Itinerant Fan

Going from scalpee to scalper

(worldsoccertalk.com)

(worldsoccertalk.com)

I’ve had a few interesting experiences with scalpers in my time. I’ve tried to haggle with them (got nowhere) and allowed them to set their price (only to walk away and get yelled at). Another time — in front of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta before the 2002 NCAA basketball championship game — I let a more smooth-talking acquaintance try to acquire the tickets … and he and a scalper spent almost AN HOUR going back and forth on price, with me standing sheepishly off to the side, before we finally got tickets in the upper reaches of the stadium for $100 each.

And that was the last time I ever entered an event with a ticket sold to me by a live scalper.

These days I deal exclusively with virtual scalpers, aka those guys who put tickets up on StubHub, TicketExchange, etc. I’ve been on those sites a lot recently, searching for tickets to a few events I’m going to — but also to put up tickets for events I can’t go to. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a season-ticket holder, it’s that there will be a LOT of games that don’t fit into your schedule, and so it becomes incumbent on you to figure out what to do with those tickets.

For two L.A. Kings games later this month that neither Mrs. Fan nor I can make, I listed the tickets on StubHub. I don’t necessarily feel good about it, but the fact that I listed them below face value kind of erases any moral concern I might have. It’s not like I’m sort of crusader for fair ticket prices, though — the real reason I listed them below face is because that’s what the going market for my tickets is.

Seriously, the best way to understand how the ticket market works is to put a few sets of tickets up for sale yourself. One, you’ll discover quickly whether you’re the type of person who’s motivated by profit, or by making people happy (ie. putting tickets that you can’t use into the hands of people who are happy to have them). Two, you’ll get a very close look at the nuances of the ticket market, especially if you’re like me and obsessively check your listings every day to see what kind of movement has occurred.

As far as the first point, I guess I’m a hybrid: My first priority is to sell the tickets, because I’d hate to see them go unused. But unless it’s the day of the event and I’m desperate, I always study the market and set the price as high as I think I can get away with. I’m not sure anyone in my position (ie. anyone not trying to make a career out of ticket selling) would do it any differently. Sure, I’ve made a profit a couple times, but those have been for high-profile events that had a rising market — not to mention events I really wanted to go to but couldn’t because of my damned schedule.

Meanwhile, studying the ticket market is a science all to itself, and rather fascinating. Sometimes demand rises, sometimes it falls, but thanks to ticket brokers, supply almost never runs out. I’m no economist, but based on my relatively small sample size of listing tickets, it seems demand more often depends on the magnitude of the event and the teams involved than the prices. I’ve found that for me, the non-professional ticket seller, how much I make off my tickets is really a function of whether or not I’m a motivated seller — which probably goes a long way toward explaining why I don’t profit off my sales very often.

Come to think of it, I really fall more into that second category of seller; at the end of the day, I would rather my tickets be used by someone. Since I’ve already purchased the ticket, it’s a sunk cost (hey, I’m no economist, but I have taken economics classes), so the money is spent whether I go to the game or not. At that point, any small return on a ticket I’m not going to use anyway is gravy. I see this approach all the time on StubHub — look often enough at the listings for a highly coveted game you want to attend, and every once in a while a listing will come in at well below market price. And just as soon as it appears, it’s gone, either because the seller wised up and removed it, or someone snapped it up before that too-good-to-be-true deal went away. And I’ll admit, I’ve done that once or twice just to get rid of tickets.

I like to think that it’s sellers like us that keep the secondary ticket market sane. Or maybe we’re just not good salespeople.

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