Stubhub snubs BCS ticket buyers

A fan holds up tickets in the parking lot prior to the Stanford Cardinal playing against the Virginai Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium.

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JEREMY HOBSON: Tonight Oregon and Auburn will square off in College Football's BCS Championship game. But before a single player has stepped onto the fiel many fans have already tasted defeat. That's because the ticket-selling website Stubhub allowed hundreds of tickets to be sold even though they never actually existed.

From Oregon Public Broadcasting David Nogueras reports.


DAVID NOGUERAS: If you're looking to go to a sold out sports event or music concert and you're not comfortable buying a scalped ticket in a parking lot, thanks to the Internet there are options. Stubhub is one of the big players.

This year's BCS title had been shaping up to be the biggest money-maker in the history of Stubhub. Head of Communications Glen Lehrman says that all changed when sellers began to let them know they didn't actually have some of the tickets they sold.

GLEN LEHRMAN: And ordinarily if something like this happens we're able to source the tickets from a variety of locations and able to take care of that. But in this instance, because tickets have become so expensive and so scarce, it was just almost impossible at this point.

With an average cost of $1,100 a ticket, Stubhub did something it had never done before. It shut the event down on its site and emailed customers who already received their tickets offering to buy them back for three times what they paid. Stubhub now says they've bought back enough tickets to cover all the unfulfilled orders. How much did that cost?

LEHRMAN: I can't give exact numbers but let's just say it's a lot of money.

But then again the secondary ticket market brings in about $3 billion a year. Sucharita Mulpuru is an analyst for Forrester Research. She says at the center of that market are the ticket brokers.

SUCHARITA MALPURU: A lot of these brokers have relationships with season ticket holders that they think they can take advantage of and I think in some times in cases like this situations can get a little out of hand.

None of the brokers contacted for this story would agree to go on the air. But one said it's common for brokers to sell tickets they don't have, with the hope of buying them cheaper later on from panicky sellers. It's kind of like a short sale. But this guy's company lost about $80,000 because not enough fans willing to part with their tickets, no matter how high prices got.

In Oregon, I'm David Nogueras for Marketplace.

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