The scalper near the lion’s den (Beitucheng subway station) had me waiting off to the side while he went searching for a Cube ticket.
It was my second day at the Olympics and I was getting crunched for time. In the late afternoon, I still hadn’t a venue ticket for that evening.
“Excuse me,” I heard someone say while giving me a tap on the shoulder. “Excuse me, but can you take our picture?”
I turned to see a handsome older Indian couple. They eagerly pointed to two of their friends, a young man and elderly gentleman, standing on the walkway.
“Sure! Of course.”
Picture taking is nothing new at the Olympics. Usually, the blue-uniformed Chinese volunteers are ready at hand for this job but their information tent wasn’t nearby.
The first picture taken, it was time for another with the young man’s camera.
“Oh, thank you so much,” the elderly man said in his lilting Indian tones. “Are you American?”
These kind of conversations are the ones I loved the most at the Olympics. Everyone is willing to talk to everyone else: country, family, job, their Beijing visit, the venues they’ve
visited . . . . Nothing, it seems, is off-limits, and that comes to money lost to the scam artists.
Everyone was quite willing to tell me their story.
The couple, Mr and Mrs. O. P. Mundhr, and the friends (Chandan Laha, manager of Mpasis Company, with his father) had planned this trip to the Olympics for about a year via emailing one another. They lived on opposite sides of India, had never met before, but decided to attend the games together. They had just met in person that morning and were now in the lion’s den, looking for tickets.
“You know,” the father went on quickly, “we all ordered our tickets online. We went through www.beijingticketing.com. But that company was a scam. People lost so much money. My son and I lost $4,000.”
I shook my head in disbelief.
“No, no! We were lucky,” Chandan continued. “Others lost more. You look and see. It was a very famous case. You can find many articles about this.”
“So now you are trying the ticket sellers here?” I asked.
“Psht!” Chandan said in disgust. “These are not true sellers. They ask for ridiculous prices and don’t bargain. No one will pay what they ask. We are here because a friend in Beijing has gotten us all the tickets we need. We are waiting for him to come.”
“You’re lucky,” I said. “I’m stuck dealing with the scalpers.”
“Oh, terrible!” Mrs. Mundhr replied. “And they can’t speak English. How can they sell tickets to foreigners if they don’t speak English?”
“They don’t need to speak English to sell tickets. So many are buying, it doesn’t matter,” her husband commented rather irritably.
Mrs. Mundhr’s tone had a tinge of hidden meaning. Something like, “I’m not speaking to you anymore until you’re nicer to me.”
Ah, the dynamics of married couples.
Later that evening, I did find a number of Internet articles on the www.beijingticketing.com scandal. Several professional-looking, Olympic ticket selling websites illegally used Olympic trademarks in connection with their fraudulent activities. Those from all continents were hit hard by the beijingticketing site. Some US-based ticketing agents lost tens of thousands of dollars. One such agent from Texas reported she’d purchased $57,000 from the online site but received nothing in return. She said the site looked very legitimate, very elaborate. It was hard to believe it wasn’t real.
A victim from L.A. lost $11,000 after selecting hard-to-get tickets to the opening ceremonies, swimming and diving. In April, he became suspicious when his phone calls to the website’s office were not returned and his credit card was charged for airline tickets he didn’t buy.
I guess compared to those two individuals, and others like them, Chandan and his dad got off easy with losing only $4,000.
The site has since been shut down but not after conning thousands out of a lot of money, obviously.
My Indian acquaintances’ story made me very grateful that I hadn’t gone the Internet route to order my tickets. I’d thought about it, and even did some searches, but I decided instead to take my chances with the scalpers.
I guess that proved to be a wise decision on my part. Even if I paid three times the original price, at least I had a ticket. The same certainly can’t be said for the marks (i.e., those scammed).