How to buy World Series tix online and not get ripped off (FAQ)

With all seven games sold out, the only way to buy tickets safely is to go online. You'll pay a huge premium, but at least you won't get turned away. Here's how to be careful.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
5 min read
Seats for tickets to the World Series are selling for an average of $800, and individual seats can go for thousands each. If you are careful, you can buy safely. StubHub

It's World Series time, and if you're a fan of either the San Francisco Giants or the Texas Rangers looking for tickets to any of the sold-out games being played over the next few days, don't despair: You can get in.

Of course, it's not going to be cheap. Since the only tickets that are available are on the secondary market, they're going to cost substantially more than face value. For example, in San Francisco, where tonight's game two, and games six and seven (if necessary) will be held, the average price for all tickets is about $800 each. Good seats are going for well into four figures.

So, assuming you've made the decision to spend a month of rent (or more) on one or more ducats, how can you do so and feel confident that you're going to actually get to listen to the Star Spangled Banner alongside thousands of your fellow fans?

First, you should know that it's perfectly legal for ticket owners, such as season ticket holders, to sell their unused seats, and to do so for prices above face value.

But since you probably have questions about how it all works, CNET is here to help with this FAQ on the current ticket-buying environment:

I want to buy a ticket to the World Series, and I don't know anyone personally who's selling. What are my options?
There aren't that many. If you walk up to either the Giants or the Rangers ticket window, you're most likely going to encounter someone who wants to laugh at you for harboring the notion that the games aren't fully sold out.

Your best option for finding World Series tickets, regardless of the cost, is to go online to StubHub, which is the official ticket marketplace partner of Major League Baseball, and each of the individual MLB teams. Other sports use other marketplaces. The NBA, for example, partners with Ticketmaster's TicketExchange service, as does both the NFL, and the National Hockey League.

There are other marketplaces, as well, but they are generally not official, unless they are affiliates of the official sites.

How does the system work with these online re-sellers?
It's actually very simple. Because each ticket to a major sporting event like the World Series has a bar code, sellers are able to transfer control of the ticket (for which they can set any price they want, as long as it's above face value)--via the database record associated with the bar code--to StubHub, or TicketExchange.

As explained by StubHub, "Once [the seller has] entered the bar codes, we issue new tickets with unique bar codes to the buyer and the original bar codes [the seller] entered are deactivated."

When a buyer goes online and purchases the ticket from a list of available seats, the marketplace service then e-mails the buyer the tickets in printable PDF form. The tickets have a brand new bar code. And that means that that the original physical tickets will no longer be recognized by the automatic scanning systems used at the gate.

This is an example of ticket listings on StubHub for World Series tickets. StubHub

Can I be sure I'm not going to get ripped off buying tickets from StubHub or similar marketplaces?
If the site is legitimate, like StubHub--which is owned by eBay--or TicketExchange, you can. That's because they offer buyers a guarantee that the tickets will be good: "You will get your tickets in time for the event," reads StubHub's guarantee. "Your tickets will be authentic and valid for entry. Your tickets will be as good as or better than the ones you ordered. You will be refunded if the event is canceled and not rescheduled." For its part, TicketExchange promises: "Tickets purchased on TicketExchange are guaranteed to get you in. The seller's original tickets are canceled and a new set is issued for you."

In the case of online marketplaces that are not official league partners, you would be wise to double-check the site's guarantee, and see if there's any way to confirm its legitimacy.

Are there multiple sites selling the exact same World Series tickets?
According to StubHub public relations and corporate communications manager Joellen Ferrer, there aren't--unless the sites in question are affiliates. Ferrer explained that the tickets available on StubHub are unique to that service, and shouldn't be available anywhere else. However, there are ticket aggregators that are affiliates of multiple marketplaces that will sell the same seats. Those aggregators, such as FanSnap, or SeatGeek, share in the commission for the sale of the tickets. And buyers on those sites are protected by the StubHub guarantee, Ferrer said.

What happens to the original physical ticket when a sale like this occurs?
Although ownership of the digital version of the ticket--in other words, its database record--has transferred, the original owner still has the physical ticket. That ticket will no longer work if presented at the ballpark.

I bought what seems like a real (physical) ticket from someone, either on the street or from someone on Craigslist. How can I tell if it's valid?
You can't. The days of a physical ticket being the only thing that matters for entry into a major sporting event like the World Series are long gone. It's not that the physical ticket you bought from a scalper can't be valid. It's that there's no way to be sure until you try to get into the stadium, or arena, that the rights to that ticket haven't been sold to someone else. If the ticket is rejected at the gate, you're not getting inside, and good luck tracking down and getting your money back from the person who sold it to you.

In almost all cases, the teams or the leagues will not help you with recovering your money in any way.

There are also plenty of counterfeit tickets floating around that look real. Obviously, they too will be rejected by the scanners at the gate.

I bought a World Series ticket from StubHub, but I'm worried something will go wrong when I get to the ballpark. What do I do if that happens.
Ferrer said that StubHub will have representatives on hand in the box offices of both the Giants and the Rangers to deal with any customer service issues. However, be aware that the guarantee the service offers applies only to the person who bought the tickets directly from StubHub. If you buy tickets from someone who got them from StubHub, you are not covered by the guarantee.