Thursday, October 1, 2015
Free tickets for pope appearance being sold; more free tickets available Wednesday
Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Two minutes is all the time it took Tuesday to give away 10,000 free tickets to see Pope Francis speak at Independence Hall later this month.
Soon after, tickets for the Sept. 26 event appeared online -- some for as much as $1,500 apiece.
It remains to be seen how much people will charge for the free tickets being given away Wednesday for a spot to see the pope at the Sept. 26 Festival of Families or attend the papal Mass Sept. 27, both on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Ten thousand free tickets will be available online at 4 p.m. for the Festival of Families. Another 10,000 free tickets will be available at 8 p.m. for the papal Mass.
Bucks County’s consumer protection chief said he'll be closely watching the resale issue.
“I thought this was going to happen,” Consumer Protection Director Michael Bannon said. “This is where the 'fun' begins and the scammers start doing their thing.”
The World Meeting of Families said the 10,000 tickets made available online on a first-come, first-served basis for Pope Francis’ speech at Independence Hall during his two-day Philadelphia visit were reserved within two minutes after the online ticket "window" opened at noon. Individuals could get up to four tickets.
The Independence Hall appearance, where Pope Francis will talk about immigration and religious freedom, is the first of three public appearances he'll make during his visit.
In addition to the free tickets being given out by the WMOF for all three events, area parishes are giving out thousands more free tickets. The WMOF website says the tickets are being issued for "security and crowd management."
The site where people could get the free tickets Tuesday had nearly 400,000 unique page views during the two minutes, according to a press release from the World Meeting of Families. The same site is being used for free tickets Wednesday.
Within an hour after the reservations closed for the Independence Hall tickets Tuesday, more than two dozen ads offering to sell the tickets appeared on Craigslist and eBay. The prices for Independence Hall tickets ranged from $100 to $1,500 apiece, according to the ads.
"These tickets are to see Pope Francis speak at Independence Hall,” one Craigslist ad claimed. “They are electronic tickets, so I can transfer them to your name without having to worry about a physical meet-up. Great for out-of-town visitors!”
Calkins Media sent emails asking to interview some of the ticket sellers on Craigslist, but none immediately responded.
There's nothing illegal about reselling free tickets in Pennsylvania, which is among at least a half dozen states with laws allowing the resale of some event tickets without regard to the face value. Under a 2007 change to state law, people reselling tickets for more than the ticketed price (zero in this case) must have a physical business presence in the state with a business address that is clearly posted on the website or obtain business licenses.
Bucks County’s Bannon said he's concerned the free tickets will provide scam artists with another means — beyond high prices — to rip off individuals. Counterfeit tickets are likely to become a big issue, he said.
“This is just another opportunity and a change we’re going to have to watch and monitor,” Bannon said. “I don’t recommend buying tickets for this event. I don’t believe the pope would like that either.”
While the festival and Mass also are free and open to the public, tickets will be necessary to get within 2.5 blocks — a quarter mile — of the events. Those events are expected to draw up to 750,000 and 1.5 million, respectively.
Individuals without tickets may still be able to catch a glimpse of the pope during parades along Benjamin Franklin Parkway before the Sept. 26 and 27 events. Papal events — including those not open to the public — will also be broadcast on 40 massive screens throughout the city. And parishes throughout the region plan to broadcast the papal events live.
Papal visit planners made tickets available to the general public for the three papal events after a backlash erupted over the announcement that several blocks of the parkway closest to the pope had been set aside for ticket holders and those tickets were largely reserved for Catholic parishioners in the city and surrounding counties.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jociavaglia