Advice on buying tickets in person

When buying a ticket in person, it pays to watch out for a few points that don't apply when you buy online or by phone, as you often don't have the time to check things as thoroughly.

Many ticket outlets around London's West End are operated by STAR members.  If you are buying tickets in person then you are safest buying from the venue box office itself or from one of our members.  Because of their excellent business relationships with producers and theatres, STAR members can sometimes offer good discounts on normal ticket prices which might not be available from the venue itself.

Buying your tickets

The way that customers usually suffer at the hands of unscrupulous ticket sellers around the West End is because the face value of the ticket being purchased is not given accurately, if at all.  Sometimes customers, particularly tourists, who believe they are buying top-price tickets end up with some of the poorest and cheapest seats in the theatre.  This is not acceptable and contravenes the law which requires facts that are material to a customer's decision to purchase to be provided (Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008).

The minimum details a customer should expect to be provided with are:

  • The face value of the ticket(s) (the price set by the venue/event organiser)
  • The amount being charged by the ticket seller. This enables you to know if the ticket seller is charging more than the face value - a booking fee - and therefore the amount of that fee.
  • Any factors relating to the ticket purchased that might affect the customer's enjoyment of the event (for instance, if the ticket is for a seat with a restricted view of the stage).

A good ticket seller will provide you with this information without any problem.  If you are not provided with the information then the seller may be trying to hide a material fact from you.

If you buy from a venue box office

  • You will receive printed tickets with all the relevant details - venue name, name and time of the event, seat numbers, price paid and often a booking reference - printed on them. All you need to do then is turn up in time for the performance, take your seat and enjoy the show.

If you buy from a STAR member or other agency

  • You should expect to be shown the exact location of your seats on the venue's seating plan.
  • You may be given an agency voucher rather than the venue's own tickets. Usually these vouchers will be printed, but a very few agencies (almost always concierge desks in major hotels) still write the details by hand, so don't be alarmed if this is the case. The voucher must have the same relevant information about the performance on it as the venue's own tickets, together with the face value of the tickets and the booking fee, as well as the name and contact details of the agency itself.
  • Many printed agency vouchers allow you to go straight to your seat when you get to the venue but for others (particularly hand-written ones) you'll need to go to the box office when your first arrive and exchange your voucher for the venue's own tickets. The agency should tell you which applies to your tickets - if they don't, then ask - and, if you're exchanging a voucher, allow some extra time when going to the venue in case there's a box office queue.

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Things to watch out for

  • Look for the STAR logo displayed by members, often on the outside of the agency's office or by the counter. You can also check the list of STAR members on this website or by contacting the STAR helpline on +441904 234737.
  • Never buy tickets from anyone selling them on the street or outside a venue, as these tickets may be stolen, forged or have been cancelled by the venue or promoter, meaning that you won't be able to see the show.
  • Be suspicious if you are asked by a ticket seller to pay for your tickets, sign a "receipt" and then come back later to collect them or to pick them up from the venue's box office: it probably means that the seller hasn't actually got the tickets they are offering you - and needs time to acquire some - or that the tickets you'll eventually get are not the ones you thought you were buying (typically you pay for stalls (orchestra) seats but get tickets for cheaper seats elsewhere in the auditorium). No STAR member operates in this way.
  • All STAR members have a copy of the Model Terms and Conditions of Sale and the STAR Code of Practice which you can ask to see before you pay them any money. This covers all the aspects of ticket selling we talk about here.
  • Around the West End, there are many sales outlets - including some STAR members - offering tickets at "half-price" and some claim to be an "official" half-price ticket agency.

    Since there is no licensing or registration system for ticket agents, there is no such thing as an "official" agency. However, the good business relationships which many STAR members have with venues and promoters mean that they can often offer some discounted tickets, so always check for the STAR membership logo outside the agency or by the sales counter.

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Things to check for

  • What happens if the event is cancelled or rescheduled?

    STAR members will ensure that you are either offered tickets for a rescheduled performance or that you receive a refund of at least the face value. You may not be able to reclaim postage costs if the tickets have already been sent to you.

  • What should I look for if I am buying from an Online Resale Marketplace?

    Make sure it is a reputable company and that they offer a reliable guarantee that ensures you get replacement tickets or a full refund if there is a problem providing your tickets.

  • What happens if you can't attend the performance for which you've booked tickets?

    It is usual for ticket sellers NOT to be able to offer you the opportunity to exchange or cancel your booking - check the terms and conditions of sale. However, for events where there is more than one performance (for instance, shows in the West End) it is worthwhile asking, as some sellers may be able to help by exchanging your tickets for another performance or, particularly for high-selling shows, offering them for resale.

    Some ticket sellers offer insurance when they sell you a ticket, which gives you additional protection if circumstances prevent you attending, a bit like holiday insurance. Don't forget also to insure other risks such as travel and accommodation that are essential to you attending an event, if they aren't purchased as a package together with your ticket.

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If things go wrong

We very much hope that this information has helped you to secure tickets for the event of your choice and that you'll just be able to sit back and enjoy the show.  However, if there is a problem with your purchase from a STAR Member, then click here to find out How to make a complaint.

If you have not bought from a STAR Member and would like to report a possible fraud then the best place to do this is at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk

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