October 12, 2007

The Joys of Ticket Scalping

WE LEARN TODAY from CNN that a grave crisis is sweeping America. It hasn't anything to do with the war, or national security, or what not. Rather, scandalous and evil ticket brokers have snapped up the great majority of the tickets to teen starlet Miley Cyrus' concert tour, and accordingly have caused the price of the tickets to skyrocket accordingly.

CNN's report makes it pretty clear -- at least from their point of view -- these clever souls are Ruining Things for America's Children. As such, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth from parents and children and attorneys general, proclaiming the practice is odious and wretched. While even I would admit the situation is not an ideal one, I don't see why people -- even professionals -- should be forbidden from buying tickets and then re-selling them.

I feel this way because, as a semi-clever college student, I routinely sold my tickets to Michigan football games to shady scalpers who hung out around the student union building. I say semi-clever because, although I profited from these sales, I could have made a lot more money if I had just invested more time into the selling process. Instead, I ended up selling my tickets to some overcoat-wearing hustler who put up ready cash in the hopes he could sell the tickets prior to game time. With some games, such as the annual Ohio State matchup, he was certain of making a killing. With other games, such as the annual Minnesota matchup, he was taking more of a risk. However, in retrospect, I have a feeling those scalpers did all right for themselves even on days when we played the Eastern Michigans of this world.

However, this was ten years ago. It was an era without eBay and StubHub and craigslist and all the other faboo sites that promote on-line commerce. If you wanted to sell your tickets, you had two choices. You could go to the scalpers, or you could put up a flyer and hope to sell them that way. The proceeds, of course, were used for things like pizza and beer and various other carbohydrate-heavy foods that made watching the game at home far more fun. I loved going to Michigan's games, but having to stand for three hours straight in the student section would soon cause anyone to consider selling their tickets.

But I digress. It's difficult to argue the principles of voluntary exchange involved in ticket scalping are somehow contrary to natural law: the buyer gets what he wants and the seller gets what he wants, and the market decides the price accordingly. It seems to me the real problem has to do with the way tickets are sold. I don't see why concert promoters couldn't devise a way to sell the tickets via on-line auction, or set aside a certain number that could only be purchased in person, or carry out one of a dozen other tactics to frustrate the ticket brokers and get the tickets in the hands of "real" fans -- if that is indeed their aim.

In the meantime, I have to say I feel really old -- for two reasons. First, I'm alarmed to think that Billy Ray Cyrus -- he of "Achy Breaky Heart" fame -- has a teenaged daughter, because I remember when he was popular. Second, I was out at breakfast this morning when I was listening to a bad televised performance of a song that sounded familiar, but that I couldn't immediately place. Suddenly, I realized what it was, and announced loudly that Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" should not have been remade, particularly not this badly. The cute waitress -- the one I unsuccessfully asked out a while back -- agreed the performance was awful, but was unaware the song was a remake. Ouch. I mean, I remember that song from the Eighties. It wasn't THAT long ago, was it?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at October 12, 2007 10:46 PM | TrackBack
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