The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

The Underbelly of Ticket Scalping

I figure it is sort of like reading Time magazine - I am the "in-depth" analysis that comes after the fact.

So while I would like to write about Halloween, that is not really an option. And while I would like to write about the upcoming election, namely George W. "I lost money running an oil company in Texas" (where there is lots of oil), "I gave away Sammy Sosa when I owned the Texas Rangers" and "I helped my Daddy lose his election, so how bad a president could I really be?" Bush, I realized none of you care about politics.

So I figured I would write about my experience with a group that is generally detested around campus: The Clef Hangers.

Just kidding, put down the pitchforks folks.

I want to talk about ticket scalpers.

Back in August, my friends in South Carolina wrote me (yes, we can write) and asked me to get some tickets for the Barenaked Ladies concert. I dutifully obliged.

But last week the state of North Carolina stopped allowing South Carolinians without visas across the border (or so my friends say). So my friends did not come.

I was left with only one option: write a column about standing outside the Smith Center, trying to break even by selling back my tickets.

I found selling my tickets a lot harder a proposition than I had originally thought.

I was given the most trouble by the ticket scalpers themselves. From the outset I felt like the minor leaguer called up to the majors. Or perhaps a better metaphor would be that I was like the know-it-all your parents made you invite along to the mall - even though you had no intention of ever talking to the guy.

In other words, I was a younger me all over again.

Whatever you want to say, I was not warmly received by the more seasoned scalpers.

Because I got there early, I had time to watch these guys work. They have lookouts and all seem to work as a team, buying tickets for their friend and vice versa - in general, working closely with each other. At first they offered me $30 for all three of my tickets, which cost me $110 in the first place. I declined the offer. "Perhaps they were trying to bargain me down," I figured.

Later I realized that these guys just didn't like me all that much.

Something else struck me as bizarre about these guys. They had lots of tickets, and I was the only nonscalper out there. They were buying up all the tickets from fools like me so they could be sure that they controlled as many tickets as possible.

I began to feel less like the kid in the neighborhood that the other kids were forced to play with and more like the last independent store on the block.

But my vanity and pride held strong, and I decided to stay and sell my tickets.

What is almost as interesting as the guys that sell these tickets are the guys who try to be real savvy about from whom and for how much they buy their tickets.

These guys would come around like five times, check and recheck my ticket and offer me a price (always below what I paid for them).

"What are you stupid?" I thought to myself. "Just give me the amount it says on the ticket. This ain't eBay. I just want to get my money back and go eat supper."

Finally, this gentleman who I can only describe as my guardian angel, or maybe just Scott Bakula from "Quantum Leap" (alas, I will never know), came along and gave me face value for two of my tickets.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

With the show starting, I was getting desperate. So when the ticket scalper offered me $3 for my $30 ticket, I came close to giving in. Fortunately though, guardian angel No. 2 came and paid close to face value for my last ticket and I went to eat like a king!

The moral of this tale is that these ticket scalpers are really some cunning guys. Those ageless "I need tickets" signs are just the tip of the iceberg.

They have business cards they give out when anyone drops the word "basketball tickets."

And to top that, they basically run a cartel.

My economics professor, Dr. James Wilde, can confirm to you that my economics grade is horrible. But I do remember that a cartel is a group that controls supply in order to charge what they like.

These scalpers inflate the ticket prices and turn a profit - more or less conning people out of money that they did not have to spend.

Maybe these guys aren't OPEC incarnated, but they sure do make it hard for me to get my supper.

William McKinney is a "horrible and

pig-headed person." Reach him with

questions, comments and more personal insults at

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel's 2023 Year in Review Issue