TicketCity says forget waiting in line -- go online
TicketCity.com President Randy Cohen provides a service to frustrated ticket searchers and has made a tremendously successful business in the process.
"We provide tickets for all major worldwide sporting events, music concerts, Broadway and off-Broadway theater," Cohen says. "These are the best tickets for the people who are willing to pay the prices."
"Many people who work all week don't want get out of bed on Saturday morning to wait in line for tickets," Cohen says. "The slowing of the economy hasn't affected us too much. We are seeing people who are usually willing to spend $1,500 on the best seats maybe buy the $900 seats instead."
According to Cohen, although they target the more affluent customers, many times they sell tickets to people for a once-in-lifetime event.
"There are golfers, for example, who may decide to splurge for a one-time trip to the Masters to see the golfers they have always admired," Cohen says. "In a lot of ways, we make dreams come true."
"We charge a premium for the tickets we sell, because we have taken a chance to buy tickets in advance or we have the contacts to get the tickets customers want. It's a value-added service," Cohen says. The premiums generally begin at double the face value of the tickets.
TicketCity.com customer and Little Rock, Ark. businessman Phillip Collins was impressed with TicketCity sales representative Rick Rivera when Collins called looking for Backstreet Boys tickets for a show in Dallas.
"Rick was extremely sincere about wanting to help me," Collins says. "He wasn't pushy, and he was able to take care of us.
"I really think the pricing is fair," Collins says. "I watch what really good tickets are going for on eBay, for example, and I don't feel like I'm overpaying. And with eBay, you don't know who you are dealing with."
The idea occurred to him in 1987, shortly after graduating from the University of Texas. The UT basketball team was in the top 10, playing top-ranked Arkansas at the Austin campus Frank Erwin Center.
"I bought 100 tickets at $7 apiece, hoping the game would sell out, and I could make a little extra money," Cohen says. "Well, all week I waited for the game to sell out, and finally the morning of the game, the box office was out of tickets."
"It was great. I sold them all for $15 apiece and doubled my money," Cohen says. "Plus, no one seemed to mind paying a little extra to get in. I haven't stopped doing this since."
After a year or so, Cohen quit a job at a computer science company, cashed in $26,000 from his retirement fund and started out in the events-sales arena. Its biggest boost came with the entry of the World Wide Web.
"The Internet has been a tremendous tool for us," Cohen says. "In 1996, we set up the Web site, and by 1998, we were able to take orders online and over the phone and generated $2 million dollars in revenue. Our goal for 2001 is $9.7 million to $14 million dollars."
According to Cohen, TicketCity is able to keep in touch with season ticket holders over the Internet. If the ticket holders have tickets to sell, they contact TicketCity. Cohen says it's a win-win situation.
"After more than 12 years experience, we are smarter about the risks we take. We buy stuff we know we can sell," Cohen says.
The atmosphere in the university area Dobie Mall office of TicketCity.com is upbeat and friendly. Thirty employees handle the entire operation, purchasing tickets, taking orders and shipping out tickets.
Many TicketCity employees are long-term. They include Zack Anderson, vice president of marketing, and Clark Kothlow, chief financial officer, 8 years each, and Ralph Mendoza, director of purchasing, who has been with the company for 10 years.
In another section of the offices, work has begun on the newest Cohen venture -- a software package, created to streamline the entire ordering and sales process. Cohen plans to market the software to other ticket brokers in the secondary market.
Although it sounds like that would give secrets away to the competition, Cohen disagrees.
"With a $3 billion dollar secondary market for tickets, there's a lot of business out there," Cohen says. "The logistics is only one part of the business. We build relationships with our customers and with our ticket sources, and that's the key."
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