The New England Patriots are suing StubHub (online tickets) for aiding and abetting season's ticket holders who want to unload game tickets at a premium. I have not idea whatsoever what the fine print in a Patriot's season's ticket owner's contract says, but if the owner has indeed agreed that he won't resell his tickets at a premium, then so be it.
But it does get me thinking about scalping in general, and where I come down on it is pretty clear. I'm no "all hail the unbridled free market" fanatic, but in general, beyond whatever legal honor code teams make their season's ticket holders sign, and beyond the tax implications, I cannot for the life of me see what is wrong with ticket scalping.
That said, I take a little half-pirouette here to say that I HATE the fact that teams sell blocks of tickets to the likes of TicketMaster, which then pumps up the "handling charges" so that the prices look suspiciously scalper-like. Why do I hate this? Because I'm one of the boobs who sits there on redsox.com when the tickets come available trying for 6 hours to get 4 seats (or 2 seats) for an August day game against Tampa Bay or Kansas City or the Beacon Hill Little League, only to come up empty. So I resent like mad the deals done with ticket resellers. I just don't happen to mind the entrepreneurial spirit of "little guy", independent scalpers.
Personally, I've only participated in the scalping market twice - both times as a scalpee. The first was for a Celtics game. Given the current market for Celtics tickets, this was of course quite some time ago. It was for a "big game": a hyped-up shoot-out between Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins. My husband really wanted to go, and I decided to take him for his birthday. I paid through the nose, negotiating down a bit so that we'd have enough cash left over for a slab of cardboard pizza and a plastic cup full of nasty beer, but the guy selling had something I wanted and I was willing to pay.
My other scalping event was also years ago, for a BC football game. Beautiful day. First game of the season. The Eagles were playing Rutgers (my husband's alma mater). College football is fun. Why not? We went out to BC looking for tickets and found a student selling his father's 50 yard liners. We asked him what he wanted for them, but all he was asking was face value since, as he told us "my father wouldn't want me to sell them for anything more than that." We would have been happy to pay a bit more, but were happier - of course - that we didn't have to.
I've been tempted a couple of times to get scalps for the Red Sox, but haven't actually gone through with it. But that's my choice.
If you were smart enough to get tickets for an athletic event or concert that turns out to be SOLD OUT and in demand, why can't you profit from it? Not being able to do so seems downright un-American. After all, as the initial purchaser, I've assumed the risk: that the team will have a bad year, that no one will want to see the game, etc.
The bottom line seems to be that the teams themselves want to control the re-sale market. When they do the reselling, it appears that for now they aren't jacking up the prices. But it seems like only a matter of time before the teams get in on the auction act and do some online scalping of their own. This will be an interesting one to watch.