STAND YOUR GROUND: Online Ticket Brokers/Re-Sellers
They wanted to see Robin Williams at the Orpheum so desperately, they drove to Memphis all the way from Paragould, Arkansas.
Kaut and Linda White should have called first.
"Within an hour and a half after they opened here, they said all the tickets were sold," says Kaut White. "And I said, 'That's impossible.'"
It IS possible, even with Tennessee's new "Hannah Montana" law. Lawmakers enacted the law last April after hundreds of families stood in line for Hannah Montana tickets at FedExForum, only to discover that online scalpers had gobbled up hundreds of the tickets. The law bans the use of software programs that allow scalpers to buy up large blocks of tickets from legitimate ticket sources.
But Teresa Ward, vice president of ticket sales for the Orpheum, says scalpers are ignoring the law and using the software anyway.
"They find ways around this, using different names, different credit cards," says Ward. "They're actually able to grab the whole front row."
What exasperates Ward even more is legitimate online ticket sharing and selling forums like stubhub.com. Instead of going directly to a show's venue or sanctioned ticket vendor, she says folks are just Googling show names and going to these third-party sites.
She proved right on-camera that those people will pay a premium.
She used Wicked as an example. The show doesn't come to the Orpheum until June, and tickets are not available for individual sale yet. When they are, she says the Orpheum will sell them either from its box office, its web site or Ticketmaster outlets for the following prices:
Ward types the words WICKED TICKETS MEMPHIS in stubhub.com's search engine. Here are the prices that come back from the sellers who do business on stubhub.com -- sellers, mind you, who don't have possession of tickets since they have not been sold yet.
When we asked Ward how sellers on stubhub.com can sell tickets that don't exist yet for those prices, she answered, "Speculation. Speculation. They are clearly speculating (what people will pay for the tickets)."
"StubHub is an open marketplace. As such, there are StubHub sellers who list tickets on speculation," says Sean Pate, head of communications for StubHub's corporate office in San Francisco. "These shows will sell out quickly. If it's the first time (Wicked is) there I expect (ticket prices) to be significant given the show's national popularity."
Ward says the Orpheum and Ticketmaster are fighting back. She says they are negotiating with each show's promoter to limit the number of tickets that can be sold to individuals and groups. She says those limits are determined on a show-by-show basis.
She says she can also track both individual and group ticket purchases on her computer. If she notices an alarming pattern, she can revoke the sales.
"I actually cancel the tickets," she says, "because I want to make sure the people who really want to see the show are getting the tickets."
Ward advises that if you can help it, only order tickets through the event's venue or through that venue's authorized ticket vendor. At the Orpheum, you can order in person at the box office (203 S. Main, downtown) 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday or at the Orpheum's Ticket Counter at Davis-Kidd Booksellers at 387 Perkins Ext. in East Memphis. You can also order at any outlet of Ticketmaster, the Orpheum's official ticket vendor.
You can also order online through the Orpheum's official web site: www.orpheum-memphis.com or call 901-525-3000.