Last week I took my wife to the Portland Trailblazer vs. Utah Jazz basketball game. We had upper bowl seats, but planned improving to lower bowl seats by using season ticket holder upgrade vouchers from the Jazz or through buying fire sale tickets from the scalpers outside. We were disappointed to find out the Jazz didn’t have any lower bowl seats available for the ticket upgrades. With the Jazz out of the playoff picture, I thought lower bowl seats would be available. The Jazz ticket office must have discounted the remaining seats in order to move the ticket supply.
No worries as I started working plan B – checking for lower bowl bargains from the ticket scalpers outside the arena. In buying from ticket scalpers outside, I have tried to only buy from scalpers who I see outside every game. If you think about it, a regular seller has to be a honest seller. If not, previously stiffed ticket buyers would demand justice. Other safe individuals to buy tickets from are father’s with children standing next to them and Grandma’s!
The first ticket scalper I approached had around 30 basketball tickets. I asked him if he had any lower bowl tickets and surprisingly he said no. He indicated lower bowl tickets he had were quickly purchased 30 minutes ago. I began to worry the box office had discounted too many lower bowl tickets. I went to the north east corner and asked another regular ticket scalper. He had two lower bowl tickets left behind the basket on the 25th row. Face value for those tickets was $89 and I knew the season ticket holder cost was $51. He initially asked for $50 per ticket and when I balked, said he would go as low as $45. I asked how much he would take off for my upper bowl tickets, but he said he had too many upper bowl tickets and wouldn’t be able to sell them.
I struck gold with the next ticket scalper. He had two mid-court lower bowl tickets on the 13th row. Face value of the tickets was $186 and the season ticket holder cost was $126. I offered him $45 per ticket (all the cash I had left) plus the two upper bowl tickets. He agreed to my offer and told me he had bought them from someone else, so if for some reason they were fake tickets, to come back out and he would refund my money. The basketball tickets were legitimate and my wife was all smiles being down so close.
Three days earlier I bought airline tickets for a business trip to Boston. The trip was seven days away and unlike falling sports tickets, my airline ticket was $800. Had I selected a direct flight, the cost would have been $1,300. Why do last minute ticket prices differ so much for airfare vs. sporting events? My blog post on the economic model of sports tickets compared to airline tickets explains the answer.