6 JUNE 2014
Every year Craigslist (and Ebay to a lesser extent) lights up with Comic-Con badges for sale. This year I’ve seen more ads than ever, at least in the L.A. area. Most of the single day badges have been selling for $100-200 and the 4-days have been upwards of $600 or best offer.There are always takers for these badges. I would caution everyone against trusting scalpers and Craigslist sellers - but since you probably won't listen to me, here’s what you should be aware of.
- First-timers, this is how getting your badge works: you go to the Town & Country Hotel or the convention center, show your photo ID and your printed confirmation barcode, and get handed your badge. So if a seller is telling you to just supply a certain name, or is telling you they can send the badge to you in advance, they’re lying.
- Almost always if you see someone on the street, hawking a badge like they’re outside a concert stadium, they’re trying to sell you a fake badge. This is true, at least, in the first days of the Con; sometimes on Saturday and often on Sunday, normal attendees really will sell off their badges. (At least they used to – now that we allegedly need a code off the badges for pre-reg, that probably won’t happen. Though some people will undoubtedly just snap a picture of the badge.) But for those first few days, no one waits in line to get their badge, then tries to sell it on the street. They’ll line up a seller online who has time to get $$$ in cash to hand over.
- If you do procure a badge that doesn’t have your name on it, know that security guards will sometimes just glance at your badge as you pass into the Exhibit Hall and other times, will pull you aside to show a photo ID. How often does this happen? You’re talking about 130,000 people so probably not that often – but it happened to a first-timer I went with last year. She was pulled aside for no reason and forced to show her driver’s license.
- If you’re calculating the odds of someone scamming you for just a few hundred dollars, you need to juxtapose that with the odds of someone waiting in a long tedious line to pick up a legit badge for just a few hundred dollars. Time is money, and few people are going to rise at 2 a.m., go wait in line in the damp San Diego night, get a one-day badge and hand it off to you that morning for $150. That’s barely minimum wage. What’s much easier: printing off a convincing-looking facsimile of a badge that fools you (but probably won’t pass muster at the doors of the convention center.)
- Yes, there are legit scalpers. They come in two classes. There are people who buy badges just to sell them at a profit. Usually it’s only worth it for them if they got a Preview Night/Thursday badge, so they can avoid the long pick-up lines. And there are retail/industry people who get extra unassigned badges which they will sell off on Craigslist – usually not until right before the Con, when they know for sure none of their friends can use them. L.A. is rife with this.
- If you want to just see one panel, or take a spin through the Exhibit Hall one time, you can make an arrangement to “borrow” a badge for a few hours. A lot of people are glad to do this while they go eat or head back to their hotels. There just has to be a level of trust that you’ll return the badge, which is why this usually works between friends.
- CCI takes a hard line on any kind of badge shenanigans, which means that if you’re caught on either end of an underground badge transaction, you’re banned from the Con.
Every year I hear from people who get burned trying to score from a scalper and people who were successful – but the first group vastly outnumbers the second. So caveat emptor. I know you really want to get into the Con. But everyone else knows it too, and some of them make a business out of it.