Jeff · May 14, 2005 at 3:38 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Huzzah-inducer alert. Word is that Seattle is soon to legalize ticket scalping.

Not that I’m boosting ticket scalpers necessarily, but there has been a distasteful double standard between the guy trying to get $50 for his $40 seats on the street and the team allowing a similar practice on the Web.

But the team selling tickets for more than face value doesn’t take place in Seattle, they say — because the servers are not in Washington.

Councilman Richard McIver cited the Mariners as a reason for reform. McIver said the baseball club maintains that it doesn’t sell tickets in Seattle for more than face value because servers that host the club’s Web site are outside the state.

I’m guessing none of these servers are over 18 years old. Can we use that “no taking minors across state lines for immoral purposes” law to bust them for this? That law applies equally well.

Far from admitting that they are exploiting a situation in order to gouge the loyal fanbase, the M’s have a flabbergasting rationale for their little shell game over the Internets.

“Our concern continues to be the protection of our fans from harassment of aggressive scalpers,” Mariners spokeswoman Rebecca Hale said. “We are going to continue to deal with that problem through existing city ordinances,” a reference to the mobile-vending law.

If a scalper harasses me, I have a foolproof way of getting him to stop: I tell him I’m not going to buy his tickets.

If he keeps harassing me for money, he’s not a scalper, he’s an aggressive panhandler or a mugger. Or possibly a team official hawking a 20-game package.

[Previous USSM posts about this issue here.]


10 Responses to “Scalping”

  1. Gunga on May 14th, 2005 4:24 pm

    I don’t make it to Safeco much, but the majority of times I’ve been offered tickets they’ve been below cost. I only purchased scalped tickets (a couple of times) that look like a good deal, and both times I’ve gotten better seats than I had planned on for less money than I expected to spend. If only someone would scalp some garlic fries and a parking spot I might make it up more often.

  2. Gunga on May 14th, 2005 4:39 pm

    Okay, granted scalped means sold above face value. What the hey though, I’m a free market kind of guy. You sell ’em for what you can get. The laws are generally meant to prevent people from buying blocs of tickets then selling them when to people who can’t get tickets to the “sold out” game. I imagine it will be a while before sell-out games are a common occurence at Safeco again. You know, “there are still plenty of good seats available.”

  3. Steve on May 14th, 2005 5:04 pm

    The Mariners taking it on themselves to enforce the mobile vending ordinance is simply a way for them to force people like me to the ticket window instead of buying a previously sold ticket.

    When I go to Safeco, I usually seek out a mobile vendor to buy a cheap ticket for about 50% of face value, just so I can get inside the stadium. And if I wanted to get a premium seat (which I’ve done on occasion) you can usually find a street vendor hawking better seats than what you can get at the ticket window – and for less cost.

  4. Matt Williams on May 14th, 2005 6:46 pm

    Honestly, with the creation of “services” such as Ticketmaster (and other sources following suit) scalpers don’t seem nearly as bad.

    When you’re charged $5 for a $10 ticket to buy it over the internet, with no other purchase options, that’s just screwing performers and fans out of their money. I love musicians who are willing to stand up to the shady crap that ticket sellers have been pulling.

  5. Dan T. on May 14th, 2005 7:04 pm

    I can see legalized scalping within the city limits actually being beneficial to the Mariners in a couple of ways.

    First, it will allow them to make more money off their Ticket Exchange site. Previously, a season ticket holder with a Seattle address on his or her account couldn’t use the site to sell tickets for more than face value. Once the team’s commission was factored in, that meant Seattle residents could only sell their tickets on the site at a loss (which was one of the main reasons I never bothered using it). Once the face-value limit goes away, more people can sell their tickets at a higher price, which means more and higher commissions for the team.

    Second, it might increase advance sales of tickets for games for which people are worried about a lack of face-value tickets. It might not increase the net number of tickets sold, but I’d imagine the team would prefer to sell a higher percentage of tickets in advance so that they could start collecting the interest sooner.

    It also wouldn’t surprise me if they cut down on (or eliminated) hiring the off-duty officers to police the scalpers, which would save a little bit of money too.

  6. James on May 14th, 2005 7:30 pm

    [deleted, off topic]

  7. Dash on May 14th, 2005 8:05 pm

    I’ve only bought M’s tickets from scalpers once. That was during the 116 win season. Playoffs versus the Yankees. Myself and 3 friends (2 male, 1 female) couldn’t get tickets through Ticketmaster, but wanted to go to the game so we figured we would have to go trough the scalpers. We managed to find four seats, 2 pairs together but in seperate locations. Got to see the M’s lose the game but it was worth it to see the game.

    Scalpers do have their uses. I think we paid a reasonably fair price (granted I can’t remember what it was though I did get to sit with our hot blonde female friend who never did pay me back. It was kinda worth it even though she is married now. Not to me. (: ).

    Generally if the only time I use scalpers is the Seahawks games. I’ve managed to get really good seats after kick (tickets start to lose value then).

    I don’t have a problem with scalping as long as the independent ticket agents aren’t trying to extract an unreasonable price. In general they get their tickets for free or at an extremely reasonable rate. That rate means that even if they sell their tickets for face value they are making at least a small profit.

    The M’s already allow their season ticket holders to scalp their tickets for a profit on their website in the marketplace on their website. I will admit that I haven’t checked recently but even 2 seasons back when the M’s were posting a winning record season ticket holders were asking for 2x as much as the face value for their tickets and getting it. I’m afraid I don’t have any screen captures to back this up (It was 2 seasons ago after all), but it is true.

  8. Jim on May 15th, 2005 12:55 pm

    I’m glad to see this effort by the City to eliminate the double-standard that the Mariners were attempting to exploit through the Ticket Marketplace. I wrote a strong letter of thanks to Peter Lewis when he first exposed this a couple of years ago (when M’s tickets, like 16th century Tulips and 1999 DotCom stocks, were experiencing a price bubble). Maybe Peter should cover the action inside the stadium too?
    And since you quoted Ms. Hale – does the team realize how arrogant, self-righteous, and unfriendly they sound with her as the “official spokesman”? If I were in charge I’d find someone who could make statements in a much more customer-friendly manner.

  9. mZak on May 16th, 2005 10:15 am

    This is excellent. It is far more civilized to puchase a ticket this way. I don’t mind buying from scalpers, but it’s a bit of a hassle at times when you just want to get a good seat in the stadium. Hopefully, they will organize the mobile vendors much like they do at Camden Yards, which is to say they line them up behind ropes and stanchons and make them hold up their tickets. You then walk along the line, while they cannot talk to you unless you talk to them. You pick and choose the tickets you want. Done. It’s a great system.

  10. Ed on May 16th, 2005 1:28 pm

    Pretty much everyone wins in this scenario — The city, the scalpers, and ESPECIALLY the M’s — everyone EXCEPT the fan who wants a face-value ticket.

    This clears the way for the M’s to do a Cubs and open their own ticket brokerage, thus removing scads of the best face-value seats from the market before they ever go on sale. They also get a cut of the Ticket Marketplace, which will become even more popular (see below).

    Next in the pecking order are the brokers/scalpers, (most scalpers are ticket brokers with leftover supply, or who scare up extra supply from “distressed” ticket holders day-of-game) who no have more incentive to buy many more seats in advance.

    The city comes next, because they now get tax revenue from scalpers and ticket brokers! Huzzah!

    After them come the season-ticket holders, few of whom put their seats up for less than a markup on the Marketplace site in the first place — now that’s going to be even more attractive than exchanging them at a loss.

    Next winners are the fans who can throw money around with no problem, or who can write off part of the broker-inflated ticket price, or save up for one game per year. For them, no game will ever be sold out.

    Really, the only loser is the guy who wants a face-value seat for a game. The best seats taken for resale by the M’s and scalpers, unused seats resold (or at least attempted) at a profit by their owners…

    Yep, this is really good news.