Here's How to Buy Last-Minute Experiences on the Cheap
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes procrastination can pay off.
By Matt Foley
It was late May in Manhattan, and Mike Riccio couldn’t focus another minute behind his desk. “Especially when there’s day baseball being played in Queens,” says Riccio, an avid New York Mets fan. So he texted a friend, took a “long lunch” and hopped the 7 train headed for Flushing. By 2 pm, he was leaning back in the bleachers, craft brew in hand, to watch his Mets on a sunny Friday afternoon.
Until recently, Riccio would not have bothered trying to make the game. “You used to have to plan ahead to get a good deal, then print or pick up the tickets,” says Riccio, who last season discovered Gametime, the mobile ticketing marketplace that allows users to buy and sell tickets long after an event has started.
Like its competitors — StubHub, Ticketmaster, SeatGeek and Vivid Seats — Gametime lets you search for tickets to games, concerts and other events based on your location and budget. Gametime, though, has additional features that give ticket purchasers some advantages when choosing events: namely, in-seat photos (see what the view will be like), a shorter checkout time (tickets become available quicker — but you also have to act faster) and, more recently, the opportunity to buy tickets up to 90 minutes after the event starts.
Traditional ticket-buying behavior sees a large number of purchases on the on-sale date, with the rest trickling in during the months leading up to the event. But that’s changing as younger generations embrace apps that allow for last-minute purchasing. “Research shows that millennials and Generation Z place more value on shared experiences than material things,” valuing time, access and efficiency, says Scott Rogers, a marketing and media planner based in New York. “They’ll follow the best deal.”
Sixty percent of Gametime transactions happen in the final 36 hours before a game starts, says Brad Griffith, the company’s founder and CEO.
If you’re a fan or concertgoer who doesn’t care about the opening band or the first period, Gametime’s new feature, LastCall, provides an opportunity to see the remainder of an event — often at a reduced price. “Because it’s an expiring asset, prices fall up to 78 percent,” Griffith explains. Which is also handy for fans who may be near the stadium and decide last minute that they’d like to catch the final half of a match. Here’s an example: Tickets for an early March match between the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons were selling for the face value of $68. Fifteen minutes after tipoff, prices tumbled to $34 in the Gametime app. “When it gets close to game time, you see the prices start dropping and notifications come flying. Like trading in the stock market,” says Riccio.
Since launch, the company has grossed $300 million in ticket sales and now operates in 65 cities across the U.S. and Canada.
The idea for the app sprang from Griffith’s experience after scoring last-minute online tickets to Game 2 of the National League Championship Series between his team, the San Francisco Giants, and the St. Louis Cardinals in October 2012. But those were the days when you still needed physical copies of the tickets, so Griffith had to convince a bar manager to print the tickets before he could get to the game. Frustrated with the outdated online ticket process in an increasingly immediate world, Griffith set out to build an app that would make the process easier for fans acting on a whim. Since launch, the company has grossed $300 million in ticket sales and now operates in 65 cities across the U.S. and Canada. (For context, StubHub launched in 2000 and has an estimated annual value of $854.4 million.)
But unlike StubHub, which allows post-start purchases for some MLB teams, Gametime gives ticket-seekers late purchasing options across the board — not just from Gametime-specific sellers but also sellers in other competing ticket markets who’d rather sell low than not sell at all. The app compiles data of unsold tickets from users and various suppliers (including teams and primary and secondary ticket outlets) and displays the 50 best results for the selected venue, determined by price and location through a proprietary algorithm.
There’s a 10-second checkout time, which is roughly twice as fast as any other marketplace, according to Griffith. That’s also likely to appeal to the same demographic who opt for Ubers over taxis and choose HotelTonight for a spontaneous vacation. “We’re benefiting from that cultural shift,” says Griffith. That benefit goes both ways, especially if you’re the spontaneous type who’s happy to trade preplanning for money saved.
But even if you enjoy checking out a game or show on a whim, you’ll want to be fairly close to the venue. Purchasing last-minute tickets obviously means arriving late to the game, so it still needs to be worth it. Also, buyer beware: If you wait too long for a price to drop, those last tickets could be snatched up or you could miss your window altogether.
For some (me included), that’s a risk worth taking. Because wouldn’t you rather catch the last half of the game in a stadium, having paid less cash, than in a bar?