For Valentines Day 2009 last Saturday I thought it would be a nice gesture to take my wife to Daytona during its most famous week. That would of course be the week of the Daytona 500. For those not familiar with NASCAR racing Daytona is the first event of the 36 event season that closes out November 22 in Homestead, Florida. There are races during the week leading up to the 500 main event. These lesser events allow the race teams to gain race experience and fine tune their stock cars. For Valentines Day we had the Camping World 300 with a purse of $2.6 million.
These racing events are a huge economic benefit to Daytona and a huge headache for the locals. Traffic jams and country folks clog the highways in every direction as far away as Orlando. Pickups, Impalas, campers, RV’s and every muscle car know to man populate the streets and towns around Daytona. I wanted to beat the crowd and mad rush of insanity so the wife and I left five hours early from Orlando for the hour drive. When we arrived the traffic was light to medium. Hmmm.
We drove around the west side of the track next to the public parking and were astonished to see acres of parking space available. Then we pulled into Cracker Barrel on US 92 about a half a block from the speedway, parked and were seated within 10 minutes. Simply unheard of in the past at Daytona where the wait is usually an hour plus during speed week for a nearby quality restaurant.
During most years US 92 next to the speedway is to be avoided at all cost. We drove up and down it a few times and were immediately struck at the huge volume of tickets for sale and the desperation of the sellers. These were not your normal scalpers trying to make some money for some Saturday night shenanigans. These were the country folks out there frantically looking for anyone to buy their tickets. It was unusual for me because the country folks outnumbered the normal scalpers by my estimation 2 or 3 to one. Never seen anything like it before.Seizing the moment I soon began to haggle.
For the uninitiated the quick rules of scalping are as follows. If the event is sold out offer 75% of the face value of the ticket but is prepared to pay 100% or more. If the event is not sold out offer 50% and depending on walk up demand be prepared to pay 50% to 75%. If you really want low prices you will have to scout the crowd for the original owners of the tickets and offer them 25% of the face value like the scalpers do. For most people this is extremely distasteful both dealing with original owners and scalpers and they buy tickets ahead of time.
I have attended hundreds of sporting events, concerts, political events and have bought tickets at the window, on Ticketmaster, from athletic departments, from scalpers and from original owners. Hands down the worst place to buy tickets is from Ticketmaster and on the Internet. They add bogus fees, sell the worst seats and try to get you to sign up for some useless club memberships. Nobody else even comes close for the rip off Ticketmaster has inflicted on me. I vow to never use them again after getting the worse seats in the house every time.
Athletic departments and professional teams usually through the arena box office sell at face value and can occasionally get you some preferential treatment. Honest folks looking to take care of their clientèle.
The best bargain by far hands down that I have gotten through the years has been with scalpers. I almost always pay less than face value and typically save 40% on tickets. I look at the face value of the ticket and offer 50%. The scalper counteroffers 75% and I walk away until I can get that 50% to 60% range I am looking for. Having a map of the arena or having it memorized is a must. Ending up in the visiting section of a college football game is no fun at all.
At Daytona Saturday what I saw was not the normal barter of buyers and sellers exchanging tickets and money. What I saw was full blown panic as hundreds of sellers desperately looked for buyers. Scalpers had thousands of tickets on every block and in the back lots as well. Panic, a full blown panic.
I went up to a few and offered 50% and my offer was immediately accepted. Being an economist kind of guy with a couple of useless degrees in the subject I had to probe this phenomenon further. I gave my standard excuse that I needed to get money from the ATM but thanked the gentleman for his offer. A few more offers at 50% and immediate acceptance with the notable exception of one scalper who looked incoherent from a previous night’s indulgence in various substances unknown to me and probably himself. It was time to search for the bottom of this market. Soon I had a 40% offer. Finally I achieved the bottom and made an offer of 30% on a couple of grand stand seats in the Roberts Tower section of the race track. $70 for $240 seats. Good seats close to the start finish line and with a view of pit row. The football equivalent of seats on the 25 yard line. The only time I have ever achieved this was buying tickets from original owners at an unattended football game.
When we parked close to race time there was still acres of unused parking spaces. In the stands there were thousands of empty seats. The crowd was announced at 70,000 for the 168,000 seat venue but I would estimate the crowd at 60,000 or less. The back stretch grandstands were filled with maybe 15% and my section has less than that.
As if to drive home the point that times have changed the pastor who gave the traditional prayer before the race said “we hope to go forth in this new era with generosity not greed.” Wow a dose of Carl Marx at the one place I hope to get away from the political correctness of the day. How sad in America no place is immune from the march of the socialist and fascist waiving their flag and giving their political indoctrination talking points to the masses. I wanted to scream “greed motivated the clothing manufacturer to make your clothes you ungrateful jerk. Get lost.” But the microphone was soon passed and the incident forgotten.
Tony Stewart won the race and my favorite driver Greg Biffle finished 5th. My wife was happy with her valentines present and we planned the rest of the evening with a nice dinner, a dozen roses and a couple of bottles of Sonoma Valley Zinfandel.
Today the main event will take place and I hope it works out well for Biffle and all our country men and women who have made this country the great place that it is. Sooner that we think we will be working together in the coming years to undue the damage that the past and current administrations have done to this country. Nothing like a good old boy to have as ones ally in the fight for freedom and liberty.
PS Matt Kenseth was the surprise winner of the main event and the place was sold out. Congratulations Matt and the good people running the event. Best wishes for the rest of the season.