A Fan's Guide to Getting Scarce Tickets

A fan's guide to scoring scarce tickets

ANDREW SHAIN of the Charlotte Observer

WANT TO SIT HERE? Ready for some football? Want to catch a Carolina Panthers game or some regional college action?

Good luck.

Tickets for all the Panthers games as well as the region's top college teams' best contests are gone -- forcing fans into the murky waters of the after-market: scalpers, brokers and online traders.

It's buyer beware. See what one Panther fan posted in a newspaper classified last week: "I had some jerk trying to sell me row 32 lower level tickets. There isn't even a row 32."

Here's advice to avoid rip-offs, the pros and cons of ways to buy, and what you should expect to pay to watch some pigskin.

Avoiding Scams

Ticket exam: Inspect the dates, opponent and seat number. Look for printing imperfections. Tickets taken from a strip of season tickets should have perforated edges. (Legit Panthers tickets have a logo on back that can be revealed by scratching it with a coin.)Get a map: Have a stadium diagram handy to check seating -- and ticket authenticity.

Scalping laws: North Carolina permits face value plus $3; South Carolina, face value plus $1. The laws are enforced sporadically.

How to pay: Sometimes you have no choice but to pay cash. When possible, use your credit card so you can request a charge-back if something goes wrong. Never wire money.

Buying locally:  Agree to meet the seller in a public place.

Going online: Deal only with sellers that have phone numbers and physical addresses on their sites.

Refund how-to: Read policies on how brokers/resellers deal with problem or late tickets.

Record check: Look at a ticket broker's history with the Better Business Bureau (search.bbb.org) and the state where it is based. Type the broker's name into a Web search engine to check for customer gripes.

Ticket Sources: Pros and Cons

Neighbor/co-worker/relative: Can negotiate price. Know where to find seller in case of problem. But hit and miss in finding tickets to choice games.

Classifieds: Try some bargaining. Usually locals selling tickets, though watch out for out-of-town brokers you don't know. Purchase face-to-face to see if tickets are genuine.

eBay: Free market on the online auction. Could find a bargain or a scam. Usually will pay price available elsewhere. Look over buyer feedback carefully. Spend only what you can afford to lose.

Resellers/Brokers: Set price. Sells tickets on consignment from brokers or fans (www.ticketsnow.com; www.stubhub.com; www.maximtickets.com). Usually more pricey for more reliable service.

Game-day scalper: Anything goes. Better prices usually found closer to stadium. Could get a deal or a bogus ticket. No one to contact for refunds.

Asking Prices

Panthers: High-demand games -- Steelers, Cowboys, Giants -- are going for more than 10 times face value from online sellers.

Maxim Tickets is selling a seat in section 111 near the 50-yard-line (face value $96) for $1,235 to the Steelers game.

Upper deck tickets ($38) for the Cowboys game are priced at $145 on TicketsNow.

Endzone seats for the Giants game ($74) range from $250-$350 on StubHub.

The Rams and Saints games are bargains at two to four times face value. This month's preseason contests are usually selling at or below face value.

College: Upper-deck seats to the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry range from $400-$700 on online sites.

Upper-level tickets in the big-time clash when Alabama visits Tennessee are going for four times face value at $150.

Even a minor tilt -- Western Kentucky going to Georgia -- demands $195 for $32 seats.