HOUSTON—At the ticket windows outside the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo offices, people like Stephanie Childress lined up Monday to buy T-shirts, coolers, barbecue sets, anything with a rodeo logo.
Oddly enough, one thing they couldn’t buy at the ticket window was a rodeo ticket. None of them are supposed to go on sale until Saturday.
But scalpers are already hocking the tickets online.
“It’s a little wrong,” Childress said. “You shouldn’t do that. I mean, you should just get what you pay for them.”
Just hours after the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo posted a video announcing its 2014 line-up of performers – everybody from Reba McEntire to Maroon 5 to Usher –websites were already cluttered with offers from scalpers. Stubhub, the nation’s largest ticket resale site, was offering tickets to individual performances for well over $1,000.
The general public can’t buy individual tickets yet, but season ticket holders already have their seats. And it seems many are already scalping them.
The rodeo doesn’t like it a bit. Nothing’s illegal about it, but rodeo officials say it’s contrary to their bedrock principle of keeping ticket prices affordable. Indeed, ticket sale officials bristle at the very idea of scalping rodeo tickets and vow to root out resellers gouging buyers.
“We really don’t want those kind of people buying those tickets,” said Paula Urban, the rodeo’s managing director of ticket sales. “We want the public to come out and enjoy this show. If you’re a Brad Paisley fan or a Chris Young fan, we want you to get those tickets.”
Rodeo ticket sellers go to great lengths in their attempt to identify scalpers, Urban said. She proudly showed off how one of her workers angrily scrawled the word “scalper” across a ticket order that would’ve been worth $800.
“I have one lady in my office who, it’s just her mission to stop every scalper in town,” she said. “So she does a lot of Google searching and things like that. We do what we can to keep them out of our house.”
Leroy Shafer, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s chief operating officer, said rodeo ticket sellers keep an extensive list of known scalpers and use various techniques – which he didn’t want to disclose – to ferret out straw buyers accumulating tickets for resellers.
“Sometimes we go out and buy the tickets ourselves,” Shafer said.”That’s one way to for sure to find out.”
The rodeo revoked season ticket privileges for hundreds of buyers last year, Shafer said. Right now, he said, the rodeo is in the process of yanking tickets from someone who owns twenty season tickets that he’s resold for more than market value.
“We have already written a letter to him saying, ‘I’m sorry, we’re not going to sell tickets to you. We’re refunding your money, we’re killing your bar codes,” Urban said. “And the cool thing about him is he already has his tickets. And those are the fun ones, because now he’s in trouble because he has to get those back from his customers. So we make it hard for them.”