Nightmare on Shepherd Drive

I will admit Wayne Dolcefino drew my ire years ago with one of his investigative reports that had some annoying consequences for me personally. I’m not going to go into details but it’s been well over a decade ago now and it’s water under the bridge. Anyway, this is 2010, and Wayne’s latest report about the Houston Police Department’s dubious speed traps got my undivided attention for a few minutes yesterday. As a former courier I would frequently see HPD officers, almost certainly including the mentioned and shown “ticket champion” Matt Davis, staked out at the 700 block of North Shepherd, in both directions (as it happens, I made a fair number of my paycheck deposits at the Capital One branch in the area).

The interesting part of the story here is from Victor Trevino, Precinct 6 Constable, who is quoted as saying:

If you’re writing tickets at this location, and we don’t have any complaints from citizens and you don’t have any accidents out here, then what is your logic?

I don’t think anybody in law enforcement or any public official is actually going to admit that [this is about money instead of public safety], but it’s what it would look like to the common-sense person.

It is indeed rare for me to praise a law enforcement officer. However, I applaud Constable Trevino for his efforts to defend the public image of law enforcement in and around the Houston area. It looks bad on not just HPD but every law enforcement agency in the area when these kind of speeding tickets are written for what must be obvious revenue generation as opposed to safety. Like it or not (and believe me, I don’t), the image of the entire city can be affected by what its police officers do.

So this is what I suggest to my readers: If you get a speeding ticket written by Officer Matt Davis, don’t get mad, get even. Plead “not guilty” and set it for trial. Talk to an attorney. If enough people do this instead of quietly pleading guilty and paying up, Officer Davis and HPD will get the message, because there is no way a million dollars’ worth of traffic tickets will ever make it to trial. And that message is that we as a community condemn the practice of traffic tickets for revenue generation.

Wayne’s story includes a link to a Google map showing the ticket hotspots for surface streets and the number of tickets issued. It’s worth a look, especially if you regularly travel the entire city as part of your job as I once did.

An ingenious way to deal with ticket scalpers

Okay, last ticket scalper/reseller post for a while, I swear.

A recent page posted on the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo website ( details the plight that the local rodeo has to deal with in regards to ticket scalpers. When I went last year, I did happen to notice that resale of rodeo tickets is prohibited by the language on that ticket, though I’m sure they don’t bother in the majority of cases.

However, I’m really shocked by this (and I know the formatting is wrecked by my copy and paste–forgive me, please):


Don’t get drawn in by offers from “ticket resellers”!

They’re selling a ticket to the Jonas Brothers at RODEOHOUSTON in the lower level for $170 and an upper-level ticket for $80!

Did you know that for just $132, you could get a ticket to Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato, PLUS Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson, Eli Young Band, Gary Allan, and Blake Shelton. Seriously—$132 (plus one $10 handling fee), nine shows, 11 entertainers.

This shows just how low the scalpers are willing to go. (The rodeo is being way too nice by calling them “resellers.” I assume they are trying to avoid potential defamation lawsuits. I have no problem calling them “scalpers” because I am, so far, a much less inviting lawsuit target. That may change in the future…)

The rodeo is one reason I’m proud to be a resident of Houston and one of the things I love about the city. The people that run it have gone out of their way to keep it affordable. It disgusts me that scalpers continue to rip off the rodeo–our rodeo–year after year. It’s one thing to rip off big-name entertainers; it’s no more excusable, but some of those entertainers can afford to leave money on the table. I do realize the rodeo is a for-profit enterprise as well, but it is an exceptional low to rip off an organization which keeps ticket prices low on purpose, whether non-profit or for-profit.

Anyway, one ticket at a scalper going for the price of an entire mini-season-ticket package is outrageous. Please don’t support these scum.

The shell game played by ticketing service providers

Two recent posts I’ve read, this one from Jeff Balke and this one from TicketStumbler (Edit 2021-06-14: archived version), got me curious about the fees that Ticketmaster charges.

Very telling indeed are quotes like these from Jeff:

But, $8.60 PER TICKET for “convenience charges???” What the hell is convenient about that?

and this one from the TicketStumbler article:

But, this isn’t all Ticketmaster’s fault. Ticketmaster has tried switching to a pricing model where all or most of the convenience fees are built in to the face value ticket price. The end price would be the exact same, but the ticket buying experience would be significantly more transparent and mostly spared of backloaded fees. Unfortunately, this sort of pricing structure has been met with opposition from the artists and venues who don’t want to raise prices, or rather don’t want the appearance of raising prices. When the face value cost is lower, it’s much easier for the artists and venues to shift blame towards Ticketmaster for “excessive fees” even if the artists and venues are getting a cut.

I’m not sure where the blame really lies here. It seems like a huge finger-pointing game between Ticketmaster (or Live Nation, etc), the artists, and the venues. Ticketmaster tries transparency, and the artists and venues cry foul because it looks like the prices went up, even though it always cost in the neighborhood of $40-42 to buy what is labeled a $30 ticket.

It’s sad to say, but the only answer here may be truth-in-advertising legislation, to level the playing field for everyone. I can understand why people avoid some concerts; this is a shell game that ticketing agencies should not be allowed to play. I would deem one of two solutions to be more acceptable and fair (and I’m using a generic “Provider” to include Ticketmaster, Live Nation, and similar services for neutrality):

  1. Roll the fees everyone pays no matter what into the ticket’s face value, and allow Provider to show a separate line-item convenience fee specifically for their service. Ideally, this would be labeled “Provider’s convenience fee” (or whoever is doing the ticketing) with a full disclosure to include wording similar to “Provider charges a convenience fee for their service, and this is the only amount Provider keeps. The face value of the ticket goes to the artist and venue.” This fee would include what is today charged as part of the convenience fee and order-processing fee (if the graphic in the TicketStumbler post is taken as truth).

  2. Roll all fees into the ticket’s face value, and offer discounts off of this for multiple ticket orders or venue box office transactions. In this case a full disclosure would read along the lines of “The ticket price includes convenience and processing fees charged by Provider. Ticket prices may be lower through the venue’s box office or other services.”

Either way, fees like the TicketFast fee are outrageous and should be barred by law. This actually saves Ticketmaster and others that offer a similar option money by allowing one to print one’s own tickets at one’s own computer.

(I have heard of the convenience fee being charged even to those buying tickets at the venue, but was unable to locate a specific example. If anyone knows of one, please do comment or send me a message via the contact form.)