Scalping Final Four Tickets Is No Slam Dunk

Reliant Stadium, home of final four where writer tried scalping ticketsWhen I bought a ticket to the Final Fourbasketball title game to resell for profit, I thought I'd hit nothing but net. Instead, I shot the equivalent of a scalper's air ball.

I purchased a $90 face-value ticket from StubHub in early March for $112 -- $135 when you total in the service charge and FedEx mailing. I still thought it was a good deal for the crowning moment of one of America's biggest sporting events, the NCAA Tournament. I was wrong. This week I resold the ticket on StubHub for $88. After StubHub took its 15%, I was left with $74.80. That's a $60.20 loss. (Remember, I paid $135 originally.)Scalping is a tough game, and I may not get a chance to compete anymore. I've been benched by my wife.

So much for my new and exciting side job. I had this crazy idea that from time to time I would buy sports tickets online at a relative bargain and increase the price in the "secondary market". That's fancy talk for any place you can scalp.

I should mention that I have written before about StubHub in this space as an observer, and I bought tickets from from the site to actually attend an event. This time was different. I was in it to score a profit.

I figured the Final Four was a sure thing. Immediately after I bought my ticket I saw asking prices for the cheapest seats listed rise to $169 in mid-March. I patted myself on the rump for my good play (like they do in basketball). I decided to wait for the week before Monday's game to list the ticket back on StubHub. Then the listings plummeted below $100. I checked eBay and saw the same descent. Still convinced interest would surge as the event got closer, I finally listed the ticket on StubHub for $143. I waited 24 hours for a bite. Nada.

I pondered waiting until after Saturday's semifinals, thinking any ticketless fans of the winners of the games between Virginia Commonwealth and Butler and Connecticut and Kentucky would pay top dollar for Monday's championship. (StubHub offered an option where you could mail the tickets to company officials in Houston, the site of the Final Four. Then you could list the tickets right up to game time.)

But I didn't have the guts. I rose from bed on Tuesday, March 29, at 3 a.m., slashed my ticket price to $88, and within three minutes I received an email that my ticket had sold. A Kentucky man bought it, I later discovered. Go, Wildcats.

So where did I go wrong? Well, I can figure out a few things:
  1. I bought a single ticket. Most folks like to go with someone.
  2. Houston's Reliant Stadium, a football venue posing as a basketball arena, will seat more than 72,000 for the Final Four. A huge capacity creates a ticket surplus that sinks prices.
  3. Semifinal tickets are actually more valuable because at least buyers know their team will be playing.
  4. I studied what sellers were asking for tickets instead of what buyers were actually paying.
  5. The service charges are too much to overcome.
  6. The Final Four is not the Super Bowl. Just getting into the game isn't enough for many. also suggests that scalper, or "ticket broker," wannabes buy premium seats (if you can afford them) to resell at premium prices. Logical, no? It's the good seats that jack up in value for a big event while the nosebleeds like the one I bought tend to be more static.

But even the pros miss once in a while. Brokers who bought blocks of tickets for Charlie Sheen's shows said in the New York Daily News that they will lose money because the seats are either not selling at all or way below face value.

That makes me feel better but it won't get me back in the game. The next time I buy a ticket to a basketball game, I'll actually show up for the tip-off.
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