SCALPING: A MATTER OF DEMAND

Scalper. Just the sound of the word is enough to make the average person grimace. Imagine a person whose business is to wait in line like a vulture to pounce on the best tickets to a rock concert so he can resell them to an unsuspecting customer for three or four times the original price.

The hard truth is that you and I keep scalpers in business. They know our time is more valuable than our money and that we might as well pay them to wait in line for us.

Scalping is one of the purest forms of free enterprise; even the managers of the city’s largest ticket outlets can’t deny that. It provides a textbook example of supply and demand.

Scalpers say it’s unfair to blame them for such incidents as the riot at the Rainbow-Tick-etmaster outlet over Van Halen tickets or the carnival-like atmosphere that surrounded the Jacksons Victory Tour. Ticket distributors say that to a young concertgoer, half the excitement is the socializing that goes on in the ticket line.

The major concern is that only wealthy people will end up getting those prime seats, so promoters try to curb that tendency by pricing tickets as though everyone had the same purchasing power. That effort fails, however, because there’s a large dollar difference between the actual cost of a ticket and what the ticket is worth to a fan. A band like Van Halen may be able to pay all of its expenses and make a healthy profit by charging $13.50 for each concert ticket. But to a die-hard fan, the same ticket may be worth three times that amount. That’s the price gap that Scott Baima and Tom Kartsotis have capitalized on with Texas Tickets, one of the city’s largest scalping businesses. Co-owner and manager Kartsotis is a cocky but likable 26-year-old who is the thorn in the side of men like Rainbow-Ticket-master owner Lou Dickstein, Ticketron manager Matthew Whelan and Reunion Arena manager Jack Beckman.

Kartsotis began scalping tickets to help pay for his tuition at Texas A&M University. He quit school and began hiring contract laborers to stand in concert ticket lines at places like Ticketron and buy as many prime seats as possible.

He realizes that concert promoters could put him out of business if they would price concert tickets according to demand. He says that pricing prime seats in the $30 to $40 range and pricing less-desirable seats in the $10 to $8 range would kill his business.

Dickstein, Whelan and Beckman believe that it’s up to them, the promoters and the entertainers to keep tickets affordable and accessible to the general public. Each man admits to trying ingenious ways to beat the scalpers. Beckman pushed for a city ordinance that prohibits selling tickets at city facilities for more than the box-office price; it passed in January 1983. Dickstein has tried to beat the scalpers by selling tickets from one section of seats and then from another instead of selling them from the best seats to the worst. And he and Whelan say that their respective staffs have become fairly adept at recognizing scalpers’ faces.

“It’s a game,” Dickstein says. “You finally reach a point when you are so discouraged, because you really don’t know if you’re fighting something that people really want fought. It’s kind of like narcotics and prostitution. The demand is there, and I don’t think the public wants it to go away.”

Beckman says he believes that Dallas still has one of the best reputations for fair distribution in the nation.

Computers revolutionized ticket distribution several years ago by making the same tickets available to everyone at the same time. Beckman says he’s currently talking with a corporation about the feasibility of improving the system within the next two to three years to allow concertgoers to buy tickets with credit cards 24 hours a day from ticket machines located across the state.

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