Peggy Lee thought she was ahead of the game when she signed up for the Big Fresno Fair's Fan Club and logged in to buy pre-sale tickets to see The Beach Boys perform Oct. 6 at the Paul Paul Theater.
She was disappointed when, within minutes of going on sale, the seats in the first few rows were gone.
"Those tickets are intended to be sold to local folk like me, so I can take my friends and family to enjoy a fabulous concert," says Lee, a longtime Fresno concertgoer.
Sadly, this is the world of ticket buying.
It's a trend I wrote about in May when Bruno Mars came through town. Pre-sale tickets are widely available for most popular concerts, and the good seats often get scooped up quickly by those who make a living selling tickets on the secondary market.
So, ticket buyers will find front-row tickets to shows like The Beach Boys, which are on sale for $25 on the fair's website, on Craigslist or sites like StubHub at higher prices.
On Wednesday, StubHub had front-row seats to The Beach Boys listed at $165.90, and front-row seats to REO Speedwagon's Oct. 11 show for $189.
Tickets to the Eagles show Oct. 9 at the Save Mart Center — which go on sale to the general public 10 a.m. Saturday — are already available on StubHub thanks to presale and are priced from $99. Second-row seats are listed for close to $2,500.
"Obviously the person buying 20-plus tickets (four months in advance) to The Beach Boys and immediately selling them on StubHub only bought these tickets to make a 200% profit," Lee says.
Fair organizers, sensing the expansion of the secondary market, have taken steps to alleviate the problem. They limit the number of tickets one person can buy to 15 and use ticketing software to block automated programs from buying in bulk. Only a small portion of the total pre-sale tickets have ended up on StubHub, says Lauri King, the fair's deputy manager.
She understands the frustration.
"As a venue, that's not what we want to see, either," she says. "We want to sell to our fans."
The re-sales are legal, though California law does prohibit selling tickets for more than face value directly outside of venues.
The secondary market works because there are fans willing to pay these prices. Often, they don't realize they are dealing with a third-party seller. Google searches can be misleading that way.
For fans, the best practice is to check official channels first. Ticketmaster is the industry leader and has most of the top-selling shows. Or, go directly to the venue.
For the fair, that means logging on to www.fresnofair.com or calling the box office (559) 650-FAIR, starting Aug. 11, when tickets go on sale to the general public.
While the fair's pre-sale has been doing well, the good news is no show is close to selling out. And, the Paul Paul Theater is an intimate space, so even if you are a few rows back the view is pretty good.
"There are still great seats available for every show," King says.