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Scalpers targeted as Proctors starts 'Hamilton' ticket sales

Scalpers targeted as Proctors starts 'Hamilton' ticket sales

Patrons warned: 'Don't Be A Sucker'; problem also seen at other big shows in Schenectady theater
Scalpers targeted as Proctors starts 'Hamilton' ticket sales
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton in “Hamilton” at the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York on July 11, 2015.
Photographer: New York Times

SCHENECTADY — On the eve of one of its biggest theatrical runs ever, Proctors is urging patrons to watch out for ticket scalpers and scammers.

The campaign has a fairly blunt name: “Don’t Be A Sucker.”

Proctors marketing director Jim Murphy said there are two primary ways a patron becomes a sucker.

“Every big show that comes to town … inevitably people show up and two things happen: They show up with tickets we scan and they’re not valid, and the other thing is people call the box office and complain about ticket prices.”

Resellers may charge 200 to 500 percent of face value for tickets, Murphy added.

Murphy said the anti-scalping effort isn’t specifically a response to the upcoming run of “Hamilton” — the issue arises every time a Broadway show comes to Proctors, and sometimes also with one- or two-night stands by popular touring acts. 

But “Hamilton” ticket sales are expected to be a particularly tempting target for scalpers and fraudsters. He said management recently ran an online search for “Hamilton” tickets at Proctors and multiple sites came up before Proctors did. This despite the fact that tickets weren’t going to be offered for sale until June 24, and then will be available only through Proctors, which prints and sells its own tickets through a proprietary system.

“We have no relationship with anybody to sell any ticket of ours,” Murphy said.

When sales start Monday, Proctors won’t even be selling tickets, it will be selling contracts to buy tickets — the actual ticket won’t be released until soon before the performance date, a further effort to block scalping. 

If Proctors staff detects resellers or scalpers making a purchase — such as by using the same credit card account for multiple purchases or providing an out-of-state address that has had no prior connection to Proctors — they will make a followup inquiry and may cancel that sale.

What Proctors is trying to avoid is the industrywide trend of a significant portion of ticket sales for hot shows being automated purchases initiated by resellers.

“With bots nowadays, a very small percentage of the audience at many venues can get a ticket” in the initial sale offering, Murphy said.

The resellers running those bots can claim a substantial markup on what is already an expensive ticket. Proctors seats for “Hamilton” will run $95 to $165, with a handful of $265 VIP tickets available through Proctors and a handful of $10 tickets available through a lottery run by the production company.

Along with high-priced tickets, bogus tickets are on the market, Murphy said. Some are obviously phony, and the theater’s electronic scanner won’t accept them. But others scan as genuine.

This gets especially awkward when two people show up with tickets for the same seat. The one who arrives second will be taken to the box office, where identity and mailing address will be verified. Proctors will have a record of who it sold that seat to; that person will get to stay, the other person will be shown out the door.

This is a bad moment for someone who has overpaid for a show they won’t even see — “a little bit of sadness and probably a lot of anger,” Murphy said.

“Hamilton” will be at Proctors for a 16-show run Aug. 13-25. Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday in person at the box office, by phone or online. Purchase limit is four tickets.

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