Wednesday, September 23, 2009
A scalper outside of the Rogers Centre shouts, “Get your Blue Jays Tickets!”
Another scalper not too far away shouts the same slogan. They about to break the law, but the two uniformed police officers 10 feet away stand idle. Ticket peddlers, like the ones routinely seen and heard outside of the Rogers Centre, rarely have to worry about getting caught.
In Ontario, it is against the law to resell tickets at prices higher than what they were initially acquired for. But police say the problem lies with catching them in the act.
When a scalper is attracting customers, they’ll say, “Get your Blue Jays tickets” or something similar, but according to Toronto police Detective Peter Harmsen of 52 Division they’re not incriminating themselves.
It’s complicated when no transaction involving tickets has been made yet, even though they are 10 feet away, because no crime has been committed yet, Detective Harmsen explains.
To get the evidence and charges laid, a plain-clothes undercover cop like Harmsen becomes involved.
But scalpers aren’t easy targets.
“The scalpers get to know us and we get to know them,” Harmsen said. They become aware of the officers that are undercover, after they’ve been written up for scalping multiple times.
Then, the process towards getting a scalper off the streets is a slow one, Harmsen added. While “it’s not hard to build a case against [the scalper],” the detective said, to get time in jail, they would have to be registered and cited between two to four times for scalping. After that, they would be put on probation. And if they get caught scalping while on probation, a scalper then receives jail time. If the probationary period expires without any incident, the process starts over.
In Ontario, not only is it illegal to sell tickets at a higher price than when they were first issued, but also it’s also illegal to purchase scalped tickets. The maximum fine for individuals caught in such activities is $5,000 and the fine for companies found scalping or buying scalped tickets is $50,000.
Experts say scalpers can get the tickets they sell in a variety of ways: through corporate giveaways or resell tickets they receive for free. Scalpers also buy from people looking to recoup some of the money they spent on a ticket they cannot use. Here, a scalper can buy tickets for less than face value and try to flip them at a higher cost. Scalpers also do this when they buy tickets in bulk; a likely scenario is when a scalper takes advantage of group sale packages by purchasing 20 tickets at $50 each and the face value of each single ticket is $70.
Pre-sale passwords are crucial to the scalpers; it allows them first dibs on tickets and allows them to buy as many tickets as they want, usually the best ones available. If pre-sale passwords are not an option, they’ll wait in line for box offices to open.
While the scalper draws in a customer with their slogan “Get your Blue Jays tickets” police say “getting their ticket” also means the customer is breaking the law.