We emailed everyone selling Pope tickets on Craigslist; 12 people responded

Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

11 people on why they're trying to sell their tickets for hundreds of dollars, and one guy on why he's giving them away for free.

We emailed everyone selling Pope tickets on Craigslist; 12 people responded

The World Meeting of Families gave out many of the tickets for Pope Francis’ three limited-attendance events in Philadelphia — a speech at Independence Hall on Saturday the 26th, the Festival of Families celebration Saturday evening on the Parkway (hosted by Mark Wahlberg and featuring the orchestra and Andrea Bocelli), and the big Mass on the Parkway on Sunday — in a sort of online doorbuster using the ticketing site Eventbrite. The tickets were released batches of 10,000 per event at a preannounced time — tickets for the Independence Hall remarks became available at noon on Tuesday the 8th, the Festival of Families the next day at 4 p.m., then the Parkway Mass at 8 p.m. Tickets were free and limited to four per person, with the idea being that this would allow people of all different means to get them.

Tickets for all three events sold out within minutes. Tickets for the Mass, which went the fastest, were gone by 8:01 p.m. Further, the huge amount of web traffic — according to the World Meeting of Families, 400,000 unique visitors competed for the 10,000 tickets to the Independence Hall event — overloaded Eventbrite, leading to even more problems for people trying to get tickets.

As you might expect, many of those tickets popped up for sale for hundreds and even thousands of dollars on Craigslist and eBay within minutes, to the dismay of everyone involved with planning this thing.

“Papal tickets are never intended to be sold,” said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a statement Wednesday. “Scalping of tickets to papal events is shameful and reprehensible.”

A disgusted Mayor Nutter even used the word “trifling” in a press conference, an occasion that always fills me with the sort of joy I assume a birdwatcher feels spotting some shy, magnificent species of heron:

"Pope Francis comes to Philadelphia to speak on ... immigration and religious freedom, and you get a free ticket and then throw it up on a site and try to sell it and that's — in the neighborhood where I grew up — that's trifling, just trifling," Nutter said. "I mean, that's just wrong."

(I just realized that, in the unlikely event that nothing trifling happens between now and January, I may never sight this particular magnificent heron again, which breaks my heart. Jim Kenney is basically a sack of flamingos, and I look forward to spotting them, but… still.)

Anyway, Friday afternoon, the day after the Mass tickets sold out in less than a minute, I checked how many papal tickets were being sold on Craigslist. It was difficult to tell, because some Craigslist users were on a crusade to flag and remove those, leading to a fluctuating total (in the low hundreds) and pissy reposts such as:

ALT

I sent the following email to as many listings I could get to before they were flagged for removal, which was about 85:

Hi! I’m a reporter for Philadelphia City Paper looking to speak with people who are selling or bartering their tickets to Pope-related events about how much response they've been getting, and why they're selling them. I’m happy to give you a pseudonym if you’re not comfortable speaking on the record about it. My email is emilyg@citypaper.net, my cell phone is [REDACTED], hope to hear from you!

Thanks!
Emily G

 I got 12 responses via phone, email and text. Here they are.


Anonymous | email

time is money  what's in it for me??


“Rick” | phone

So I sent out about a billion emails trying to get in touch with people — which ad was yours?

It was just for a ticket... I've got other listings, one for Saturday and four for Sunday.

What was the price?

Saturday is $350, Sunday's $1500.

And how did you decide on those numbers?

Just random. Basically, whatever the market will bear. If somebody meets it, that's great; if not, I didn't really make any investment in the tickets, so there's no loss on my behalf.

Have many people been in touch about the tickets?

I've had a few, and I've had a few who weren't really happy that I was selling them. I had a little hostility.

What did they say?

Well, you know, the nicer ones said I should be ashamed of myself, and I was called the scum of the earth, so... you know. It's anonymity. On the Internet you can say anything to anyone at any time, so that's fine. I didn't have anyone physically threaten me or track me down, so.

So how did you come to be selling the tickets?

Well, I obviously knew the Pope was coming to town and I saw that tickets were being made available, and there was no cost, so... I just figured... well, let me see if I can make a couple dollars. (Pause.)

Do I believe it's unethical? Absolutely. If you're saying is there a value judgment, yeah, I think, mea maxima culpa. [NOTE: I think but am not positive that is what he said, the connection got fuzzy.]

I think that's also something that's become commonplace; there's businesses which survive on that, such as StubHub. Organizations capitalize on that. That's the way I look on it, the pricing and the pricing factor — if people are willing to pay for it, I don't have an issue with that, and if not, that's fine too. I'm not making anyone — nobody's compelled to do this. They feel there's value in purchasing these tickets and attending this event, and that's fine.

So you're not planning on going yourself.

No, absolutely not. I couldn't care less.

Are you going out of town?

Yes, actually I am. We're closing our office for one day and hopefully a second day; I'm taking advantage of the time off.

You said a bunch of people got in touch saying you should be ashamed of yourself, but how many people actually were interested in the tickets?

I've had three people interested in the tickets, I don't know how legitimate their interest was, or is. Obviously, I'm not meeting any of them in person.

How does that work, exactly?

I'm not going to meet anyone in person, I don't think that's worth the risk. PayPal — I intend on sending the tickets via pdf file, with a physical copy sent through the mail in case there's any discrepancy. And purchases would be made by PayPal, so it's secure and anonymous, without any risk of physical harm to myself.

So are you religious yourself?

No.

What do you think about the whole Pope coming to Philadelphia thing?

He means a lot to a great many people. There's people in my family who are deeply religious... I don't think they'd have any interest in seeing the Pope, if they were aware I was selling the tickets — 

Are they Catholic?

Oh, yeah, yeah. I have extended family that's Catholic. They're going to watch it on television.

Last, if the tickets don't sell, what are you planning on doing with them?

Um, I don't know. Maybe... if the day before I haven't sold them, maybe I’d contact a charity and see if they're interested. I'd offer to sell them to a charity, but, enh — the day before, if they're not sold, I might offer to donate them.


“Mark” | phone

Which ad was yours?

It was one ticket for Sunday for $200, was what I posted.

How did you come to be selling the ticket?

Um, well, I work at the airport. And the thing with that is, I know it's going to be a busy weekend and a lot of the trains are not running, and I work at 4:00 and the last train to the airport is at 12:30, so I was thinking if I could get on the train — because there's going to be a lot of extra people — if I could even get on the train, I'll be at work four or five hours early, and I'm not getting paid for it or anything.

I asked my boss if I could put in a PTO, if I could trade, and he said no. So if I don't come in, along with my coworkers, we're going to get written up. I'm losing money by sitting there and not getting paid for it. So I figured I might as well try to get a ticket and make a few dollars off of it, know what I mean? 

A lot of people emailed me asking if they can get it for free, and I told them if I can't sell it by the end of the week, I'll be sure to give it to them, because I know a lot of people want to see the Pope. But in my situation, I don't know how a lot of us are going to get to work. A lot of us may be fired because of it.

Can you tell me a little more about the deal at the airport?

Well, I work for a private company at the airport; we had a meeting with human resources and she basically told my supervisor that it’s not their problem and if we couldn't get to work, we gonna get written up and possibly fired. So a lot of people's going to call out. I can't afford to call out cause I don't have money like that, so it's like I don't know what to do. They leaving us with no options.

And it's not just my company that's stuck, it's a lot of employees at the airport that work for the airlines too, I do security, but a lot of airline employees their supervisors put them up in hotels and some of them are getting carpool, but my job won't do that. And I'm coming from the Northeast Philadelphia.

Like I said, I don't even know if I can get there, but if I do get there, I'm going to be at work and not getting paid for a lot of hours, and I don't think that's fair. So I'm trying to figure out what I can do to put money in my pocket because of it just in case I do get fired. And that $200 would help.

How did you settle on $200 as the asking price?

Well, I looked on craigslist and saw other prices, and I know some of ‘em was higher and some of ‘em was a little bit lower, so I just put $200. I thought $200 was a fair price compared to what other people was asking for.

So how many people have contacted you?

It's only a few people — about four people asked me if they could get it for free, and complaining, saying it's not fair that you're charging when it's free. I just don't answer them besides this one young lady, I said I'd give it to her if I had it at the end of the week. But nobody's offering a price or anything, they're just asking if they can get it for free because they're religious.

Are you religious?

I am — I'm not Catholic, though. But I am.


“Sandy” | phone

Which ad was yours?

I was the ticket for $100.

And how many tickets were you selling?

One, just one.

And it was for the Mass?

I think... I was looking for tickets for the Mass, but I only got tickets for the Festival.

Have you been hearing from people?

Not yet, but I do have someone who's interested.

Did they get in touch through Craigslist?

No, through word of mouth.

How did you come to have this ticket that you're not going to use?

Well, I purchased two tickets on Craigslist for $50 each, because my friend and I were both trying to get tickets. I'm actually attending the event, and I was on my computer ready, and the tickets sold out, I couldn't get any. When there's concerts on sale, I'm always ready to go, multiple tabs open and everything. But with this, I just couldn't get a ticket.

My family's actually Catholic, so I really did want to go. But I had to buy tickets. Around 8:20, 8:30 [on Thursday night], I bought two tickets on Craigslist for $50 each. And I'm just trying to sell one for $100 to recoup the money that I spent on this free event. I'm not trying to profit, I'm just trying to make my money back.

So you're from Philly?

No, I'm from... uh, I'll just not share that information.

OK, that's fine! But you are coming, and—

I live in Philly — I live in Philly.

OK! What are you most excited about with the Papal visit?

Oh, I just want to see the Pope. My grandmother will be proud, because she can't make it. … I wish they had just charged, like, $1-$5, so that this kind of thing wouldn't happen.

Yeah, it's really too bad.

I knew people would be selling it for profit. Worst case, I met someone who'll buy the ticket for $50, so I'll have paid $50 for my ticket, which — I really did want to see the Pope.

Were the two tickets you bought off Craigslist a package deal?

Yes.

How did that work, exactly? It seems like there's a lot of opportunities to get scammed.

Yeah, I've actually sold tickets on Craigslist for events where I couldn't go, and... (Pause.) Sorry, I'm at the store. So I've done Craigslist transactions and I haven't had a problem. I actually had to sell a Made in America ticket this past week, and had someone who was trying to buy a ticket off me, and asked 'How do I know this is real?' blah blah blah, so I went through the same thing from the other end. I asked the seller and he actually sent me his full name — well, it was his actual email, so he couldn't fake that. He's actually a lawyer in Florida, he sent me all this information about himself. I don't really know. But it was on Eventbrite, so... it seemed OK? I don't know. I'll be taking a risk.

It was someone from Florida?

Yeah, he said he was visiting and wanted to attend all of the events, so he'd had a bunch of friends on computers trying to help him out.

Well, that's all I have — thanks for getting in touch with me, and if you do manage to sell it, definitely call back and tell me how it went.

Yes! I will do that. Unless — if you don't hear from me, it probably means it was a scam. (Laughs.)


“John,” phone

So which ad was yours, again?

I've got 2 tickets for the event at Eakins Oval.

That's the Festival of Families on Saturday, right?

Right, it's the festival on Saturday from 5:30 to 9:30; the Pope is going to be there and the Philadelphia Orchestra is playing, and Bocelli is singing, and a couple of other acts are going to be there.

OK! So how did you come to be selling the tickets?

Well, I was trying to get tickets to see the Pope, either for the Mass or for his address to the crowd down at Independence Hall, and I just wasn't able to. I was online at every announced time with several computers — I had my phone, my iPad and my laptop, all trying to get on each time — Tuesday at noon, Wednesday at 4 and then again at 8:00 at night. And I wasn't able to get through any of those times, and they sold out within minutes. But I went on craigslist to try to get tickets, and I was able to find some tickets. I didn't get tickets to the Mass, which is what I was trying to get — I still am, but I think they're asking too much money — so I took the opportunity to get what I could. I only needed two, but the guy had four for sale, so I'm selling the other two trying to recover my costs.

That's interesting, I just talked to a woman who's doing the same thing. So you really wanted to go to the Mass?

I wanted to go to the Mass or the lecture at Independence Hall or both, actually.

Are you Catholic?

I'm Catholic, but, um, not a... I'm not what you would call — I saw the Pope when he was in town the last time, obviously not the same Pope, but when I was a kid, in 1979. But I think it's just a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I want to take advantage of it to see him and hear what he has to say. I have a different respect for this Pope versus others, in fact, he's bringing me closer to the church because of his progressive views, particularly on gay relationships and gay marriage, my son happens to be gay, and I was brought up with the old-school thinking around homosexuality, and this Pope seems to be more progressive. When he said 'Who am I to judge a person's sexuality?" I thought that was awesome. And even his views on other things — abortion and things that the Catholic church really needs to change their thinking as it continues to lose members. I think I'm a good example of that. So I really want to hear what he's got to say. And apparently he's going to be addressing those issues along with things like immigration and sexism. I'm interested in hearing about it.

So how much are you charging for your tickets?

$175.

How did you decide on that number?

Well, I paid $150, and figured I could make my money back... not all the way, but make a little bit back. I actually put them up for $200 and didn't get a very good response, so I lowered it to $175.

What do you mean when you say you didn't get a very good response?

People got in touch with me, but most of them wanted me to just give them the tickets, and several gave me, you know, a sob story — they're coming to town and they don't have any money, but they're devout Catholics so would I just give them the tickets. (Laughs.) Three different people! So I thought that was pretty interesting. And there are a couple of people that are offering to give tickets away if you have the best "story" to tell.

So you did a little research before you priced it.

Well, I knew because I bought my tickets right away — within an hour. I paid $100 each for them, so I figured I'd try to offset the cost and get a little extra. But I also thought it was interesting — there were several people posting negative ads and telling people to flag ads— in fact, somebody did flag my first ad, that's why I changed the price. They flagged my ad for $200 saying it was inappropriate and Craigslist took it down. I reposted it, but I changed the price. There's some angry people — and I understand, I was angry, too! But I'm not trying to make a profit, I'm just trying to cover my costs.

Yeah, I was just about to ask about that — I just had a whole bunch of Craigslist tabs open, because I'm emailing people one after the other, and now some are starting to turn up as flagged and taken down. So I think somebody's on a quest. A couple people I've spoken to have said people have gotten in touch saying, 'You should be ashamed of yourself' — have you heard from anybody like that?

Yeah, I got one email from somebody who said that. I actually responded to someone who had tickets up for $50 each, I wanted to buy all four of them. When they responded, they said, 'I've had several offers, so I've raised my price, make me a higher offer.' I thought that was inappropriate. Partially bait and switch, and partially price gouging on that person's part. I didn't even make an offer on that, I figured that's not the type of person I wanted to get the tickets from anyway.

But you haven't gotten any offers you think are serious for your own tickets at $175.

No, but it's only been up for a day.

I'd check on it — now that I'm looking at Craigslist, there were about 450 ticket ads earlier under the search “pope,” and now it looks like there's only 250, so yours might not be up anymore.

That might be true; I haven't heard anything. But a lot of people are selling just transpasses, not tickets to the event. There weren't that many available, I was sort of surprised. Some people are asking a crazy amount of money, like, $1600. But I think I'm willing to buy them if it's a reasonable price, it's a once in a lifetime chance.

But I thought $100 was fair — I mean it's a concert too, so there'd be some entertainment. My plan is, if nobody buys them on Craigslist, I'm going to bring the two extra tickets down there and scalp 'em for whatever I can get. I think I'll be able to get $100 for them and cover my costs.

So are you from Philly?

I am.

And what neighborhood do you live in?

I live over in Green Hill Farms, next to Overbrook.

How do you feel about the Pope coming to town?

I think there's a lot of hype. It's going to inconvenience a lot of people with the closing of the highways and all, and a lot of people weren't happy about that. I'm not — I think it's the weekend, it's the Pope, it's a once in a lifetime thing. I'm planning on riding my bike down because I won't be able to drive my car; it’s five or six miles from Overbrook to where the event's going to be.

I think it's special. I think Philly is a great city, and I think we should be proud to be able to host the Pope. So I'm not looking at it as a negative for the inconvenience, I'm looking at it as a positive for the opportunity to see the Pope and the exposure that the city's getting worldwide.


Anonymous | email

Hi Emily,

You emailed me about why I'm selling my Pope tickets and a few other questions. I don't want to talk on the phone and I won't give you my name or any information like that. But I can share some light on why I'm doing it and my feedback.

I currently haven't had any offers. I've noticed people will sell their tickets on Ebay and when the site removes it they repost it including something small to sell so that it is within their terms. So you'll see posts of people selling tickets and a Pope bobble head because they're selling something related to the Pope being here.

Why am I selling my tickets? Let me give you a quick backstory. I went to college in Philadelphia, had internships, and did very well in school. But I'm working my ass off at a full time job and a part time job just to feed myself, pay rent, and pay my loans. I don't have anybody to support me financially, if my father could help me he would. But there are times when I have to give him money. So now I can't work my full time or part time job from Thursday-Monday because of the Pope being here. It's like the city wants to make this a terrible time for everyone living in the city. But not everyone has the luxury of taking 5 days off unpaid. 

The feedback I've had has been interesting. A gentleman messaged me saying that he hopes I go to hell because I got the tickets and I'm selling them. He said he doesn't think it's fair that I got the tickets because I have a better internet speed and that he wanted tickets for his sick parents. I just told him that everyone has to look out for themselves nowadays but that I'm sure the Pope approves of how he's talking to me. I told him to have a blessed day and that I would pray for his family.

I don't feel bad doing this at all. This is a free country and I'm honestly surprised they didn't think that through. A large amount of people in Philadelphia aren't happy the Pope is here. We are the ones that have to put our lives on hold, pay to park our cars places, not be able to work, not be able to get to work, and we really get nothing from it. It looks great for the Mayor and anybody else working on this event because it's a resume builder and they get to experience it better than anyone else who won or bought tickets. Or they have enough money to go on vacation. 

I told my friend that if I didn't sell them she could have them. So regardless my tickets aren't going to waste.


Rob | phone

So, Rob — is it OK if I use Rob, or would you like a pseudonym?

You can use Rob, I think it's a pretty common name. (Laughs.)

So, Rob — I sent out about a billion emails trying to get in touch with people. Which ad was yours?

I was selling four to the Festival of Families, Saturday night.

And what was your asking price?

I didn't have an asking price, it was “make me an offer.” And, honestly, nobody's emailed me about them, so (laughs) I still have them.

I think somebody's been going through flagging posts on Craigslist that are selling Pope tickets. Did yours get taken down?

I think one of them did, and then I just reposted it. You can't get discouraged by that kind of stuff.

But you still haven't gotten any emails about your ad?

Not that one — I also was lucky enough to get Mass tickets, and they've already sold.

Oh, really? How much did they sell for?

$125 a ticket.

So how did you manage exchanging money for the tickets?

PayPal. They have 100% buyer protection. They paid for it, and then I emailed them the electronic file, pretty simple.

How many responses did you get for all of the tickets you had up?

Quite a few for the Mass tickets — I sold them through eBay, actually, not through Craigslist. Since then, eBay has pulled down all those Pope listings, but luckily I got mine sold before they pulled it down.

Do you think it’s justified for eBay or Craigslist to be flagging these ads?

I mean, they have their own policies, I don't know what Craigslist's policies are —

I believe on Craigslist users can flag posts as objectionable, and if enough people flag them, they take them down. I get the impression that there was an organized effort to flag all of these.

Yeah, I really don't know. I know eBay does have a policy against selling tickets that were given away to the public for free, so that's why eBay took the listings down. I mean, it is what it is. They’re companies, they can do whatever they want.

How did you come to be selling these tickets?

I bought ‘em through the online... thing. Well, not bought ‘em, but registered for them for free.

Over Eventbrite.

Yes.

It was pretty hard to get those tickets, were you waiting at your computer?

Oh, yeah, like, doing the refresh thing every 5-10 seconds until it popped up that it was time to go.

Right. So a lot of people I've talked to so far say they've gotten emails scolding them for doing this, did you get any of those?

I mean, no, not really.

Not really, or not?

I mean, one guy said, "You got these for free, the most I'll give you is $20," but nothing saying, like, "You're going to hell" or anything like that.

Why did you end up selling the tickets?

To... make money?

Fair enough. I ask “why” because other people I’ve spoken with mentioned they're trying to recoup costs for buying their own ticket from a scalper, or from being inconvenienced by the Pope visit. Did you have anything like that in your head, or, just, "Know what? I could use some money."

Yeah, I mean, I saw an opportunity to make a quick buck to be honest with you. I didn't even think of the Pope inconveniencing me, but I mean that really didn't come into my mind. It was just Here's an opportunity, supply and demand, if I can get em and sell em let's go for it.

Do you live in Philadelphia?

No, I live in South Jersey.

Are you religious yourself?

I actually am a Catholic, but I'd say a non-practicing Catholic.

What are you going to do with the tickets if they don't sell on Craigslist?

Absolutely nothing — there's not a chance I'm going into the city that weekend to try and see anything to do with the Pope. Forget it.

What do you think about the Pope coming to Philly?

I think it's pretty cool, right? Gives people an opportunity that ordinarily wouldn't be able to experience something like that an opportunity to experience it.

What's the lowest price you'd sell the tickets for?

If it got down to real close to the event and they hadn't sold and somebody told me a good story of why they want ed them for free, I'd probably just end up giving them away if they don't sell. If somebody wants to use them and I haven't made anything off of them, whatever. Didn't cost anything, so it's not like I'm out anything. (Laughs.)

OK, that's all I have, thanks a lot!

You got it! Good luck with the story, and — City Paper, is that the one that they give out for free in Philly?

Yup! Orange box.

I don't ever, like, go into Philly, but can I read it online later? Does City Paper publish online?

Later, Rob sent this email:

 Emily

It was very nice speaking with you yesterday. BTW my post was deleted by a presumably disgruntled Catholic so I reposted it today. Please send me a copy of your article at [REDACTED].
Thanks and I look forward to reading your piece.

Rob


Anonymous | email

I initially had a name on this because the emailer requested I credit him with his full name. I got another email yesterday saying the name was that of a person who apparently is being harassed by 4chan or something, so I took the name off. You probably want to take these responses with a grain of salt, too.

How did you come to be selling these tickets?

I overheard someone talking about getting them to sell them so I decided to give it a shot myself. I got 8 tickets for each of the events with the help of my brother. I saw how much they were selling for and got very excited. 

How did you decide on the price for the tickets?

I went by what other people had them priced at and what they were selling on Ebay for.

How many people have gotten in touch so far interested in getting the tickets? How many people have gotten in touch not interested in the tickets?

About 20 or so but I have declined all of the offers. Some people were giving sob stories to get them for free but I just ignored them and deleted their emails.

Has your post been flagged?

No, it has not but I would not be surprised if an anti-semite flagged the post to shut it down.

What are your thoughts on this whole Pope visit? Are you planning on going yourself?

I think it's a waste of time and money, by both the people going and the city of Philadelphia. Pope Francis' statements regarding Israel and Palestine have made me dislike him but I know other people have opinions completely opposite on the spectrum.

Are you religious?

Yes, I am very religious but am not a Catholic. I am an Orthodox Jew and proud.

If the tickets don't sell, what are you going to do with them? 

Probably burn them or give them to a homeless person because I have no use for them whatsoever.


Ryan | email and phone

Hi Emily,

I'd be happy to talk to you about my experience and motivations for selling the Pope tickets. I can talk tomorrow afternoon. ...  And yes, that would be nice if you used a pseudonym as I've already received a shame email through Craigslist, quoted below

Best,
Ryan 

 

---------- Forwarded message ----------

 

Subject: YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED 

FOR SELLING TICKETS TO SEE THE POPE. 

THE REASON WHY I WANTED TO GET TICKETS WAS FOR MY SICK FATHER AND MOTHER.  ITS PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT GIVE HUMANITY NO CHANCE.  YOU ARE SCUM OF THE EARTH.  JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE A BETTER INTERNET CONNECTION THAT I DO YOU WERE ABLE TO GET TICKETS AND I WASNT.

 First, you said your name is Ryan, is it OK if I call you Ryan if I quote you?

You can call me Ryan, that's good.

Can I get your age and your neighborhood?

I'm mid-20s and I live in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood.

Which ad was yours?

So I actually bought a bunch of stuff — I won the SEPTA lottery, so I had 10 SEPTA tickets for each day, and I also got four tickets for the Papal Mass and four tickets for the Festival of Families. So you just want to know how the response has been and such?

Yeah, but first, your ad was for those all together, or it was separate ones for each, or —

It was just one, like, "I have all these tickets, contact me if you're interested."

And what was the the price you were listing for them?

I think... I think I said $100 for the Festival of Families tickets, and then... let me check real quick. I had a couple different ads I put up. (types) Just one second. ...

Yeah, so for the SEPTA passes I'm just selling them for how much I paid, which is $10 each, because basically no one wants them anymore because I don't think they sold enough of them to sell out.

I think they're still available.

Yeah, so I'm kind of screwed there. Festival of Families tickets I said one for $100, two for $175, four for $300; then Papal Mass, one for $200, two for $350 and four for $650.

Have you had many people get in contact with you?

I've had a lot of people get in contact, but no one really following through. People would say "I'm interested in the tickets, let's meet," then I'd send them a message back and then pretty much dead after that. Nobody's bought anything yet, so.

I think people have been going through flagging all of the Pope tickets. Have any of your ads been taken down?

I haven't received any notices about that? It looks like this one is still up.

Have you gotten any people get in touch to scold you for selling these tickets?

Yeah, I actually forwarded you — 

Oh, yeah, yeah, you're that guy, OK.

Yeah. (Laughs.) So I got that email, that was the only one I got that was, like, aggressive.

How are you planning to handle the actual sale of the ticket if someone buys it?

Just like any Craigslist transaction, I would try to meet up with them in a public place and do cash; I've printed out the tickets.

I saw your phone number is not a 215, are you located in Philly?

Yeah, I'm a graduate student here; I'm from out of town, but I've been living here for a few years.

How did you come to be selling these tickets, anyway?

Well, the SEPTA thing, I just saw the lottery and thought, you know, with all the hysteria around everyone coming, it might be a good opportunity to make a couple bucks. I'm a graduate student; I don't have much money. But that seems to have been a flop; I spent about $200 on those SEPTA passes, but I'm not sure if I'll recoup that. And I guess I was just sitting around, I wasn't particularly thinking about it, and I saw the news, and it said in 10 minutes they're selling 10,000 tickets to the Festival of Families, and I said, ‘OK, I'll sit here on my computer, hit refresh a few times,’ and I was able to get those. And then a couple hours later they had another sale, so I just went for it and I managed to get those without much of a problem.

I'm not — I have some friends that are going, and I'm not 100% sure that I won't go myself. I mean, I'm actually Jewish, so I really don't have a religious interest. But I am kind of interested in the spectacle and to see what it would be like, so... I might end up going myself if nobody wants them. But I figure I could try to put them up and see if people were willing to pay a good chunk of change for them. If not, I'll probably go myself or just give them to a friend.

Is there a minimum amount that you're holding out for? Like, if somebody said, I'll give you $20, would you take that?

I mean, if it's somebody I don't know, I wouldn't really do that. For me, it would be more valuable to go and have the experience than to sell them for $20. For the Mass, I wouldn't go lower than $100. It's a pretty hot ticket, and for me it's worth it to go if it's under that. For the Festival of Families, I'd sell them for, like, $50, or $25 if somebody offered me that. It seems like the people who have been contacting me have been contacting multiple people, and if you don't get back to them quickly, they'll take other opportunities. It seems like there are some sales happening. But I haven't made any.

So the guy that wrote you the angry letter, did you respond to him at all?

I did! I did, I sent him an email saying something like, 'How dare you judge me.' His email said something like, 'I wanted to go because my parents are sick,' and I said, like, 'Look, you don't know my situation. I could have parents that are sick and need to raise some money to pay for their bills. I could have many many reasons — maybe I'm traveling from outside Philadelphia and need that money to get there, and so I said to him, 'Look, you really shouldn't judge people before you know their whole situation, I think that's something that Jesus taught people.' He never responded back after that.

So... uh, do you have sick parents?

No, no I don't.

OK. You just object to being prejudged because that guy didn't know anything about you.

Yeah! I mean, it was like... it was totally unfair. He has no idea of my situation. I mean, he doesn't know. (Pause.)

So how did you decide on — 

So —

Oh, sorry, what were you going to say?

I think he also said something, like — like the tickets sold out in 30 seconds, so somebody else was going to get them anyway. So I... I don't feel that bad about that. He's, like, 'Oh, I could have got them.' You probably couldn't have got them.

How did you decide on the price for the tickets?

I just kind of looked around — some people were asking crazy amounts, like a thousand dollars a ticket, and there's no way anyone's going to pay that. But I figured I'd hit somewhere in the middle, something I think people would pay for it.

I've been asking people if they're religious — you said you were Jewish, what are your feelings about the Catholic Church, or just religion in general?

I mean, I like what the Catholic Church does in terms of working with poor people and charity. And I'm culturally Jewish, but I'm not religious — I'm a scientist, I'm an atheist. I appreciate that the church does good things for the world, but I also see a lot of problems with things they do. But I like the Pope, I think he's a good guy, he has good morals. And a lot of people need a church to tell them how to be good people and whatnot, but personally I'm not religious. I celebrate Jewish holidays with my family, but I'm a rational scientist.

What are your feelings about the Pope's visit to the city?

Obviously it's a hassle; it's kind of unfortunate that it's going to affect so much of the city — those original maps they came out with were kind of ridiculous, right? For me, it's also a hassle because I live here in Graduate Hospital, so I won't be able to park in my neighborhood for the next week.

It's a bit of a hassle, but I think it's exciting, it's good for the city to get on the world stage for a little bit, we have the DNC and the Dalai Lama coming, but I don't think that the public figures are handling it so well at this point, but I'm excited, I think it's going to be interesting.

So if you do manage to sell the tickets, what are you planning on doing with the $200?

Well, like I said, I'm a graduate student, I'm not making very much money right now, so I just wanna pay the bills, basically; maintain lifestyle.


Anonymous | email

What's your angle? 

I'm curious as to what people's reasons are, honestly. I think the perception of people who are selling tickets is that they're terrible people, but so far I've spoken with one person who had to buy tickets herself because she's Catholic and genuinely wants to see the Pope and is trying to recoup some of the money, and another person who is getting really screwed over at his job by the Pope messing up public transit, so he thought he'd at least try to get a couple hundred bucks out of the Pope thing if there's a chance that he's going to have to work a bunch of unpaid hours or get fired over it. Both sounded pretty reasonable to me. How about you?

I'm just one of those "terrible people." Hundreds of thousands of people "allegedly" coming to what will be a security state. All to see a man who represents millions of people who are delusional about God even existing. 

Fuck the church and fuck the people coming. The world could do without them. 

The church, the people coming and the city all deserve to be exploited. The bigoted catholic church has stolen so much money from the world in it's ponzi scheme it's time to steal back. But sure, I'll be apart of your story. 

See, that's a legit interesting viewpoint.

you can quote me on it. 

Later, the same guy emailed me back:

Just thought I'd inform that I sold the tickets, four for $300. Probably could have gotten more now that Marky Mark is hosting his holiness, but it was more headache than it was worth.


“Israel” | text message

Hi Emily, you contacted me about selling my tickets to Popapalooza. I'm not much of a phone guy but I'd be happy to text about selling the tickets if you like. 

Cool! So then here's some questions: What should I call you if I quote you?

Call me Israel

Which listing/s is/are yours?

I'm selling 4 tickets to the independence hall event. For $1000.

How did you come to be selling these tickets?

I went online on Tuesday to get the tickets knowing I was going to try and sell them. 

How many emails have you gotten in response to your ad, and what were they?

Sadly I have not gotten any emails yet. 

How old are you, and what's the general area that you live?

In 39 and live in the Collegeville area. 

How did you settle on $1000 as your price?

I looked at what other tickets were posted at and that seemed like a good starting point.  

Are you religious yourself?

I wouldn't say I'm religious I believe in God. I don't go to church every week. 

Did any of your ads get flagged or taken down?

I haven't been flagged yet.  I wanted to go through eBay but I heard they are pulling tickets. 

Do you see people flagging ads for takedown as justified or not?

I don't think people complaining is justified. I heard the Mayor say he was disappointed.  He said it was trifling.  I think it's hustling and hopefully other people can make some money too.  Renting apartments, driving for uber.

What do you plan to do with the tickets if they don't sell?

If they don't sell I'll give them to a local church the day before. 

And what are your general feelings on the pope's visit to philly?

I think like in most things Philly is embarrassing themselves with how they've handled the Pope's visit. NYC annonces the Pope's coming to town here's what's up.  Philly is issuing maps that can't be read, septa can't get their act together, let's fence off and close the city, this highway is closed but now this one is.  Everyday other day is a new announcement or a clarification. I'm happy he's coming and hopefully it brings some tourists and helps the economy but instead of showing the country how organized and professional they can be it's a shit show.


Brian | phone

So what would you prefer to be called?

Brian's fine — is that OK?

Yeah! So how old are you, and whereabouts do you live?

I am 33 years old, and I am in South Jersey, in the Collingswood area.

So which ad was yours, again?

It was the ad where I am selling them for free. Uh, giving them for free.

How are you deciding who you’ll give them to?

I really wanted to hear, I guess, people's reasoning behind why they want them — kind of like an inspiration to me? I just want to hear why, out of the numerous responses I've gotten so far, you'd be the best fit for them. And if I like your story the most, then I'll give them to you.

How did you come to be selling — I mean, giving, not selling — these tickets?

I got them like everybody else, by luck, going on that Eventbrite site. I saw on Channel 6 news that they were going to be doing a lottery for it, first come first serve, and I just lucked out. Originally I was kind of tossed back and forth over whether I was going to use them for myself, but then I decided — I was reading a lot of things online that a lot of people were selling them and gouging people, kind of crushing people's dreams, and I didn't want to be one of those people, I wanted to be different, you know, and try to help someone the best that I can.

So you initially intended to use them yourself?

I was! I posted the ad like that, I said I ended up not needing them, I was reading people's stories where they didn't have the opportunity or the access to be able to get the tickets themselves, so... I don't know, I just feel like maybe somebody else out there can use them more than me.

Which event do you have tickets for?

The Festival of Families, the one with the concert.

How many responses have you gotten so far?

I thought I'd have hundreds, but I've gotten about 15.

And what stories have people been telling you?

A lot of people want the tickets because they think it's going to be an opportunity to restore their faith. I've had a few where they've been through so much in the past couple years that they feel that a chance to meet or see him that close is going to rekindle their faith or bring them closer to God, or just change their life totally, and it makes me happy to have the opportunity to pass that on to somebody. I got a couple that are, like, 'Enh, I'd like them because I want to see the Pope,' but I'm looking more for something inspirational, to inspire me, I guess.

Have the people been mostly from out of town, or local?

You know what, most of them don't respond with where they're at yet; I respond and say, 'I want to give you the tickets," I've had a couple from Haddonfield, I've had a couple from Philadelphia — the woman who responded to me from Haddonfield has a friend coming from Ohio who's beat cancer twice, she said, 'I promised her these tickets from the 10,000 pool, I thought it would be easier and I couldn't get them.'

Do you worry that someone will tell you a sad story, get the tickets, then resell them?

I am, and I put that in my ad. I said, 'I want to give it to the most deserving' — deserving in my opinion, but who really says what's deserving? — but I said, 'If I do this, you have to promise me that you won't sell them.'

Are you a religious person yourself?

Um... I'm not an extremist, put it that way.

What do you mean by that?

I'm not... extreme. I have my own beliefs and my own faith that get me through day to day, but I don't go to church every Sunday, I don't belong to a so-called church.

You weren't raised Catholic or anything?

I actually was raised Catholic! (Laughs.) Believe it or not. But my parents never really pressed it on me. They let me find my own way.

Let's see — I'm running through my list of questions in my head, but a lot of them aren't relevant because you aren't selling them for money. Has anybody offered you money?

No one has offered me money. I gave it some time because I wanted to see how many people actually came through, I said I'd make my decision by this Friday. And I've yet to receive anybody really begging, like, 'I'll give you $100 for them.' I wouldn't take that anyway, that's not what I'm out here to do. I originally wasn't out there for publicity, either, so when I saw your email, I was kind of, like, 'Do I want to respond?' But I thought it was interesting.

Honestly, I'm really glad you called — I haven't had anybody else call me back who was giving them away rather than selling them, and there were a few others. I guess I'm just happy to be able to include someone who isn't, you know, super profit-motivated.

I would love to interview some of those people myself! (Laughs.) Because I just don't understand the reason — they're free, and you're taking people's hopes. I don't know, it just doesn't make sense. But, you know, whatever.

Because some people just don't have the means or have the access. My being able to get them was luck, pure luck, plus I was free to sit there at the computer. I read other stories and blogs where people were saying, 'I sat there with five laptops open and I was clicking, clicking, clicking, and they were in my cart ready to go and then they'd drop out, and I missed my opportunity.'

I'm more POed, I guess, that people who are selling them and gouging people, that those tickets are just going to sit and never be sold, and the people that really need this won't get them.

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