Print and Go Back Page 2 [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Updated: January 30, 2:33 PM ET
No ticket? No problem

ESPN The Magazine

Here are the rules to scalp by:
Need Tickets?
There is absolutely no shame in working a street corner.

Don't let inflated early prices get you down. Monitor StubHub and Craigslist, and if the market hasn't settled enough to buy before gameday, walk around outside the stadium in search of desperate men. "Don't assume the scalper is selling for more than face value," Bill says. Adds Tony: "If it's a half hour before game time and more people are selling than buying, you're gonna get a deal. Panic is in the air."

"If every scalper is saying, 'I need tickets,' even if it's early, you may want to overpay," Bill says. "As game time gets closer, there's gonna be nothing out there."

Many diehards feel it's their duty to put a homer in the stands. "Look on your team's site and message boards," Mike says. "There's always a ticket thread, and usually they only sell at face." Work the stadium lots early, when families and true believers show up. Says Bill: "Heck, sometimes I'll get free tickets from fans."

Be aggressive. Says Tim: "Go to the stadium and ask fans, 'Who's selling?' or, 'Who's got extras?' A scalper might try to muscle you off the corner, but I've never seen a real fight." You can also run a Craigslist ad. Your post might get flagged—brokers are forbidden and users' objections oddly arbitrary—but there's nothing wrong with simply announcing, "I'm buying."

The Internet brings out inexperienced sellers, so don't take the early bait. "I call them quasi-brokers," Mike says. "They ask for too much money, then panic when it gets closer to the event and sell at a reduced rate. That's Craigslist: panicky sellers dumping overpriced stuff at the last minute."

"If a seller wants you to Western Union him money," Bill says, "that is pure scam." So is asking you to go off-line to swing "a better deal" on the side. StubHub handles scammers so that you don't have to. But if you're using Craigslist, ask to meet the seller in person. Mike's rule of thumb: "Are they Google-able?" Also, if you can't buy in person, use a trackable method of payment such as PayPal. And as Tim suggests, search online for an image of a real ticket to make sure you don't get stuck with a fake one. "Go to eBay even if you're not gonna buy there," Tim says. "A lot of people have pictures of the tickets in their listings."

E-mail tickets are the future: You print them out, ushers scan their bar codes, you get in. Says Tim: "I've gotta log in and tell the team I want to e-mail the tickets, then I enter the buyer's online address, and he gets an e-mail from the team. Once he accepts the tickets, I can't e-mail them to anybody else. So the possibility for fraud diminishes."

BILL Lives in Philly but has about 25 Chargers season tickets. Can turn a $30K nut into six figures annually. Day job: runs ATMs with fees of $6.99 on the Jersey Shore.
Advice: "Don't assume the scalper is selling for more than face value."

TIM Bill's brother-in-law is a Philly lawyer. Does most of his scalping online but will work a street corner if necessary.
Advice: "Go to the stadium and ask fans, 'Who's selling?' or, 'Who's got extras?'"

MIKE Based in Manhattan, he helps Wall Streeters discreetly sell company seats. Uses group e-mails and Craigslist to pad his 300-deep client roster.
Advice: "Look on your team's fan site and message boards."

TONY Trawled Fenway Park and Boston Garden for four decades before procuring a broker's license and an office. "Most scalpers are not honest," he says. "I'm honest." Good to know.
Advice: "If it's a half hour before game time and more people are selling than buying, you're gonna get a deal. Panic is in the air."

Sport-by-sport speed round:

NCAA Tourney
Find the coaches' hotel. "Assistants don't make any money," Bill says, "so given a chance to score, well, there you go." (Be discreetcoaches aren't supposed to resell.) Also, hit up losing fans after the opening game.

College Football
If you look like Beano Cook, you might want to think twice about buying a student ticket. "When I went to Georgia for grad school, they didn't check student IDs," Tim says. "Other places, like Ohio State, are strict. Then again, I've seen listings on eBay for Ohio State student tickets that come with IDs." Penn State admits anyone with a student ticket—and $25 to pay a no-ID fee.

What's bad for brokers is good for you. "Day games during the week are tough," Mike says. "Not many people skip work on a Thursday." Be one of those people.

Again, their loss is your gain. "January sucks," Bill says, blaming crappy weather and Christmas debt for low sales. He also advises buying on weeknights. "I get as much money back as possible and move on."

Trawl after kickoff, especially at playoff time. Fans make solid plans to watch those games, Bill says, and in the end, the market tends to crash. But you're on your own for the Super Bowl, pal.