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Ace Ticket: “Great” Prices for Red Sox Tickets?

Ace Ticket adWhat Boston Red Sox fan wouldn’t have wanted to see the seventh and final game of the ALCS playoffs to see if their favorite team would make it into the World Series?

Ace Ticket, a large broker of tickets advertised the day of the big game that they had tickets available at “great prices.” [Boston Globe, October 21, 2007]

For this game, Ace Ticket prices ranged from a “low” of $309 for lower bleacher seats to $2450 for field box seats:

ace prices

Those prices indeed are “great” (as in high), and it would be hard to imagine “greater” prices (although another seller had box seats behind the dugout for $5500 each). These tickets were marked up multiple times their face value. By comparison, based on prices for the regular 2007 season, bleacher seats normally sell for $23, and field box seats sell for $105. Playoff seats are priced higher: $25-$60 for bleachers, and $170 for field box seats.

[As an aside, Ace Ticket is selling bleacher seat tickets for game one of the World Series for $1095 and field box seats for $8900 each.]

Current Massachusetts law forbids the scalping of tickets by only allowing tickets to be resold by licensed brokers for no more than $2 above the face value plus certain limited business expenses.

So how does Ace Ticket get away with reselling tickets marked up so many times their face value? The state Department of Public Safety doesn’t enforce the law! Accordingly, Ace Ticket has tucked away this provision in their terms of sale:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Important: Also Note: In Massachusetts, the resale of tickets to certain events is regulated by statutes and regulations, including G.L. c. 140, ßß 185A ñ G, that authorize certain officials, including the Commissioner of Public Safety, to bring legal action against ticket resellers for claimed violations. In order to buy a ticket from Ace Ticket, you must acknowledge and agree that you cannot and will not bring any claim or cause of action in any private suit or administrative proceeding that is in any way based on Ace Ticketís alleged violation of any such statute or regulation, including, without limitation, G.L. c. 140, ßß 185A ñ G, and that your sole and exclusive remedy for the violation of any such statute or regulation will be to file a complaint or other notice with the public official responsible for enforcement of such statute or regulation. By purchasing a ticket from Ace Ticket, you expressly waive and forever release all claims that you, individually or as part of a class, might bring in a private action based on the alleged improper resale of regulated tickets in violation of any such statute or regulation, including, without limitation, G.L. c. 140, ßß 185A ñ G. I HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I HAVE READ AND AGREE TO THE ABOVE-STATED TERMS.

Translation: You agree not to sue us if we overcharge you, and all you can do is complain to the state or the city (which history shows will do nothing to address your problem).

While one Massachusetts consumer activist, Colman Herman, has tried to fight the ticket brokers on his own (and is winning), remarkably the state legislature is poised to repeal the state ticket scalping law.

The result: ticket brokers 1, consumers 0.  Go Sox!

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17 thoughts on “Ace Ticket: “Great” Prices for Red Sox Tickets?”

  1. Let me guess. MA politicians prefer to see sales tax charged over the tickets rather then to see their voters get in the game for a reasonable price. Obviously, MA politicians all have sponsored box seats where they “host” re-election campaign fundraisers.

    BTW: I don’t think you can contractually agree not ignore the law, so that provision means nothing, does it?

    Edgar replies: Generally speaking waivers are allowed in contracts, that is why so many companies require arbitration and make you agree not to sue in a class action.

  2. I think this is a great example of how the free market should work. Anyoe buying tickets from a scalper knows what they are getting into. I don’t see a problem with it. I do, however, think that the venue should do enerything it can to ensure that huge blocks of tickets are not purchased by scalpers. Everyone should have the same chance to buy the tickets at face value from the venue itself – if you don’t/can’t then be prepared to shell out the bucks!

  3. @ shawn: There is virtually no way that event organizations can keep scalpor and resellers from getting large blocks of tickets. By professional merit, these guys know better when and where to get tickets than the regular customer, who just wants to occasionally visit an event. IMO, they do nothing else than snatching tickets from the public and charging money for doing so. They provide no economic activity. That is also the reason why scalping and ticket snatching is often forbidden by the government.

    And now I’m on a rant anyway: it is staggering how wholesale ticket providers such as TicketBastard overcharge you selling you a ticket. It is ridiculous that as a customer, I have to pay a seperate charge for the ‘service’ of purchasing a ticket. It simply makes no sense. Translate that to going to the supermarket and ou get the casshier charging you for the ‘usage’ of the cashier station and the product belt.

  4. The recent opening of ticket sales for the Hanna Montana where all the tickets at all the venues for all the scheduled dates sold out with in minutes of the opening shows how the ticket resellers have the edge over the individual consumer. Ticketmaster (I think) has the visual recognition system (CAPTCHA sp?) in place but somehow the big resellers have figured out a way to defeat them. They can then charge their outrageous prices for the concerts that seemingly every young girl wants to see.

    I don’t mind paying a fee to a Ticketmaster etc for purchasing a ticket, but paying the scalpers fees is illegal, as it should be.

    Edgar, can you be forced to ignore a law? Sure, you don’t have to buy the ticket, but it doesn’t seem right. It surely isn’t ethical.

    Edgar Replies: Bob, if you are buying these tickets online and they disclose the terms of the sale, you can either buy or not buy. If you buy, the broker will assert that the terms become part of the deal. It might be possible that a judge would rule that those restrictions on bringing a lawsuit are ineffective because the consumer really could not bargain on that point in the contract. In other states, mandatory arbitration clauses (instead of going to court) have been invalidated in certain circumstances.

  5. Jasper,

    If you stop buying tickets from scalpers, they will have no reason to snatch them all up, becuase they won’t be able to make a return on their investment. I am simply making the point that the marketplace is setting the price – NOT the scalpers (they can only charge what someone is willing to pay).

    In regard to ticket brokers, they have every right to charge a service fee and recover their administrative costs. HOWEVER, I do think they do themselves a diservice by making it painfully obvious what they charge for this (possibly becuase it is required to be disclosed – I don’t know). If it was simply built into the overall cost of the ticket you probably wouldn’t think twice about it. I agree most ticket brokers have a monopoly on a lot of venues and acts and I think their should be more competition to lower the market price of those service fees.

  6. @ Shawn: Don’t worry, when I buy from scalpers, I never pay face value 😉 Nevertheless, it happens quite frequently that I am in a ‘sold-out’ stadium, where not all seats are filled. Those tickets are in the pockets of unsuccessful scalers, or ticket brokers, and were not bought by people that refused to pay their ridiculous prices. It is sad to see that the your ‘free’ market leads to people sitting at home, and not cheering for their team.

    One other remark on your ‘free market’ argument. An essential argument to have a truly free market is there are many customers who can choose between many goods from *many* competing sellers. In the case of tickets, there are often not many tickets, and even less sellers. U2 simply only comes two nights to the arena here. TicketBastard is the only ‘legal’ supplier of tickets. IMO that means that the market is so restricted that it can never be truly free. Hence, it is not very illogical to actually help the market to be as free as possible, in view of the limited amount of goods available. ONe way of doing that, is to make sure it’s the fans who get the tickets, not companies that nothing else than leeching on their wallets.

    Incidently, I don’t understand why event organisers allow scalpers and ticket brokers to rip of their customers. Why don’t they just increase the price to market value themselves? Yeah yeah, I know risk management, blah blah, but really, do you need to worry about not selling out in the world series, Superbowl or Police concerts?

  7. (1) At lot of people who don’t like how something works (like scalping) try to say “why don’t they just make a law to stop it?” Now we know why.
    Laws are useless without enforcement, and too many laws makes it exceptionally hard to enforce and merely makes lawyers and their high rates more of a necessity.

    (2) To stop buljk puchase of tickets, limit the amount to no more than, say, four (4) to any address and any purchase.
    This won’t necessarily solve the problem, but might give more individuals a fighting chance to get some.
    Or how about giving an ID number to all purchasers then have a random “lottery” drawing to see who will get them after a certain period of people submitting their credit card.
    Of course, the venues have no incentive to do this since it creates MORE work for them and the same amount of revenue.

  8. Jasper is wrong in his shot at Massachusetts politicians. The State Ethics Commission has ruled pretty strictly that pols can’t even access tickets for face value from the club as it looks like a perk.

    On the other hand, Rep. Rodriques and his House colleagues seem to want to roll over for the big boys of reselling. One guesses it has more to do with campaign contributions and good lobbyists more than free tix.

  9. @ RS:
    (1) I know perfectly well how scalping works. Got the best deal EVER, while leaning against the back of a cop cruiser. Understandably, the scalper was very ready to finish the deal. The local police here is pretty strict in enforcing the law that scalping is only allowed at or below face value.

    However, I do think it is ridiculous that I need to buy my ticket on the street from a shady character, rather than from the box office. In fact, I’d be willing to pay face value (I never pay a scalper more than face value, usually less) if I could just buy my tickets from the box office. Just because I don’t like engaging in a possibly illegal act.

    (2) Bulk purchase of tickets should simply be forbidden, unless by bona fide groups (friends, families). I know that it is hard to legislate that. Quite frankly, that’s not my problem, but that of the government and enforcement. They wanted to get elected, so they should just deal with it, and do what I hired and pay them for!

    @ Media Watch: Wanna bet Kerry and the Kennedies have nice seats for the World Series? Wanna also bet they didn’t stand in line with the fans to get those tickets? It is also interesting that the ticket brokers have plenty of money to lobby with. Fans don’t (anymore). They paid through their nose to see their team. It’s ironic that fans pay to be lobbied against their interest.

  10. Let’s get real. The agencies who regulate this matter are looking the other way for a reason. Someone is getting an envelope full of money somewhere.

  11. Maybe they are looking the other way becuase they just don’t care! Is ticket scalping really that big of a problem in the grand scheme of things? I’ve never had problems getting tickets to any event I really wanted to go to and I have never utilized the services of a scalper.

  12. @ shawn. The regulating agencies SHOULD care, as it is their reason of existence. Is scalping a big thing in the grand scheme of things? No. Is road improvement? No. Do you still want it done? Yes.

  13. Well said Jasper.

    Any impropriety is a big thing…it just that sometimes there are bigger things, like people’s lives in war zones, child labor zones, exported job zones, etc.

  14. How about this, once an event ticket price is established, make
    it illegal for that event ticket to be sold at any other price.
    Arrest entities who sell it for more. Do this for every event.?

  15. How about people stop complaining and wake up at 10am and buy tickets when every body else does? People are lazy and refuse to wake up early on a Saturday morning to buy tickets. I’ve seen the ticket bot that Ace Tickets and others use, and it is actually much slower than a human in buying tickets. It only gives them an edge in simulating 100’s of humans. Just like most people are too lazy to fly to Sierra Leone and pan for diamonds, you pay somebody $1,000’s-millions of dollars to someone who has. The same goes for tickets, you pay for the service. You are too lazy to get it yourself so you pay somebody else to do it.

  16. @K Leonard

    I understand your point, but your example is a bit off.
    Is it worth it for me to fly to South Africa to buy a diamond for $100 rather than pay someone here in the USA $3000 for it?
    the problem is the “overhead” expense, which would cost about $3000 in flight costs, not including transportation on arrival and having to know where to look to get these diamonds, with no guarantee that I’m getting a real one. Add to that the time I have to take off to get there and it’s worth paying the extra “fee”.

    When it comes to tickets, two things:

    (1) going to a ticket booth will not usually give you any monetary discount, even though you think it would
    (2) going there doesn’t guarantee that you get a ticket

    Is it worth going out of your way for the same chance of getting a ticket at the same price?
    Unfortunately, this is why ticketmaster has gotcha, through their strong-arm tactics against the entertainment industry.

  17. These arguments have been going on since the beginning of time. Scalpers are a way of life, just like the pushcarts outside the park. “Whatever the market will bear” is what controls their action. I still prefer to watch ’em on a big screen tv at the club in an air conditioned room with very reasonably priced drinks AND have instant replay. Once game is over, I’m 5 minutes from home.

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