The Investigators: Scalper Sites - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Scalper Sites


* A venue's legitimate site or its authorized ticket site will always say, "The official site..." A scalper site may say "official tickets" or "official vendor," but it cannot say "official site" under violation of law, according to The Orpheum's Vice President of Ticket Sales, Teresa Ward.

* CODE WORDS/PHRASES. Third-party resale sites will say "not affiliated with venue," "secondary market" or "resale marketplace."

* MISSPELLINGS. Scalper sites tend to be loose with their spelling. We found one that spelled official "offiicial." Some will say "theater" when the official venue spells it "theatre."

* MISSING SEAT LOCATIONS. Resale sites often do not reveal the tickets' seat locations. That's because some sites don't actually have the tickets in their inventory yet.

(WMC TV) - If you're just Googling for a ticket, you're asking for trouble.

Third-party ticket resellers love search engines. All they have to do is buy an ad on Google or Yahoo that puts their link at the top of the page and looks just enough like the real venue.

Then boom:  they're snaring consumers like Libba Ellington.

Ellington of Brownsville, TN, didn't know The Orpheum Theatre's web address by heart, so she Googled it to hunt four tickets for an upcoming show of Romeo & Juliet.

The first site that popped up was Box Office Memphis.

Sounds local. Sounds like The Orpheum's box office.

It wasn't.

Ellington wished she knew. Because she plugged in her credit card and bought four tickets for about $53 a piece.

When the tickets arrived, their face value was $15 a piece.

"I felt like, at that point, I had been taken advantage of," said Ellington.

Box Office Memphis is really Secure Box Office. In Mercer Island, Washington.

That's Washington state.

Near Seattle. Not Memphis.

Teresa Ward, vice president of ticket sales for The Orpheum Theatre, said Aaron and Aileen Song of Song Entertainment run Secure Box Office. Ward said they set up dozens of secondary market web sites made to look like they're stationed in any city:  Box Office Atlanta, Box Office Seattle, etc.

The Songs didn't return our attempts to reach them. Ward's not surprised.

"Sites (like Box Office Memphis) use 'robots' to buy tickets from the actual venue," said Ward. "They can actually grab up the first few rows in a minute's time.

"We can't tell when someone's gobbling up blocks of tickets because they will use different names or same name, different addresses, different credit cards."

Ward said sometimes, an unauthorized ticket reseller doesn't even have possession of the tickets it's advertising. It uses what Ward calls "speculative ticketing" to see just how much buyers will pay before the broker grabs stacks of tickets.

That's assuming the broker actually buys the tickets. Ward said a friend found that out when he bought show tickets from a broker he thought The Orpheum had authorized.

"And he never got the tickets," Ward said. "He was buying 'speculative tickets' without knowing it. They never had the tickets."

Tennessee State Rep. Ryan Haines, R-Knoxville, has drafted a bill that would require third-party ticket sites to post both the face value of tickets and their sale prices. Resellers would also have to prove they have possession of the tickets they're reselling, as well as reveal their seat locations.

The legislation would also allow venues to use paperless ticketing to admit customers. Their credit cards would essentially become their tickets.

Ward's lukewarm on the idea of paperless ticketing. "It's inconvenient for the fans," she said. "If you wanted to buy the tickets for a gift for a friend, then you've got to come with the friend (to the show)."

Ward asked The Action News 5 Investigators to post the following points about the best ways to purchase tickets to The Orpheum Theatre's events:

* Call The Orpheum Box Office at 901-525-3000 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays and during show days on the weekend or Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-ARTS.

* Visit our official website, which will forward you to Ticketmaster -- at  The Official Site of The Orpheum Theatre: (don't forget the dash). Make sure you're on the official Orpheum site by checking the URL. Look for phrases that mention "this site is not affiliated with any venue," etc.

* Visit our ticket counter at Booksellers at Laurelwood or Ticketmaster ticket centers at Guest Services booths in Oak Court Mall and Wolfchase Galleria.

* Visit our box office at the theatre during the same business hours as mentioned above.

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