Ticket scalping refers to the resale of tickets for events like concerts, shows, and sports games at prices higher than the stated face value. Scalpers will buy up large numbers of tickets with the intent to resell them at a profit. This often leaves fewer tickets available at face value, making it harder for fans to get tickets from the official source. There is an ongoing debate around whether or not ticket scalping should be illegal or regulated.
What is Ticket Scalping?
Ticket scalping involves buying event tickets with the sole purpose of reselling them at a higher price for a profit. Scalpers employ various tactics to buy up as many tickets as possible, often utilizing bots and automated processes to quickly purchase tickets the moment they go on sale. The tickets are then resold on secondary marketplaces at markup.
Some key characteristics of ticket scalping:
- Buying tickets not to attend the event, but to resell at higher prices
- Using bots and automation to buy tickets in bulk the moment they go on sale
- Reselling the tickets at large markups, much higher than face value
- Reselling platforms include StubHub, Vivid Seats, and Craigslist
- Reduces ticket availability from the official box office
The end goal for scalpers is to buy as low as possible and sell as high as possible in order to turn a profit. This often leaves fewer tickets at box office prices, forcing fans to pay inflated secondary market prices.
Why Do People Scalp Tickets?
There are several motivations and incentives for ticket scalpers:
The main incentive is to buy low and sell high. For popular shows and events, scalpers can make a substantial profit. Markups frequently exceed over 50% of face value. Profit margins increase for bigger events like playoffs, concerts, festivals where demand heavily outweighs supply.
Easy Source of Income
For some, ticket scalping provides an easy way to make extra money with minimal effort. Once they acquire the tickets, reselling them online takes little time. It’s relatively easy money compared to more traditional jobs.
Ticket scalping allows flexibility to work anytime. Scalpers can choose when they want to buy and sell tickets. There’s no set schedule, boss, or time clock. This appeals to some looking to scalp as side money.
Beating the System
Some scalpers enjoy exploiting loopholes and finding ways to beat the ticket buying system. Beating the box office to get in-demand tickets can be a thrill and motivator.
Lack of Regulation
For the most part, ticket scalping exists in a legal gray area. Lack of clear laws and enforcement incentivizes some to take advantage of a system without consequences. More regulation could deter some scalpers.
How Do Scalpers Get So Many Tickets?
Scalpers have found ways to acquire large ticket volumes despite mechanisms aimed at limiting purchases:
Bots and Automation
Scalpers use bots and automation software to buy tickets much faster than a human could. Bot armies can purchase thousands of tickets within seconds of on-sale. This squeezes out regular fans.
Scalpers create many accounts, spreading purchases across them. Limits per account are bypassed by using dozens or hundreds of accounts.
Scalpers may use varied credit cards, billing addresses, and other ID tricks to hide that purchases are by one person. This fools systems trying to enforce per person limits.
Staff Helping Scalpers
There have been cases of unethical ticket staff helping scalpers bypass limits in exchange for a share of profits. This insider access aids scalpers.
Large scalping operations use sophisticated tools, automation, and insider tricks to buy huge volumes. Small time scalpers can’t compete with these well-funded businesses.
Negative Effects of Ticket Scalping
While providing profits for scalpers, ticket scalping has several negative effects:
Higher Prices for Fans
Fans get stuck paying outrageously inflated prices. Scalpers siphon off tickets to resell at higher prices. This hurts everyday fans who just want to enjoy events.
Sellouts and Scarcity
Scalpers gobble up ticket inventory, meaning shows sell out instantly. Even fans trying right at on-sale often can’t get tickets at face value. This creates an artificial ticket scarcity.
Discourages Real Fans
Fans feel it’s impossible to get good tickets at affordable prices due to scalpers. This discourages the most passionate fans as concerts become unaffordable.
Some scalpers sell fake or duplicate tickets. Others are tied to organized crime, using scalping to launder money. These criminal elements take advantage of the system.
Rewards Unfair Practices
Scalping incentivizes unfair practices like bot usage that squeeze out everyday fans. The most unethical actors gain an advantage.
Who Supports Ticket Scalping?
While most fans oppose scalping, some groups benefit from or tolerate the practice:
Scalpers themselves of course want to preserve the practice. For professional operations, it’s a highly lucrative business model they depend on. They lobby to keep scalping legal.
Secondary Market Sites
Resale marketplaces like StubHub profit tremendously from fees paid by scalpers. They have incentives to keep the system going.
Sellouts due to scalpers make events seem more popular. Some organizers tolerate it to create a perception of high demand. They also profit from initial ticket sales.
A few artists have implied support for scalping, seeing it as a way for passionate fans to still obtain tickets, even at high prices. They also benefit from quick sellouts.
Free Market Advocates
Some economists argue limiting scalping goes against free market principles. They see secondary markets as fair supply and demand.
Laws and Regulations on Scalping
Scalping laws vary depending on the jurisdiction. Some examples of regulations include:
Laws restricting how much prices can be marked up from face value. This limits scalpers’ ability to inflate prices.
Required disclosures when reselling tickets, like the original purchase price. Improves transparency around markups.
Some laws give buyers a right to refunds if tickets are fake or cancelled. Helps buyers purchase with confidence.
Systems to verify identities prevent bulk purchases from single scalpers. Makes largescale scalping more difficult.
Laws specifically targeting bots provide a mechanism to crack down on their use in bulk ticket buying.
Banning scalping within a certain radius of venues limits scalpers’ ability to easily resell onsite.
Should Scalping Be Illegal?
There are reasonable arguments on both sides of whether scalping should be illegal:
Arguments For Banning Scalping
– Protects consumers from price gouging
– Ensures fair access to tickets for the general public
– Unethical to profit solely from manipulating system
– Way to curb predatory business practices in ticket sales
Arguments Against Banning Scalping
– Difficult to enforce banning secondary sales
– Near impossible to distinguish “true fans” from scalpers
– Controls on resale go against free market principles
– Limits ability for buyers to obtain tickets even at marked up prices
There are also middle ground options between an outright ban and complete freedom. For example, capping maximum resale prices allows some scalping within limits. Overall there are good-faith arguments on both sides of this issue.
Alternative Approaches to Combatting Scalping
Rather than bans, stakeholders can consider other approaches:
More Stringent Limits
Lower per person limits combined with ID verification make bulk buying harder. This spreads tickets among more buyers.
Dynamic Market-Based Pricing
Using pricing that responds to demand puts prices closer to secondary market levels to begin with. Removes scalpers’ margins.
Requiring ID of buyer prevents scalpers from reselling. Tickets are non-transferrable and only usable by original purchaser.
Presale events for fan clubs, credit cards, etc reward loyal fans with early access before scalpers can buy.
Random allocation by lottery means scalpers can’t crowd out real fans. Levels the playing field.
Will Ticket Scalping Continue?
Despite anti-scalping measures, ticket scalping in some form is likely here to stay:
- High profits ensure scalpers remain motivated
- Whack-a-mole dynamic – limits plug one hole but scalpers find another loophole
- Difficult to enforce any blanket ban on resale
- Technology moves faster than regulation
- Secondary sites depend on resale market and lobby to keep it
Realistically, some degree of scalping will persist given these challenges and motivators. The goals should be finding reasonable checks and balances to make ticketing fairer.
Ticket scalping involves buying event tickets solely to resell at higher prices, often utilizing unfair technological means. This blocks ordinary fans from getting seats at face value. Scalping creates significant harms yet also has its defenders. The debate around banning or allowing scalping has merits on both sides. However, completely eliminating scalping is likely an unrealistic goal. The focus should be finding pragmatic approaches to make ticket buying more equitable while acknowledging secondary markets will persist. With thoughtful policies, ticketing can become fairer for fans and prevent the worst abuses.