How to buy a standby ticket
HOW TO PAY LESS FOR YOUR TICKET
First, establish Face Value (the price on the actual ticket, also displayed at the box office and on this site). It is the LAW that face value is disclosed separately from any extra fees, and it gives you an idea of the prices to start with.
These don't charge any fees - though some pop venues do if you pay by credit card (or by cash, or by whatever they don't want to take without charging - it can vary alas). Theatre box offices are usually open Monday to Saturday 10am to 8pm (often noon onwards if there is a Sunday performance) - but don't try and make an advance booking an hour before a performance - they don't appreciate it and most won't be able to help you as they are too busy with that show's customers. If there are no performances at a theatre at the time, they will direct you to a nearby theatre in the same chain for bookings.
At Really Useful Group, Ambassador Group and Delfont Mackintosh Group Theatres you can usually book in person without extra fee at any theatre in the same chain for any show in any of their other theatres. This at least saves a trek around town. Note, though: Firstly, this service is at box-office discretion. The theatre may decide NOT to sell tickets for other venues for a variety of operational reasons. If they can't, for some reason, please accept this and try the actual venue. Secondly: it isn't advisable to book at one chain's theatres for shows at another chain's theatres! The reason is that you will pay a booking fee if you do.
Very occasionally, at the last moment, staff might let you have something a little cheaper. you can but ask, but be VERY discreet about it.
Registered Disabled Discount
Reader Jay reminded the monkey that almost all theatres offer a generally substantial discount to registered disabled theatregoers, as well as a person accompanying them. The theatres try to allocate the most appropriate seating too, and often deliberately hold certain seats back for sale to those for whom they would be appropriate.
Over 60, unemployed, full-time student or theatre union member. Most theatres have a standby rate selling unsold seats for about 70% discount an hour before the show to personal callers at the box-office with valid ID like student cards or pension book / entitlement card. Generally cash only is the rule. Ask for your preferred seat. It is your cash! It is worthwhile as an overseas visitor bringing your ID with you as theatres will often allow, say, an American Senior Citizen on vacation the same discount as a London resident.
A bigger range of shows offers this discount than one imagines. Even top shows often fill their front row with standby users. Best of all, many theatres will take a pre-booking a day in advance and allow credit card payment. For midweek matinees, Senior Citizens can often book ahead even further - check with the box office as this varies according to sales and season.
It is also worth visiting the box office early in the day as standby tickets can go on sale early. This allows the day free without the rush of the One - Hour deadline. If the theatre is sticking to the 'one - hour' rule, still try at two hours before. You will rarely be turned away. If there is no budging, the line will start two hours before anyway, so at least you are first.
One reader even commented,
"Got a great deal (Ј20 each because I'm a student, and Ј20 for my mum because she was with me - worth trying to get them to do this)."
Not something that will work regularly, the monkey suspects, but as the reader says, why not give it a try - after all the theatre has to sell the seat or be left with it.
The Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and a few others let EVERYBODY take advantage of standby discounts without having to ask. Trouble is, the best stuff is sold out anyway and at a discount, to mailing list members.
Increasingly, the trend for holding back seats (as the subsidised companies mentioned above, do) is being followed by the most popular musicals and plays at other venues. Front row stalls particularly are being held for sale on the day - often more cheaply (though they may have a slightly restricted view of the stage, particularly where the height of the stage prevents seeing the actors' feet!).
Returns lines form outside the theatre from around 8a.m, earlier for really hot shows and in summer. Wrap up warm, take refreshments, and be prepared to wait. Make sure that you also take BOTH credit cards AND cash too, to the value of the most expensive tickets (if you are prepared to pay it!). Some box offices insist that you pay with one or the other specifically, depending on the source of the tickets they are selling you.
Ticket Booths around London
The major legitimate cut-price source is the Society of London Theatre Official Leicester Square TKTS Half Price Theatre Ticket Booth. The Website is at www.tkts.co.uk. When the page appears, look for the "What's On Sale" option in the top menu. It gives details of what is available up to 2 days ahead. Their Facebook page and Twitter give updates too. Remember, though, to ignore the Twitter Twits who push their own sites on this service. Make sure you only use the genuine TKTS one.
Half Price plus Ј3 booking fee per seat - no fee on "full price" tickets. Open Monday to Saturday 9am to 7pm; Sunday from 10.30am until 4 pm. Lines form from around an hour before in Summer, about half an hour in winter. The booth is a large white stand-alone building (with a small clock tower) in Leicester Square near the Hampshire Hotel.
It is NOWHERE ELSE in this area, whatever the tiny shopfronts or arrows down alleys say.
As reader Kathy Sutter, a TKTS fan says -
"Note the real 1/2 price booth all those shops on that side street are NOT even close to really 1/2 price"
The booth also offers a selection of discount tickets for shows in advance, up to 7 days ahead, also some available that day at a smaller discount and a few shows at full price too, allowing those theatres further from the Square a centrally located box office outlet. and giving extra choice.
The choices are on laminated boards inserted into a frame to the side of the booth, put up a half hour before the booth opens. Generally it is a mix of long running plays and lesser-known musicals with the odd ballet or opera occasionally; basically anything which has not sold 65% of its tickets for that night. There is a single line for both evening and afternoon performances.
This list changes throughout the day as allocations sell out and new choices are added. One reader reports that if you ask nicely, they will phone the theatre to get extra seats if they are not too busy. The monkey can't verify this will happen all the time - but felt it was useful to know.
A list in the window of the booth itself lists shows they NEVER have tickets for, and your chances of getting one for these shows this week. If you see anything on this list
chalked on the main frame, scalpers are at work.
Best stuff goes in the first 15 mins, and the vast line moves rapidly. The booth accepts cash (Sterling and Euros), MasterCard, Visa and Maestro / Switch, a British issued debit card. They do not take personal cheques, foreign currency (except Euros) or travellers checks. No arguments on seat locations either. It is first off the pile. Usually you get the first three rows of Stalls, or the ends of the first ten, and single people get the best deal the monkeysite finds.
Try the booth if you are flexible and always check it before buying anywhere else on the day. It is also worth checking the 'Never Get' notice on arrival in London to rule out certain shows or devise alternative ticket harvesting strategy. A daily list of available shows is also available online at www.tkts.co.uk. which will give some idea of what is on sale before you arrive, and which shows are never sold there.
Also note that on "film premier" days at the various cinemas on Leicester Square, you may have to approach the booth from another direction. Ask a police officer for advice and be prepared to walk around the "long way" (often via an access road from Orange Street) if necessary.
The booth is also equipped as a Ticketmaster Agency outlet, selling advance tickets for all shows and events at agency prices with booking fees. In Leicester Square it may be cheaper to walk to the theatre concerned to make a purchase.
In 2011 a "Loyalty Card" was launched. 6 purchases, stamped on a collectors' card, will give you Ј3 off your next purchase. A draw for theatre tokens is also included with each card. Ask at the theatre booth for details.
Other Ticket Booths
There are hundreds, in shops, shop doorways and. a few genuine ones.
Many of the genuine booths are owned by the same companies that offer discounts online - and will often do a deal on tickets for that day, to get rid of stock the company have and can't sell. They will also usually have access to the same advance ticket offers that companies put online - useful if you are travelling without computer access.
See "Avoid Touts " and "The Ticket Trail " for more information on spotting them, and do look for the S.T.A.R. symbol:
(STAR can be contacted by telephone on 0844 879 4272 or click here for the Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers website.)
Speaking to somebody - either at the theatre or ticket agency - will incur a booking fee, and sometimes the fee will be less online (check both sources if you can).
The box office will always be cheapest if buying a "full price" ticket, though, as they impose the lowest booking fee.
Theatremonkey.com always lists the box office telephone number before any others.
A reader offers the following advice if you are buying your ticket over the telephone direct from the box office, by quoting an advertised special offer reference to them:
"Always state your preferred seat locations first without mentioning the offer and then see what seat is offered. Only when the price is stated should you then say that "I have a special offer!". This invariably means getting a prime seat at a cheap price. I've often found that if you state the offer FIRST then you get offered "second best" seats. Well, I suppose they want to sell the prime seats at full price wherever possible!"
Once, when offers were a new concept, this was a really strong tip. Now, phoneroom staff really hate it as it causes them problems. Producers have become wise to it as discounts became common, and now often impose specific allocations or say certain seats cannot be discounted. Being honest and friendly goes far further than this "trick" now, the monkey finds.
Otherwise, expect to pay Ј1 to Ј8 or so booking fee PER TICKET. for buying from theatres' own telephone or online reservations service. This is taking liberties, but a personal appearance at the box office costs Ј5 plus in train fares, so sometimes this monkey goes purple and pays.
Shop around for lower booking fees - some legitimate ticket agents will do a "no booking fee" deal on a particular show for a limited period, undercutting the box office
Check if there is a charge for postal bookings. Sometimes this saves money. An innocently mailed cheque, correct for the full face value of tickets, but not accounting for any booking fee, is seldom returned - especially if a stamped, self addressed envelope is included. This little 'booking fee oversight' saves Theatremonkey banana cash quite often. Sadly, it is now being cracked down on by some, alas.
Otherwise, aside from theatres with their own booking fees, legitimate booking agents normally add a maximum 25% above face value as a booking fee. Some have access to really excellent seats at short notice and Theatremonkey has been known to try pleasing a favourite Monkeyess with tickets from this source.
Please be aware that if an event is cancelled, refunds may be limited to the price of the ticket only, with the 'booking fee' not refunded. This applies particularly to pop concert events.
Theatre chains sometimes charge a lower booking fee to buy full price tickets online than by telephone. Their own websites also may offer discounts - www.seetickets.com (for Really Useful Group Theatres), www.atgtickets.com (for Ambassador Theatres) and www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk (for Delfont Mackintosh Theatres) all do this.
Dozens of ticket agencies also offering deals. Make sure you look for the STAR logo before buying:
DO click on it to verify the agent is genuine.
"Meal plus Theatre Ticket" packages may be available with the: Theatremonkey Ticketshop. telephone 020 7420 9778 (0044 207 420 9778 if calling from outside the United Kingdom), Encore (telephone 0207 400 1253 / 0044 207 400 1253 if calling from outside the United Kingdom) and Lastminute.com .
Theatremonkey's Current Special Offers page rounds up all the Online outlets too.
WORTH KNOWING: Be careful of operators buying up of website names that LOOK LIKE, BUT ARE NOT the official theatre website. For example, the official site to buy tickets from the Prince Edward Theatre is that of the owners - delfont-mackintosh.co.uk. A search engine result, though, brings up sites like "ThePrinceEdwardTheatre.com" (example, not an actual or genuine site) before the official one in the listing. Sites like the fictional "ThePrinceEdwardTheatre.com" are owned by agents - either STAR members, STAR sub-agents or even touts / scalpers. Whoever, they are NOT the box office website and you'll pay more than you would via the official site. Theatremonkey advises strongly that you check exactly who you are booking through. On its listings pages, the monkey always shows the official sites first, followed by legitimate agents. It urges all guests to take care, as this trend is trapping even the wariest in the jungle.
Official show websites / Social Networking pages
Sometimes these are backed up by advertising on Google search engine. It can pay dividends to visit Google, enter a search such as the show's title and / or "London Theatre" and see what appears both in the results list. and the sponsored advertisements at the side of the page.
App Todaytix - www.todaytix.com allows tickets to be bought in 30 seconds or less, one week to one hour before show time. Tickets are sold at the best price available, with one of the lowest booking fees in the industry.Source: www.theatremonkey.com