In deciding to write this column for my blog, I may have dug myself into a bit of a hole. Anyone who knows the Suze personally knows that she is a question-asking machine. Eventually, I may be tempted to abandon this space, leaving only a link to Wikipedia in its place. So far, though, the Suze has been stepping up to the plate with a couple of questions that are actually sort of interesting, so I'm not quitting yet.
Today the Suze wants to know: "I have this extra theater ticket that I'm not going to use. Can I stand out in front of the theater and sell it? What? Why is scalping illegal?!"
Let's start with a definition of scalping: to cut or tear the scalp from. Sorry, wrong one. Let's keep reading: To resell at a price higher than the established value. Hmm, so if you stand out in front of the theater, and sell the tickets at face value, is that still legally scalping? And you can sell tickets for higher than face value on some re-selling websites, so what gives? And why am I asking myself questions, isn't that the Suze's job?
The laws on ticket re-sale vary from state to state, and I am not willing to look up all the different ones - not even for you, the Suze - but if you are looking to tell that theater ticket in New Jersey, here are a couple of guidelines for you:
- You cannot sell the ticket for more than 20% of the face value (licensed brokers can go up to 50% above face value, but I know you aren't a licensed broker, the Suze, so don't try and trick me)
- You cannot sell tickets at the venue unless there is an area specifically designated for that. And I doubt the local community theater has a scalping zone.
So you can't stand outside the theater selling tickets (and honestly, do you think people will be looking to buy tickets for Hamlet at the theater? What is this, Yankee Stadium?) but you can sell them online as long as you keep the premium below 20% - even if the eBay auction price exceeds 120% of the price, you cannot sell it.
The last part of your question, the Suze, is a little tougher. Not because its tough to explain why scalping is illegal, but I feel confident that any reason I provide you will be met with derisive scoffing. But anyway: why no scalping? I'll give you three quick reasons:
- Scalpers artificially increase the demand for an event.
- Buying tickets through scalpers instead of the venue exposes buyers to fraud and counterfeit tickets.
- People coming to the venue looking for tickets can create crowd control problems at the gate of an event.
Here is the real bottom line, and the question you should have been asking: who, exactly, do you think is coming to purchase your scalped theater tickets at 3pm on a Saturday? Honestly, the Suze, I don't know where you come up with these ideas sometimes...