Scalpers hustling outside VANOC ticket booth 

RCMP, bylaw officers issuing $250 fines to overly aggressive sellers and buyers

Daelin Verkindt is having a hard time selling her extra Olympic tickets.

Standing outside the Vancouver Organizing Committee's (VANOC) ticket booth near Medals Plaza, the Toronto resident explains that before the Games began, her father bought a bunch of tickets for her party of four. But two of those people have since had to go home, leaving her with almost a dozen tickets to try and sell for face value.

Unfortunately, she said, scalpers are making it almost impossible to sell the extra tickets.

On Monday afternoon, with seven days left to go for the 2010 Winter Games, Verkindt is not the only one trying to sell Olympic tickets to people walking the Village Stroll. Several men in big coats are also milling about the entrance of the ticket booth, stealthily saying "tickets" or "buying tickets" or "selling tickets" to no one in particular. Almost all seem to have British accents.

RCMP officers, just a few metres away, did not seem to be paying much attention to the hustle.

"I have been standing here just getting accosted by scalpers," said an agitated Verkindt. She tore her ACL and can only stand on one leg. A pair of crutches lean on a gate nearby.

"Two days ago, I posted on the Internet and I had some good responses, but everyone wants to meet at the event. When I tried that last time, I got in problems with scalpers and I couldn't get rid of them."

She said somehow the scalpers manage to buy tickets for under half of what they are worth and then sell them for more than their face value. The other day she saw someone trying to sell a ticket worth $90. The scalper originally offered him $20 and closed the deal at $30.

"They are really good at it," said Verkindt, adding she is determined to get rid of her tickets and not lose money.

"I am just trying to break even, and it is not against the law to try and break even. I tried to sell them back to VANOC and they said no, they are not taking returns. So now I am out here and I am just trying to get my money back."

Most of her tickets are worth about $90.

While scalping doesn't break the criminal laws in B.C., it does go against Whistler's bylaws that prevent solicitation in unauthorized areas. Municipal fines for scalping are $250.

Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair from the Whistler RCMP said police officers are aware that some people are aggressively buying and selling Olympic tickets.

"We are less concerned about people trying to get rid of tickets they bought and planned to use and didn't get a chance to use and want to get rid of," said LeClair.

"That is less of a concern for us than the professional scalper. Sometimes professional scalpers are overly aggressive and annoying and that is the kind of behaviour we want to discourage."

Sandra Smith from Whistler's bylaw department didn't know how many tickets have been issued to date but said bylaw officers are writing tickets whenever they see a scalper who is interfering with the guest experience.

"For example, the other day we had, actually, ticket sellers in the lineup for the box office and we thought that was not appropriate. So VANOC has staffed up the entrance way to make sure they are kept out of line," said Smith.

The bylaw department is also encouraging people to buy and sell their tickets through VANOC's official "fan-to-fan marketplace," available at vancouver2010.com.

The fan-to-fan marketplace operates on a first-come, first-'served basis, and VISA is the only payment card accepted. Both ticket sellers and buyers are charged a 10 per cent service fee.

 

 

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