Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saving with Scalpers?

Merriam-Webster: scalp - to buy and sell so as to make small quick profits ; especially : to resell at greatly increased prices

It's the assumptions that are the bane of travelers and expats; continually getting in the way of enjoying the best that life has to offer. In this case, it was in enjoying shows at a local price.

I read the paper just about every day, and make sure to scan the section dealing with upcoming events. Shanghai is a city of roughly 20 million people, so there should be interesting events happening all of the time. I just don’t seem to always find them. Part of my problem is that I am stuck in the mode of needing to plan ahead. If you don’t plan ahead in the US or Europe, you’re not likely to get tickets, will have to pay a fortune for tickets or will have a choice of only the worst seating - assumption. Just because that’s the case in most of the world, doesn’t make it the case in Shanghai.

Events are frequently not scheduled until the close to the time of the event. For our latest event, a stunt show by the Filmska team, the announcement came in Friday’s paper for the event on Saturday at 2 PM. I’ll have to say that most events are announced a bit earlier than that, but less than a week is not uncommon.

Not having tickets, did we need to leave early? Our driver assured us that “no”, leaving so we would be there 15 minutes before the show was more than adequate.

He dropped us at a gate. No ticket office in sight. The guards turned us away – we had no tickets. The scalpers descended. Buying tickets written in a foreign language from people who can’t speak your language, well, that’s just not something we’re comfortable with. Flagging down the driver, he comes back to help us. More scalpers descend. Tickets presented, tickets rejected. Scalpers rush off, come back with more tickets. We’re going to get scalped - assumption.

The outcome? We bought 4 tickets with a face value of 588 ¥ ($75) that had us seated centerfield, one row behind the VIP seats – there were few better seats in the stadium. At what greatly increased price did we pay? After all, we were scalped, right?! We bought the tickets for 150 ¥ ($20). Let me clarify, we bought the FOUR tickets for $20 – we paid less than 7% of the original ticket price.

Jaws dropped as we found our seats, as we watched the show (not worth $75, but more than $5), and again later as we calculated what I would have paid at the box office versus what our driver paid for the tickets.

As I head off to spend untold US dollars on Eric Clapton tickets, I can only wonder what would happen if we just waited and bought tickets outside the gate the night of the event. Well, that will be a future experiment – I really do want to see Eric Clapton in a small venue in Shanghai!



...assumptions can be problems in expatriation and repatriation. Visit Expatriate Solutions for resources on getting the most of being an expat or repatriating.

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