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Ticket Scalpers Not Doing Good Business in Athens - 2004-08-22

The perennial Olympics pariah, commonly known as the ticket scalper, is having a hard time in Athens. Scalpers normally buy hard-to-get tickets, with hopes of selling them later at highly inflated prices. But not only are there still plenty of tickets for sale at the official Olympics ticket booths, but the increased police presence makes selling on the sidelines a little riskier.

Brandon, a ticket salesman for a Canadian broker called Tri-tickets insists what they're doing is perfectly legal in Greece. However, he and his colleague were picked up by police outside the Panepistimio metro station in downtown Athens. As Brandon explains it, he was trying to retrieve his mobile phone from his friend when he was detained.

"So, I asked him for my phone, one of the officers says you come with me. He decided to take me in," he said. "I said what are you taking me in for? I haven't done anything. I just asked my friend for a phone. Association, he says."

It is not illegal in Greece to re-sell tickets at or below face value. So on any given day during the Olympics, there are a number of scalpers negotiating ticket sales with potential customers in full view of the official ticket booth. However, at the entrance to the Olympic Park, a man stands under the metro overpass with a sign that reads tickets wanted. When approached, he declines to be interviewed.

"You having any luck buying tickets? Go talk to the police, you're bringing too much attention to me. No," he said.

If the Olympics ticket scalpers are selling at or in some cases below face value, it is unclear why the police presence would be a problem. But, according to one account in the newspaper USA Today, tickets for opening ceremonies were sold for twice their price.

For the most part though, there are bargains to be had on the streets of Athens. Even if tickets are sold at a lower price, scalpers can still make money since they bought tickets at a discount from tour operators who had overestimated demand.