Advice on buying tickets by phone

Buying tickets by phone is convenient if you can't go to a venue's box office in person or haven't got access to a computer to book online. Some venues deal with particular types of booking - for groups, for instance - only by phone. Phone booking also gives you a chance to ask questions or get further information (about transport links or catering at a venue, for instance) and can be useful if you have a particular request, such as needing a gangway seat or wheelchair access, which it might be more difficult to specify when booking online. Many phone booking lines operate 24 hours a day, though it may take longer to get through at off-peak times.

As with other methods of ticket buying, there are a few things to watch out for to make sure your ticket purchase is safe.

Making the call

How do I find a venue or ticket agency phone number?

  • Box office phone numbers can almost always be found on a promoter's or venue's own website, printed leaflets or advertisements for an event or on promotional material such as a season brochure. For London theatres, see the entertainment listings in daily and Sunday national newspapers or the free fortnightly printed Official London Theatre Guide published by SOLT, the Society of London Theatre, which is widely available across London and also online at www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk.
  • Some venues have textphone (sometimes called "Minicom") numbers for people with hearing impairment.
  • Ticket agencies often advertise on their own behalf and sometimes on their own printed leaflets, as well as displaying their phone booking numbers on their websites.

Is the company a member of STAR?

Buying from a STAR member ensures you have an independent means of redress through a recognised self-regulatory body should anything go wrong. You can cross-check the list of STAR members on this website or ask the STAR helpline on
01904 234737 (+ 44 1904 234737 from outside the UK). If the company IS a member, then you can proceed with your purchase with confidence.

Who am I speaking to?

  • The phone number published by a venue generally goes directly to its own box office, but some companies operating several venues have one central phone box office for all their venues. Venues may publish several phone numbers in their own advertisements or newspaper listings, including their own box office number and/or numbers for agencies whom they have authorised to sell tickets on their behalf.
  • Many venue box offices automatically divert phone calls to their authorised ticket agency outside box office opening hours (generally 10am to 8pm) or if the main box office number is overloaded, to save callers from waiting to get through or hearing an engaged tone. If your call is diverted to an agency in this way, the person answering should identify themself as being "at X agency on behalf of Y venue", so that you know you are speaking to an authorised agent.
  • Some ticket agencies operate 24-hour phone lines but others may only be available during daytime office hours or until about 8.00pm, just after most evening performances have started.

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Buying your tickets

Buying a ticket by phone is much the same as buying in person at a box office or ticket agency. Some phone systems are programmed with options allowing you to hear recorded information about the venue or event or the standard terms and conditions of sale before you speak to an operator. You should make sure before giving your credit or debit card details that you know exactly what tickets you are buying and if there are any special conditions.

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

  • If you buy from a venue, you may be given the option of having your tickets sent to you or of collecting them from the box office yourself before the performance. In some cases, tickets may only be sent out close to the actual performance date, to help combat fraud. The box office should tell you at the time of booking if this will be the case.

If you buy from a ticket agent

  • Although some agencies are authorised to supply the venue's own tickets (most often for music events), you will generally receive an agency voucher rather than the venue's own tickets. The voucher must have the same relevant information about the performance on it as the venue's own tickets - venue name, event name, date and time of performance, seat numbers and any special conditions, such as a viewing restriction - together with the face value of the tickets and any 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 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.

Will I pay a booking fee for a phone booking?

  • Practice varies from company to company. Venues may charge a booking fee for phone bookings depending on their policy, or, for instance, on whether tickets are to be posted to the customer or collected from the box office. Ticket agencies will almost always charge a booking fee for any sale, whether in person, by phone or online. See "What is a booking fee?" for further information.
  • Under the STAR Code of Practice STAR members must always tell you if they are charging a booking fee in addition to the face value of the ticket they are selling you.

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Delivery

  • Ask when your tickets will arrive. Promoters often don't allow tickets to be sent out until very close to the event date, to help reduce problems with counterfeiting of tickets or other fraud. This can be a worrying delay for some customers.  A reputable seller will, however, always ensure that you gain entry to the event for which you have bought tickets. Problems can occasionally arise for general admission events (non-seated events) when tickets don't reach the purchaser or if you lose them or destroy them accidentally. Licensing and health and safety considerations may mean that these tickets cannot be duplicated and you may not gain access to the event.

Some major ticket sellers regularly update information on their website help pages to indicate when tickets will be despatched.

If you have bought tickets for someone else and duplicates have to be provided at the venue, you may have to arrange for a letter of authority if you are not able to collect the tickets yourself.

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Things to check for

  • What happens if the event is cancelled or re-scheduled?

    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.

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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