Eric Bergeson: Ticket scalping
Major league ticket scalping is a man’s world, a world of foul-mouthed, whiny, cigar-chomping, unsavory men convinced it is their god-given right to rip you off.
Ticket scalping –– the practice of reselling tickets to professional sporting events at a price higher than their face value –– was for a long time banned by law, if for no other reason than that any activity dominated by such an obviously disreputable bunch of thugs must be a threat to the public good.
However, in the past decade, Minnesota, in a rare example of a legislature lessening the reach of government, legalized scalping, figuring that it’s going to happen anyway and we aren’t going to be able to control it, so why not let it go.
I am glad. I don’t like to decide to go to down for games until the very last minute. I like to jump in the car on a whim at noon and get to the ballpark just in time for the first pitch.
Legalized scalping enables me to buy a ticket at the last minute, often for a very good seat, and usually, as long as the Twins remain solidly mediocre, for less than face value.
The price? Dealing with a male species of human two steps beneath used car salesmen, tort lawyers and television evangelists on the ethical scale.
But scalpers, as much as you wouldn’t want your daughter (or son!) to marry one, are a necessary evil.
Fact is, most good tickets are scooped up by large corporations before the season even begins. Companies intend to use the tickets to bribe clients, or to pacify their drone employees.
But the baseball season is 162 games long. Of the 81 games at any given home stadium, not all of them are at times convenient for the corporate types.
Rather than let those tickets go to waste, corporate employees and clients often prefer to sell them to scalpers and keep the cash.
The scalpers, in turn, do the work of standing on the curb and getting rid of the excess tickets.
Baseball teams have finally conceded that no matter how many tickets you sell to corporations, you still want somebody to show up to the game and fill the seat. Therefore, teams have softened their position on scalpers, who they used to view as adversaries.
In 1987, when the Twins went to the World Series, scalping was still illegal. As a college student 275 miles north, there was no easy way for me to get tickets to the playoffs and World Series unless I got on the phone and tried to track some down.
Much to my outrage, I watched the whole event on TV while people who didn’t know what a stolen base was, but who had corporate connections, bragged that they were at the game!
Some of those obnoxious people were classmates who had mercilessly teased me in elementary school for my love of the then hapless Minnesota Twins.
Now, just because these goons happened to be vice-president of elastics for Depends International, they got to attend a historic game which they couldn’t even comprehend!
Not fair. If there had been legalized scalping at the time, I could have taken out a student loan and headed to the Metrodome knowing I would be able to buy my way in without fear of arrest.
So, I was happy to drive down last Thursday for a game between two teams going nowhere fast, the Twins and the Royals, knowing I could get a good ticket from some cigar-sucking reprobate on the street.
I thought I got a good deal. I paid $50 for a ticket with a face value of $60.
The seat wasn’t quite as good as the scalper claimed. No surprise there.
But what was surprising was the father with two children who were sitting next to me. One of the kids was in my seat!
“Don’t worry,” the father said. “I had four tickets from my firm, and could only use three. I just sold your ticket to the scalper, so you can use whichever seat you want.”
I decided not to separate the kids from the Dad just to be in the right seat, so I sat at the end.
“How much did you pay?” said the Dad, idly curious.
I told him I had paid $50.
“Oh man, that guy made a killing!” he said. “I dumped it on him for $12!”
Embarrassed and exposed as a country hick ripe for the taking, I excused myself and found an empty seat far from anybody who looked like they might want to visit.