Ticket Touts

Perhaps the only downside of my recent jaunt is that it coincided with the release of the main bulk of tickets for T in the Park. Even if I’d been here I doubt I’d have got a ticket anyway since they sold out in around an hour.

Whilst I’m sure that most of the tickets went to genuine buyers many went to touts that immediately threw them on eBay for at least twice the price. This clearly isn’t “bought a ticket and can’t go” it’s pure “bought a ticket to turn a quick profit”. This isn’t unique to T in the Park, it’s been going on for ages.

Now you could argue that that’s the free market at work, and perhaps you’re right. It’s even been suggested to me that perhaps the event organisers should just release the tickets on eBay in the first place and they’d go for whatever the market’ll pay. But let’s assume that we want to try to ensure that only genuine buyers get tickets, to do that we need to look at what it’s reasonable to expect to do with a bought ticket and ways we can dissuade the touts.

There are probably many different ways of doing this (tattooed tickets ?) but I’ll knock up a list of what I think is reasonable expectations for a ticket.

  1. It allows the holder to go to the event
  2. It doesn’t require the buyer to be the eventual holder (i.e. gifts)
  3. It doesn’t require the holder to bring anything unreasonable to the gig (not everyone has photo id or credit cards)
  4. It doesn’t allow people to sell on tickets for a profit
  5. Ideally, it doesn’t penalise people whose plans change in cases where the tickets are bought far in advance

In addition whatever system gets used needs to not add unnecessary strain to the buying process and certainly shouldn’t slow down entry to the event. If it also helped to prevent ticket forgery that’d be a bonus.

The easiest way to achieve the last two goals is to only allow ticket exchange through an official process, this could allow tickets to be returned for a refund and then sold on again. Perhaps refunds could be held until the tickets are resold, there could be an automatic discounting system so that unsold tickets get cheaper the closer to the event it gets. Banning non-official sales will not stop people trying so there needs to be some way to tie a ticket to the correct user. This probably means not sending the tickets out until close to the event and stopping the return/refund/exchange offer before you start delivering the tickets.

A lot of places print names on the tickets and claim they’ll check photo id, I dislike this because not everyone has photo id, even if they do it might not be the sort of thing they want to take with them, it requires manual (and reasonably alert) checking and photo id can be fairly easily faked (you’d see “Tickets with free id” being sold I’ve no doubt). You could make people turn up with the credit card used to buy the ticket, but then not every owns the credit card they use to buy the tickets and many pay cash in person for them.

The other thing that I’ve heard talked about is using mobiles phone, I think it’s reasonably fair to assume most people nowadays have a mobile and they probably take it most places with them. So you provide a mobile number when you buy each ticket, then you prove you have that mobile when you turn up. The problem with this is verifying a mobiles number at the gate, the method to find each mobiles own number is different and often time consuming. You can’t just send a text code to the mobile before the event because that could be passed on with a ticket. For high value events I’d imagine you’d get touts buying disposable phones and selling them with the tickets.

When I started writing this post I was fairly sure I’d come up with something at least half workable by the end of it. It seems that it’s maybe a much more difficult problem, anything that is physically or electronically transferable is at danger of being sold on. That leaves something biometric, photos id is a good idea but just something that some people tend to balk at.

Since I’ve been spent the time working on this post I guess I should come up with some sort of idea. How about printing photos on the tickets themselves ? You’d supply a photo when buying a ticket and that’d be printed on the ticket sent to you.

Online buying would require a digital photo, perhaps pre-registered and approved. Buying in real life could work with a pre-registered photo, photo id, a loose photo or even a camera in the shop like casinos have nowadays. I guess buying tickets as gifts would require you having a photo of the recipient, that might be a bit of extra work. People buying over the phone would have to pre-register I guess.

I think it might work, but there might be a better idea out there …

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