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Gallo Center warns of high-cost tickets

When buying tickets online for arts and entertainment events, pay attention to who is doing the selling.

If you're not careful, you could pay triple or even quadruple the price.

For example, tickets to the touring Broadway show "The Wedding Singer," to be performed Nov. 27-29 at the Gallo Center for the Arts are $45-$89 when purchased from www.galloarts.org. Plenty of seating options are available.

But if you buy them from www.coasttocoasttickets.com, you'll shell out $231 to $324.

Lynn Dickerson, the Gallo Center's chief executive officer, sent an e-mail Wednesday warning patrons to avoid "unscrupulous third-party websites."

"It's huge ripoff for people," Dickerson said in a later phone interview. "The sad thing is, I think people accidentally end up there."

A Google search of "Gallo Center events" listed several other broker sites with exorbitant prices. The sites include www.stubhub.com Ticket Network Direct, used by Zvents, a service linked to msn.com and other news sites around the country including modbee.com, and www.ticketseating.com.

Dan Day, director of interactive media and audience development at The Modesto Bee, said he is concerned about the problem.

"The Bee has complained about the way our calendar vendor presents this information," he said. "We're working to resolve the matter. In the meantime, we urge our readers to buy tickets directly from local organizations."

Viveca M. Woods, a publicist for www.ticketseating.com and www.coasttocoasttickets.com did not respond to a request for a phone interview Friday afternoon. No one could be reached for comment from the other ticket broker sites.

In California, it is legal to resell tickets at higher prices as long as the sales are not done on the grounds of the venue.

It's impossible to tell how many people have bought the higher-priced tickets from scalpers. Unless people complain, the venue never knows about it.

Complaints made

Dickerson said the issue came to her attention when a man told her he couldn't afford to attend John Cleese's Gallo Center's October appearance because the tickets were $90. In fact, the Gallo Center didn't sell any tickets for that much. The issue came up again last weekend, when she learned that a couple had bought $50 tickets for "Lord of the Dance" for $80 each from a broker.

In a recent Internet search, she noticed that tickets for country singer Sara Evans' Dec. 2 show at the Gallo Center are going for $100 at broker sites when the official prices range from $39 to $75. The show was 50 percent sold as of Friday afternoon.

"We get this reputation as being expensive and for the elite and all the things we're trying to avoid people thinking about us," Dickerson said.

Kit Casey, managing director of Turlock Community Theatre, said there is also a problem with similarly named Web sites. The correct Web address for his venue is turlocktheatre.org. But people who visit turlocktheater.org or turlocktheater.com are directed to ticket broker sites.

"It's important to be spelling those Web sites correctly, because if you're not, it looks like it might be the right place, but it isn't," he said.

Other local venues have avoided the problem. Sue Richardson, manager of Modesto's State Theatre, and Sara Jones, who manages Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora, said they have not seen scalpers reselling their tickets.

Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at lmillegan@modbee.com or 578-2313.

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