Thursday, March 12, 2009


Jimmy says his business isn't going so well these days. His work takes him around the country, but the people he's scalping tickets to just don't have the cash to spend. Every year about this time, I see the slightly plump fellow hawking his wares outside the Blarney Rock Pub on 33rd street in Manhattan. It's March madness and college basketball teams are competing just a half block away at Madison Square Garden.

He's picked what you'd think would be a perfect spot. Scalpers, like Jimmy, are usually chased off the plaza at MSG where arena security and local cops bust the ticket sellers. In New York, you can scalp tickets, but only a slight percentage above face value. Jimmy has found himself a spot in the middle of the block that has become an unofficial gateway to the Garden. Not only that, NCAA fans pack into the Rock to get a little looped before the game. It's also the unofficial headquarters for Syracuse fans.

Jimmy recognized me right away when I walked up to him to ask how business was going.
It's hard talking to the guy. "Need tickets. tickets here," he'd say interrupting our conversation. I only saw him make one sale. It didn't help when a young college kid walked into the Rock with a handful of tickets trying to unload them for just $10 a piece. That's how bad it has gotten. Kid has to pay off his loans, I guess.

Jimmy works outside of stadiums and arenas around the country. He travels from town to town buying and selling tickets and trying to turn a profit. This year, he says, he's struggling. Jimmy considers scalping an honorable business, because in his eyes, he's trying to earn repeat customers who know they'll get the real deal. Others, he warns, peddle counterfeits.

He also noted trying to turn a profit on concert tickets is even tougher. Jimmy marvels at how much some of those tickets are going for at face value, $100, $250 and higher. A ticket for a recent show by aging crooner Van Morrison would set you back $300. His complaint is, at such a high price, he'd have to sell those tickets for $400 or more and no one, he says, is buying. "I've got tickets. Anyone need tickets," he hollered one last time, before giving up in front of the Blarney Rock and trying his luck somewhere else nearby.

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