Good things come to those who scalp

7 04 2013
View from my box suite @ MSG for the Pink concert

View from my box suite @ MSG for the Pink concert

I consider myself a low risk individual. The company I work for runs a lot of programs for entrepreneurs. The bigger the risk the bigger the return. Think big. Act bold. Risk a lot, gain a lot. All foreign concepts to me.

If I was forced to follow that advice, it would be as strange as if I was told I was about to become the captain of a whaling ship. What, now? You want me to exchange my MetroCard for a large wooden ship, which isn’t even as long as the G train, and do what to the largest mammal on earth? I mean, I like the way I look in a woolen pea coat, but no thank you.

However, when I talk to some of my friends about buying tickets from scalpers on the street, I get the impression that they find the whole thing too risky to do themselves.

Which I think is stupid. I’m not talking about selling scalped tickets. I’m talking about buying tickets on the street outside the venue for a show you really want to go to but couldn’t get tickets for in advance. True, the person I’m buying them from isn’t Monsieur Ticketmaster, but I usually end up paying face value for them. And the situation feels as convenient as when I buy them online where the company has the audacity to change me a convenience fee for that transaction. (Who invented the convenience fee? I think I speak for everyone when I say I want to punch that person in the face.)

But if you do consider it risky behavior, then think about this reward: sometimes I get tickets for free. Really, really good tickets, like a box suite at Madison Square Garden.

A few weeks ago I decided at the last minute to go to the Pink concert at Madison Square Garden. The only tickets still for sale online were over $100, all the cheap seats were sold out. So I decided to try my luck with the scalpers.

The first guy I went up to had tickets for $150 each. If I’d wanted to pay that much, I would have done it the legit way. So I walked around a bit, going up to normal looking people (as in, non-burley scalper-looking guys) who were standing alone, possibly waiting for their plus one to show up, possibly wanting to sell their extra ticket to me rather than eating the cost of the ticket for their no-show friend.

After hearing “no,” a few times I eventually made my way over to someone who didn’t look like a Pink fan at all. I doubted she was here for the show at all, but you don’t know unless you ask. And to be totally stereotypical, she looked like someone’s frumpy, middle-aged Latino housekeeper-slash-nanny.

I started my speech.

“Do you have an extra ticket?”

“Yes.”

Really?! I’m thinking. But I keep my game face on. “How much?”

“Free. It’s a box suite”

I just raise my eyebrows and tuck in my chin, offering my look of I-may-be-a-tunnel-and-bridge-girl-but-I’m-not-that-stupid.

She hands me the ticket and it doesn’t look like any ticket I’ve seen before. It’s my first show at Madison Square Garden, so it’s true I don’t know what their tickets look like for sure, but I’ve seen most of the other fans carrying typical looking computer print outs and I’m surprised to see this small purple ticket in my hand.

“It’s real,” she says. Then she winks at me, tells me to enjoy myself and that she’ll see me up there.

I take the ticket and walk away figuring that if it’s a fake, at least I didn’t pay for it and I can always go back to the $150 guy and buy a ticket to see the show. For that price, they’re probably good seats. Maybe even floor access.

Then I have another thought – this is how people get abducted into sex slavery. I’m totally going to be a part of the white slave trade just because I wanted to see some pop music on a Friday night. Damn my good looks!

But before I can test my paranoid theories, I have to get through the door. First up is the purse checkers. Since I left my machete at home, they wave me through. But I’m not at the ticket scanners yet. I walk up to a security guard and ask him which door I should enter. I tell him that I bought this box suite ticket from a scalper, because I think it sounds weird to say I got it for free, and I wasn’t sure if it was a fake. He takes a close look at it, says it’s real, and tells me I need to take the special escalators against the walls to reach the box suits.

I’m not feeling relived that my ticket is real. I’m feeling panicky about the thugs waiting for me upstairs. They probably place sweet ladies out front to collect innocent girls, then who knows what sort of criminals are waiting for me on the other side.

After the escalator ride, I have to take an elevator to the 10th level. The guy operating the buttons is sitting on a chair inside of the freight elevator and I ask him how big the suits are. I want to know how many attackers I’ll have to fend off.

My fear is rising, but my love of pop music is still winning out. Argh – what kind of music snob am I? I’m not even risking my life for a Nirvana reunion with a raised from the dead Kurt Cobain. I’m putting myself in harm’s way for a chic with a Cover Girl contract. Although I read an article one time where Dave Grohl listed Pink’s music as his guilty pleasure, but still.

I get off the elevator and into a decorating scheme I recognize from the time I sold beer at a Cavs basketball game in Cleveland. There’s low lighting and comfortable sofas and no obnoxious crowds. I say hi to the girl at the merchandise booth and then text a friend to let her know what’s up. Not so much because she’s close enough to save me, just so someone knows where to look for my body. I’m responsible like that.

I find the suite, the door is open, and there’re two college age kids inside already sitting on stools. The lights are off, but there’s enough light from the stage to see around the room. It’s got a private bathroom, tables set up for food catering, some open space to walk around in and about 30 seats. I walk down some steps to the first row of seats, protected by a small glass wall coming up to my hip, and then open air on to the 20,000 capacity Madison Square Garden.

The opening act is mid-set. It’s The Hives, who I last saw in 2004 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. and considered the best concert I’ve ever been to. Pretty sure I bought scaled tickets for that show, too.

My sex slavery fears are starting to recede and this is pretty…cool.

Eventually the room starts to fill up and the woman who gave me the ticket comes in. “See, I told you the tickets were real,” she says with a big smile when she sees me.

I’m dumbstruck by my own good fortune and the only things I can think to say are “thank you,” and “this is great,” which I keep repeating while nodding my head.

Between sets, people in the room are talking to each other like they know one another. But most of them are speaking Spanish and I can’t understand them. I want to know what’s going on, if this is a cult trying to recruit me, but I also don’t wanna rock the boat and get kicked out of the suite before Pink goes on.

Not wanting to let this Q&A opportunity go by I turn around to the ticket lady, now sitting behind me and ask if she reserved the suite for a specific event or just for fun.

“Just for fun,” she says with another smile and shrug of the shoulders.

“Cool. Well, thanks again!” I respond, and that was the last time I talked to her.

I don’t know why she rented the suite or why she gave me a free ticket. But that night strengthened my belief that good things come to those who scalp.

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