Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pimp My Ticket

Have you tried to buy scalped tickets outside the Verizon Center? It's quite the experience.

Mr. 14th & You and I like to take in the occasional Caps game. We root for the home team, but neither of us really considers ourselves to be dedicated fans. It's just good relatively inexpensive entertainment to go out to a game. Yet, for 2-1/2 hours of diversion it seems silly to pay the $35 box office price. So we hit F Street in search of nosebleed seats on the night of the game.

Wow, do you get the hustle out there. From what we can tell, there are ticket pimps and actual ticket sellers. The ticket pimps will grab you from the crowd and steer you toward someone offering $75 to $150 rink-side seats for "face value" — usually $10 over the value printed on the ticket. We openly declare that we're cheap seat folks, but every scalper tries to "up sell" us. One ticket pimp directed us to a man selling the pricey seats with the predictable $10 surcharge. We rejected the offer and searched the sidewalk for the next seller. The ticket pimp later returned and apologized profusely for his "friend's" behavior and then directed us to two other men who were selling the same class of seats at the same price.

Mr. 14th & You had the following typical exchange with them:

14th & You: What do you have?
Scalper: Center ice $150.
14th & You: Thanks, but that's more than we're willing to pay
Scalper: Make me an offer.
14th & You: You won't like any offer I make
Scalper: Try me. Make me an offer.
14th & You: No
Scalper: Make me an offer.
14th & You: $35 each.
Scalper: You can go jump in the river 35 times.

What's funny is that all of this takes place in front of the police and in front of the Verizon Center sign stating that buying and selling tickets at, above, or below face value is verboten. It's also interesting to me that neither the box office prices or the scalper prices go down after the puck drops. After all, if Abe Pollin will take a $50 million taxpayer handout for the new scoreboard and luxury suites, I think that he would also want to take another $40 from my husband for two tickets. There are a lot of fans dressed as empty seats at every game.

We finally found a guy whom we trust to give us a fair price and we seek him out. His tickets always scan at the gate too. If you believe in free markets, when a buyer and seller can reach a mutually agreeable price, the transaction is fair. I still have to say that the scalper hustle is really unappealing. How long has the ticket pimp phenomenon been going on at the Verizon Center? Do other cities/venues also have this quasi-organized black market?


Anonymous said...

There are usually always 10 dollar nose bleed tickets available AT the box office right before the event. Try and purchase them there. Often times, the hustlers will try and tell you they are sold out, when the game isn't.

Anonymous said...

Can I still get a coffee from Sparky?

14th & You said...

When we've popped in to the BO just a few minutes before the game, the cheapest tix we've found have been $35. Maybe we need to wait it out a little longer.

As for the question about Sparky, are you referring to Sparky's Cafe on 14th? They closed a while ago, and the owners of Cork almost immediately started renovations.