StubHub dubbed 'The Official Scalper of Major League Baseball'

The Internet will eventually make ticket scalpers of us all. (OK, perhaps not you, but virtually everyone else with a ticket to sell.)

I say that upon reading this afternoon that Major League Baseball has signed an agreement with StubHub that anoints the latter the official ticket-scalping arm of MLB. Of course, never will the words "ticket scalping" cross Commissioner Bud Selig's lips - at least not in this context - but let's not mince words. From the Associated Press:

The agreement puts StubHub in charge of secondary ticket sales at MLB Advanced Media LP's Internet site, and for individual team sites, such as the San Francisco Giants' Financial terms were not disclosed. But StubHub spokesman Sean Pate said MLB, which is owned by the 30 baseball franchises in Canada and the United States, would share revenue with the e-commerce company.

Buyers at pay a 10 percent fee, while sellers are charged a 15 percent commission. If a baseball ticket sells for $100, the buyer pays $110 and the seller pockets $85, so $25 would go to StubHub and the baseball teams.

What's not made clear in that passage is that the prices paid by ticket buyers on StubHub might be described as being on steroids in that they are Bondsian compared with the face value that the seller - generally a season-ticket holder or professional ticket agent - paid the baseball team. Think two, three, four times higher, depending on the game.

The only difference between StubHub and the street-corner scalper is the street corner.

Now here's the twist: Personally, I have no problem with what MLB is doing here. I'm a free-market kind of guy and can't say enough good things about StubHub.

Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that until a couple of years ago I had been a regular user of StubHub, exclusively as a seller. In plainer English, I used to scalp tickets on StubHub. At that time, I was a holder of season tickets to New England Patriots football games (going back to the Shaeffer Stadium days). Patriots tickets cost and arm and a leg at face value ... and sell for at least two arms and two legs on StubHub.

I was piling up arms and legs like nobody's business, until, well ... it's a sad story (at least from my perspective). A woman who bought a pair of my tickets on StubHub, subsequently - and for reasons never made clear to me - turned around and tried to resell them on eBay.

Again, this resale of my resold tickets is not something about which I would normally take exception ... except for the fact that this woman was not particularly discrete about her end of the transaction: She posted a photograph of my tickets with her for-sale notice on eBay.

Recall a few paragraphs ago where I said I was collecting arms and legs like nobody's business? Well, the Patriots consider such reselling/scalping of tickets to be their business; so much so, in fact, that their user agreement with season-ticket holders expressly forbids such reselling/scalping.

I knew this, of course. The eBay lady apparently did not.

When the FedEx envelope arrived at my home on a Saturday morning and I saw the return address was from the Patriots, I knew my arm-and-leg collecting days had come to an end. The enclosed letter informed me that the team had seen the photo of my tickets on eBay and that I should from that moment forward consider myself a former season-ticket holder.

Unfair? Absolutely. But it's tough to kick too much when you know you're breaking the rules and get caught. I did not kick.

And I know the National Football League and Major League Baseball are different businesses run by different sets of executives adhering to different sets of principles and philosophies.

But mark my words when I tell you that the NFL will someday reach the same conclusion regarding scalpers as has MLB: If you can't beat 'em, hire 'em.

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