California Girls to pay it forward

Fireworks almost didn’t go off for Maple Ridge friends

  • Jul. 21, 2011 12:00 p.m.
Fireworks almost didn’t go off for friends (from left)  Erica Smith

Fireworks almost didn’t go off for friends (from left) Erica Smith

From January to April, Katie Pesut, 17, and five of her friends scoured the Internet for six affordable tickets to Katy Perry’s sold-out Vancouver show, California Dreams.

Once they found them, they worked at various minimum-wage, part-time jobs, from King’s Kitchen to Fitness Unlimited, to pay for them – $480 total.

For two months they saved.

The long-anticipated day arrived Tuesday. Pesut, Taryn Whyte, Erica Smith, Emilie Nunez, Jenna Davidson and Robin Goodman were going to see Perry for the first time at Rogers Arena, making the hour and a half commute into the city from Maple Ridge.

The day was spent in a fashion typical for girls 16 and 17 years old, preparing to see one of their pop idols. They rampaged through the mall searching for the perfect “Katy” outfit.

They did their hair, then they did their make up. They even rented a pink limousine.

The girls sent themselves off with an impromptu photo shoot in front of the limo. They struck poses in bright pink and floral skirts, their hair falling straight on their backs. When the time came to leave, they piled into the limo in their four-inch heels. As Perry blasted from the speakers – “You, make, me, feel, like I’m living a, teen-age, dream,” the girls sang right along with her.

They had no idea what was in store for them.

“I’ve loved Katy Perry since I Kissed a Girl,” said Whyte, 16, bright-eyed and fast talking, referring to Perry’s first single from 2008.

The scene at the arena only added to their energy. Tens of thousands of Perry fans, equally wired, surrounded the arena on the sunny evening. Some were decked out more than others, with fluorescent wigs on their heads and glow sticks around their necks. They mingled, talking about how they’ve loved Perry since Day 1, basking in the shared excitement.

“We just kept rambling on about the show and our excitement,” says Pesut, pulling her brown hair back behind her shoulders.

At 7 p.m., the six girls made their way up the staircase, through the baggage check, and handed the tickets over to be scanned.

No beep.

The scanner refused to recognize the tickets.

“We were devastated,” says Pesut, wide-eyed. “I couldn’t believe it. We were disgusted.”

Back in April, one of the girls, Erica Smith, 17, emailed a Kyle Smith through Craigslist. Kyle Smith wanted to sell his tickets quickly because he could no longer make it to the concert. For $80 a ticket, his were significantly cheaper than other tickets sold online. So off they went, alone, to meet the ticket seller in Langley.

“It seemed a little to good to be true,” Pesut said, in hindsight.

“But he just seemed so harmless and trustworthy,” added Erica, who texted her mother from Rogers Arena: “The tickets are fake. I’m bawling right now.”

Security directed them to Box Office 11, which deals with complaints and concerns.

They joined a line of more than 20 people who had all been scammed by the same Kyle Smith. He also went by Chris Friesen.

Mutual feelings of shock and disgust were exchanged.

In the second line, previous excitement turned to tears and anger. Customers faced the choice of either going home or purchasing tickets that had just been released by the arena earlier that afternoon. The arena blocks off a certain amount of seats before the stage is set up, according to Box Office manager Fiona Heyes. If the stage doesn’t obstruct as many seats as were blocked off, these additional seats are released the day of the show.

Terese Gieselman travelled from West Bank to see the show with her young nieces, but ended up in the line with the others who had purchased fake tickets. She watched as the teary-eyed Maple Ridge girls frantically texted their parents.

Gieselman was going to purchase three of those late release tickets, then offered to buy six more, at $65 each, for Pesut and her friends and refused to take “no” for an answer.

When the girls said they would pay her back, Gieselman told them to pay it forward instead.

“Just sometime in your life do something nice for someone else.”

And they will.

But first they got to enjoy the concert.

“Oh it was one of the best ever,” said Pesut.

The tickets Gieselman bought them were actually for better seats than what they thought they had purchased.

Heyes said that fake tickets are common at Rogers Arena. They can be Photoshopped, but codes could be wrong and easily identified as fake, or they can be photocopied E-tickets, which was what Pesut and her friends held.

“In that case, we wouldn’t be able to tell,” said Heyes. “They’d be actual tickets that were purchased online and printed off, then photocopied. The codes would still be valid, but duplicated. This is why we urge people to not buy from secondary markets.”

Pesut is now warning others of how easily they can be taken advantage of when buying second-hand items off the internet.

Some of her friends said they would still buy from Craigslist, as they had purchased real tickets off the website before.

Pesut said that she would use it for certain things – tangible items or hard copy tickets – but would ask for ID and the license plate number of the seller next time.

“We were a little suspicious when they told us about this,” said Smith’s mother, Annette. “But, you know, they wanted to do it on their own. We felt terrible afterwards.”

The girls plan to tell police about the ticket scam.

A couple of angry notes calling for justice have since been posted on Craigslist. One anonymous writer describes Kyle Smith as a young, slim man with short, brown hair.

“This person needs to be stopped,” Pesut said. “People like this should be punished for what they have done. This is not okay and should not be taken lightly. People bought tickets thinking they were in store for a great night and were sent home because of someone’s disgusting scam.”

Pesut and her friends were fortunate.

To pay it forward, the girls plan to raise money for the Relay for Life next May. They fundraised for the same Canadian Cancer Society charity last year and hope to raise at least $390 – the amount Gieselman spent on their tickets.

To Pesut, the thought that one person can do such a horrible, dishonest thing and the next person can change your whole life with a gesture that you will never forget is amazing.

“We’re just so grateful for Terese,” she said. “She changed our lives. Her kindness made us more aware of how we can be better.”