The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Student Seats launches to prevent UI students from online athletic ticket scams

1,200 University of Iowa students are registered with Student Seats, and the organization hopes to increase that number to 5,000 before the end of the year.
Grace Smith
Members of the Iowa student section run to their seats before a football game between Iowa and Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

Twenty years ago, the process to purchase Iowa Hawkeye game tickets was simple.

Fans lined up at the ticket offices of Carver-Hawkeye Arena or Kinnick Stadium hoping they would be one of the few to witness a small slice of history.

Now, as technology rapidly increases through the 21st century, things have changed just as quickly.

Ticket sales have shifted to the internet with popular ticket services such as SeatGeek, Ticketmaster, and Vivid Seats emerging as the top places to purchase tickets for any event.

Though these sites present a major convenience for the public, they also pose some dangers — mainly online ticket scamming.

For university students, the problem has become increasingly prevalent as individuals attempt to scam students frequently.

In 2021, the 72,100-member UW Badger Student Ticket Exchange Facebook Group came under scrutiny due to various users attempting to scam students on the site who were looking to purchase Wisconsin football tickets.

However, two former University of Alabama students discovered a solution to curb those scams.

Enter Student Seats, a site designed for college students to safely transfer and purchase sports tickets for their respective schools.

The idea was conceived by then-Alabama students John Ritondo and Jared Waller in 2020 — the pair were assigned to create a website for a class project. Most of the students, including Ritondo and Waller, found the project confusing.

“We were like the last two people in the class that had partners,” Ritondo said. “The instructions for the project were very vague.”

While struggling to come up with an idea, Waller discovered the perfect solution.

“Hey, what if we built a student ticket marketplace where people can come and actually buy and sell student tickets?” Waller recalled from when he originally proposed to idea to Ritondo.

Waller and Ritondo immediately realized the potential of the site because of prior scams involving friends and the rich tradition of the Alabama Crimson Tide, which claims 28 national championships across all sports.

“I did have friends who got scammed buying tickets,” Ritondo said. “It was just kind of like a normal occurrence. You hear about it happening, but we have the technology and the tools to make it not happen, and that’s what we set out to do.

To promote their idea, the duo printed flyers and handed them around campus and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Marketing on campus wasn’t difficult, but the pair knew they needed to go all-out to grow the brand nationwide.

Last season, Ritondo and Waller traveled across the country to various college campuses to promote the site, including the University of Iowa, which soon became one of their highest users.

“Iowa had the freshmen convocation going on at the time, so we ran to Target and bought all of the popsicles they had in the store,” Ritondo said. “We came back to the stadium and got 400 users registered in one day.”

Currently, the service has over 30,000 students registered — 1,200 of them are UI students. Other Big Ten schools such as Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue, and Michigan also have a high user rate.

“We’ve done transactions with all the schools, and we know that it works well,” Ritondo said.

Despite their success, the pair have experienced several challenges throughout the process.

“The first thought was, ‘How are we going to make sure that people actually don’t get scammed using the platform?'” Ritondo said.

After careful research, Ritondo and Waller discovered a way to control the funds from the purchase, rather than control the whole ticket, thus preventing any threat of scams. They also figured out how to send emails to each buyer after a purchase to show valid proof of the transaction, another crucial step in the anti-scamming process.

“We realized we don’t really have to control the ticket as long as we can control the money in the transaction,” Ritondo said. “As long as we can hold the money and prevent the money from being transferred we can always prove the ticket was sent.”

Another issue was processing payments after transactions were made.

“PayPal ended up banning us, and we owed a bunch of people money and had to go into debt to pay the sellers on our platform because it was money that we owed them,” Ritondo said.

Though some of the challenges were tough to overcome, Ritondo and Waller said in the long run they have helped them learn and grow their business.

“The growing pains were tough in the first few years, but we made it out the other, side and we are better because of it,” Ritondo said.

How do UI students register for Student Seats?

For students looking to register with Student Seats, the process is simple.

Once inside the site, students will create a login with their name, student email address, and password. A few verification questions will follow, and then they will log in with their respective bank accounts to complete the onboarding process. After filling out this information, students are now free to buy, sell, and transfer game tickets.

Ritondo and Waller encourage more students to sign up for the service, citing accessibility and low costs. They hope to reach around 5,000 total UI users by the end of the year.

“We’re a peer-to-peer ticket exchange platform,” Ritondo said. “We make it as easy as possible for you to get your money or get a ticket to the game. You have all the tickets on Student Seats, and that drives that competitive market which inevitably drives the price down over time. We’ve built a platform that’s incredibly easy to use, and it’s essentially plug and play.”

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Brad Schultz
Brad Schultz, Sports Reporter
Brad Schultz is a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Sports Studies. This is first year working as a sports reporter and he has a deep passion and love for sports. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Brad is a contributor for Saturday Blitz, a college football site, with his content primarily covering Iowa and the Big Ten.
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.