Confessions of a Ticket Scalper

It’s hard for me to admit because it was very shameful. But a few years ago, I was…a ticket scalper. Yes, that’s right. I profited directly from other people’s laziness and in many cases, their stupidity. I had three really good years selling sports and concert tickets; then the economy tanked. I had season tickets to five NFL teams, and a fast computer to get great seats at venues all over the country. Actually…I loved every minute of it.

My decent into scumdom started when I was in high school. Kyle and I would get my mom to write us notes to get out of school early for doctor’s appointments, so we could buy tickets at the epicenter of our ticket buying world, Sears. Sears was the only place in town that had a Ticketmaster, and they knew their stuff. About 15 minutes before post time, they would get information from everyone in line. They would ask how many tickets each person wanted, and your method of payment so they could knock the tickets out in record time. If you were in line and wanted something other than Best Available, you went to the back and waited until everyone else was finished. The first ten or twelve people always ended up with great seats. If tickets went on sale at 10am, Kyle and I were there by 9 and, usually, the first in line. That extra hour gave us plenty of time to sweet talk the two or three chicks running the Ticketmaster machine. It never hurts to get a little insurance for next time. We would always buy the max amount, which were usually six or eight tickets. We would always buy them in sets of two, so we could keep the best pair for ourselves and sell the rest. Also, by getting them as pairs, we wouldn’t have to sit with the people we were selling them to. Brilliant!

Believe it or not, tickets for the top notch concerts in the early 80s by bands such as Van Halen, Def Leppard and Aerosmith were an outrageous $7 or $8 each. We thought we were getting ripped off when we paid $25 each for sixth row center tickets to see Prince’s Purple Rain Tour, but that’s another story.

Anyway, Kyle and I were always cruising back to school with 12 to 14 tickets, hot off the press. And since we were the only ones who were able to weasel our way out of school to buy tickets, we were the only game in town. And we only sold tickets in pairs and a pair cost $25. We were usually sold out by the end of the day. The funny thing was, most of the time, we had tickets to General Admission events that weren’t even sold out. So everyone who bought tickets from us could have gone to Sears after school and paid regular price. But in the immortal words of Damone from the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, “I offer a service and that service costs money”.

So fast forward twenty-five years, I was stuck with an extra pair of tickets to a Jimmy Buffett concert because two people who were supposed to go with me, couldn’t go with me for some reason that escapes me now. Anyway, I had two tickets with a face value of $72 for the pair. I had heard of this new fangled, online thing-a-ma-jig called EBay that all the kids were talking about. So I listed the tickets for three days. They sold for $178. I was back, baby!

Fast forward another three years, I had season tickets to the Dallas Cowboys, the Indianapolis Colts, the San Diego Chargers, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals. I’m on the waiting list for the Chicago Bears, the Washington Redskins, the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles. Now why would anyone pay $200 to be on a waiting list which may take 15 years to get tickets? The Playoffs. Many teams only offer playoff tickets to season ticket holders and to people on their season ticket waiting list. Out of the nine teams listed above, in 2005 and 2006, five of them were in the playoffs. I had a ton of playoff tickets including two tickets to the AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis. I had made some stupid comment to my buddy because I was worried that the AFC Championship tickets may not sell well because they were nose-bleeds near the end zone. He set me straight in a hurry, “Dude, there are only two football games next weekend in the entire world, and you have tickets to one of them.” He was right; I made a killing.

Concert tickets, on the other hand, were sometimes a little dicey. There were two big problems. The first problem had to do with selling tickets to Rock concerts. A lot of headbangers liked to drink and bid. So then the next morning, when they were sober, they didn’t want the tickets. The second problem had to do with selling tickets to Country concerts. A lot of country enthusiasts, for lack of better terms, liked to drink and bid and had no money. So then the next morning, when they were sober and still had no money, they couldn’t afford the tickets.

My all-time favorite involved one pair of the fifth row seats to a Toby Keith concert in Peoria, Illinois. The face value was $150, and I sold them, the first time, for $320. Please keep in mind that every pair of tickets I sold was in an EBay auction. I started the bidding at one dollar, so the final price was totally determined by the bidders. Anyway, the next day I got an email from the buyer. The email said, and I quote, “I’m sorry, but I think $320 is way too much for your tickets. I would be willing to pay $50 and no more.” I replied, “You must be kidding me, right?” and blocked them from ever bidding on my stuff again. So I put them back on EBay and sold them, the second time, for $338. And heard nothing from the buyer. No payment, no communication; no hi, bye, kiss my butt. So I shot off a nasty email and blocked them from ever bidding on my stuff again.

Now, by this time, I was starting to worry because it was getting dangerously close to the date of the concert and I would need time to ship the tickets after they sold. I had one last chance to sell my tickets and, maybe, the third time would be a charm. I put them on and sold them, the third time, for $285. I stated specifically in the listing that I had to have payment immediately after the auction ended because I would have to overnight the tickets the next day, before noon, so they would get to the buyer on the day of the show. The auction was over and no payment. I send an email, which stated the obvious, and the buyer replied and said to have the tickets ready to ship because she would pay for them first thing in the morning. Halleluiah, I might get rid of these damn tickets after all and still make some money.

Well, ‘first thing in the morning’ comes and goes. Noon comes and goes. I send a flurry of emails and no reply. Crap! I’m screwed. At 6:30pm, I got an email from EBay stating that payment had been received. Holy cow, there had to be a way to get two concert tickets to Peoria by the next day! I was on the horn with USPS, no. I was on the horn with UPS, no. I was on the horn with FedEx, yes. Yes, the guy from FedEx said they could get the tickets there by noon the next day. Yes, yes, yes! As long as I delivered them to the plane that was departing in 15 minutes. Dammit!

I ended up refunding her money and eating the tickets. Even now, when anyone mentions Toby Keith, I have just one reply, “You know what? Screw Toby Keith.”

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