How to avoid being scammed when buying show/concert tickets online for Knoxville venues

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Country music star Eric Church performed Thursday night at Thompson Boling Arena. Church has been vocal about wanting his fans to enjoy his concert at a fair price and not get ripped off by scalpers.

WATE 6 On Your Side reported in May that around 497 tickets for the concert were canceled because the tickets appeared to have been purchased by scalpers. We wanted to take a closer look at ticket scalping in East Tennessee and the risks consumers need to be aware of when buying a ticket from a scalper. Previous

April Crout went online, searched for Cyndi Lauper tickets at the Tennessee Theater, found what she thought was the Tennessee Theater website and made a call to purchase the tickets.

“I said ‘Well, is this the Tennessee Theater?”’ said Crout.

Crout says the man who answered the phone said, “Well, yes, you’ve reached the Tennessee Theater.”

She continued with the order and was concerned about high cost. When she asked, she says the man who identified himself as being with the Tennessee Theater was rude. Then she had another issue when she went to the show.

“The seats weren’t in the place we had asked for. They were in a totally different area,” said Crout.

Crout went to Tennessee Theater Manager Tom Bugg to correct the problem. Bugg told WATE 6 On Your Side  it’s a common issue he has to deal with because he says people are often taken advantage of when they buy tickets from an unauthorized secondary resale website.

“They were double the price what would have cost me. For three tickets around $150, cost me almost $300,” said Crout.

Bugg explained to her the tickets were not purchased from the Tennessee Theater and that she paid well over face value for the tickets. He explained how some websites appear to be the Tennessee Theater.

“As you click through the website, it will have the Tennessee Theater logo up there and a phone number that says Tennessee Theater tickets,” said Bugg.

He demonstrated how the tickets Crout received had been altered.

“On this one, the name of the person who bought the ticket has been photoshopped off along with the price of the ticket,” said Bugg.

“When someone is deliberately dishonest and does trickery which this guy did, he covered up the name, he covered up the price. He was totally dishonest and for that reason, I was very upset,” said Crout.

She is not alone. Bugg had many other examples where buyers had problems with their tickets that were purchased on a resale website.

“When I hear, ‘Tom can you come to the box office?’ I know exactly what’s going on. It’s a scalper and it happens every single show,” said Bugg.

Bugg says he’s had problems with some scalpers selling counterfeit tickets.

“These were double sold, so I had four people show up for two seats,” said Bugg.

He’s also seen many altered tickets sold by scalpers.

“The pit in the center row 3, seat 38, those seats don’t exist in our theater. When you actually scan the ticket you get row HH seat 36 and 38 which are the last row of the balcony, and this gentleman purchased them thinking he was getting third row in the pit,” said Bugg.

Another issue is scalpers selling tickets they don’t yet own. One woman bought tickets in row N, but the tickets she received were for farther back in row V. The invoice shows she bought them at 10:51 a.m.

“You look at the timestamp, they were actually bought at 3:41 p.m.,” said Bugg.

Some scalpers also break the artist’s and venue’s rules to obtain the tickets. Eric Church has set a four ticket limit on fan club pre-sale tickets and an eight ticket limit total per household in an effort to cut down on scalping. The best 5,000 seats are will call only, meaning you must show your ID and credit card used to pick up the tickets the day of the show.

Church also told venue managers, like Tim Reese with the Thompson Boling Arena, to cancel tickets that appear to be bought in violation of Church’s rules and regulations of purchase. Reese says 497 tickets for the Knoxville show were refunded and put back on sale at a later date.

Church’s manager Fielding Logan says Church is dedicated to stopping some scalpers’ unscrupulous activity.

“Eric keeps fighting this fight against scalpers because he does always want to try and take care of his fans. He wants his fans to pay for the tickets, the price he sets face value,” said Logan.

Nashville attorney Tom Lee has been focused on the legalities surrounding ticket scalping since 2007. He says ticket resale is legal but some practices are abusive and immoral. He says some scalpers though do engage in illegal activity.

“It’s clearly not legal to sell what you don’t have, and it’s clearly not legal to sell something twice. What the sellers are counting on is that the cost of bringing them to justice is so high that most consumers won’t do it even if they find they’ve been cheated,” said Lee.

April Crout hopes she never again ends up buying tickets from a deceptive scalper.

“I would like to see him go out of business, I really would,” said Crout.

More and more artists like Eric Church are putting in protective measures to stop their tickets from being bought by scalpers so fans have a fair chance of getting good tickets at face value.

Lee says to avoid being taken advantage of when buying tickets, buy from the venue or artist’s website where they use authorized sellers.

Be aware, re-sellers may be selling scalped tickets on a website that appears to be the venue and may come up on top of Google searches. If you’re unsure if you’re on the official website call the venue. Ask the face value of the ticket. Ask the company if they are registered with the Better Business Bureau. Make sure you know the exact seat location you will be purchasing.

This won’t guarantee you won’t get scammed but it helps reduce your chances.

Official venue websites:

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