As you approach the ticket taker, you pull out your two tickets for the event of the year. The stadium employee smiles, grabs the tickets, scans them with a handheld device…and frowns. I’m sorry, but these tickets aren’t valid. Your mind races: did you go on the wrong day? The ticket taker shakes her head and informs you that the tickets are fakes. Good looking fakes, but fakes nonetheless.
“Where did you buy these?” Embarrassed, you admit you purchased them off of the “secondary ticket market” via an online seller. They cost six times the ticket price, which was actually fairly cheap. The ticket taker gives you a sad smile, “We would usually offer you a replacement seat at normal price, but this event is sold out….I’m so sorry.” And so, jilted at the gate, you walk back to the car. And you already paid for parking…Scalping tickets, of course, is not a new activity. From the ubiquitous “fans” standing outside the stadium asking if anyone needs a ticket, to more sophisticated online sellers who buyout the best seats to concerts and games as soon they go on sale, they are part of the process. Although not all ticket scalpers are out to take advantage of the consumer, there is a risk of falling victim to counterfeiters, as
fans of Adele have found out the hard way
. Some scalpers buy large blocks of tickets, which creates shortages, only to resell these tickets at prices that are multiple times the face value. Fortunately, some ticket vendors have developed “paperless tickets” that can be purchased online and picked up by showing government-issued photo ID and the credit card used to purchase the tickets at the gate. The hermetically sealed process essentially eliminates fraud.
Paperless ticketing has been around since 2008, but has not replaced the old paper way of doing business. Only a small percentage of tickets are paperless. It is at the sole discretion of the artist or venue to choose whether or not to make the event go “paperless.” Nonetheless, big names from Miley Cyrus to John Mayer have held paperless concerts and, as Rolling Stone reported, a slew of bands oppose restrictions on paperless events
Artists and venues argue that paperless tickets should be an option to ensure only true fans are getting tickets and these fans are not paying many times the true price set by the band or team. Opponents argue that tickets ought to be freely alienable. However, technology is moving us to an online world of e-materialized goods — songs, movies, games, communications – and we see paperless coupons, electronic boarding passes and so on. Why not paperless ticketing?
While both sides speak free market language in their defense, consumers ought to be concerned about the secondary market’s campaign to outright ban paperless ticketing. The reality is that, when it comes to the free market, the artist should have the right to sell his or her entertainment at the price they choose. Artists who choose paperless ticketing are choosing to protect their fans from unscrupulous schemers, who in some cases have committed fraud. Consumers deserve to be protected against fraud and schemes by ticket scalpers who take advantage of high-demand events. Meanwhile, those artists who choose paperless ticketing are also choosing to protect their fans from unscrupulous schemers, who are willing to leave the fans turned away at the gate, holding a counterfeit and over-priced ticket.
Zac Morgan currently attending George Mason University School of Law and is a blogger for the American Consumer Institute.