Saturday, October 27, 2007

This ticket scalping stuff is crap

I know I'm late to the party here, but man trying to buy World Series tickets for the games in Denver was quite the mess. My sister and I consulted by phone -- the deal was that if I could get tickets she would help me find a flight out there.

On Monday, my friend J called and asked if I would help him too. His thinking was that since I'm in New York I'd be hitting a different server than everyone in Denver. I have no idea if this is true or not but I told him I'd buy four and sell two to him at face value. Not like it mattered. Thanks to some idiot (my guess: a ticket scalping vendor) everyone got locked out. Tuesday went no better for me. I was never able to even get into the site.

I think in their reporting on the ticket sale, every media outlet missed the real story: not that the MLB's ticket system got hit by an attack, but that only 20,000 tickets were being made available to the general public for each World Series game. Coors Field seats 50,445. So where did the other 30,445 seats go? Some went to charitable organizations I'm sure. Others went to players of both teams to distribute. Still others went to local politicos (lame). Fox probably got some so they can tout whatever crappy show they want to on-camera by showing their stars in the crowd (really lame).

And the rest? Did they give them away? (yeah right) Were they all used in contests? Did the Rockies hold some back to resell on StubHub?

Yes, resell. This season the MLB struck a deal with StubHub to resell tickets through the online vendor. That's right -- rather than trying to stop scalpers, the MLB decided it too would profit from reselling tickets at artificially high and illegal prices. And the government didn't even blink!

Many states have laws specifically making it illegal to resell tickets at more than 5% above face value. You can use eBay's ticket selling tool to look up the laws in your state. But the laws are a joke. They're rarely enforced.

It's not just sporting events where this is an issue. Earlier this month CNN ran a story about Hannah Montana tickets being scalped for ridiculous prices. Now they're hurting the children! I myself got my first scalping smackdown in college. I'd waited outside the Foley's in the Fort Collins (Colo.) mall for 5 hours in order to buy tickets to U2's Elevation tour in 2001. I was third in line and really wanted floor tickets. I was in the first group let in at 9 AM sharp and it was my turn within minutes, but floor tickets for the show had already sold out. I was incredulous. I ended up buying a pair off eBay for double face value. What's next scalpers? Opera? Broadway? The saddest thing is that some seats at shows end up going empty because at some poing scalpers finally charge more than people are willing to pay, so those tickets go un-resold.

Complicit in this is Ticketmaster. They track every ticket that is sold. They have these credit card numbers. If they put a little bit of elbow grease into it by starting a task force, they could find out who these companies are and block them from buying the tickets. But the crazy demand created in part by scalpers helps Ticketmaster jack up their already ridiculous fees, so they mostly plead ignorance. They finally took one scalper company to court this year. I'd guess they want a huge pat on the back for that one. Remember back in the 90s when Pearl Jam tried to stand up to them? Ticketmaster has such a huge web controlling sales for most US venues that it's impossible for just one band, or one organization to stand up to them and make them do something.

So it comes down to the government. Until our politicians decide to make scalping illegal, or compel Ticketmaster to get off their cash-stashed asses, or make it illegal for major league teams to resell their tickets, this will continue. And it sure ain't gonna get any better.

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