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Scalpers struggle during hockey lockout but get little sympathy

The NHL lockout is going to have a significant financial impact on many ticket scalpers. But hockey fans aren’t showing…

By Blake Murphy , in Sport , on October 17, 2012 Tags: , , , ,

The usually packed “scalper’s corner” remains empty on cancelled game days.

The NHL lockout is going to have a significant financial impact on many ticket scalpers. But hockey fans aren’t showing any sympathy towards the industry’s least popular profession, especially after desperate scalpers tried to profit from a charity game Wednesday.

With the NHL officially cancelling October games, scalpers have been scrambling to find new sources of revenue. For some part-timers, it’s a matter of losing pocket money but, for full-time scalpers, the coming months could be difficult.

“For some guys, this is their whole income,” shared Paul, an independent ticket scalper standing at the corner of Beatty and Georgia, before being temporarily distracted by a pair of young girls looking for Justin Bieber tickets. “And there’s significant cash spent by season ticket holders, that’s all tied up.”

The cheapest season seat package for the Canucks costs over $2,000 before service charges and associated fees. Since most scalpers hold many seats in a variety of price ranges, scalpers are left right now with a lot of cash tied up in inventory they can’t sell.

Scalpers can make between 60- to 100-per-cent profit on tickets, meaning every lost sale is significant in terms of real dollars. For a scalper who may hold four seats in both the upper and lower bowl selling at the minimum price found on Stub Hub, that scalper will be losing out on approximately $460 of profit per home game lost, and these are very conservative estimates. Over the course of an entire season, a typical scalper would be looking at $19,000 in unrealized profit in addition to the inconvenience of having temporarily lost his initial cash outlay.

A ticket scalper attempts to sell tickets to the Justin Bieber concert an hour before the show.

For others in the ticket re-sale industry who are less exposed, things don’t look quite as bleak. Ryan, a ticket scalper for Showtime Tickets, thinks he and his company are prepared enough to weather the storm.

“The impact won’t be too bad,” explained Ryan, who declined to provide his last name given the generally negative opinion the public has towards scalpers. “We hold enough other seats to get by, but we’ll miss the cash flow. I won’t be making the same commissions, but I won’t be eating Kraft Dinner.”

Scalping is not illegal in British Columbia, but it is certainly frowned upon, considering the economic tax it charges to fans hoping to see a game. A blogger for Rate Supermarket, a Canadian blog focused on providing money tips and interpreting economic news for citizens, identified the loss to scalpers as the only positive of the lockout.

Not quite everyone is negative about scalpers.

“I’m okay with ticket scalpers,” says Chris Pope, a radio broadcaster and avid hockey fan. “If you pay over the printed price, then it’s your own fault.”

But a recent scalping escapade fanned public anger, provoking many of them to be less willing to look the other way.

While the NHL and the players’ association continued to negotiate to save the season, he charity game being put on by Kevin Bieksa of the Canucks on Oct. 17, showcasing Bieksa’s Buddies against the UBC Thunderbirds, saw $20 tickets surface online for up to $75. That outraged Bieksa and other participants.

“While I don’t know any scalpers personally, as a general rule I don’t have a lot of sympathy,” said Thomas Drance, a sports blogger for Canucks Army.

“Any idiot could see that this lockout was likely months ago, and you’re either prepared for that eventuality, or you’re desperately and despicably charging seven times face value for tickets to a Bieksa’s Buddies game that is being played to benefit charity.”

Profiting from a charity game is never going to be a popular choice, but some scalpers say they are left without many options in the short term.

The first regular-season Canucks home game was scheduled to take place on Saturday, Oct. 13, and three more were scheduled for October. Luckily for Paul, he has a day job to help him weather the storm. But his colleagues might not be in the same position.

“A lot of these guys have day jobs, so it’s just a little money off the top,” Paul explained. “But there are guys out here who have this as a full-time job.”

For those who fall on hard times in the coming months, it would be wise not to look to hockey fans for sympathy.