It’s a warning that’s been around for about as long as human beings have engaged in commerce.
Let the buyer beware.
In light of this year’s Super Bowl ticket troubles, it bears repeating, as the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay nears, and as fans go to the Internet in search of tickets to the sold-out championship rounds.
Officials from the USGA and the Washington state Attorney General’s Office said people can’t be too careful when buying tickets from so-called “secondary markets” such as Craigslist and ticket resale websites.
“Our advice: Don’t use third-party vendors because we simply can’t guarantee the tickets are authentic until they are scanned via their unique barcode on site,” said Janeen Driscoll, public relations director for the USGA.
Peter Lavallee of the Attorney General’s Office offers advice that is a bit less dire.
Lavallee said his office encourages people to use sources they trust, or, if using a new site, to research its reputation before forking over money for tickets. The Better Business Bureau is one source of information, he said.
“I think in light of lessons from the Super Bowl, try to get tickets in hand as far in advance of the event as you can,” Lavallee said. “For people who aren’t in the immediate area, I would not book travel or hotel without knowing you have tickets in hand.”
Those Super Bowl lessons were tough.
Several people, including some from Pierce County, shelled out thousands of dollars to ticket resellers that were unable to deliver tickets. Some folks didn’t learn they’d be without tickets until the last minute, when they’d already traveled to Arizona and checked into their hotels.
The state Attorney General’s Office in February sued one ticket reseller, SBTickets of New York, alleging violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
Unlike the NFL, the USGA does not have a relationship with a resale vendor, Driscoll said.
“We haven’t had nearly the same problems as other sporting events just because we protect that process to the best of our ability,” she said.
Tickets to the June 18-21 championship rounds of the 2015 U.S. Open — a weeklong event that will be played at the University Place golf course — sold out in February. The USGA made 30,000 tickets per day available for those rounds.
Almost immediately, some people began advertising tickets on sites such as Craigslist and StubHub, usually at a premium.
On Thursday, a gallery ticket for entry to all four days of the championship round, which the USGA sold for $400, was going for a minimum of $959 on StubHub. A single-day gallery ticket for Sunday’s round, sold by the USGA for $125, were starting at $325 on Craigslist.
StubHub spokesman Cameron Papp said interest in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay is high, likely because this will be the first one held in the Pacific Northwest in the event’s 120-year history.
“Sales so far have been really good, up 20 percent year over year from last year,” Papp said. “Obviously, there’s some demand.”
Traffic for U.S. Open tickets also got a bump after the Masters golf tournament, which saw 21-year-old Jordan Spieth score a surprising win, and elite golfer Tiger Woods’ announcement that he intends to play the event, Papp said.
“A ticket to this year’s event also is more expensive than last year,” he said.
Inventory is relatively low, however. Papp said major golf events do not generate as much resale as the Super Bowl or NBA Finals, for example.
Papp also advised consumers to use resale sites they trust to purchase tickets. He encouraged people with tickets to refrain from posting photographs of them on social media sites to help discourage counterfeiting.
All U.S. Open tickets are “hard tickets,” meaning there are no electronic versions that can be downloaded or printed, he said.
“Security is pretty high with those, which is good for fans,” Papp said.