This guide highlights some of the things to look out for when buying tickets on Ebay, based on my experience. It is important to remember that the vast majority of sellers on Ebay are reliable, caring and act professionally. This is just as true of ticket sellers.
A bit like estate agent talk, some expressions whilst not strictly untrue may be misleading. Amongst these the most common are:
Front standing - tends to mean nothing more than that they are standing tickets. You do of course have the opportunity to get to the front if you get to the gig early enough and manage to make your way to the front. But it does not normally mean that you are guaranteed a place at the front.
Beware of this expression at gigs where there are special designated standing areas (often called 'gold circle', 'inner circle' or 'vip'). Read descriptions carefully in these cases and be sure you understand whether the tickets being sold are for the special or general area. If from nothing else, the face value of the tickets should give you the answer.
Front Row - This can be used to mean the tickets are on the front row of a particular block. Unless specified it does not necessarily mean the front row in the auditorium as a whole. Read descriptions carefully to be sure you understand where the seat is.
Be aware that some theatres have row numbering or lettering which means it is not always obvious which is the front row. For example, there are several theatres which have two or three stalls rows in front of Row A. These normally use double letters - so Row AA may be a few rows in front of Row A. Just to confuse matters, there are also theatres where a double lettered row would come at the back ie after Row Z. I have often seen tickets advertised as front row where I suspect the seller is unaware of the way the seating rows are numbered in a theatre- so if its important to you that you get a front row seat, check out a seating plan. Many sellers will include a picture of the seating plan in their listings. If not, a search of the internet using the theatre name and 'seat plan' will usually take you to the information you need.
Official Ticket Agency - This is a new one which has cropped up since I originally wrote this guide, and unfortunately seems to be gaining popularity.
Basically, there are two types of ticket seller - a primary ticket seller and a secondary ticket seller. If I see the phrase 'official ticket agency' I think of one that is a primary ticket seller ie has a direct agreement with the promoters/ venues to sell tickets on their behalf. Some of the biggest primary ticket sellers in the UK are TicketMaster, Ticketline and See Tickets.
From what I can gather, sellers on Ebay using the phrase mean they are either registered as a business (which happens to sell tickets) or have bought the tickets themselves from a primary ticket seller. In both cases, they are secondary ticket sellers. In other words, they are no more likely to be reliable than any other Ebay seller.
I am not saying that an official ticket agency would NEVER sell tickets on Ebay (although I find it difficult to believe); what I am saying is treat the phrase with caution and don't assume that buying from a seller who states they are an 'official ticket agency' automatically gives you greater protection.
Number of Tickets - Be sure that you understand how many tickets you are getting when you bid or buy. Although the item title may be for a multiple number of tickets (usually 2), the seller may be expecting a price per ticket. This should be clear from the description (words along the lines of "price per ticket" or "price for the pair"). If it does not make clear whether the price is for an individual ticket or multiple tickets, check with the seller before bidding/ buying.
In Hand - This means that the seller physically has the tickets. Sometimes promoters or venues will not disapatch tickets until quite close to the event. As a general rule of thumb the bigger the artist the later the tickets are likely to be issued. But this is not always the case, and sellers genuinely do not know when the reputable ticket agencies they buy from will be able to dispatch tickets.
It is less risky to buy tickets which are already 'in hand'. You pay your money over and the tickets are posted to you straight away. If tickets are not 'in hand' you may have to wait several months for the tickets to arrive with the seller and then be posted on to you. Be aware that, although the majority of tickets arrive in plenty of time, some can arrive within a week of the gig.
If you are buying tickets that are not yet in hand and you have the option to choose 'special delivery' I would seriously consider it. Not only does this provide greater insurance cover, but it guarantees next day delivery. This reduces the worry on those late ticket dispatches. I once posted out some tickets 1st class recorded that took a week to arrive - fortunately this was still in plenty of time for the gig. But the message is that 1st Class Recorded does not guarantee a delivery date.
If tickets are not 'in hand' when you buy them, I would recommend using PayPal. This will give you some buyer's protection. But note that this protection only lasts for three months from the date of purchase.
Refunds - Only a small proportion of gigs are postponed or cancelled - but it does happen. Note the difference between the two words - it is important. A gig may be postponed or the venue changed. In these cases tickets will normally remain valid and most sellers will not accept returns. If the gig is cancelled most sellers will offer refunds. This mirrors what happens between the seller and the ticket agency. Check what will be refunded - some offer total refunds, some offer refund on the price paid for the tickets (ie less postage and packing), some will also deduct the price of Ebay/ PayPal fees (and these may be higher than you think). Its up to you to read the 'small print' on the description or returns policy. By buying the tickets you are accepting the terms.
Theatre Shows - Bear in mind that you are buying tickets for the show NOT for the star appearing in it. If you buy tickets to see Connie in Sound of Music or Lee in Joseph, you will not get a refund if they are not on stage for that performance. This is in line with the promoter's policy - it is the show you are paying for. It may be worth checking the theatre listings on the internet if you are keen to see a specific star - I know that some will state when the 'star' is due to be on leave or where there are regular performances they do not appear in. There is of course no way of foreseeing sickness.
If In Doubt Ask
Two golden rules in buying tickets. Read the descriptions carefully and if in doubt, ask! Most sellers would rather clarify things early on than face problems later. Add to those the golden rule in buying anything on Ebay - check the seller's feedback.
Hope this is helpful.