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The real cost of buying ROH tickets through unofficial channels

Why you often get less than you pay for on ticket re-sale websites.

By Alex Beard (Chief Executive)

24 January 2014 at 12.15pm | 6 Comments

There has been a lot of coverage of theatre tickets being resold for inflated prices over the past couple of days, and it's something that customers at the ROH have also been affected by. I spoke about the problem on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning and wanted to follow up online.

Only last night, two people arrived to see The Royal Ballet perform Giselle, having paid £150 on Seatwave. They then discovered that they had purchased standing places - not seats - with a face value of £5 each. Our terms and conditions are clear: a ticket holder may not resell a ticket for a profit. Resold tickets are not valid and holders may be refused entry to the show. This is a problem that we see time and again with popular shows like The Nutcracker and expect to see during forthcoming productions such as Faust.

In addition to the disappointment experienced by customers, there is an issue of fairness for people who wish to attend our performances. The ROH is a charity, not a money-making enterprise: we balance the prices that we charge for our tickets against ensuring that they are affordable for a wide range of people. This is why 40% of our tickets are £40 or under. The only reason this is possible is because we receive money from Arts Council England and private donors and sponsors. By selling tickets for a profit, touts are making money from what is a key part of our strategy to make tickets affordable.

To avoid the disappointment we see time and again for customers of websites like Seatwave and Viagogo, these are the steps you can take to get hold of sought-after tickets:

  • All returns go onto our website, so if you are looking for tickets for a sold-out show then check the page for that production.
  • We sell 67 day tickets at our Box Office from 10am for almost all main-stage performances. If any remain after the day ticket queue has been served then these are sold on the phones or website. All of these tickets are £55 or less.
  • We do work with a small number of authorized ticket agencies. See the full list.
  • If you cannot use your ticket please return it to the ROH Box Office for resale. There is a very small administration charge. By going through the proper channels you are ensuring that everyone gets a fair chance to buy tickets at reasonable prices.

We have written to tickets reselling sites such as Viagogo, Seatwave, Get Me In and eBay, pointing out that reselling our tickets is in breach of our terms and condition and that they will have to reimburse anybody who is turned away by us. There is legislation that makes ticket touting for football illegal, and this was introduced for the Olympics; however, no such legislation exists for other sport events or music and theatrical presentations.

I would encourage you to use our Box Office and website - or authorized ticket agencies - to purchase tickets to our productions. This is the only way to ensure that you are getting what you pay for.

By Alex Beard (Chief Executive)

24 January 2014 at 12.15pm

This article has been categorised Off stage and tagged booking, eBay, Get Me In, Seatwave, tickets, tout, Viagogo, website

This article has 6 comments

  1. Dennis responded on 24 January 2014 at 2:38pm Reply

    I agree entirely with what Alex says. However until legislation changes nothing will halt this practice. I have been offered a large above-ticket price for my opera tickets from people standing opposite the sales desk in the queue hoping for last minute returns. No one seems to doubt that they will be admitted!

  2. Miss_p responded on 24 January 2014 at 3:58pm Reply

    Just to offer a different perspective; I'd like to say that I've bought tickets from Seatwave twice in the recent past (not for the ROH), both times for well below face value. What the news reports don't point out is that resale sites often sell tickets for below face value. I'm guessing that's never reported because it isn't newsworthy. Also, the face value of the ticket is given before you buy. I'm a regular at the ROH and if I saw a £5 FV then I'd run a mile and I certainly wouldn't pay £150. You're saying that the the people at Giselle didn't realise they had standing tickets until they turned up? Seriously! Regardless of whether legislation is ever passed, you can't legislate against stupidity.

  3. Desi responded on 25 January 2014 at 11:21am Reply

    I agree it is completely immoral to resell ROH tickets for profit. Having said that, when people buy a ticket from a reseller they enter into a contract, whereby they agree with the terms and conditions of the reseller; these terms often include the buyer's consent that tickets might be priced well above the face value (face value is not always disclosed). Once people agree to such conditions, they can't really blame ROH. Therefore, the best way to cope with this issue is to avoid unauthorised resellers.

    The following tips could help improve the situation:
    1) ROH should limit ticket purchases for popular performances to 2-4 tickets per person. This is already happening for some performances e.g. Faust, but the list should be extended to cover other productions (e.g. Giselle).
    2) As many visitors to ROH are tourists, they might not be aware of the rogue practices of resellers. It would be helpful to put a visible reminder on the webpage of each production (esp. when it is sold out) that buying tickets from resellers could be way above the original price and an expensive ticket does not guarantee a good seat.
    3) ROH should Make sure it uses social and other media to educate people about the unfair practices of unauthorised resellers. This should be done on a regular basis. The address of ROH CEO is one good step in this direction. Sending an e-mail before bookings opens, reminding people of the issue could also help.
    3) I would encourage people to try to book tickets as much in advance as they can. I usually book my tickets seveal months in advance and I have rarely paid more than £40. My average spend is £20 and I have seen everything I wanted to see for the past 2 years.
    3) For those who are regular visitors to ROH - buy a membership. I just bought mine and I booked everything I wanted at reasonable prices.
    4) Finally, there are ALWAYS ticket returns on the website. I have attended many performances with last minute bookings, so if you try hard enough, you will get a ticket.
    5) I would also like to urge everyone to discourage your friends and relatives from buying from resellers and inform your social circle about the potential negative consequences. If you have a ticket you no longer need give it to a friend or return it to ROH. In the end, an effort should be made not only by ROH, but also by all of us, who love opera and ballet, to put an end to such deceptive practices.

    Kind regards,

  4. Javier responded on 9 March 2014 at 1:42pm Reply

    I have been to both sides of the fence on this situation. I agree with the ROH's stance: it is a charity and people should not make profit on the back of re-selling tickets.

    However, I would like to point that I have been sometimes in the situation that I was not able to attend certain performance. On the one hand, I can send the tickets back to ROH, pay an admin charge fee, and hope that they will be sold (not guarantee). On the other hand, I can try to sell them to a friend, relative or someone else online, so I have a guarantee that I am not going to be out of pocket.

    I think that ROH should:
    - enforce a 2 or 4-tickets per person policy
    - allow free returns, or be flexible about reselling


  5. Mary Poirrier responded on 21 May 2014 at 2:35pm Reply

    You could add Ticketfinders International to your bad list. Only a couple of days ago they offered me two tickets to Ariadne auf Naxos for £255 each in stalls row N.24/25. Plus a delivery to hotel fee. Probably thought I was naive as I said I was from Australia. Thankfully, I checked your website and got tickets in row J for £125 each.

  6. Your strategy to make tickets affordable? ROH prices (and releases) its tickets in a way which makes performances totally inacessible for all but those who can afford it. Yes there are tickets available cheaply – but none which will actually allow anything close to full enjoyment of the performance (i.e. without severely restricted views). It is no wonder opera suffers from a dearth of youthful followers in the UK. The ROH is a custodian and ought to be doing all it can to keep enthusiasm alive across all generations and from all backgrounds. Prioritising profits in this context is shameful and ultimately myopic. Ed Sheeran capped ticket prices to his latest O2 concerts at between £44-£78. Until the ROH adopts a more egalitarian regime, some wonderful performances will never be enjoyed by a vast majority of the public.

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