SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Carl Conde couldn’t wait.

With fond childhood memories of attending Ballet West’s performance of The Nutcracker at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Salt Lake City, Conde was looking forward to bringing his own children to enjoy the show.

“When I was young, we got all dressed up and we went as a family,” Conde recalls. “I remember going and seeing the costumes and it was fun, it was wonderful. And my kids, I wanted to have them have the same experience that I did.”

He was especially excited to have his daughter, Kate, who is taking ballet classes, in tow to see the world-class performance of the holiday classic.

With his children and his parents accompanying him, Conde and crew reached the doors to the theatre on Friday and were given what calls “a gut punch.”

The five tickets, which he had purchased for nearly $900 on a website he had found online, were phony.

The fake ticket on the left, compared to the actual ticket on the right. Courtesy of Carl Conde.

Conde scrambled to pull up the emailed receipt with his order number, but to no avail. He had been duped by a clever scam. The tickets he had purchased online – and had overpaid for – were no good.

“I was showing them emails and this lady sees the price that I paid and she started a little pucker. She was blown away by how much I spent,” Conde says shyly. “I don’t buy tickets to concerts really and I just wanted to have a good time and thought that was the norm. And yeah, I spent way too much. She’s like, ‘Yeah, I don’t have your tickets. This is fraud.’”

Fortunately, the folks at Ballet West were able to find a spot for the Conde family, saving the big night from becoming a less-than-memorable disaster. However, both the company and Conde are hoping Friday night’s ordeal can serve as a word of caution to others looking to catch the show.

If you want to see The Nutcracker, Ballet West staff says the best place to go for tickets is the source itself. Not only can it prevent a ‘gut punch’ at the door, but it might be the best deal as well.

“Sadly, there have been many stories of individuals who have purchased tickets online from sites that are not the official ticket source for the show and they show up at the theater very disappointed to find out that their tickets are either not real or they’ve significantly overpaid,” Ballet West’s Senior Director of External Affairs Andrew Goldberg states. “And if they had just come directly to the original ticket source, they would have had real tickets, had paid a much better price and had a much better experience overall.”

Stories like Conde’s happen way more often than the company would like to see, he adds.

It was a lesson learned for the Highland father, who was grateful they were still able to attend the performance.

“It’s just a beautiful show, our balcony was just great and we had a great time,” Conde says.

His six-year-old ballet student had her eyes glued to the stage the entire time; it was a dream come true for her, Conde says. His eight-year-old son, Calvin, while understandably a bit less enthusiastic about ballet, still had several moments of awe, especially when Clara and the Nutcracker’s sled flew around the theatre during the second act.

“He went crazy,” Conde laughs. “He was like ‘Look! Did you see it flying!?’”

Courtesy of Carl Conde

Even though things worked out on Friday, Conde is still a bit frustrated at the depravity of the scam. He’s been in contact with his bank, who is investigating a possible refund of his money. He’s also considering reaching out to the FBI to make them aware of the fraudulent website.

“Don’t cut corners,” Conde says as a word of advice for folks looking for tickets online. “I think I trust Google too much, and I utilized a place you feel like you can trust but there are people scamming all the time. And I was that was me this time.”

Ultimately, Conde is grateful that Ballet West, which is in the thick of its most successful Nutrcracker season yet – and can boast the show as the longest-running production of the Tchaikovsky classic in the United States – saved the evening for him and his family at no additional cost.

“Especially for a company and a beautiful theater like that, you would imagine that they’d like ‘I’m sorry. This is what it costs,” Conde says. “I’m surprised they had tickets and they just said ‘Merry Christmas.’ No one does that anymore. They just made the Christmas spirit even brighter and more meaningful for me.”