Scalpers Blues

Buy World Series tickets cheap. It's the seller who has to worry.

A lot of people are whining about World Series tickets. Saying Ticketmaster screwed them, that viperish brokers are charging too much money, that none of it is fair. They're right. It's an ugly business. But I'm going to give you an almost sure-fire method to see the Marlins play the Yankees and, better yet, almost surely pay below face value.

But first, let me tell you a little story, a morality tale, if you will, about the National League Championship Series with the Chicago Cubs. It's a tale that centers on ten seats that I snapped up from Ticketmaster for game three at Pro Player Stadium. Section 103, row 12, near the Cubs bullpen. Though their face value was $35, I paid $420 for the ten. That included tax and delivery.

I figured I'd use four tickets for my family and then spread the wealth to friends and coworkers. But that didn't happen. What you're reading is more a confession than a column. You see, dollar signs flashed in my head. The intoxicating impulse of greed took hold.

I decided to go scalping.

First, I checked the market. A ticket broker from the classifieds offered me upper-level seats starting at $150 and places in section 103 for about $300. But those prices sounded inflated. A trip to eBay wasn't very promising. Bids on Marlins tickets were scarce, and most of them weren't much over face value. At a site called where a dozen or so tickets were listed at prices ranging from $200 to $2,000, I put mine up for $420 apiece just for the hell of it.

Florida Statute 817.36 forbids the sale of sports tickets for more than a dollar over face value, but I wasn't planning to break the law. I was going to subvert it. Brokers get around the statute by selling package deals. Just throw in a useless extra and you can sell for as much as the market will bear. I would offer a beer at the game. Might as well share the incredible wealth that was inevitably coming my way.

A day or two passed. Nothing. I went back online and lowered my price to $250. Still nothing. That was OK. I always figured I'd have to sell them at the game, although I knew the market at Pro Player was unpredictable. The 1997 World Series proved that, starting with game six. Some friends and I went with upper-level tickets and tried to trade for better seats, but all the tickets seemed to be going for at least twice face value. So we sat up in right field at the top, in the Himalayas, where I finally got to visit that Buddhist guru I'd been meaning to see.

But game seven was a different ballgame -- the ultimate example of how flimsy the Fish market can be. This time, we traded for club-level seats at well below face. Then I tried to sell my leftover, but nobody bit. Eventually, I tried to give it away. No takers. I still have an unused ticket to that extra-inning all-time classic.

For the Cubs game, I was hoping for a game six market. It was on a Friday night, when people like to go out, and the Marlins had already proven they were as exciting a team as ever shone on the diamond. Even if South Floridians stayed in their shells, I figured Cubs fans, who flew down by the thousands, would be a relief valve, though I half-heartedly promised myself I wouldn't sell to them.

I tried to have standards.

One of those Cubs fans was 21-year-old Christopher Trifkovich, who set up camp about 4 p.m. that Friday outside Pro Player Stadium with some 30 tickets. He claimed the seats came from a friend and were mostly earmarked for buddies. He was planning to sell a few, but he insisted he wasn't going over face value. "I thought it would be great to make money," Trifkovich says. "But this was a trip for pleasure, not business."

As he waited outside the stadium, two men walked up and told him to put his arms behind his back. "They didn't say anything about who they were," he says. "I don't know Miami. I thought I might be getting robbed."

They were Miami-Dade police officers, who handcuffed Trifkovich and led him to a bus. Several cops were working the off-duty scalping detail, all of them paid by Pro Player Stadium. Turns out that any unauthorized sales, at face value or not, are illegal on stadium grounds. Since Trifkovich was asking face value, he wasn't charged with scalping -- they hit him with trespassing. In Florida, you can't be arrested for trespassing without a warning. In this case, it comes in the form of signs on stadium grounds forbidding criminal activity, police contend.

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman