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Don't make it so easy for ticket scalpers

Thursday, September 5, 2013
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Is anyone surprised that ticket scalping — charging more than the “list price” for tickets to sporting events, concerts, etc. — has gotten out of hand since the state abandoned a law limiting markups several years ago?

Gov. Eliot Spitzer opposed the old law as unenforceable, but it was probably more that he didn’t think it was worth the effort to enforce. And we’re inclined to agree, to some degree: If there are no tickets at the box office for a playoff game or hot concert, and consumers really want to see it and are willing to pay more than face value for tickets, let them.

The big problem with a completely laissez-faire policy is that it emboldens the greedy. Instead of someone seeking a relatively modest markup for an unwanted pair of tickets — the old law allowed 45 percent for large venues and 20 percent for small ones — the market seems to be dominated by businesses that use shady methods to scoop up large quantities of tickets from primary sellers the minute they go on sale, then re-list them legally with secondary sellers at whatever price they think the market will bear. If consumers balk at something four or five times face value, then re-sellers have to lower their price or risk getting stuck with the tickets. But often, their greed gets rewarded.

One shouldn’t have to buy a super-fast computer, or hire a gofer to stand in line at the box office, or pay a fortune to get tickets to a show of any kind — especially, as consumer activist Russ Haven pointed out in Sunday’s Gazette story, if the venue was built with public money (as is often the case).

The old law was hardly onerous, and even if it was rarely enforced, it kept scalpers looking over their shoulders and prices somewhat in line. Now they’ve clearly gone over the top for many events.

At the very least, some effort should be made to pressure primary sellers not to play along with greedy re-sellers by letting them buy large blocks of tickets. Proctors sets a reasonable limit on the number of tickets it will sell to a single customer (eight) and cross-checks credit card numbers of multiple-ticket buyers for evidence of flim-flamming. Other venues should do similar things to keep more of their tickets going directly to the people who intend to see the shows, not simply profiteer.

 
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