In my E-Guides I often mention StubHub as a source for buying tickets to ballgames. Depending on the market, you can often get tickets cheaper than face value this way. As with buying directly from the team’s website, you will have to pay a fee for the service (15% of the ticket last I checked, which adds up on the more expensive seats). However, StubHub has a couple other advantages: you can choose the section you’d like, and you can see what the market is really demanding for a ticket.
Take the September 20 game between the Yankees and Rays at Yankee Stadium. For the best available seats in that game, the Yankees are asking (on their own site) $600 apiece for Legends Suite seats in Section 14A, Row 4, Seats 5 and 6 down the first base line. There is a $17.25 “convenience charge” for each ticket. (I’ve always wondered if I could make it “inconvenient” somehow and not pay that ridiculous charge.)
As I write this on September 13, StubHub has two tickets in that same section for $700 apiece. I am going to watch that and see if it comes down. There are also seats available in Section 14B, Row 9, farther from the field but still closer to home plate, for $575 apiece, which is less than what the Yankees were asking for Section 14A seats. (You can also get Champions Suite seats, almost at the same point at the third base line, for $325 apiece. But I digress.) An eBay seller is selling seats in this general zone for $588 apiece.
I realize this is a staggering amount of money for a ballgame ticket, but I am just using it as an example since I believe this will also cause the greatest variation. Listed below are the lowest StubHub prices of seats in Section 14A (or nearby and cheaper in the Legends Suite sections) by date:
Wednesday, September 15 – Seats in Section 14A, Row 8 for $700 apiece; Section 14B, Row 9 still available for $575.
Thursday, September 16 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Section 14B, Row 7 available for $700. $575 seats gone.
Friday, September 17 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Section 14B, Row 7 available for $700.
Saturday, September 18 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. In Section 14B in Row 3 (better seats than 14A), seats are now available for $677, and seats in Row 7 in the same section are now $700.
Sunday, September 19 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Nothing else in that section available. Two sets of seats available in Section 14B, $677 seats are now $648, others are $700.
Monday, September 20 (day of the game) 7:20 AM – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Nothing else in that section available. Same seats for the same price in Section 14B.
Monday, September 20 (day of the game) 1:47 PM – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Nothing else in that section available. There are now three pairs of seats in Section 14B going for $500-$559 apiece, some in Row 3 even, finally less than the original sticker price (but don’t forget the StubHub markup, which makes $500 seats total $575). You can also now get Legends Suite seats directly behind home plate for $750. I never thought I’d be calling a $750 baseball ticket a bargain, but everything is relative when it comes to the Yankees.
The price of a ticket will likely go down as the event gets closer, and most of the time the availability of tickets will go up as well. You can score some real bargains on seats if you wait till the last minute; the drawback is that great deals don’t last long, and the seats that you’ve been eyeing may get snapped up within seconds of their finally becoming available at a price that you like. You have to balance how picky you are going to be about where you sit with how little you want to pay.
So my advice is to know how much you want to spend on seats and have a couple of general areas where you’d like to sit for whatever reasons. Keep the market in mind and be realistic. You are not going to get box seats for a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway for $5. Look at what tickets are going for on StubHub, get a feel for how much you’ll need to spend, decide on a dollar figure, and the second you see seats you want at that price, grab them. StubHub is no place for tentative people; I know this from experience.
I know my buddy Jake Cain at Ballpark Savvy recommends waiting until the last minute before buying tickets on eBay or StubHub. I don’t necessarily argue with that rationale, but there will likely be good deals available within a week of the event that you could let slip away waiting for something better that might not appear.
Another concern is that something could turn up and cause tickets to be in demand. This happened to me once. On a trip out west last summer, I was daily scoping eBay for Padres tickets for the day I was going to be in San Diego. As I was waiting for the prices to go down, it was announced that this Padres game against Los Angeles would be the first game of Manny Ramirez’s return from being suspended for steroids. Bam! The availability of tickets went down and the price went way up. I had no idea Californians loved fake muscles so much. I ended up not going to the game and learning a valuable lesson.
Hence my strategy of setting a price you want and grabbing it when you see it, and also checking very frequently, because good deals are snapped up quickly. But if you aren’t picky about where you sit, I would say 2-3 days before the event is a good time to start scanning those sites.
StubHub is a good tool for finding the right seats and occasional bargains, you just need to be smart about how you use it. I will try this experiment again with lesser demand tickets for the Pirates and let you know how it turns out.