This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on Jan. 22, 2003.
Welcome to the modern world of commerce. Nowadays, you don’t have to hold up a cardboard sign proclaiming, “I want Super Bowl tickets.” In this age of high-tech computers and instant information, there’s another way to buy that hard-to-get item, even seats at the 50-yard line.
E-commerce, or what I like to call e-bazaars, enables consumers to purchase bizarre and popular merchandise (yep, there might even be unreleased Milli Vanilli bootleg tapes out there somewhere).
Indeed eBay is at the forefront of this innovative, capitalistic approach. On any given day, eBay, considered the world’s No. 1 online marketplace, has approximately 12 millions items available, including 1.7 million new listings, says Kevin Pursglove, an eBay spokesman.
“What’s interesting from our standpoint is how eBay has become almost a magnet,” Pursglove says. “It has become the place to buy and sell tickets as the Super Bowl approaches. What’s underlying all of that is the great majority of those transactions for the Super Bowl are done by perfect strangers.”
So how many strangers are caught up in the pre-Super Bowl zeal this week? That’s probably an impossible thing to put an exact number on. … But by Monday afternoon, 1,683 tickets were available on eBay for Super Bowl XXXVII. As of Thursday afternoon, tickets were ranging in price from $700 for one seat at Qualcomm Park to $25,000 for several tickets, hotel accommodations and access to NFL parties to $40,000 for a ritzy package deal that includes six end zone tickets and private Lear transportation to and from San Diego.
EBay has been operating since Labor Day 1995, but initially there wasn’t a huge market for Super Bowl tickets.
“We first started noticing Super Bowl tickets appearing on the site in January 1999,” Pursglove says, estimating that between 50 and 100 tickets were available for that Super Bowl, “and there has been a continual increase each year…”
“What we’ve seen the last couple of years is a lot of activity that first Monday and Tuesday after the NFC and AFC championship games. As the week passes by, it starts to taper off as people realize that the logistics of shipping tickets gets a bit more challenging.”
Still, the process tends to run smoothly.
“Rather than being able to walk into a store or pick up a phone and call the team offices or league offices, you are buying your tickets literally from a complete stranger,” Pursglove continues.
Buyers and sellers of Super Bowl tickets on eBay, and naturally other online sites, include a wide range of individuals: Season-ticket holders, brokers, travel agents and individuals who have purchased tickets on a secondary market. And, remember, there are three common ways for these transactions to take place: A) The highest bid wins. B) A seller can opt to use the buy-it-now option, which means the buyer pays the list price. C) Items can be traded for other items.
Here’s a good example of how this system can work: On the Friday before the 2002 Super Bowl, Pursglove recalled, a fellow from a Boston suburb made a bid on tickets, flew to New Orleans and checked into his hotel. Then the man found out he had been the winning bidder, and he got in contact with the seller. The tickets were then sent by overnight mail to New Orleans, a day before the New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams on a last-second field goal.
In the days leading up to Super Bowl XXXIV, St. Louis Rams fans took advantage of gimmicky merchandise swaps. Say what? Several Rams fans exchanged passes to free yoga classes for two tickets to the big game.
Now that’s what I call bizarre bartering.