Seat surfing

I have an admission to make, I am a seat surfer. What is a seat surfer? A seat surfer is someone who buys the cheap seats and then works his way into empty expensive seats. After all they are empty. So if you are one of those who are too shy to get in a seat that you didn’t pay for or mind someone coming up and saying excuse me I think you are in my seat then you are probably not a seat surfer and should stop reading now….

But if you are like me and get a thrill out of getting to the best seat you can and don’t mind saying, “Oh I am so sorry, I am in the wrong seat I hope I kept it warm for you”, then read on because you are a seat surfer. I have managed to work myself and others up to front row seats in concerts and sporting events, like Dave Mathews, the Rolling Stones, and the Olympics. One time I surfed my way into the dressing room of the Duke Blue Devils after they won the ACC tournament.

A couple of rules for seat surfers –

  • Always be courteous and friendly
  • Understand that you are taking a risk of being thrown out of an event by seat surfing

A couple of tools for a seat surfer –

  • A small pair of binoculars
  • Wear nice clothing, looking professional can really help, put a tie in your pocket to put on depending on the tactic you are using.  If you are a woman you have an added seat surfing benefit, use it.  
  • If  you can make a realistic laminated badge that you can wear with a lanyard around your neck that looks like a press pass, VIP pass or an executive of the venue it can work.

Now how to seat surf –

  1. At the first part of the event, sit in your own seat and pay attention. Pull out those binoculars and start looking for your new seat. Look for blocks of empty seats, many times corporations buy blocks of good seats for VIP’s who never show up.  Also pay attention to the gatekeepers, “keepers” who are keeping you from your good seats. You are looking for the weak link, the hourly employee who isn’t doing a very good job checking ticket stubs or who isn’t paying attention.
  2. Remember that you have to give it enough time to make sure that everybody who is coming to the event has had time to get there. If you move too early you run the risk of getting asked to move multiple times.
  3. After the event has started and you have found the weakest link it’s time to make your move with one of these tactics:
    • “Move with a crowd.” Sit back and wait until your weak link is overloaded with people trying to get through their check point then slide right through. If they try to stop you act like you didn’t hear them, remember most people will not leave their post especially if more people are hitting their post trying to get past the check point. 
    • “My hands are full.” This one works with two people usually your date or significant other. Make sure both of your hands are full with a couple of drinks, popcorn or something else. Again wait until the gate keeper is busy then you and your friend approach the keeper, tell your friend to keep on going like they are oblivious to their surroundings and no matter what the keeper says keep on going. If the keeper stops you your hands are full so you fumble around trying to free a hand so you can reach into your pocket to get the stub. Take your time and look frustrated but be nice. All the while your friend or partner keeps walking, the longer you stall the further your friend gets away. The idea is by the time you have fumbled and searched your partner is nowhere to be found. Then you tell the keeper that your partner has the tickets and more often than not they will just let you go through. If they don’t then you have just accomplished getting your friend up front.  
    • “Let’s be friends.”  Most keepers are just kids doing a job. Whether you slip past them or not is not a big deal. Sometimes I will walk up to the keeper and start a conversation like I am waiting for my partner got slowed up in the bathroom or concession stand. Strike up a conversation, be interested in the person, talk about them, How is their night going? Are they a student?  If they insist on a ticket stub tell them you are waiting on your partner who has the stubs. If they are too anal about their job, they are not the weak link you are looking for, after a few minutes of conversation look frustrated that you have been waiting for you partner and walk off, many times you can come back and employ tactic a or b, because you are now friends.  There is another version of “let’s be friends” that I have used to get multiple people past the keeper.  Get past the gate keeper using tactic a or b, then come back out going past the keeper. Make sure that they know that you came from the good seats and strike up a conversation. Ask them if they have seen your partner? How their day is going?, describe what your partner is wearing and then head back to your good seat give it a few minutes and then come back to him and ask him again, when he says no, just say I’ll be right back and go looking for your partner. When you come back a few minutes later with your partner, the keeper is your friend and they assume that you belong in the good seats because they have seen you come up twice from the good seats to ask about your partner. Usually no check is necessary. If they ask for you stub remind them that you had talked earlier, fumble and search and then say that your other friend inside has the stubs.
    • “Act like you belong there.” This is where the tie and maybe a navy blue jacket come in. Most of the keepers are temporary hourly employees who don’t know any of the management. So you walk up to the keeper and ask him some questions as if you are his boss.  “What time did you get on duty?”  “Did you clock in?” “Have you had a beak yet?” “Have you seen Bob?” like he should know who Bob is. The idea is to make the person believe that you are his boss or his bosses boss, so you may want to come back a couple of times and ask manager type questions. Once you have accomplished your mission, you have lots of choices. Walk up to the keeper and tell him to make sure that nobody gets past him without a stub and act like you are going to your next stop and walk right past them. You could even tell them you need help at another gate and send them away, letting them you will cover their post. Tell them you are giving the keepers bathroom breaks and to take 10. Once you have established yourself as the boss you can get the guy to do anything.
    • “Backdoor.”  Again this usually requires being dressed like a boss. Find the back entrance the employees use and just walk in. It helps to employ a fake lanyard around your neck that you printed up with the name of the venue, VIP, Press, etc on it.  One time I was at a Dave Mathews concert; I had seat surfed all the way up to the front row. I was headed back because my wife didn’t want to do any surfing that night. I jumped over a rail that separated the cheap seats from the good seats not thinking that I had to be careful because I was going backwards, when a keeper came up and grabbed me. He told me he was tossing me out. I explained that I was not trying to advance to the more expensive seats but he was a tough one and out I went. I just waited a few minutes looked for an exit door and knocked on it. Another patron inside heard a knock on the door and opened it. I was back in the concert 2 minutes after he had thrown me out.
    • “Have a seat.”  Many venues, especially outdoor venues have a waist high wall with places for people to enter where the gate keepers are.  Just lean up against the wall and watch the keeper.  When he gets hit with a rush, just flip you legs over the wall and sit down immediately. Make sure you weren’t detected and walk to the end of the row a off you go.

So now future seat surfers of America, reply to this post and let me know how the surfing is going and let’s create new tactics to hone the sport.