There are lots of paintball tickets for sale on ebay and for a buyer it can be a minefield. Of course it's not just a case of saving a few pounds on the entry cost, what you're really interested in is the QUALITY of the day and the VALUE FOR MONEY you'll get at the centre / company you have chosen.
You could pay 99p and turn up to find a tent and a portaloo or you could pay anything up to £100 and still find a tent and a portaloo! Unfortunately on ebay, paying more for tickets won't guarantee you a top quality day of paintball!
So how CAN you know what you are buying into?
1. LOOK AT THE SELLER'S FEEDBACK and buy from the one with the best results - are they helpful? Were they satisfied with the day's paintball? Look for comments like 'had a brill day will defo go again'. Rather than 'Tickets arrived quickly' - you're buying a day's paintball, not just the tickets after all ;) Use other ebayers to do YOUR research. If they had a good time then you probably will too :)
2. If the advert is vague as to what is and isn't included (and let's face it most of them are deliberately so, it seems!) then ASK THE SELLER any questions you have. Things to ask are - how much are additional paintballs, how many paintballs will you need per person? (I'd say at at least 600 and if they recommend 100 or 200 then in my opinion are deliberately misleading you!) Budget for about £40-£50 per person. Put the seller to the test - ask them what guns they use, what scenarios are at any particular centre- if they can't answer this then it could be that they are just a ticket seller and don't actually work for / know about the company they are selling for - eek!
3. WHAT ELSE DO THEY SELL? If they sell random tat then again, they probably don't work for the company they are selling for and won't be able to tell you first hand about the company or be in a position to help if you have problems.
4. Do the tickets have an expiry date? Can they only be used on certain days? Did you know that just about every paintball games operator in the uk will only open / run a game if there are 'x' amount of people who want to play on that day? 'X' can vary from operator to operator so if you really really want to play on a certain day ASK the seller before you buy and only buy if they can guarantee that day. Sellers who refer you to their standard terms and conditions or say 'contact the paintball games operator for details' obviously don't work for the company. This is their get-out clause.
5. Ask how many centres the company has. Paintball games companies are like any high street shop. If they are a high street name (eg Delta Force) then you are pertty safe with them. Any successful business has grown from one original centre / shop and if they have grown into an 'empire' (think Asda, M&S) then you can bet they are good at what they do and have got to be that big because they give good customer service. If after 5 years they still only have one shop / centre then it makes you wonder how good they are and why they haven't grown....
6. Be aware of the different TYPES of paintball games company.
National company: Very few large operators, delta force is one, are run from a central head office who interview and employ all centre managers and supply and monitor all their equipment. High standards will be uniform across the company because they have a network of managers and mystery shoppers checking up all the time. Managers have to attend health and safety meetings and have a child protection policy to adhere to.
Next on the list are Franchises, eg the Skirmish network. These are not owned by an overseeing company but each centre is run independently by each centre manager. An individual paintball site operator buys-in to the name and are then left to run their individual centre as they see fit. Equipment, scenarios and standards will vary from centre to centre.
Third on the list are ticket agencies of which Ministry of Paintball is one. They don't own or operate ANY centres themselves. They don't get involved in the operational side of paintball. They are purely a ticket agency and they will sell tickets for a commission to any independent paintball operator who will accept their tickets.
Fourthly are the independent operators who have not subscribed to a chain or a franchise nor employ agencies to sell their tickets. These are getting fewer and fewer as the big companies with their vast marketing powers and budgets close them out. There are still a few out there and if you can find them you are likely to either get a great day's paintball - the manager probably LOVES the game and is in it for the experience rather than the money, or you may get a very poor day - low turnover may mean that they don't have the money to reinvest in the centre and the equipment.
My advice overall is go with a name you have heard of, whom others rate and if the seller doesn't answer your questions fully and in a friendly way, BE CAREFUL!
Finally wear gloves, insist on body armour, particularly for ladies and full head protection goggles, not just face coverage. Paintballs can make you bleed!