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Soaring ticket prices set off litigation bowl

On one side of the field, you have Josh Finkelman, 28 year old Dayton, New Jersey football fanatic and warehouse president, shelling out $4,000 for two Super Bowl “cheap seat” tickets before thinking, “Hmm. Maybe I got ripped off,” as that was considerably more than the tickets $500 per face value, and is suing the NFL because of it. On the other side you have the NFL, a leviathan-sized entity that takes in $9.5 billion dollars annually and whose commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million/year but which somehow is granted non-profit status and is exempt from paying federal taxes. And we’re off and running with another dumb lawsuit with no “Who do you root for in this case?” winner.

You may be familiar with the fact that Super Bowl tickets are kind of hard to come by. The league itself lops 25 percent of the stadium seats off the top, distributing them to officials, muckety-mucks and corporate sponsors. Then the two participating teams are allotted 17.5 percent of the seats apiece, to sell to their season ticket holders and VIPs. In the end, only a paltry 1 percent go on sale to the general public, through a lottery system. Even Peyton Manning, who was playing in this year’s Super Bowl (more or less) had to appeal to his little brother Eli to snag him a few ducats, which Eli could obtain by dint of being a player on one of MetLife Stadium’s “host teams.” Peyton was apparently so distressed about the ticket situation, he forgot to prepare for the game against the Seahawks.

Still, it’s hard to feel sympathy for Finkelman, who:

A. Was quoted saying “It just seemed crazy that they were so expensive. I mean, I bought them, yeah, but I was upset.

B. Didn’t enter the February-June lottery for a chance to buy tickets at face value, but waited till a couple weeks before the game, traditionally not the best time to find “deals.” Plus, even if all 83,000 seats were put into that lottery, they all would’ve been gone by the time Finkelman acted, anyway.

C. Should’ve sued his friends instead for not informing him he could’ve watched the game on television, for FREE.

D. Thinks that of all the injustices in the world, contesting the upselling of already exorbitant tickets for a once-yearly event is the one worth fighting.

Personally, the lawsuit I keep waiting to see is when a player “guarantees” his team will win and then doesn’t, and a fan sues the player because he lost a wad of money betting on the player’s team. After all, a guarantee means you’re willing to back it up. Otherwise it’s just a “prediction.”

I also keep expecting Oakland Raiders’ fans to sue the team for false advertising, as their long-time motto is “Commitment to Excellence,” and anyone looking at their record the past decade or two knows that is Ohhhh, so not true. Unless you stretch the definition of “excellence” to mean: “Making the opposing teams look good.”

But, even though Finkelman’s is a dumb case, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “out of bounds.” Working in his favor is New Jersey’s strong consumer protection laws, namely section 56:8-35.1 of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, which reads:

“It shall be an unlawful practice for a person, who has access to tickets to an event prior to the tickets’ release for sale to the general public, to withhold those tickets from sale to the general public in an amount exceeding 5 percent of all available seating for the event.”

Also, the NFL website directed fans to Ticketmaster, which it knows jacks up the price, and which it apparently has a relationship with in which it receives some of that extra money back in various ways. Plus, all these reseller sites, like Stubhub.com and GotTheTicket.com, legitimize the once frowned upon and in some quarters illegal practice of scalping.

And then there’s just that grating factoid that the NFL is, you know, considered a non-profit.

Bruce Nagel, Finkelman’s attorney, is filing this as a class-action suit, but I predict that the case will settle with the NFL offering Finkelman tickets to all future Super Bowls at face value. At which point he will receive phone calls from a distressed Peyton Manning.

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