Aubrey learned a good lesson today. I took him to buy ticket scalped to the Knicks/Lakers game at 5 pm yesterday. Game starting at 7 pm.  Our first con man insisted on the street that tickets were 400 a piece but we should be very careful because there were disreputable people selling tickets. When I told him I only had 400 bucks, he introduced us to one of his colleagues who pointed to the pizza joint north east and told us to wait there and he would see what he could do. He then came back and told us, "I have to tell you and repeat that these tickets are for the third upper level. Is that okay?". I appreciated his honesty and turned over the 400. When I looked at at he tickets when Aubrey said "let's go to our seats" I noticed that they were for a Bucks game that had transpired 2 weeks prior. I went to look for him on the corner but he and his accomplice had disappeared. I felt it was a great lesson for Aubrey that I wish I had learned from my dad many years before as it would have saved me tens of big. I believe the lesson has enormous market implications and I will test a few things in its honor.

What I liked most about the con was the attempt to show their honesty by pretending to be super scrupulous in telling me that they weren't giving me the best tickets. I guess this is like the broker who tells you that most customers lose. Or the market that tells you that you're selling below the previous high et al.

T.K Marks writes: 

 Many years ago I fell for a similar switching con, one perpetrated by a deft band of street entrepreneurs.

It happened at the end of the day as I made my way to the E train entrance in the World Trade Center. Amidst the rush hour bustle were two guys with two cartons from which they were purportedly selling phone answering machines for 10 bucks apiece, a bargain price at the time. Being familiar with the wily ways of the City I would ordinarily be somewhat circumspect about these type of retail circumstances, but my fears were allayed by the fact that the things were in official looking boxes, each sealed in shrink-wrapped plastic. But the thing that really sold me on the deal was the weight of the box — It clearly wasn't empty and in fact appeared to weigh almost exactly what a phone answering would.

So I bought the thing and got on the subway.

Upon reaching my apartment I got a knife, cut through the plastic wrapping, and opened the box.

Inside, gingerly swathed in a cushion of some Chinese newspaper, was a brick.

It wasn't even a new brick, it was an old brick.

 Rather than get furious with the situation I just sat there and smiled wanly, admittedly impressed with the creative lengths the "retailers' how gone to to pull this routine off. They had picked the right place, the right time of day, somehow came up with the real boxes, and then topped it all off with the plastic shrink-wrapping gimmick so that none of the customers could inspect the goods right on the spot. Balanchine couldn't have choreographed this ballet any better.

After proper reflection though, I learned a little lesson though. Given that the store price for these things at the time was about $60, I should have realized that at10 bucks, those street guys were selling the stuff too low.

One should always be wary about buying anything offered beneath the bid.

Russ Sears writes: 

Scalping tickets is legal in Indiana (at least it was when I lived there) and therefore apparently much safer and honest transactions more likely to occur. Sellers often sell in front of the police to insure honesty and safety for both sides. Family guys will routinely offer to sell a ticket for you if you cannot make it to a big game at Purdue or IU. Not sure if this has changed in Indianapolis due to the Final Four and Super Bowl.

Alston Mabry writes:

I would say that asking you the question whether upper-level seats are okay is not so much to demonstrate honesty as it is to control your attention. I think a critical part of any con is to control the mark's attention and direct it away from the incriminating part of the trick. As I understand it, this is how good magicians work, too.






Speak your mind

7 Comments so far

  1. steve on February 12, 2012 8:29 pm

    I am surprised at you Vic I would think that after 40 years of trading you do not need one more lesson in cheating. Or in humility.

    Good thing for you that you did not see the punks after the scam. What would you have done? Chances are had you confronted them, they could have beaten you, robbed you again and possibly even killed you. A man of your means has more legitimate ways of securing tickets for a basketball game. I know this guy down town Joe Buck/ O Daniel he will know what to do. (from Midnight Cowboy.)

    I was talking to a man who played poker in Vegas and California as a “local” This means he knew who the regulars are and who the cheats are. In poker, it is common to have an accomplice at the table who drives up the pot by betting knowing that his partner has the real hand. They catch the “fish” in a squeeze play. HMMM sound anything like the NYSE or when Dorfman, and Heard on the Street when they controlled information. How about when the Shorts release a false rumor to drive the price of a stock downward.

    There is an old saying that bears repeating. If you are invited to a game always ask yourself a question “why was I invited here in the first place.”

    And ” If you cannot spot the “fish at the table, it is probably you. ”

    You want to teach Young Aubrey a less expensive lesson have him watch “Rounders” and “The Grifters” and “Wall Street” when he gets older.

    Stay out of alleys, I like you too much.

  2. Vin Salvatorre on February 12, 2012 11:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing a nice story, but did you go to the game?
    This was a rare game where the Knicks beat the Lakers, and they were lead by the only Chinese player in the NBA. A black swan event, indeed.

  3. Ralph Di Fiore on February 13, 2012 9:39 am

    A good lesson for Aubrey Victor. To trust is good, to not trust is even better…Here in Toronto, there are scalpers with offices so that one never need negotiate on a street corner. They are listed in the yellow pages as ticket agents. Frankly, all of my dealings with these “professional scalpers” have been excellent. Even at the last minute you can arrange to meet them or one of their “representatives” outside the stadium, theatre, etc. There must be a parallel here with the markets and those who are in the pits versus those who sit in offices but someone will have to figure that one out. To Alston Malbury, you are correct. What you are describing in magical parlance is the time tested concept of misdirection. Here is one of the greatest masters of misdirectin in history, Slydini, showing how it is done. I do this wonderful effect as well and with all modesty aside, I have the same success as Slydini. I have been performing this for over 20 years. Enjoy!


  4. steve on February 13, 2012 10:26 am

    An even more rare event was the fact that he played at Harvard one of 4 players from Harvard to have played in the NBA. I wonder if there are NBA owners who went to Harvard?

  5. JH on February 13, 2012 12:23 pm

    ?? A Chinese Player??

    An Asian-American Player! Please…. I beg your pardon.

  6. vic on February 14, 2012 8:36 am

    What should be clear is that scalpers provide a very useful and beneficial service. They save customers time,they reduce waiting time, they provide the for the customers to change plans, they insure that those who want the product the most get the product thereby increasing total satisfction. They also reduce gluts nad prevent shortages. The Adam Smith comparison of the scalper to the ship captain that rations hard tack as they run into bad weather and the voyages duration increases is apt, as is Jane Marcet’s comparison of the scalper to the farmet with several blades of seed corn left who plants the seeds rathere than gobbling up his supply. Heine’s diagrams showing the movemnt of the supply and demand curve through time is also an apt aid to the technically minded. My own comparisono of the function that scalper provide to the siege and fall of Antwerp in The Speculator as Hero is also nice reading. The opposition to scalpers comes in the main from competitors who would like to reduce competition and maintain monopolies. Also, envy is a big factor with people hating the fact that some people who want the product more than they do should actually be able to buy it if they wish, as well as the age old hatred of other people making a profit regardless of anything else. I have bought scalped tickets on numerous occasions and always had good luck with them. THe importance of reputation to othe scalpers and repeat business and comopetition is my safeguard— a safeguard I have found much more usefull than the numerous times I have bought tickets from ticket agencies, and found that they gave me for the wrong date or city, or were closed so I couldnt go. I believe the problem i had in addition to my own carelessness was that I bought the tickets several hours earlier than the game, and a lower class of scalpers was there, who had not been chased away by all the legitimate business people who scalp and must depend on word of mouth and repeat business for their success. I like the idea of the scalpers working near police to provide mutual protection and assurance of safety, and it reminds one of the many harmonious relations between ants and flowers, and anemones and wrasses, or sharks and pilot fish and big mammals and birds in the natural world .Thanks for all the great comments about this subejct which is a litmus test almost as good as egalitarianism for telling how a person thinks about individuals and the creative power of free enterprise. vic

  7. Vin Salvatorre on February 16, 2012 5:01 pm

    Still waiting for you analysis of why the Knicks are winning (7 game winning streak). Would like some insight before they revert to their old ways.


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