September 22, 2006
Imagine showing up for the Dave Matthews concert tonight, ticket in hand, only to be informed at the door that your ticket is worthless. Such may be the fate of someone who bought their ticket from a reseller for higher than the original face value, due to a policy of canceling resold tickets.
John Paul Jones Arena has an anti-scalping system for online tickets where tickets are canceled if they are resold for a price higher than face-value. While the arena has every right to set the terms for the sale of its tickets, reselling tickets is not illegal and tickets should not be cancelled regardless of how they were obtained.
Larry Wilson, general manager of John Paul Jones Arena, was not available for comment for this editorial, but he told The Cavalier Daily that the canceling of resold tickets is often undertaken at the request of the artists. But just because artists are requesting the action rather than other parties doesn't give them any more legitimacy. Many recording artists were pushing the crackdown on music downloading that led to lawsuits against students and universities, proving that artists aren't always looking out for students' best interests.
Scalping is arguably bad because the venues and artists see none of the extra profit that is charged over the face value of the ticket. But that is more of a problem with the market in tickets than it is with the practice of reselling them. The price of tickets ought to be a mechanism that equates supply with demand. Just because other selling mechanisms are more efficient at equating price with demand does not make them less legitimate. The success of Ebay is built on that logic.
Ticketmaster, one of the nation's largest sellers of event tickets, implemented a new system for the sale of tickets called Ticketmaster Auctions for certain events. The system is modeled after successful Web sites like Ebay that set the price for tickets based on demand. Ticketmaster allows ticket holders to resell tickets on another part of its site, called TicketExchange, designed to match ticket holders who no longer want their tickets with fans who want to buy them for certain events. According to Ticketmaster's Web site, sellers are allowed to increase the price of tickets they sell on TicketExchange. Both programs show ways that ticket sellers can embrace the reality of a free market while protecting fans from the peril of scalpers who sometimes hawk counterfeit tickets.
But under the arena's ticket cancellation policy, there's not much difference between showing up at the door with a counterfeit ticket and showing up with a legitimate one that has been canceled. The arena refunds the buyer for canceled tickets, but if a student purchases a ticket from a buyer who is later refunded, there is no guarantee that the buyer will in turn refund the purchaser, especially if it was the reseller's goal all along to make a profit.
Preventing students from having to pay too much for event tickets is a laudable goal, but a quixotic crusade against the free market in tickets is wrong-headed.