Scalpers Use ADA Loophole To Snatch Up, Resell Tickets Meant For Disabled

At some sporting and concert venues, seating spaces reserved for people with disabilities can sometimes be prime spots. So it’s sadly not surprising that unscrupulous scalpers are taking advantage of a loophole in the Americans with Disabilities Act that makes it legal for them to buy up blocks of these seats and then resell them to people without disabilities.

The ADA allows anyone who buys a seat in a handicapped-accessible row to also purchase up to three spots in that row for their friends, regardless of whether they are disabled or not.

And if the disabled buyer chooses to resell their ticket, they are not required to sell the ticket to another disabled person.

Thus, scalpers go in and buy up four tickets at a time from the venues under the idea that at least one ticketholder is disabled. Then they flip those seats to the highest bidder.

CBS Denver talked to one area man who uses a wheelchair. He had tried to buy tickets to see The String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks only to find the wheelchair-accessible seats had quickly sold out.

A look at StubHub found those $60 seats suddenly going for up to $253 each. The reason? The wheelchair-accessible seats at Red Rocks are in the front row, while the tickets for the show are general admission, thus making them a premium for people who wanted up-front access without the hassle of elbowing through the crowd.

“They’re not breaking the law, but there’s a moral question there of how they’re taking advantage of people with disabilities,” said someone from Ticketmaster, thus marking the first — and likely last — time we ever agreed with Ticketmaster.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hi_Hello says:

    why not put wheelchair-accessible seats in the back?

    • eviljamison says:


      Because they don’t want to get sued?!?

      • dwtomek says:

        Since when does ADA guarantee the right to premium seating? One might argue that seating towards the rear would be safer in the event where evacuation is necessary.

        • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

          Isn’t it precedence given handicap parking?

          • dwtomek says:

            That is to ensure easier access to the building. Putting them as far away from the exit as possible would seem to accomplish quite the opposite.

            • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

              that’s going to depend on the layout of the building. when i worked at cirque du soleil in orlando the wheelchair accessible seats were in the center, between the upper and lower sections, because that was the easiest access to the entrance/exit and didn’t require adding additional ramps.

              • dwtomek says:

                That isn’t the case at Red Rocks. The ADA has no guarantees for premium seating so far as I am aware.

        • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

          Question: don’t private venues have a right to place these seats pretty much where they damned well want to, within reason? And can’t you vote with your dollar if you’re incensed that handicapped people get “premium seating”?

          “Not fair!” loses its effectiveness the more you age beyond ten years old.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          I’m not thinking “premium” seating so much as I’m thinking “room to maneuver and park a wheelchair.” In many venues, that would be impractical at best to do in the upper tiers.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Someone in a wheelchair might actually like to enjoy the show and not have to use binoculars?

      • Hi_Hello says:

        someone without a wheelchair would also like to enjoy the show and not have to use binoculars.

        • Cat says:

          THIS. Why should someone with a disability get such a good seat for general admission price – when I get to sit in the nosebleed section for the same price.

          EQUAL treatment, not superior.

          • HRGirl wants a cookie says:

            You might want to dial down that outrage and actually read the Federal statue. Actually the ADA states that no matter where the seats are located there should be a percentage at each price level. How a venue chooses to execute that is up to them.
            For example, in an area with floor seating, mezzanine, and balcony, the most sensible thing to do would be to have accessible seating at each level but not all architects think that logically. However, if all of the accessible seats are on the floor level, some are priced at floor price, some at mezzanine, and some at balcony. OR if all of the accessible seats are in the balcony, some are priced at floor, mezzanine, etc.
            Accessible seating is not only for people with mobility challenges; someone with low vision or hard of hearing may need to be close to experience the concert the same way you or I do and may not have the resources to buy a front row seat at full price every time. Someone with epilepsy may need a seat close to an exit in case they feel an episode coming on from the stage lighting.

            In summary: It’s not always about you.

          • frankrizzo:You're locked up in here with me. says:

            Have you ever had to re-do your kitchen to make all cabinets reachable? Ever had to get rid of your car to buy a van with a chair lift and hand controls? I could keep going but I think a better seat at a goddamn game isn’t too much.

            What is your solution to the problem?

          • castlecraver says:

            For such an agreeable and intelligent fellow as yourself, if you wanted a legitimate reason to sit in the disabled section in the future, I’m certain there’d be no shortage of volunteers willing to make that happen for you.

            • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

              Speaking as someone who’s disabled, I will trade with you in a heartbeat.

              • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

                Not you, castlecraver. Wrong tier.

              • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

                I feel for you, but society in general isn’t obligated to make your disability up to you with prime concert seats.

                • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

                  BTW, I think the practice of scalping tickets for handicapped seating is scummy to no end. I was commenting on your insinuation that because you are handicapped you should get extra good seats.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      That would require a very steep ramp and removal of some seats.

    • c_c says:

      Depends on the facility. At Red Rocks, the venue in the story, it’s a super steep amphitheater. Most baseball parks I’ve been to, for example, have wheelchair seating available somewhere in the middle.

  2. sparc says:

    why not decrease the number of guests down to just 1?

    why not require that the tickets be sold and used by someone with real disabilities?

    • bhr says:

      The main reason they can’t do that is it becomes an issue of alienating disabled customers. why should someone in a wheelchair be forced to go to an event and sit alone if they have able bodied friends?

    • regis-s says:

      That seems reasonable enough. They should be able to buy a ticket for an escort. I’m not sure why they need three people with them suddenly.

      • cyberpenguin says:

        The purpose is probably so families of up to four can attend an event together. If they were only allowed one escort, a disabled child would have to be with the parent in one place, and the other parent with the other child in another.

        Families of four seems to hit most of the averages as well. Not all, but most.

    • El_Fez says:

      Because they might have three friends who can walk and would like to go to the show with them?

  3. voogru says:

    Scalping is going to be a problem until they price tickets at their actual market values.

    Sorry folks.

    • Derigiberble says:

      No, scalping will be a problem until tickets are assigned to individuals and are completely non-transferable, similar to airline tickets now. Get to the venue, swipe a card with your ID in the mag stripe (DL, credit card, etc), and get in. The Austin City Limits festival does something similar for wristbands and it has really cut down on scalping: If your ID doesn’t match the person who the wristband was issued to (and they do spot-check) they will take it and kick you out.

      I’m shocked most of the big venues haven’t taken this route yet because it would give them the opportunity to re-sell the tickets of no-shows. They could even offer “refundable” tickets for an additional fee.

      • AldisCabango says:

        That is the reason I quit going to a lot of shows. If I buy a ticket I should be able to do what I want with it. On the other hand, I have discovered a lot of great music, by going to local clubs and smaller venues.

        • ARP says:

          I don’t think it would be too much extra work to create an exchange to allow you to transfer the ticket to another individual. The service would send a link to the person you want to transfer to, who could enter their information into the system. Now they’re the new ticket “owner.”

      • Jevia says:

        I agree that something should be done. Its virtually impossible to get tickets to some shows, or at least the most inexpensive tickets. I was trying to get tickets to see Book of Mormon and there is not a single pair of tickets in the lowest price range (and the next lowest price is more than double the cost) for any performance for as long as they are currently selling (through May 2013). But there are hundreds available at Stub Hub for $100 or more over the face value.

  4. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    TicketBastard whining about scalping? Please….

  5. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    Why not make it a requirement on the ticket that of the block of 4 tickets sold to the ‘disabled’ person, at least 1 person in the group needs to come in with their handicapped parking placard, or some other governemtn issued proof of disability?

    The tickets are all barcoded now, anyways, so if a group shows up separately, they all have to wait til they are all there and someone ‘proves’ disability.. or if the ‘disabled’ person gets there first, the rest of the tickets are then flagged to allow entry.

    Of course, if no one in the group shows up ‘disabled’, that hurdle can be overcome by having one of the security staff strike a member of the group squarely in the groin with a 3-wood.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      i like this…but what if all the ticket holders are female?

      • Shinchan - Please assume that all of my posts are sarcastic unless indicated otherwise says:

        Are you implying that a 3 wood to a female would not be painful? I think at least 50% of the population would disagree with you…

        • Hi_Hello says:

          no, I”m implying that it isn’t as painful compare to a guy getting hit there. I think every adult should be punished the same regardless of sex.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        You know why girls bikes have the dip in the bar?

    • Riroon13 says:

      Best idea ever.

      Seriously, I know ADA rules in some cases make it illegal for one to ask about a person’s disability. BUT requiring handicapped seats be purchased and/or picked up at the venue by someone in possession of a handicapped placard gets around the requirement while still providing some sort of verification.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      because the parking placard needs to stay with the car and as far as i know [as a disabled person] there isn’t any other form of government issued ID that indicates disability. to get my parking placard i had to take a form from my doctor to the DMV.

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      1) Not all handicaps are visible

      2) There is no “government issued” disability I.D.

      3) How demeaning. How does one prove that they are disabled to you?

      • Shadowman615 says:

        There is some kind of card that goes along with the handicapped parking placard. My uncle has had to show it when we showed up for tailgating at FedEx Field in the handicapped lot using his vehicle placard. This goes to help prove that you aren’t taking up space in the handicapped lot by borrowing or stealing someone else’s thing.

        Of course, not all handicapped people drive, so this would not be a complete solution.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          i never got a card with mine. that may depend on your state’s DMV

  6. zomgorly says:

    Could they just not sale those tickets online and require someone who is with a disability to buy them at the door at the time of the show?

    • StarKillerX says:

      If they did so they would likely be sued by groups representing the disabled because they would be singling them out for this requirement.

  7. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    Oh no! You mean they’re going to have to be just like everyone else who can never buy tickets for face value? The horror.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Actually, this is a very good point. The ADA was supposed to level the playing field for disabled people, but at no point was it said that this would always benifit the disabled.

    • frankrizzo:You're locked up in here with me. says:

      I always buy at face value.

  8. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Because my mom is legally handicapped, I used this fact to get her and her partner nice seats at Jersey Boys. I did warn her to limp a little more than normal when at the venue.

  9. DerangedKitsune says:

    Ah, an example of pure capitalism, and what-the-market-will-bear if I’ve ever seen it.

  10. donjumpsuit says:

    Music used to be fun.

    You would buy a Record or CD, the band would make money, the label would make money, everyone would win.
    You would stand in line to get tickets, at the box office or a reseller, the band would make money, the venue would make money.

    Then came the internet and digital copies. Easy to copy, easy to trade. Music stores went out of business, and so did the labels.

    That’s OK, bands could give their music away for free, kind of like the radio, to promote live concerts. Bands could make money, venues could make money, it was a compromise.

    Then came TicketMaster, who bought all the venues, and all their competition. They also either own, or have deals with most traditional scalping agencies, and even have something called “StubHub” which is an online scalping agent. They charge you so you can print their tickets out on your printer, and charge you a fee to buy tickets, and charge you a fee to sell tickets.

    Good bye bands making money, good bye venues making money, good bye labels making money. Ticketmaster makes money, and for that reason alone, I no longer go to concerts.

    Now music comes from “reality TV shows”. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ticketmaster owns these as well.

    Thanks Ticketmaster.

    • regis-s says:

      I agree with the first part of your rant. I doubt that for the most part though musicians care how much you paid for your seat. Whether you bought it at face value or ten times that much. Just as long as the seat was sold and they got their cut.

      I must admit though I do enjoy seeing the occasional news story about scalpers trying to sell their tickets at a loss because the venue didn’t sell out. Then they complain that people won’t even give them face value. My heart bleeds.

    • Jevia says:

      To be “fair”, Ticketmaster has been around for decades, before the internet and digital music. Same with scalper businesses. They just used to either pay homeless people to stand in line to buy the tickets, or have people already buying 2 tickets buy 4 or 6 and then give them something in compensation (or as some have claimed, pay the people selling tickets to ‘hold some back’ to sell to the scalpers).

      Its just easier now for the scalpers themselves, as well as Ticketmaster, to just electronically buy and resell the tickets.

  11. blueb says:

    The funny thing about this when they try it at one of the main venues here is…. when they resell the “disabled” seat to someone not disabled… they get the surprise of finding out that there is no chair there. It’s a wheelchair space, why would there be a seat in the way?

    The other three companion seats technically don’t have to be in the same row, just together… so the setup is also they are all behind the wheelchair spaces.

    And they are in row K or something like that… close, but not front row.

    Even so, because they are required to have at least some wheelchair seats available at the lowest price range, they often set them all at it… so there are still frequent doofs who try it.

    • Kuri says:

      A seat that folds down into the floor would be a good idea for that.

    • Misha says:

      Welcome to Earth. Not all disabilities require a wheelchair. To the people above going on about “well just show your handicapped parking placard”, not all persons with disabilities have one.

      • Misha says:

        By “not have one” I mean “because they do not drive or otherwise use personal transportation.” Public transit is kind of awesome in some places.

  12. The Cupcake Nazi says:

    They’re not breaking the law, but there’s a moral question there of how they’re taking advantage of people with disabilities,” said someone from Ticketmaster, thus marking the first — and likely last — time we ever agreed with Ticketmaster.

    Uh…if non-disabled people are falsely claiming disability in order to buy up and then resell the seats meant for disabled people, how exactly is that NOT breaking the law?

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      Because there is no law against it.

      / Morality does not equal law.

      • The Cupcake Nazi says:

        That is unclear. From where I sit, the requirement that these seats be available for disabled people would equate to being a requirement that they be sold only to actually disabled people in the first place (granting that resale by said disabled buyer does not have a restriction). Otherwise there’s no point in having them be available for the disabled to begin with.

  13. Harry Greek says:

    If I am not handicapped, i would not want to be the jerk who is rocking it out in the handicapped section.

    • Traveller says:

      The resellers are probably just tossing the seat without a seat (the space for wheelchair) and selling the other 3 at the huge markups.

  14. winstonthorne says:

    I think these people deserve places in the very special hell normally reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the theater.

  15. FrankM says:

    The problem here is that handicapped-accessible is not equal to handicapped-restricted.

    Those close parking spaces… handicapped-restricted.

    The roomy stall in the public bathroom…. handicapped-accessible.

    • Kuri says:

      I wish more people knew about the parking spaces. Some see that as a mere suggestion.

      Had a case at a store where a, girl, rode one of those Amigo carts out of the store, then someone caught he making a mad dash around her vehicle and getting in.

      Also once saw a VW bug in one of the spaces meant for vans and SUVs. I swear if I ever saw a “smart” car in one I’d lose it.

      • Tunnen says:

        That’s a little funny, I have the opposite problem where I’m constantly amazed at the SUVs that are parked in the “Small car” spots. Their tail ends usually are far enough out to impede the flow of traffic around them.

        Another favourite of mine is the SUV drivers (Also people with expensive sports cars) that decide they want extra door room, or just to prevent others from potentially dinging them, by taking up 2 or 4 spots. I almost wanted to wait around just to see what kind of person thought they were entitled to take up 4 spots for their car.

  16. nearly_blind says:

    This is a predictable side-effect of do-good laws & regulations which interfere with the free market. It seems like a ridiculous and obvious loop hole that’s easy to correct, but its more complicated than that.
    The original idea is that handicapped people should be able to get accesible seats that have a good view while sitting down at low-price.
    Why not restrict it so only disabled can use the seats, as some comments say ?
    Well, then the disabled can’t sit with family and friendslike everyone else, that’s not fair to the disabled. Why not mandate that you cannot resell the tickets? Well, if other people can resell their tickets, why can’t the disabled, that’s discrimination. Well, why not restrict it so you can only resell to the disabled. Again, other people can sell their tickets to whomever they want, so its discrimination to block the disabled from doing the same.

  17. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    “They’re not breaking the law, but there’s a moral question there of how they’re taking advantage of people with disabilities,” said someone from Ticketmaster, thus marking the first — and likely last — time we ever agreed with Ticketmaster.

    People usually have decency and consideration, and adhere to the majority moral code. However, the only (mandated!) responsibility of a corporation is to maximize profit and value for shareholders–that’s it. Screw “doing the right thing”.

    This case is a prime example of why “Corporations being people” is a legal fiction that doesn’t work in real-world applications, unless we also want to label some of them as being sociopaths.

  18. Kuri says:

    Seems the ADA scamming goes both ways.

  19. damicatz says:

    The ADA is a scam. It gives shysters the ability to shake down businesses for violating the most ridiculous of regulations and cost of hiring a shyster of your own to defend against a frivolous lawsuit is more than it costs to settle it. So now you have businesses getting sued for having aisles that are .1 inches too narrow.

    The ADA has done more to harm disabled people than any other law. Businesses are now terrified of disabled people because of fear they will get shaken down under the ADA.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      Come back when you’re in a wheelchair, and tell us if you have the same perspective.

      • damicatz says:

        I don’t need to be in a wheelchair to know that stealing money from someone because they didn’t make aisles to YOUR specifications on THEIR private property is morally wrong.

        Just because you are in a wheelchair does not give you the right to use violence to force PRIVATE businesses to cater to YOU.

  20. maxamus2 says:

    Then just require anyone that uses the seat has to be in a wheelchair?

  21. DragonThermo says:

    This is why some places have a separate “special needs” department to handle the handicap-accessible resources. That way, one actually has to show up in person to claim the resource to at least make it look credible that they are handicapped.

    As much as I hate the ADA and the Tyranny of the Disabled, I do believe that it should be illegal to sell a handicap-accessible seat to a non-handicapped person.

  22. joako says:

    Why do disabled people get a discount. That is unjust discrimination.