HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

February 26, 2007

Already ridiculous ticket prices could get worse

By Jesse Menden

Well, it might be time to ask the boss for a raise.

Last week, the house and the senate in the state legislature started looking into repealing a law that prohibits ticket scalping in Minnesota.

While getting tickets to sporting events usually is not of great concern in the Twin Cities, the government is taking away the last place we could get tickets at a reasonable (depending on your definition) price to sold-out events.

In the age of the Internet, tickets are very easy to find for any event, but often the price will cost you more than an arm and a leg, leaving the street probably the best place to land a pair of tickets.

The Minnesota law that makes it criminal to sell tickets above the face value does apply to Internet sites, but that doesn’t stop many.

A quick view of eBay reveals many tickets to Wild and Timberwolves games. But don’t expect a deal, many of the tickets, especially for the Wild, are selling for several times the amount they are worth.

At the bottom of each listing is a disclaimer by eBay that the auction will end when amounts exceed the listed face value, but there are ways for sellers to get around that.

First of all, the seller set that maximum amount. So, the final amount could be arbitrary or include miscellaneous fees.

Another way is for the seller to disclaim that all of the money above and beyond the face value will go towards the shipping of the tickets, whether that means driving the tickets to the box office, or just e-mailing them.

Including an arbitrary item in with the tickets is another way to making a nice profit for sellers.

Just out of curiosity (trust me, I’m not going), I searched eBay last week for Timberwolves tickets against the Dallas Mavericks tomorrow night.

I found one listing for two nice lower level tickets that have a face value of $60 per ticket. The maximum bid eBay would allow on the two tickets was a whopping $258, over $130 more than the face value.

So, how did the seller get around this? Add a piece of Timberwolves memorabilia with it. This listing stated that if the auction went over face value, a random basketball card would be included and that would cover the additional money.

Another web site, stubhub.com has a little different format, but is equally as expensive.

This is a site where people who have tickets to events can sell their tickets for a set price. The site disclaims that sellers are responsible for abiding by local and state laws.

Almost every ticket on the site listed under the Minnesota Wild is above face value, including the 15 percent fee stubhub.com tacks on to the sellers.

I don’t believe that every seller is located outside of Minnesota, which would then make it legal to sell them above face value.

A quick look on the site revealed outrageously priced tickets. A pair of upper level tickets (face value: $12.50 for season tickets, $16 for single game) for a late-March Wild game against Phoenix were listed at three times the face value.

The tickets were listed for $56 a piece. So much for trying to go to that game.

I support free market, and supply and demand. America was built on those principals. That is why I don’t have a problem with making scalping tickets legal again.

But the legislature is getting rid of the last place an Average Joe could pay face value (or close to it) for sold-out events.

It takes a little more guts for a scalper to sell tickets above face value in person, with the threat of a policeman being undercover, than it does to sell them online.

If the law is repealed, my budget for sporting events will skyrocket.

But there is a more discouraging issue than my thinning wallet if this law is repealed. Scalpers and ticket businesses will eat up more season and single game tickets, knowing they can make more money with the law not interfering. That will result in it being much harder for casual fans to get tickets, even before a season starts.

But it isn’t all bad news. Some of those scalpers that hang around the Metrodome in mid-summer will be able update their wardrobes from the 1980s if the law is repealed, and perhaps they can get a haircut, too.