column: Ticket scalping detail: Buyer beware when the peddling is illegal
My really obnoxious undercover Wolverine Hawaiian shirt still hangs in a closet at the new police station. When I was on the job — while sporting this rather loud shirt and carrying a red Solo cup — I frequently strolled around the Michigan Union and the Big House. My undercover mission was to rid The City of Trees of professional ticket scalpers.
Why might the police department be so cranky about these lovable louts who provide a public service to the ticketless masses? First, consider where these tickets might have come from.
Many books of season tickets get stolen. Those foolish enough to leave their dormitory doors or bedroom doors in large rental houses unlocked find out the hard way that thieves know where to look.
Football tickets are either hung on a mirror, left on top of a desk or chest of drawers or in one of the top drawers of the same items of furniture. Get a party going where strangers are wandering around and, next thing you know, those football tickets are long gone.
Leave the tickets in your dorm room, and it might not be a stranger, but the guy down the hall who thinks you ratted him out to the resident advisor about the keg in the shower, non-medicinal use of cannabis or loud stereo. Perhaps there might just be a common thief on your floor, but things including season tickets will come up missing if you leave your door unlocked.
If your tickets get stolen, make sure you report the incident to the police. The university athletic department can help you. Your stolen tickets will be canceled and new tickets issued.
That is too bad for the poor sap who buys your stolen ticket from a scalper, because they will not be getting into the game. The scanners at the gate will catch the fact that the ticket has been reported as stolen.
The yellow jacket at the gate will nod or signal the University of Michigan police officer stationed at the gate for such exigencies. If you are the person holding the stolen ticket, the officer will be asking some questions. As Desi Arnez would say to his love Lucy, “You got some ‘splaining to do!”
If you find yourself having been scammed by a ticket scalper, you can certainly report the incident to the police. Do not expect a lot of sympathy from the officer you ask to take the report. Unless you can point out the scamp you bought the ticket from, the officer will probably tell you to make the report at the front desk, since that officer has about a gazillion fans, who bought their tickets properly, to look after.
You will find that most who sell stolen tickets do not do it near the gate so they won’t be identified if/when the ticket does not get the customer in the gate.
The illegal ticket sales associates with the biggest target on their backs for the police are the wheelers and dealers who sell to customers in traffic. Not only are these scoundrels scalping tickets and peddling without a permit, they are also soliciting in traffic, which is very illegal.
Soliciting in traffic falls under the disorderly conduct ordinances. This was my favorite ordinance for writing or arresting “professional” scalpers.
The law was initially enacted to keep Ann Arbor free of “squeegee men” who wash your windshield while you are stopped at a light and then solicit — spelled "demand" or "extort" — a tip for their efforts. The implied threat is that if you do not cough up some loot, the squeegee’s metal frame might “accidently” scrape the side of your car as you drive off.
This law works equally well with those selling tickets in traffic. The reason I preferred this violation was because they were easy to prove by just watching “professional scalpers” offer tickets for sale to a person in a car. It was also gratifying to get these guys off the street because they really hold up football traffic around the Big House.
Whether the deal is completed or not, the mere offering of tickets for sale or trying to buy tickets in traffic is a violation. The scalper’s actions also showed me where they were holding their stash of tickets.
Confiscating the rest of the scalper’s tickets was for evidentiary purposes, but, more importantly, it hopefully put that scalper out of business for the rest of the day.
The police mission for scalping details focus on the “professional scalpers.” However if you are selling tickets, do not make the same mistake a woman from Brighton made about five years ago.
My partner that day was a female detective I’ll call “Jesse.” We had just written a ticket to a “professional” and were walking south on Main Street. Jesse was scribbling notes about the last violator in her notebook and still had her badge on a necklace obvious on her chest when this lady jumps in front of her, blocking Jesse’s way down the sidewalk. The pushy lady offers up her tickets for sale well over the list price. REALLY?
Jesse and I exchanged incredulous glances. Jesse looked back at the woman, flashed a friendly smile, grabbed the tickets, said she would be happy to take the tickets and would she be kind enough to show us some identification.
According to the University of Michigan, "StubHub is the only authorized site through which a resale of tickets may be conducted.” That being said, if you must sell a ticket, sell it to a friend, family member or co-worker.
If you decide to roll the dice and sell a ticket around the Big House or the Union, do not do it in an obvious manner, in front of a police officer or to anyone wearing a really incredibly ugly maize and blue Hawaiian shirt.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.
Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com.