BancorpSouth Arena officials fighting scalpers

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Published: January 10,2012

Tags: arenas, concerts, entertainment, events, online, scalping, tickets

TUPELO — BancorpSouth Arena’s officials have announced a new concert — Eric Church in April — and with that comes the battle to keep concert tickets in the hands of real — and local — music fans.

Ticket scalping has jumped from street corners to shady websites. Scalpers are legally buying tickets and are reselling those tickets at much higher prices or choosing the “print at home” option, and then making copies of one ticket and selling the worthless copies for face value or higher.

“The Internet is a double-edged sword,” said arena director Todd Hunt. “It’s made for easier distribution of tickets, but now scalpers have access to the same inventory.”

One way of identifying and stopping scalpers is by looking at ZIP codes.

Most music fans buying tickets to shows at the arena are from North Mississippi or Alabama or Memphis and buy their tickets at the arena’s box office, online, over the phone or at local retailers. Most scalpers, though, are buying tickets online or by phone from places nowhere near Mississippi.

Using ticket sale breakdowns from two recent successful concerts at the arena, Hunt explained at a recent Coliseum Commission meeting how online ticket scalping is growing.

Most of Casting Crowns’ tickets were sold at the arena’s box office, with just 20 percent of tickets bought online. Most of those buyers were from North Mississippi. At least 12 tickets, bought online from buyers in New Jersey and New York, were probably scalped.

For Reba McEntire’s show, 55 percent of tickets were bought online, and 40 percent were bought at the box office. Phone and retail made up the remaining 10 percent. Again, most buyers were from around Tupelo.

However, 98 tickets were sold online to buyers in Connecticut and 71 to buyers in Los Angeles. Four were sold to buyers in Chicago over the phone.

Hunt said he identified less than 150 scalped tickets sold for the sold-out Jason Aldean show in February. One fan told the arena, by way of its Facebook page, she’d found scalped Aldean tickets online for as high as $700 each.

Though the arena sees the problem happening, Hunt can’t stop it.

“They bought their tickets legitimately, but we can’t go out and void that ticket just because we don’t like their ZIP code,” he said.

Arena officials came up with a different solution instead: Soon the arena will no longer sell concert tickets to buyers with zip codes thousands of miles away.

“We realize that may cut into a grandma who lives in Utah who wants to buy a ticket for her grandson as a gift. It makes it harder to buy tickets as a gift. It’s not a perfect solution, but grandma may have to mail a check to mom to buy the tickets,” Hunt said.

Other venues have tried different methods to curb scalping.

At Miley Cyrus’ last tour, fans bought paperless tickets and had to show their credit card and a photo ID at the door to get in. At the door, they received a printout showing their seat location.

The problem with the paperless ticket is that the equipment needed to print them is expensive.

“We would have to increase fees or prices elsewhere, and we don’t want to increase fees to have that technology,” Hunt said.

Scalpers are preying on fans who do not buy many concert tickets, and therefore may not be familiar with what the official ticket sellers’ websites look like.

“If you type into Google, ‘Jason Aldean, tickets, Tupelo,’ you’ll get us, but you’ll also get 20 other sites, and some of them look like us,” Hunt said.

The BancorpSouth Arena website, bcsarena.com, links directly to Ticketmaster’s site, and that’s the only way to buy face value, non-scalped tickets to arena events online.

Hunt also suggests that fans look into an organization called Stand with Fans, which helps ensure fans get actual tickets at face value. There is a link to Stand with Fans by way of the arena’s Facebook page.

“Obviously, we want everybody that pays to pay face value,” Hunt said. “Then they’re more likely to see more shows. They’ll have more money to see more shows.”

He said there have been a handful of fans to show up at shows like McEntire’s with bogus tickets. Though it’s only a few out of the thousands of fans there, it’s still a problem, one he hopes to curb with the new restricted ZIP code system.

“Even if it’s one time, it’s one time too many, from our point of view,” he said. “And we’re always able to work with the true fans.”

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