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Scalpers’ ticket prices may be shocking, but they’re sometimes legal

Holy Heart Theatre.
Holy Heart Theatre.

For just under $450, you can snag a ticket to see hit children’s TV characters The Bubble Guppies live onstage in St. John’s in April, direct from the orchestra pit at Holy Heart Theatre.

An image from Box Office Ticket Sales’ website.

Keep in mind, that’s the price for one ticket only, according to If you want to bring your child, that’s another $448.58.

Another note: if you go to the Holy Heart Theatre website, you’ll see there are no seats at all in the orchestra pit. If you’ve ever been to the theatre, you’ll know the pit is actually below the stage and even if there were seats in them, you’d see nothing but black walls.

Box Office Ticket Sales is one of a number of websites offering tickets for legitimate events in hundreds of cities at legitimately inflated prices. Tickets for the Tim Hortons Brier semi-finals, IceCaps games and the upcoming Blue Rodeo concert at Mile One Centre can all be purchased on the Box Office Ticket Sales website.

Tickets for the “Bubble Guppies Live” show at Holy Heart in April run $27.80 if purchased directly from the theatre, no matter where you’re sitting (there’s no orchestra pit seating).

Nebraska-based Box Office Ticket Sales, through its website, is selling tickets for the show at prices ranging from $64.74 for Row A centre seats to $130.13 for balcony seats, up to the $448.58 tickets, which a representative confirmed were in the orchestra pit. The website also offers a “200 per cent worry-free guarantee,” though there are no exchanges or refunds.

“ guarantees the ticket service we sell,” the website states. “Once your order is confirmed, we guarantee that you will receive the tickets you selected. After you receive an order confirmation from us, if for any reason the tickets you selected are not available, we will substitute a comparable or better ticket for the same price.”

When The Telegram called Box Office Ticket Sales to inquire about the orchestra pit seating, a customer service representative said he wasn’t in the sales department and couldn’t explain. No managers were available to come to the phone, he said, and he suggested questions could be emailed and dealt with the next day. He declined to answer any questions about the company, other than that it has “at least two” American locations, in Omaha and Chicago.

A representative in the sales department wasn’t able to help, either, saying, “I just sell the tickets, I don’t have any information.”


Warning published

Because of online ticket scalping sites, Holy Heart Theatre has published a warning on its webpage, stressing that it isn’t affiliated with any of them and doesn’t condone them.

“The first we heard of it was when we had been told by customers that they had bought tickets for (popular children’s TV characters) Toopy and Binoo online for $65, thinking it was our website,” said Leslie Martin, Holy Heart Theatre manager. “We’re afraid that some poor, unsuspecting parent will see the price and think, ‘This must be a fabulous show, this is how much these shows cost,’ and plunk down hundreds of dollars for tickets.

“We want to let people know that we can’t guarantee they will be honoured, and we can’t refund them money for them. Our concern is that people are handing over their VISA numbers, thinking it’s to the theatre.”

It isn’t clear what Box Office Ticket Sales does if someone orders orchestra pit tickets for Holy Heart Theatre, but according to its online reviews, many of the tickets it does sell are real, albeit expensive. Its website makes it clear in numerous spots that it doesn’t represent individual show venues, but is selling for a third party that determines the ticket price.

“We are a resale marketplace, not the ticket seller,” the site states. “Prices are set by third-party sellers and may be above face value.”

Upon investigation, Martin confirmed blocks of tickets for the Bubble Guppies shows matching seat numbers offered by Box Office Ticket Sales had been purchased by one person with local contact information.

Scalping — selling event tickets for prices higher than the box office — isn’t illegal in Canada in general, though a number of provinces have specific laws banning the sale of tickets above resale value. It’s often an issue in bigger cities with NHL teams and high-profile concerts; it’s estimated scalpers made millions of dollars in markups from The Tragically Hip’s 10-city Man Machine Poem tour last summer.

Newfoundland and Labrador doesn’t have scalping legislation, but even if it did, many of the scalping websites are based outside the country.

“As many online ticket resellers are not based in our province or even in Canada, their legality is subject to their local jurisdictions,” RNC Const. Geoff Higdon said. 

“The best advice that we can give consumers when it comes to purchasing tickets online is to be aware of where you are buying from and buy only from trusted websites. 

“We would encourage consumers to always read the fine print on a site’s terms and conditions.”

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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