Jackson Tickets Aren’t For Sale
Thwarting scalpers as they tried to sell Michael Jackson memorial tickets proved to be a Sisyphean task - for every batch taken down, new ones appeared.
After 17,500 free tickets were issued via lottery for today's service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, offers began popping up on eBay and Craigslist. And operators and users of those sites just as quickly began removing them.
It was a matter of morality more than legality. "We believe it would be inappropriate to allow the sale of tickets for the Michael Jackson memorial service," says Karen Bard, eBay's pop culture expert.
It didn't stop people from trying to capitalize on the tickets they won. But it frustrated them.
When Cedric Morris, 34, tried selling a ticket on Craigslist for $1,000, he posted his ad over and over after it was repeatedly removed. Buyers faded and his price dropped to $200.
"It's not worth my time," says the L.A. mechanical engineer, who requested the tickets but can't skip work to attend the memorial. "The economy is so bad, I can't risk missing a day. It's the only thing I ever won, and I can't take advantage of it. I had reservations about selling it, but I also had reservations about wasting it."
Roughly 1.6 million people applied for access, and 8,750 were chosen at random to receive free pairs. Security measures to reduce scalping included fastening wristbands on winners when they picked up tickets. That's why Morris had only a spare to sell.
Scalpers on major websites listed seats in wild ranges: from thousands of dollars to freebies for those who made a strong case for why they deserved to attend. King of Pop fans foiled some sellers by bidding up tickets to absurd and uncollectible sums - nearly $100 million on eBay. On Craigslist, they simply took advantage of the community moderating tools.
"These are not ads that our customer service department have taken down but rather our users flagging them off," says Craigslist spokeswoman Susan MacTavish Best. "Users very quickly flag off ads that are inappropriate, look fishy or are miscategorized, and that is what we are seeing happening with Jackson tickets."
It's difficult to place a value on tickets to such an unusual occasion, says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert-industry trade magazine Pollstar. "I can't recall this kind of demand," he says. "Reaction to his death is almost on a presidential level, which is bizarre."
He says he's stunned by the high asking prices for an event that anyone can watch on television. "Who are the fools buying these things?" Bongiovanni asks.