket prices low. “We just need to get the word out there,” she said. They need you to know where to buy your tickets.
Luckily the person who sold the tickets had actually purchased a seat for the couple, but others aren’t as fortunate. Some people have come in after paying hundreds for their “discount” tickets, only to find there is no seat waiting for them and the show is sold out. Hale Centre Theatre tries their best to accommodate people, but the individual can’t get their money back and sometimes they don’t ever get to see the show.
But is this even legal?
Yes, in a way, it is. The Utah Legislature can’t ban the re-selling of all event tickets because sometimes people actually can’t go and have to sell their tickets online. In addition, a company can buy tickets for any number of reasons, including whether to gift to employees or resell for double the price. A new bill passed in 2019 made it easier for people to profit from ticket sales.
This bill states that venues have to make 90 percent of all tickets available for transfer, “enabl[ing] the purchaser to lawfully resell the ticket independent of the person who issued the ticket.”
This means that everything the scalpers are doing is fair game and legal.
So how do I protect myself?
First, only purchase straight from the venues when possible. Hale Centre Theatre’s website is the best place to check for tickets.
When searching for tickets, make sure you check the link before you go to the website. Many websites pay money to be an advertisement at the top of the page, to be your first choice.
Dietlein has had to deal with many places reselling tickets and offering discounts on fake, extremely high prices. A friend told a cast member in “Strictly Ballroom” that they couldn’t spend over $200 to support them. They wanted to see the new musical, but Groupon’s sale was still too expensive. Dietlein contacted KUTV 2 News, who reached out to Groupon. Hours later the “deal” was removed from the website.
StubHub is another provider that prides itself on protecting buyers and sellers which is a good thing for customer security, but many of the tickets being sold can get expensive. The tickets from StubHub for Feb. 24 are $185 in comparison to the $48 tickets on Hale Centre Theatre’s website for the same day. The shown price on StubHub doesn’t account for taxes and fees. When finalizing this pretend purchase, the total came to be $456.75 for two tickets.
Often, ticket selling websites create a feeling of urgency to get the tickets before they are gone, to make the customer not want to spend the time looking for better options—even if there are quite a few seats still left at the theatre.
Lastly, check your sources on Facebook or on classified advertising websites. If the language is off and doesn’t make sense, view the seller profile if possible. The “Tickets for Sale/Resale” Facebook page gained a new addition to its description: “We will now only accept tickets that have the confirmation email attached to the post! If there is no confirmation email – there will be no posting!” In this time of technology, it’s become too easy to fake the creation of these booking confirmations. Try to buy from people you know to avoid being scammed. And if the offer is too good to be true, most of the time it is.
Although Sarah and Jack’s parents were still able to see the show, the seller pocketed a nice $500 profit that day. That’s not a bad day at the office for the seller, but if you show up and don’t get a seat, that’s not a good day for you. Hale Centre Theatre purposefully keeps their prices low so that people from all walks of life can enjoy the arts. Don’t let yourself be fooled by paying hundreds of dollars to someone who may or may not have a ticket for you.