As hail fell outside Smith Center Saturday evening, two inconspicuous men in black coats began their sales pitch.
“Tickets! Selling or buying tickets!” they shouted to passersby headed to the men’s basketball game against Atlantic 10 rival Massachusetts.
The pair paced up and down the street outside the entrance to the building, approaching groups of people entering the arena.
In an hour, they made three sales.
“There’s no profit in it,” said WG, one of the two scalpers who would not give his full name, for fear of arrest for scalping – a crime in the District. “This place almost never sells out and tickets are only 12 bucks.”
WG said most of the people who buy their tickets are from out of town and do not realize they are actually getting ripped off.
“The only people who buy from us are idiots who don’t know the real price of tickets,” he said.
Ticket scalping is illegal in the District if done in a public space near where the event is occurring, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. Scalping is defined as selling or reselling a ticket at face value or a greater value.
An MPD spokesperson said officers will arrest scalpers if they see them at sporting events, but do not go out specifically looking for them.
They said this was their third time scalping tickets outside Smith Center and that they had yet to encounter police.
“We see the police some times,” said WG. “But they wouldn’t dare mess with us – both of us have got lawyers.”
One pedestrian sold a ticket to WG and his partner for $15 after bargaining the price up from $10.
Ticket scalpers make a profit by buying tickets on the street and reselling them for a higher price. WG said he has a lot of friends who make money at more trafficked events around D.C.
“We just do this for fun,” said WG, who is currently attending nursing school. “It’s just something to do. Sometimes we’ll do this and then go to the games.”
Ron Schneeberger, a frequenter of men’s basketball games, said there used to be a lot more scalpers in past years.
“When we had winning seasons and many people came to the games, we used to see many scalpers out here,” Schneeberger said. “But this year I’ve only seen two or three at games.”
Schneeberger said he saw scalpers at every home game he went to this season.
“I did not know that there were many scalpers out there,” said Brad Bower, sports information director. “To be honest I’m not even sure if our athletic director is aware of this.”