NEW MEXICO (KRQE) –It is one of New Mexico’s most anticipated entertainment events. When the curtain rises in May at the University of New Mexico’s Popejoy Hall it will unveil Albuquerque’s premiere of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. “It’s the most exciting thing that I’ve seen in a long time,” says Popejoy Hall’s retired Director Tom Tkach. “It’s a big deal because (it will be) in Albuquerque. People don’t have to go to New York to see Hamilton. Years from now, they’ll still be talking about Hamilton,” Tkach says.
It’s the hottest ticket in town. However, some unscrupulous characters are out there to spoil the fun, making Popejoy Hall ground zero for an organized pack of out-of-state hustlers. They’re ticket resellers, better known as scalpers. Ticket scalping impacts practically every corner of the entertainment business from theater productions to concerts to sporting events.
“It’s one hundred percent people just scamming the system,” says Wes Edling, founder of Hold My Ticket, an Albuquerque-based ticketing company. Edling calls today’s ticket scalping business ‘a scam’. “Before, you used to have to stand outside and yell who wants tickets and then hope the cops don’t come around. That’s the old way. But now there’s no face-to-face. It’s all completely electronic. It’s a complete nightmare that’s occurred over the years,” Edling said.
Using sophisticated computer software, scalpers electronically buy blocks of tickets at face value, mark them up and re-sell them online.
Consider Hamilton at Popejoy Hall in May. Go online and you’ll find dozens of ads for websites peddling Hamilton tickets at exorbitant prices. They use online business names like Theatrealbuquerque.com, Hamilton.Albuquerque-Tickets.com, and Hamiltonpopejoyhall.com. In fact, you can fly roundtrip from Albuquerque to Mt. Kilimanjaro in East Africa for the cost of a single Hamilton ticket sold by some scalpers.
For example, last year the website SecureBoxOffice.com hawked a ticket to Hamilton in Popejoy’s row E for $2650. Popejoy Hall sells tickets in row E for $314.50.
And then there’s the online scalper, Mark’s Tickets. Last year the website claimed its Hamilton seats at Popejoy Hall were ‘discounted cheap’. In fact, some of Mark’s Tickets’ Hamilton seats were marked up more than 5 times.
In 2021, an online customer from Detroit purchased front-row seats directly from Popejoy Hall. Those same tickets ended up for sale on the scalper site Barry’s Tickets where the seats were marked up more than a thousand percent. “If you bought those seats for $2700, you’re paying about $2500 too much because these seats are going for $180, including fees, on PopejoyPresents.com,” says Popejoy’s retired Director Tom Tkach.
Another common practice is to tack on hundreds of dollars in hidden fees. Buy a Hamilton ticket in Popejoy Hall’s row X from EventTicketsCenter.com and you’ll be dinged $1229 for the seat, plus a $245.80 service charge, $9.95 for electronic delivery and $105.54 in bogus taxes. That’s $1590 from EventTicketsCenter.com for a $184 Popejoy ticket. In many cases, scalpers won’t disclose their fees until you provide a credit card.
“When they set a $500 fee, that’s outrageous. But the reselling market is outrageous,” says Hold My Ticket founder Wes Edling.
“It’s shocking how some sellers are so deceptive when it comes to fees,” says New York State Senator James Skoufis. Senator Skoufis chairs New York’s Committee on Investigations and Government Operations. In 2021, the Committee held hearings on ticket scalping in New York. “Let fans know what they’re getting into when they’re looking to buy one of these tickets and not trick them, not deceive them along the way,” Senator Skoufis said. “There are no fees in the world that amounts to any reasonable level of service charges related to a single seat that approaches $300,” Skoufis says.
It’s not just Popejoy Hall and Hamilton. “It is plain gouging,” says Santa Fe’s Lensic Theater Executive Director, Joel Aalberts. “There’s really no good reason why someone would charge that much money for a ticket,” Aalberts says.
Last year legendary folk singer Judy Collins performed at the Lensic. If you bought the best seat in the house directly from the Lensic, your ticket would have cost you $62. If you bought the same seat from Tickets-Center.com you paid $631 which includes $126 in fees. More than a dozen scalpers peddled Judy Collins concert tickets marked up as much as ten times.
“You’re not flying to Japan. You’re not doing something that’s going to cost you an around-the-world adventure. You’re just looking to go to a concert,” the Lensic’s Joel Aalberts said. “When you’re charging $500 a ticket and then you have that extra amount of money that’s going to fees someone needs to look at that and say this is ridiculous,” Aalberts says.
Last year, country music star Josh Turner performed at Buffalo Thunder’s resort. Even though the concert was sold out, scalpers were hawking tickets marked up four times.
Even the Balloon Fiesta is impacted. Admission to the annual event is $15 at the gate. But if you want to be gouged, online ticket broker Vividseats.com will sell you an admission ticket to Balloon Park for $44.
Ticket scalping is illegal in New Mexico, sort of. You see its against the law to resell for-profit tickets only to college athletic events. That means you cannot scalp Lobo basketball tickets. However, anyone who wants to scalp tickets to entertainment events can charge whatever they want.
“My humble opinion, there is basically zero transparency when it comes to pricing and fees related to ticketing. Make no mistake, that is a criminal activity,” New York State Senator James Skoufis says.
In 2007 State Senator Moe Maestas proposed legislation to ban entertainment ticket scalping. The measure was defeated. “It died an unceremonious death. There was strong opposition from these software companies that resell tickets,” State Senator Maestas said. “I just recall two or three lobbyists flying in from New York to kill the bill. It did not have a prayer,” Senator Maestas says.
“If there are a few people in New Mexico who, God bless them, are wealthy enough to afford a $2000 ticket to go see Hamilton, so be it. But the place where I believe government should step in is to limit how many of those types of tickets exist,” New York State Senator James Skoufis said.
“There are many unscrupulous people in this world and I think the ticket resellers are at the top of the pile,” Retired Popejoy Hall Director Tom Tkach says.
Hamilton will be performed on the Popejoy Hall stage May 9-28. Tickets can be purchased from Popejoy Hall online at www.popejoypresents.com or www.UNMtickets.com.
More Ticket Scalping Resources:
- Event Ticket Sales:Market Characteristics and Consumer Protection Issues
- How Scalpers Make Their Millions With ‘Hamilton’
- Stop the Bots From Killing Broadway
- Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chuck Schumer Seek Scalper Crackdown With New Bill
- The surreptitious rise of the online scalper